Innovation Community Blog

Making sure the bright ideas work

25 May 2010
It might have started out as a bright idea in Sam Morgan’s head, but one lesson from the Trade Me story is that there’s no shortage of bright ideas. The key is to bring the idea kicking and screaming into reality quickly, and then back it up with great operations and decision-making.

To help choose the best bright ideas and implement them well, we have a set of principles. There are seven in total, but four in particular are often front and centre when ideas are being batted around the pool table at Trade Me HQ.

First, focus on the consumer. These are the people who ultimately pay your wages, so you have to do something useful and valuable for them. It sounds really basic, but many businesses seem to forget it. For Trade Me, it means providing a website that’s fast, easy to use, helpful to people, safe and reliable.

Second, decide and act on merit. Again, a pretty simple idea. There are loads of things about websites that are easy to measure, and you’d be a fool not to take advantage of this. More generally, there’s value to businesses of all sizes in collecting data to separate fact from conjecture, and help shape their decisions.

For us, there’s another equally valuable facet to this principle – smarter decisions are made on merit, not on company hierarchy. We value good arguments from people, regardless of their role.

Third, hire talented people, and give them the room and resources to grow and contribute across lots of different areas of your business. This includes not being afraid to hire people smarter than you.

The fourth principle is related to this – not only do the people inside your business have ideas to throw into the pot, there are plenty of great ideas in the heads of people who use your service or buy your products.

At Trade Me, our community of members is a vital part of our team. Not only are they our best marketing force, but they effectively extend our customer service by helping each other out with issues and questions. We pick up lots of good suggestions from them, they keep Trade Me safe by reporting misbehaviour, and they let us know when things are broken.

As people get more comfortable conversing online through forums and social networking, people will only be better informed about your actions and their collective experiences of dealing with you. Ignore the community around your business at your peril.

Jon Macdonald, is the CEO of Trade Me
Tags: John Macdonald, Trade Me

Build a team, share your dream and success is yours

17 May 2010
Don't do it alone

In his Innovation Community Blog post, Ralph Higham talks about the ups and downs of being an innovator. I agree with him that the path is full of exhilierating highs, and soul-destroying lows, but I will come out and say what he only implies: starting a company is really, really hard. Think of the hardest job you've ever done, and raise it to the power of difficult. It requires unusual and often contradictory personal attributes. You'll need to combine stamina and dogged determination with the ability to listen, empathise, and be self aware. Your technical prowess, a methodical analytical approach, and financial skills are worthless without creativity, sales nous, and management flair.

You need to be Albert Einstein, Oprah Winfrey, Henry Ford, and Nelson Mandela all rolled into one.

Or do you?

Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of trying to turn their ideas into reality all by themselves.

Going it alone is a bad idea for a number of reasons:
• You become a single point of failure for your company
• Very few, if any people have all of the skill sets necessary to make a high-growth business successful
• As you scale, the job will quickly outstrip the capacity of a single person
• You don't know what you don't know, and your Reality Distortion Field can grow to infinite size if unchecked
• In the cruicible of start-ups, having support is essential and may literally save your life.

At WebFund, we engineer start-up success by cultivating ideas, people and resources as well as providing incubation, seed capital, strategic advice, governance, access to networks, technical know-how, and plenty of elbow-grease. It's rare that we'll consider investing in a singleton inventor – in our experience having a great team greatly increases your chance of success.

There's a word for people who “do it” alone.

Finding the right co-founder(s) is an essential first step in turning your idea into a real business. You're going to have to give a bit of your dream away, but hey, if you need to give a little to get a little than it follows that you need to give a lot to get a lot. If you can't form a good relationship with a co-founder, chances are you won't be able to form lasting relationships with other key stakeholders in your business on whom you will come to utterly depend: your customers, your employees, your suppliers, your distribution channels, your investors ...

So build a team, share your dream, and hand in hand you'll be able to scale up to meet the world.

Dave Moskovitz is Chairman of WebFund, is on the board of Angel HQ, and blogs about angel investing at nzangels.com
Tags: Dave Moskovitz, innovation, webfund, angel

Innovation

10 May 2010
Ever had a bright idea which has so captured you that you cannot sleep for nights on end? Ever had a realization that you have gained an insight into a problem that no-one else in the world has seen? And that maybe your solution can transform the lives of millions of people? Welcome to the world of innovation and welcome to the roller-coaster that is transforming your idea from a piece of paper to an everyday reality for those millions of people.

Innovation is not an easy ride, and if you prefer working 9-5 and shifting paper from pile A to pile B for a guaranteed sum of money, it might not be for you. But if you want to live life on the edge and if you want to experience the highs of first funding, first prototypes, first commercial deals, and first users then it might just be that you need to start working up those ideas of yours and seeing if, just maybe, there’s enough substance in one of them to run with.

Don’t, however, expect your idea to magically come to life, or for your path to be smooth. The road to market is full of potholes and along with your idea you need bucket loads of perseverance, belief and good advice. Just like any of Wellington’s wonderful walkways, you are going to experience steep up-hills, steep down-hills, and every now and then breathtaking views of where you heading to.

Matakina is a “born global” company but with a beating heart originating from that living on the edge feeling that we all enjoy in Wellington, and a body and soul that’s being forged by the sense of innovation and togetherness that Wellington uniquely offers. We have a vision of helping the millions of women who are screened for breast cancer each year, and although the barriers to success are high (medical devices are highly regulated) we believe we can overcome those barriers and succeed as a business, and when we succeed as a business, then millions of women each year will be better off for it.

Ralph Highnam is the CEO of Matakina Technology who use digital imaging to revolutionize breast imaging enabling breast cancer can be detected earlier, diagnosed more accurately and treated more effectively.
Tags: Ralpha Highnam, Matakina, Innovation

Innovation Capital

03 May 2010
Wellington is the innovation capital. The local software and design industry is flourishing. I’m often asked why we grow great software companies from Wellington. Geography and weather are the key ingredients. The compact nature of the city means that networks grow quickly. Put simply people in Wellington bump into each other more, at work, on the town, in the gym and walking around the bays.

With people working and socialising in the same area cross discipline friendships are created. For instance lawyers flat with computer geeks who play squash with their accountant who flats with the girlfriend of the designer who when to Otago with….

The weather means we spend a lot time with other people talking, hanging out and hatching schemes. Back in the early days the perfect Sunday for me was brunch with the flatmates, a windsurf at Plimmerton and then back to work for a few hours coding up an idea before catching up with mates for tea.

As a Government town many in the ICT industry have cut their teeth working on large scale projects, gaining their base experience before joining start-ups or creating their own businesses. When it comes time to build your team, linking up with people with a wide variety of skills is easier because they are already in your network. I often compare the breadth of skills we have in our team at Xero and think how hard it would be to build the same team in San Francisco as your network, and the people you see during the week, is likely to be more limited and often just your existing work mates.

Restaurants and café’s are world class in Wellington. That’s because we look out to see what is happening overseas and bring back the good bits then adding our own spin. In our digitally connected world we do the same.

One of our secrets at Xero is to seek innovation from within. While keeping a close eye on industry trends we make a point of really listening to our customers and encouraging staff to own features or take ideas and make them better. It always makes me proud when we brainstorm a problem and the solutions that come back are far better than we first imagined. And our team gets such a buzz when we hear that people now ‘love’ to do the books. Innovation changes attitudes.

Xero is a product of the culture of innovation growing in Wellington. Wellington is well poised to continue being the innovation capital and the opportunity is growing significantly as technology reduces the barriers to going offshore and using our distinct competitive advantages in larger markets.

By Rod Drury CEO. Xero
Tags: Rod Drury, Innovation, Capital, Xero

Innovation - Nigel Kirkpatrick

20 April 2010
All great discoveries began with an idea, a sense of inquiry and the unrelenting desire to push further, create change and not to be happy with the status quo.

Right here in Wellington people are pioneering ideas that have the potential to change how we live and do business. People are analysing and testing natural products to determine if they have any bioactivity potential for natural or pharmaceutical therapies, Cloud Computing’ solutions are being developed for the creative digital community in North Asia. World first are being created in design, technology and science.

It is no secret that Wellington is a place of ideas; that it is a place where ambitious people collaborate to make ideas a reality. And what really invigorates Wellington’s innovation culture is the combination of ideas and investment. Ideas without support are just that, ideas. That is why we have set up the Bright Ideas Challenge.

The Bright Ideas Challenge is a chance to transform your bright business idea into reality.

We are interested in all stages of ideas, including dynamic initial ideas, ideas at research and development, prototype, or pilot and revenue generating stages. We will help take your idea to the next level by providing the right support and the right time.

We know that Wellington is a place of possibilities, where intellect, creativity, commerce and governance thrive in remarkable proximity. We know that Wellingtonians share their stories and on any given day, some of the world’s most interesting and varied conversations take place here so as part of the Bright Idea Challenge there will be opportunities to network with other entrepreneurs, business experts and Wellington investors.

It’s no accident that in the last 20 years, this area has transformed from a windswept, soul-less bureaucracy stop into one of the most sought-after and highly respected regions on earth.

It has been done by harnessing bright ideas and commercializing them. We have come this far but we know there are other ideas out there. Let’s keep the beacon shining. Enter your bright idea at the brightideaschallenge.co.nz
Tags: Nigel Kirkpatrick, Grow Wellington
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