Innovation is a buzz word at the moment. Various government agencies are forming to promote it (e.g. Innovate Durban) and provinces are developing strategies on it (e.g. the KZN Innovation Strategy). eThekwini Municipality’s recent Innovation Summit brought together experts on innovation in a series of panel discussions over two days. These are the four ideas around innovation that had the most impact on us.
Did you know there was theory to the madness of starting a business? Well there is. A whole school of thought, actually.
- The Lean Startup is a guide to reducing uncertainty throughout the startup phase of a business, coined by Eric Ries. The core principle is continuous testing of your business idea and creating a feedback loop, making the process more science and less chaos. The Lean Canvas sets these principles out on a user-friendly one-pager. Find out more at the: http://theleanstartup.com/
- Design theory is the application of design thinking to the creation of a startup. Similar to the Lean Startup concept, design thinking encourages stepping into the shoes of the customer through interviews and user testing. See: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/inf536reflections/files/2015/08/dt-copy-xfcrbh.jpg
Crowd Fund your Validation
Theory tells you to user test your product but you aren’t sure where to start? Experts recognize crowd funding as one of the simplest, most effective forms of user testing. The key to securing finance from funders is reducing the risk associated with funding your product. The key to reducing risk is closing the validation gap. Going to funders with proven validation, therefore, reduces risk and interest on loans. Thundafund is South Africa’s main crowd funding website. They boast of a chocolate restaurant in Cape Town which offered the promise of chocolate in return for investment and was able to raise more than required to set up shop in just a month See: https://blog.thundafund.com/2014/10/15/crowdfunding-case-study-honest-chocolate/
Ideas are free, execution is key
The first concern of many startups is around patenting and funders stealing their ideas. The response from experts – ‘ideas are free, execution is key’. The current global population sits at 7 billion – multiply that by all the generations of the last century and you will find that it is highly improbable that your idea is a world first. The criteria for patenting is to be a world first and non-obvious. According to panelists at the Innovation Summit, the patenting ship has sailed. Furthermore, the benefit of sharing your ideas far outweighs the risk of sharing them.
The good news is that if you really love your idea or think you truly do have a world first, it costs R60 to file a patent yourself. No need to hold up your whole design process or break the bank. You can also file Trademark applications yourself. Often the brand is far more important than the product e.g. Starbucks can’t patent coffee but they can ensure that their brand is protected. In South Africa there is no formal application required for copyright – you automatically have it. For more information on copyright see https://creativecommons.org/
The future is made of nano-tech and the internet of things
Say what? I am thoroughly under-qualified to write on these topics but when a Fulbright scholar from MIT and several other smart people get together in a room and say that the future of innovation lies in these two areas, I’m inclined to believe them. Furthermore, from what I understand, the future is already here. But before the internet of things turn on you in horror movie fashion and the 4th industrial revolution sends you into an existential crisis, I leave you with this quote from Anice Hassim,
“When the whole world is an algorithm, what can humans add? We can be more human.”