What Mattered In 2010: Scott Painter, TrueCar

Last week, we announced our end-of-the-year project, which was to collect and share the opinions of some of the top influencers in Southern California's high tech community. We asked the same five questions of a variety of top technology entrepreneurs, investors, and others, to hear what they're thinking about, and are sharing it here over the next two weeks.

Yesterday, we heard from DFJ Frontier's David Cremin. Today, we share the thoughts of Scott Painter the CEO and founder of TrueCar, as well as a number of other successful firms and startups in Southern California.

1. What was the biggest news for you/your firm this year?

It's the first full year of profitability and 200 percent growth for us.

2. In your opinion, what events, companies, or people made the biggest impact on the technology world in 2010?

I think Tesla qualifies as a technology company, and that it has just changed the paradigm of how we think about the automotive business and what we drive. Elon is out there and just leading the pack. Between what he's doing between Tesla and SpaceX is pretty remarkable. At a more simple level, what Steve Jobs and the iPad has done, has totally changed how we as a business communicate with our customers.

3. What was the biggest lesson you learned over the past year (good or bad)?

Don't hire brilliant jerks.

4. Who are the people here you think will most influence the technology world in the coming year?

The usual cast of characters is boring, but I think that Facebook and Apple, certainly. But, I also think there will be some exciting companies we hear about in 2011 that aren't just getting started, but are starting to thrive, who have really fundamentally solid businesses. They've been growing over the last year and through the downturn in a way that will shock people. They're people turning in growths and profits that are so radically core to how you value a business long term, and are some real superstars. They're not household names, they're many contrarians thriving in a down market. As the market comes back, not only will they benefit, they will thrive, and they will reveal their success stories.

5. What are the technologies, companies, or things you think the community ought to pay the most attention to in 2011?

I certainly think everyone should take a look at companies like Groupon, which are going to really change shopping. I personally don't get it, and I think their business has some vulnerability, but it's a phenomenon for sure. We are even looking to see how it affects us. I'd also argue you want to look at us, in the automotive transformation category. Any business in the practice of bringing transparency through computation analytics and information--even older companies like Zillow, which I think will have another breath of air. I'm a big believer in the visual display of quantitative information to understand how the market will behave. I also think it will be a big year for Google. Google has largely stalled out in growth, and I think they will be willing to blow things up to make some gains this year. They want to start growing and showing margin growth over time. I'm also fascinated by the phone wars and what is going on, because there's an implication for every business out there. The adoption curve of smart phones is something to watch in 2011.

See more insights from the Southern California high tech community in our continued series tomorrow!