Consider the inevitable

On April 2, the Foster School held its 2nd annual Innovation and Entrepreneurship Symposium, hosted by Neal Dempsey, this year’s Fritzky Chair. Three people spoke about design and innovation trends in business: Ken Denman, president and CEO of Emotient; Bob Paulsen co-founder and CEO of PlayerLync; and Julia Link, principal of the Link Group. Below are highlights from Denman’s and Paulsen’s sessions.

Ken DenmanDenman focused on innovation and relayed his experiences with Emotient, a facial expression recognition and analysis company. Main points included:

  • When established companies are trying to innovate, they tend to make existing products only incrementally better. This works for awhile, but then smaller companies start to catch up and offer more innovative products that grab more and more market share. The example Denman cited was the iPhone. When it came out, it was a product category maker or re-maker. It started taking market share away from existing markets such as GPS and personal cameras.
  • Study up on the industry you’re in so you know who the competitors are and where the market is heading. Knowing this information allows you get beyond the basics in conversations.
  • As an entrepreneur, you’re always raising money while you’re doing everything else. It’s exhausting, but it’s part of the job.
  • As an entrepreneur you have to be able to overcome your fears. You must have the confidence to say, “I can do this.” And you have to be able to project that confidence.
  • Uncertainty is a given in entrepreneurship. You don’t know what you don’t know, but you’ll learn it when you need to know it.
  • Product philosophy: Before you start, think about the inevitable. What’s inevitable given the technology available, customer needs and status of the market? Use the answers to these questions to decide whether or not to pursue an idea. If you can identify those areas in the market where something big is going to happen, you’re positioning yourself for success.
  • One of the most challenging aspects of innovation is to take big complex ideas and make them stupid simple—so simple anyone can understand them.
  • To innovate, be disciplined and methodical in your thinking. Try something, measure it and iterate. Repeat that process over and over.

Learn more about Ken Denman and his company Emotient, formerly Machine Perception Technologies.

Bob Paulsen, co-founder and CEO of PlayerLync, shared his innovation best practices. PlayerLync creates an enterprise platform that provides a secure and easy way to control content and offers tablet-based collaboration. Their clients include large restaurant chains and NFL football teams.

Bob PaulsenPaulsen shared several keys to success:

  • PlayerLync takes a very user-focused approach to their product, and Paulsen reinforced that mentality throughout his presentation. He said you have to make it easy for someone to use your product. If their first experience with it isn’t positive, they’ll look for something else.
  • When developing PlayerLync, they considered what their customer would want in their product by anticipating their needs. The customer gave them a few initial requirements, and they took those requirements and ran with them. The result was a product that exceeded the customers’ expectations.
  • Ideas are great, but businesses are based on who will pay for your product, service or software. Don’t overlook this when starting a new venture.
  • He also recommended three business books: The E Myth by Michael E. Gerber, Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore and The Discipline of Market Leaders by Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema.

Learn more about all the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Symposium sessions.

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