Embrace Failure And Experimentation In Order To Succeed

Industry Insight: Kai Falkenberg, First Deputy Commissioner, the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment, City of New York


Ahead of her presentation at the Women In strategy Summit in New York this March 21&22, we spoke to Kai Falkenberg, First Deputy Commissioner of the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment, City of New York.

Prior to her appointment to this position, she spent 15 years as a media and entertainment lawyer advising companies ranging from NBC, Warner Bros., and Comedy Central to Us Weekly, Rolling Stone, and Forbes. In addition to her current position, Kai teaches media and entertainment law at Columbia Law School.

How did you get started in your career?

I've always been interested in media - as an undergraduate, I worked for my college's alumni magazine. After law school and clerking, I began my legal career as a litigator at a corporate law firm Wachtell Lipton, then, I quickly shifted to a firm Davis Wright Tremaine that specialized in media law representing magazines, newspapers, and broadcasters. From there, I went in-house to Forbes, where I handled everything from libel, privacy, and copyright issues to cyber security and internet law. I then taught media law for a while at Cardozo and Columbia, and then shifted to the public sector, first as a prosecutor of online consumer fraud, and now, as First Deputy Commissioner of the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment.

What are the main challenges your industry faces in the age of disruption?

The media industry has shifted from a time where several companies controlled the channels of content distribution, to a time where no one controls those channels. Everyone today is a content creator. This had led to tremendous challenges and opportunities. The main challenge for media companies is to identify a business model that produces sufficient revenue while enabling them to produce high-quality content. The opportunity is that the barriers to entry in the media world are now exceedingly low. Those that do exceptional work can find an audience with minimal resources and personnel. Unfortunately, with the fragmentation of the industry, those that traffic misinformation and 'fake news' are also finding an audience.

How can companies use innovation to excel their strategy and what have you done so far?

Our agency is keen to make sure that New York City remains a hub of innovation in the media industry. For that reason, we've supported a number of efforts to foster entrepreneurship and creative exploration in new media. They include, for example, the Made in NY Media Center in Dumbo, Brooklyn - a collaborative workspace dedicated to supporting and connecting the next generation of media and tech entrepreneurs. We are also a founding sponsor of the NYC Media Lab's Combine Program, the first of its kind program that connects the City's universities with the digital media and communications industry to commercialize new media technology. And just a few months ago, we announced the creation of the first City-sponsored VR/AR Lab, a center that will cultivate startups in the VR/AR space and help position New York City as the center of that emerging industry.

What does Leading Through Disruption Mean to you?

To me, leading through disruption means encouraging others to embrace the opportunities created by innovation and new technology. It means honoring past traditions and practices, while at the same time, welcoming positive change and the efficiencies.

What are the main challenges female entrepreneurs and professionals face in the workplace?

We are too afraid to fail. We're not taking enough risks. We're not pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zone. We're too used to being the teacher’s pet - doing what we are told and not challenging ourselves. As a result, we're not exuding the confidence necessary to assume the highest leadership positions.

What can be done to improve female representation in the business world?

More failure. We should be less afraid to fail. After failing several times, the confidence will come, so there will be fewer risks to miss the opportunity to excel.

What would be your piece of advice for women who are at the beginning of their entrepreneurial journey?

Don't ruminate, act. Make lots of mistakes and learn from them.

Why do you think events like the Women In Strategy Summit are important in the current environment?

The relationships and connections that you make at events like this one are far more critical to your career than spending another few hours at your desk.

You can hear more from Kai and other industry leaders at the Women In Strategy Summit, taking place in New York this March 21&22.

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