Archive for November, 2011

The I-Word

Posted: November 27, 2011 by Bill Cunningham in Innovation, Marketing, People, Startup, Technology

Everyone loves companies that innovate, right? If I asked you to name innovative companies, most folks would answer Apple, Google, Twitter, Facebook and ShareThis (I hope so anyway!) Jeffrey Baumgartner in his blog, Innovation Tools, notes that you will not find the word Innovation or Innovative in their ‘About‘ or ‘Home‘ pages. He suggests the average innovative companies that must compete with the likes of these leading innovators use the I-word extensively on every page, piece of literature and marketing material.

Mr. Baumgartner believes great companies do not make the I-word their goal, rather they create great visions in which all the employees embrace it naturally. By pursuing a great vision, teams within these companies innovate in order to deliver more than expected, to have a breakthrough product, and to go way beyond the norm.  Guy Kawasaki defines these as  ‘curve-jumping’ products — those that go beyond the current environments. Quoting Guy: “Big wins happen when you go beyond better sameness. (In the 1980’s) the best daisy-wheel printer companies were introducing new fonts in more sizes. Apple introduced the next curve: laser printing.”

With that foundation, the Greater Cincinnati Venture Association and the EnquirerMedia’s EnterChange partnered to present a forum on Innovation in our region. At noon on Wednesday, November 30, the Emery Theatre (an innovative space itself!) will be the venue for a series of stories on the region’s innovators and why it is so critical to our entrepreneurial ecosystem. The speakers reveal the visions behind these innovations. For example, the Brandery is a very innovative concept — but Brandery founders’ vision (Knox, Kropp, Radtke and McDonald) was a Consumer Packaged Goods focused technology accelerator that leverages the assets of the region and builds a community of exciting companies. The success of these companies would infect other startups to migrate towards this vibrant community. The manifestation of this vision is the Brandery and the community it has created with a network of new companies, supporters and mentors that believe in a greater entrepreneurial community in the region. The innovation followed the vision.


Planning Ahead

Posted: November 20, 2011 by Chuck Matthews in Planning, Startup

Always plan ahead.  It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.    – Anonymous

In this fourth of five columns, the importance and value of strategic planning in your small, entrepreneurial and family ventures is further explored.   In the previous three columns, twelve deceptively simple, challenging questions that guide the planning process were discussed. Today, four additional fundamental questions that inform how ventures present goods and services to the buyer and users, connect those goods and services in place and time, and begin to build how you want the business to be seen (internally and by the public) are added to the mix.  First, the mind of the buyer is taken into consideration: What are three objections to buying your goods and services? Second, looking at our goods and/or services beyond the scope of its obvious applications is the challenge: Are your goods and services used in combination or connection with other goods and services? Third, the critical element of timing takes center stage: When and where are your goods and services available? Finally, the building of the firm/product brand rounds out the business plan: What is the key message or mantra that describes your business and can you do this in three or four words?

Overcoming objections…

Identifying objections to buying your goods and services is really a two part perspective: first in prestart-up, when trying to convince others of the value of the new idea; and later when trying to convince buyers and/or end users of the value proposition of your firm’s offering(s).  For both, the end game is focused on how to overcome those objections in order to move forward and ultimately, close the sale.  While all of the questions that guide the planning process are important, this one question is particularly critical.  For example, while in the very nascent stages of your venture, the focus is on convincing others, especially investors, that your business idea is feasible, valuable, and can make money.


In late October, the Brandery held its second annual Demo Day for its eight portfolio companies.  Following their 12 week program at the Brandery, the companies – Choremonster, Keepio, Leap, Receept, Rent Share, Roadtrippers, Spaceity, and Style ZEN – had the opportunity to showcase their concepts on Demo Day to an audience of more than 350 attendees at the Champions Club at Great American Ball Park. By all accounts, Brandery Demo Day was an important event not only for the eight portfolio companies but also for the entire Greater Cincinnati entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Connecting the Past

Drawing from the roots of ecology, an ecosystem approach is concerned with the components of a system and how those component parts interact. In prior columns, the Cincinnati entrepreneurial ecosystem has been described as consisting of nine components including universities, government, angel investors, venture capitalists, incubators, events, grass roots initiatives, networks and support groups. While each of these components has been individually identified, the Brandery and its Demo Day provided a wonderful opportunity for the component parts of the ecosystem to interact. Throughout the 12 week program, universities, angel investors, venture capitalists and many others contributed different forms of collective capital – human, financial, social and intellectual – to advance the work of the Brandery portfolio companies. At Demo Day, each of these interacting parts was present and engaged in the collective conversation about both the portfolio companies and about how to continue to find ways to interact going forward with each other.  In this way, the Brandery served as a catalyst to connect many of the component parts of the ecosystem. (more…)

Intention Precedes Results

Posted: November 6, 2011 by Joseph Carter in Innovation, People, Planning

Do aspiring or experienced entrepreneurs ever allow obstacles to remain a barrier to the achievement of their goals?  Some do.  Why is it that some entrepreneurs always seem to find a way around, over, or through the obstacles they face and other entrepreneurs allow the obstacles to remain a constant source of torment to them?  Some suggest that the answer lies in how an entrepreneur chooses to perceive their situation.

About five years ago I was a member of a thirty-person internal operations consulting practice within a $10 billion global industrial manufacturer and service provider company.  Our role as internal consultants was to partner with specific business-unit leaders within the company and help them identify and implement improvements to their operations.  Every quarter the leader of our consulting practice would pull all thirty of us together for about a week to review the status of our projects, to share best practices, and to go through some workshops to improve our effectiveness as consultants.  One of the workshops we went through was led by Scott Sink, PhD., the author of, among other books and articles, “By What Method”.  The topics of the workshop were “intention” and “at-cause” / “at-effect” mental stances.  What I learned about myself in this particular workshop changed my perspective on how I view barriers to goal achievement.  I want to share what happened in that workshop in the hope that you might reconsider how you view the barriers that limit your success.