Business news headlines have been stacked with evidence of the magic of innovation:
- Facebook pays $19 billion for WhatsApp
- Tesla is Consumer Reports’ Car of the Year
- Today’s iPhone capabilities would have cost more than $3 million to assemble in 1991
- Airbnb is valued at more than Hyatt
- 300,000 people have enrolled in a single college class
The Magic of Innovation was the theme of the 16th annual CBIC Awards Gala on May 29. The awards, hosted by the Charlottesville Business Innovation Council (CBIC), generate a lot of attention for ventures at the early end of the economic pipeline.
SixEstate has been contributing writing and editing services for the CBIC Awards Gala. We’ve been privileged to get a ground-floor look at innovation in action. For example, during the judging process CBIC Award finalist nPulse was purchased by computer security firm FireEye for $60 million! That news brought the fire to everyone’s eyes.
Where Does Innovation Come From?
“Innovation is about keeping current and crossing disciplines,” says CBIC Executive Director Tracey Greene. As co-chair of the Awards Gala, Greene is a master at getting entrepreneurs to step away from the computer screen for a few moments and connect with their peers.
The magical evening brought together leaders in business, academia, and government, representing scores of entrepreneurs and virtually all of Central Virginia’s most aggressively innovative firms in biotech, information science, teaching technologies, venture capital, social capital, and research-to-revenue.
Together with U.Va.Innovation, another organization SixEstate is supporting this year, CBIC belongs to a network for nurturing risk-takers in the area. CBIC Award recipients are making a difference all over the United States and throughout the world. The 2014 Navigator Award went to Dr. Karen Rheuban, director of the Center for Telehealth at the UVA Health System. Dr. Rheuban’s job is to capture all the medical knowledge generated by the UVA Health System and make it available to medical providers throughout the Commonwealth.
Creative Destruction — Not Disruption
SixEstate mentored two startups this year through U.Va.Innovation and the JET Mentorship program. I can tell you that student entrepreneurs have one desire: to crush it! Many of the young men and women I met could put up a professional website in a single night. They are well trained, fast-moving, and determined to be at least 10 percent better than the best thing you’ve ever heard of. What they lack is depth of knowledge.
One company we worked with, RushHunt, an online treasure hunt, didn’t realize attorneys general would descend on them in droves if they put their plans into action. We showed them how Airbnb and Tesla have been forced to negotiate with states in order to operate.
The treasure hunt concept works well, however, when configured as a private rewards system. For example, banks can reward homebuyers for reading their mortgages, and insurers can make it entertaining to read a policy. Private reward systems don’t come under the same legal scrutiny as public contests. That’s an example of how depth of knowledge can help young entrepreneurs maneuver around obstacles.
SixEstate learned a trick or two from RushHunt along the way. We realized the same system of rewards could be used to grow mailing lists. Innovation comes from crossing disciplines and keeping current!
Why Mentor Destroyers?
“Central Virginia innovators are saving lives, creating jobs, and revolutionizing entire industries while generating prosperity for area families, schools, and organizations,” says CBIC Executive Director Tracey Greene.
We mentor entrepreneurs because the evidence is overwhelming that innovation leads to job creation and greater wealth, especially in communities closest to the hub. People such as Lianne Landers at U.Va.Innovation and Tracey Greene at CBIC bring us together to help nurture the embers of entrepreneurship and keep the fires of innovation burning, year after year.
In the middle of judging the CBIC Awards, another telling event happened. The Economist cited the University of Virginia for having the highest rate of return on total cost of attending any U.S. university.
ROI in education is really a measure of innovation in delivering a valuable degree for the lowest possible cost. That doesn’t happen by accident. It results from radical improvement, just like the changes in medical services radiating from Dr. Karen Rheuban’s Center for Telehealth. They have improved their service quality by almost double. It was impressive because before people used to recieve bad treatment that they had to call The Medical Negligence Experts to file their reports.
If you care about the places where your people live and work, I encourage your firm to take time to mentor and nurture the entrepreneurs around you. They are strong on spirit, short on depth, and could use your experience navigating obstacles. I guarantee you will learn something in the process that will transform your business in a positive new direction.