The Future Is Now: Bryan House On How Elastic Path’s Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene


One thing that proved a huge epiphany as I became a member of the senior leadership team was how much it benefitted me to stop worrying about getting fired. To be a leader is to be #fearless; there is no other way. Understand that we all suffer from imposter syndrome, that we will have failures and make mistakes — and then whatever you have to do, go for it anyway! In Nike parlance, JUST DO IT!

As a part of our series about cutting-edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Bryan House.

Bryan is the Chief Experience Officer at Elastic Path, where he leads the UX, product management, enablement, global services, and customer success teams. He is an entrepreneur, tech executive, and professional raconteur. Bryan has made films in Indonesia, brewed award-winning beer in Boston, and has been leading software startups over the past two decades. Bryan is interested in digital commerce, machine learning,­­­­­ and open-source technology. Previously, he was the Chief Commercial Officer at Neural Magic, a deep learning software startup where he ran Product, GTM, and Customer Success. An Acquia founding team member, he helped lead the company to $170+M in revenue. His expertise spans machine learning, digital experience platforms, and open-source technology. As a leader in recurring revenue businesses, Bryan has developed a deep empathy for customers trying to address cumbersome, often frustrating business problems. In his experience, the best organizations excel at listening and building a culture based on empathy and customer advocacy, along with relentless problem-solving to ensure customers realize the value they anticipate from day one.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve always been motivated by the process of creativity, building and creating new things. Whether it’s photojournalism, film production, music production, or tech product development, building new things is how I enter my personal flow state.

In retrospect, one of the defining elements of my career was my time in the craft beer industry, where my colleagues and I were not only production brewers, but craft beer evangelists. A substantive part of my job was leading brewery tours, speaking at beer events, hosting tastings and dinners, and sharing my passion for craft beer with almost everyone I encountered, both professionally and personally.

That deep passion for the product I was creating day in and out has been a defining characteristic of much of my subsequent career. It helped me realize that I’m a person who needs to fall in love with the products I’m building and evangelizing — and it helped me see what an irreplaceable asset true passion is to any business endeavor, whether it’s beer or backend software. I consider it one of my superpowers that my enthusiasm can be contagious, which has helped me succeed as a sales leader and executive in my technology career.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I’m a big believer that you make your own luck. Similarly, I feel opportunity never seems to knock when you are “ready” for it. Instead, you have to grab hold of opportunity when it presents itself, ready or not. One of the most interesting experiences of my career came when I found myself face-to-face with real-life examples of both these philosophies, en route to an open-source conference in Prague.

In 2013, DrupalCon (CMS Drupal’s international educational conference) coincided with Oktoberfest in Munich. Given my craft beer brewing past, this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up — I could hit two birds with one stone with a simple drive from Munich to Prague.

But I wasn’t going to attend the biggest beer festival in the world by myself. I began searching for a running mate for Oktoberfest, and the CEO of my company, Acquia, indicated that he was interested. Ironically, he’s a wine connoisseur — not your typical German beer fest profile — but I wasn’t going to miss this opportunity. We had a fantastic time together experiencing all Oktoberfest has to offer.

The next day, we had to drag ourselves to Prague — a four-hour drive through Bavaria with both of us nursing the fuzziness of beer festival aftereffects (as one does). We embarked on the journey with a good greasy breakfast in our bellies, and on the way, we had a long discussion about the turning point I was facing in my career. Should I continue in marketing, or make a change to prepare me for future roles? To my CEO’s credit, he was adamant that I needed to make a change into sales management to take the next step in my career. To that point, I had experience in product, marketing, and partners. Sales was the last gap in my resume. Honestly, this wasn’t the guidance I expected — or the setting I expected to get it in — but after the long car ride, I was sold on the idea.

Over the next two years, I launched the Global Accounts program at Acquia, then managed the entire Account Management team. My teams blew past their numbers and we increased expansion revenue by more than 50%. More importantly, the combination of product and sales experience enabled me to find unique business model innovations, a talent that ultimately led to my current role as Chief Experience Officer at Elastic Path. Today, I bring my passion and dedication to all customer engagement after the initial contract signing, including product adoption, renewals, and expansion — all the elements that make up great experiences for both customers and the company. This work makes perfect use of my skills, and I’d never have found it if it weren’t for the beer festival and tech conference double feature.

Can you tell us about the cutting-edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

Our EP Product Experience Manager (PXM), designed to help de-risk composable commerce for merchandisers considering taking the leap, is the most cutting-edge tech we are working on. Despite the innovation in other areas, we believe the digital commerce catalog has been fundamentally unchanged for the past 20 years and, as a result, fails to meet the needs of modern, omnichannel commerce experiences.

In creating our EP PXM solution, we have applied our core principles of componentized, microservice-based architectures to the core elements of a catalog — products, price books, organization, and the catalog itself. In traditional systems, these are tightly coupled in a monolithic style, handcuffing merchandisers attempting to meet the unique needs of their multitude of commerce channels. To compensate, they’re forced to create brittle replicas of their catalog that need to constantly synchronize or rely heavily on promotion engines to accomplish simple merchandising tasks. Our solution removes these handcuffs.

How do you think this might change the world?

EP PXM is a game changer for the commerce industry because it can unlock merchandisers’ catalogs from the constraints that hinder digital commerce strategies. The technology allows them to create an unlimited number of price books and catalogs, as well as dynamic bundles. It offers options for new combinations of the core elements of a catalog to increase average order value, address inventory issues, and create fantastic experiences for loyal customers. And it can do all of this straight out of the box, with no custom development required. I firmly believe that the combinatorial power that EP PXM unlocks will power the future of digital commerce, which will in turn change the world.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks of this technology that people should think more deeply about?

Well, if anything, EP PXM is akin to the Black Mirror movie Bandersnatch — specifically in that it allows merchandisers to choose their own adventure (hopefully to better business outcomes).

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

Our product team has deep experience in the digital commerce space and understands firsthand the limitations of traditional e-commerce catalogs. This experience, combined with our relentless focus on solving customer problems, led us down the path to apply the key principle of our business — taking a microservice-based approach to commerce capabilities — to the catalog service itself.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

The technologies that are adopted on a wide scale are those that solve widespread problems. But while our applications are wide, our approach is laser-focused. With every customer and prospect, we focus on the job at hand and the specific problems they are trying to solve, then discuss how technology can offer solutions to meet their challenges. Many of their general issues are common across the commerce industry — but they present differently for each merchandiser.

On the product development side, we focus on reducing friction points and effectively de-risking the adoption of EP PXM to solve business problems for customers. This could mean importing their existing catalog, teaching them how to capitalize on dynamic bundles to change how they merchandise their products, delivering rapid deployment front ends to accelerate time to value for the solution, or all of the above. During this time of economic uncertainty especially, providing great value quickly while reducing risk is the primary job of any technology vendor.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

Given the innovative and visionary nature of EP PXM, we are focused on educating the market about why the traditional digital commerce catalog is broken, and how to solve this by adopting a decoupled, microservice-based approach that meets their multi-channel merchandising requirements. This includes our developer advocacy program, thought leadership pieces, and free trial experience.

For free trials, we’ve built a hands-on environment with interactive tutorials that allow users to experience firsthand how EP PXM has fundamentally changed the game for catalog management, simplifying how they merchandise products across a range of scenarios.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Over the course of my career, I’ve been lucky enough to find ways to spend time with a number of my mentors outside the office, in settings where title differences are neutralized and we can engage as people with shared goals, sidestepping traditional “power” dynamics.

Many years ago, when I was an entry-level product marketing manager, a number of us at the company would play golf regularly very early on Friday mornings, before heading into the office. Myself and a few others would arrange tee times, and our CEO, CFO, VP of Engineering, VP of HR, and other executives would join us. I can count on one hand, with fingers left over, how often I interacted in meaningful ways with the CEO in the office. But we spent many Friday mornings chatting while walking around the golf course — getting to know each other, sharing ideas, and learning about one another and the business. Ultimately that CEO, along with many of the other executives present, became a long-time mentor and colleague. The people I bonded with on the golf course have helped me find new opportunities, hire for open roles, and raise capital. While it certainly didn’t seem like much at the time, the chance to escape the office and build relationships has proven enormously valuable throughout my career. I make it a point to do the same for others, paying it forward every chance I get. Especially when it includes golf!

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I work to bring goodness to the world through mentoring. My motivation comes from the concepts Daniel Pink introduced in his book Drive: Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose. I aim to help others achieve their career goals and navigate the complexities of adulthood, including balancing parenting and professional development. I’m not sure I have the answers, but I have plenty of experience to share to help people make informed decisions.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

I don’t know if I have 5 things, but there are definitely things I wish I’d known!

One thing that proved a huge epiphany as I became a member of the senior leadership team was how much it benefitted me to stop worrying about getting fired. To be a leader is to be #fearless; there is no other way. Understand that we all suffer from imposter syndrome, that we will have failures and make mistakes — and then whatever you have to do, go for it anyway! In Nike parlance, JUST DO IT!

As a new executive, it’s easy to keep quiet and let others drive the bus. One CEO I worked for consistently encouraged me to say more and participate more in executive meetings, and to share the ideas I discussed during our one-on-one meetings with the entire group. As a young executive, I was fearful. But once I accepted the idea that even if my unlikely worst-case scenario came true and I was fired because of an idea suggested in a meeting, I would be fine. It was then that I felt able to speak openly in executive team situations. Obviously, established team norms and the assumption of good intentions are required — but the ability to speak openly changes the dynamic in settings where hard problems are discussed. Don’t sit on the sidelines to let others find a solution, be a part of the process. That’s what executives are hired to do.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

If I could bring the most amount of good to the most people, I’d spread the idea that everyone should delete Twitter and any other app that relies on algorithms to monetize their time and attention. Read a book, go outside, walk your dog, find a hobby that is hard to master, and spend time getting better at it. Put down your phone.

As a parent of teenagers, I find it unfathomable how many of my fellow fathers are all going through the same parenting experience — the rise of anxiety, depression, and ADHD in response to social media amongst teenagers. It’s a pandemic and demands our attention.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

The one that I come back to more often than not, as do many others, is: “Don’t fall in love with your ideas.” I’m not sure who said it first, but I’ve found it invaluable.

Ideas improve when they’re tested, challenged, and explored — and that can only happen in collaboration with others. It’s always important to bring all your ideas to the table and understand that the best ones will take on a life of their own.

Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)

The future of digital commerce will be determined by the ability to empower everyone to bring brilliant commerce visions to life. It starts with the product experience and Elastic Path has the team and technology to capture the opportunity that EP PXM creates.

If that doesn’t work, I have cryptocurrency that can brew amazing beer.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I’m on LinkedIn, but they should go outside and take a walk instead ;)

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.