Meet TrueNode: Scanning a Brainpool and Building a Venture-Driven Product Studio Brand
Allow us to introduce ourselves.
In 2019, TrueNode came to life — though the road here was paved with our (Jakob, Carl, Muamer, and Haris) collective 30+ years in tech and product. After delivering on countless projects and having so many conversations with leading tech executives about the challenges of getting things done, it became clear that the European ecosystem needed a new type of partner — and a better model — to launch bold products that move the needle.
TrueNode was built to do just that. We combine Symphony’s legacy in building world-class engineering teams for Valley-based clients with TrueNode’s mission to bring the spirit of venture into the way products are built.
At TrueNode, we want to transform the way enterprises evolve and ventures emerge by putting continuous product-obsession at the heart of business. We want to empower enterprises that want impactful product innovation, and startups who want to supercharge product development.
To capture our story and help bring our brand to life, TrueNode worked with strategist Riwa Harfoush, who has answered a few questions for us below.
Riwa’s work to date has been at the intersection of technology, strategy and culture. Through her company, Friendly Futures, Riwa works on creative strategy projects for good humans, by referral.
Most recently, Riwa was Chief of Strategy and Partnerships at OSI, a £600m technology company backed by GV, Sequoia, Tencent, Temasek and others, focused exclusively on investing and developing deep science and technology companies from Oxford. In this role, Riwa was responsible for positioning, brand, communications, fundraising and building a global network and ecosystem to support the growing portfolio.
What do brand and brand positioning mean to you?
“Hi! To me, brands represent companies and companies ultimately represent the people that work within them. I believe that brands can be really powerful if they are used as a tool to empower the people within a company to accomplish ambitious goals. Brand positioning is the exercise of scaling back noise and narrative to some fundamental statements about the thing you’re really trying to do. If kept simple and straightforward, this is such a useful tool to align teams around vision and purpose. Brands at their best tell a compelling and authentic story about who you are, what you’re trying to make happen in the world and why — visually, through words or experience.”
How did you uncover the TrueNode story?
“It’s easy (and fun!) to bring a brand to life when the people behind it are so clear on what they want to build and why. Jakob and Carl’s paths have led them to a place of clarity and conviction about a better way to bring products to life. We’ve spent hours talking about the nuances of why products fail, why corporates decline, why innovation so often falls short — and I was inspired by how passionate they were to do it better. Their own entrepreneurial energy is at the heart of the TrueNode story that brings the spirit and philosophy of venture to the world of product. So in this case, my job was to ask a lot of questions, to listen very carefully and to hone in on the parts of the story that felt authentic, unique and powerful.”
You spearheaded Symphony’s rebrand 4 years ago already. How did this play a role in creating TrueNode’s brand?
“I had a similar experience working with Haris and Muamer a few years ago, who at the time believed so strongly that some of the best engineering talent in the world was being overlooked in untapped markets. They wanted to create a new way of delivering technology projects for startups and enterprises, while also creating better opportunities for talented people all over the world. It’s been a joy watching them fulfil their vision and grow so much over the years.”
“The Symphony x TrueNode joint venture feels like the next chapter in the story and it makes a lot of sense; not only because together the teams can add value across the entire product lifecycle, but they’re both driven by doing things better, by a commitment to delivering really good work and by honouring their teams.”
What do you love most about the brand?
“I love that the brand is built around a deep desire to do things differently and a clear understanding of what needs to change in the industry; it means the approach can be insightful, genuine and provocative. I also think the brand really reflects the team — it’s designed to be flexible and dynamic, and I’m excited to see how the TrueNode team plays with the elements to make it work for them as they evolve.”
With your deep expertise in working with moonshot deep tech companies from Oxford, what’s the biggest challenge you see in the process of creating a differentiating brand in complex contexts?
“The world of deep tech is complex, encompassing nuanced global challenges, interconnected industries and very technical solutions — not to mention a number of different audiences to address.
A lot of deep tech companies struggle to simplify that complexity in order to tell a compelling story. Understandably, they often focus on the technical aspects of their work and some consider ‘branding’ to be merely an aesthetic exercise.
I actually think branding is often just strategy in a more approachable format. The process of articulating positioning, vision, mission and values clarifies what you’re actually doing and is critical in telling the simplest, high-level story about why what you’re doing is important and differentiated. Even if you never have a public-facing brand, I’d recommend the process as an internal alignment tool — a piece of work I see clients always going back to. From there, you have the fundamentals to build on — adding detail or elaboration where more context is needed for a particular audience.”
“We build products” — What do you want to build?
“I’ve got a few daydreams, but right now I think the most important question is — who do you want to build with? We focus a lot on ‘what’ instead of ‘who’. I think it’s so important to feel deep alignment and trust with the people you work with. So right now, I want to help people I admire and respect, figure out what they’re trying to build, how to tell stories about it and how to bring it to life. (A friendly reminder that we’re just humans trying to make good stuff happen together.)”
— Thank you Riwa! Working with you was an AAA experience. Riwa will remain an integral part of TrueNode as a frontier thought leader, advisor and above all, friend!