Bruce Bower – CEO of Plastic Jungle

Bruce Bower was first introduced to Plastic Jungle in December 2008, joined as President in April 2009, and assumed the CEO position in September 2010.

For more than 20 years, Bruce has been contributing to early and mid stage technology enterprises. His management experience spans the payments, media, education, and alternate energy markets, with a particular emphasis on new business and international markets development.

Prior to Plastic Jungle, Bruce led International and Business and Corporate Development as Senior Vice President at Blackhawk Network, the largest third party distributor of gift cards in the world. Bruce also has served as Chief Executive Officer of Soliloquy Learning and as the President and SVP/General Manager of LearningGate and the educational media division of ZapMe!

Bruce also serves as a director or senior advisor to a number of companies in the payments space, including KargoKard, Radical Payments and Visa. He is a frequent speaker on a variety of new market concepts, including global payments and e-commerce strategies for emerging businesses.

Bruce began his career practicing law with Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati. He graduated in 1984 from Brown University with a B.A. in International Relations. In 1988, he received his law degree from University of Virginia.

3 trends that excite you?

I am excited by trends that provide consumers with greater choice, help them personalize their lives, and allow the hidden value in all our lives to be unlocked. Plastic Jungle is unlocking an estimated $30 billion in unredeemed gift cards for the benefit of consumers and retailers alike. We are pioneering new technology that will give consumers even more choice and flexibility with their gift cards than they already have. You’ll see us becoming a truly electronic marketplace that will speed up the gift card exchange process, allowing consumers to more immediately access the value of their gift card. It’s all about empowering consumers with increased choice.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I’ve always loved puzzles, especially hard ones. Hard puzzles, like hard problems, are solvable, but require creative approaches and benefit from strong teams. Plastic Jungle was founded to leverage an untapped marketplace that could only be opened with creative, intelligent approaches. Recognizing this opportunity, we hired a smart, committed team to oversee implementation and continue innovating solutions that will further tap the unredeemed gift card economy for the benefit of consumers and retailers alike.

What inspires you?

I am inspired by creative problem solving, and I’m particularly passionate about finding solutions that create tangible benefits for people.

What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?

Not all jobs work out. I made what I thought was a smart job choice not long ago. It wasn’t, and I moved on. I don’t give it a second thought now, and indeed it paved my way to Plastic Jungle. I suppose I’m even grateful for that!

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

It’s so important for people to be able to focus in a world of instant communication. That’s more of a skill than a business idea, but it is so helpful when building a business. There are a lot of distractions out there in the world of instant communications, but the ability to zero in on the task at hand is very important.

What is one book and one tool that helps you bring ideas to life?

Blink by Malcom Gladwell is a great one, because it teaches us to intelligently trust our instincts. Google, of course, helps us check if those instincts are right.

Who would you love to see interviewed on IdeaMensch?

Bono, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. These guys have vision, talent, and the ability to execute. They are tenacious and have staying power, and they’ve created tremendous positive change through business.

Why did you give up the security of practicing law?

I was more interested in driving the car than fueling it. My law practice helped put fuel in my clients’ engine, so they could drive off and change the world. I wanted to drive that car.

What keeps you up at night?

I worry sometimes that I’m forgetting something really important. We all work a mile a minute and deal with so many moving parts. I’m comforted, however, by my evolving ‘to-do’ list and Plastic Jungle’s fantastic team that keeps everything moving forward.


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