Entrepreneurs are Everywhere Show No. 11: Pat Sullivan and Sebastian Jackson

Startup founders strive to turn their dreams into reality, and the mentors who guide them often learn as much as they teach.

How startup ideas are developed and nurtured was the focus of conversations with the latest guests on Entrepreneurs are Everywhere, my radio show on Sirius XM Channel 111.

Pat Sullivan

Pat Sullivan

Joining me in the Stanford University studio were:

Sebastian Jackson

Sebastian Jackson

Listen to the full interviews by downloading them from SoundCloud here and here. (And download any of the past shows here.)

Clips from their interviews are below, but first a word about the show:

Entrepreneurs are Everywhere airs Thursdays at 1 pm Pacific, 4 pm Eastern on Sirius XM Channel 111. It follows the entrepreneurial journeys of founders sharing their experiences of what it takes to build a startup – from restaurants to rocket scientists, to online gifts to online groceries to entrepreneurial education and more.

The program examines the DNA of entrepreneurs: what makes them tick, how they came up with their ideas; and explores the habits that make them successful, and the highs, lows and pivots that pushed them forward.

Pat Sullivan is a serial entrepreneur who has been building software for more than 30 years, starting with the ACT! contact software he created in 1985. Pat was named one of the “80 Most Influential People in Sales and Marketing History” and was twice named Ernst & Young “Entrepreneur of the Year” for both ACT! and SalesLogix software.

Having had terrific mentors over the years, Pat makes it a point to pay his what he’s learned forward. He’s learned that mentorship is a two-way street:

I … meet with any entrepreneur who has a legitimate idea, or is in the process of starting something, for two reasons. One (is to) give back. The other is, I find that I always learn something. Younger people than I, they’re into things that I’ve never thought of. (For example) I thought Twitter was a really stupid idea, until my kids explained that it really wasn’t. I always learn something extraordinarily useful by meeting with others. 

… There are many times where I don’t fully understand what exactly it is that they’re trying to do, and the domain expertise that they have … but there are many things that are general in nature, that I have that they don’t have, and that I can give to them.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here.

Here are some of the things his mentors taught him:

Once I was agonizing over the fact that it took me a really, really long time to recognize that an executive … I hired just wasn’t making it. … It took me forever to decide to fire him. I … talked to my mentor and I was complaining how long it took. He listened, and listened, listened, just quiet, and all of a sudden he said, “You know, I think it’s great that everybody back at the office knows that you’re not quick on the trigger.” It totally … changed my perspective.

Another … mentor … said …: “You know, I may not be the smartest, I may not be the richest, but I can out-work you.” …

That has always stuck with me, that I’m not the smartest, I’m not the brightest, I may not have the most money, but I can out-work you. 

If you can’t hear the clip, click here.

Sebastian Jackson got his start cutting hair and dreaming of the day he might have is own barbershop. He said his early life had a profound impact on the way he thinks:

Sebastian: My mother, she suffers from schizophrenia. She was diagnosed when I was 1 (or) 2 years old. She’s always had this imagination as a part of that illness. It’s kind of helped me imagine things, right? …. Also I have to work, to execute on that imagination, just so that I know I’m not suffering from the same illness, that if I execute then it’s real.

Steve:  There is a fine line between insanity and genius.

Sebastian: There is. In America, I think it’s money; if you can make money from your illness, then you are deemed a genius. 

Steve:  I mean, that is kind of … it’s interesting you say that. I don’t mean to diminish what you went through with your mom but founders with big visions are treated as insane by most people who kind of go, “What do you mean you’re going to create a rocket company?” Or, “What do you mean you’re going to put the auto industry out of business?

Sebastian: Delusions of grandeur.

Steve:  … I think you said the magic word, the distinction between entrepreneurs and just people with ideas are they figure out how to get the resources to actually execute. …

Sebastian: Absolutely. …Oftentimes thought I was crazy but then … another opportunity will present itself or I will create another opportunity and be able to execute on it and that … validated my thinking. …

If you can’t hear the clip, click here. 

Both men are self-motivated and driven.

Pat explained that when he was a computer salesman, he created programs that eased his work problems and challenges. They became the foundation for ACT!

Being in sales, it struck me that, here I was selling computers but couldn’t find a really good reason to actually use one.

… You could some word-processing, a little spreadsheet-type stuff but there wasn’t really anything useful to me as a salesperson. For whatever reason, I began to teach myself programming and built what ultimately became the prototype for the product ACT! 

I did it (on the side) for about three years while I was selling computers. I was building applications that I use day in and day out. Anything that was routine, I hated routine so I would figure out how to program that. The last thing that I built was a contact manager, the ability to track all the information about my prospects, about my customers, so that I could remember them. …I solved a problem that I had.

… I really wish I could say that it was an overnight success. But April of 1987, we shipped the first version of ACT! My partner and I (had finally) decided to do a startup.

Steve:  That was pretty scary, wasn’t it?

Pat: I was a risk-taker. My wife and I discussed it with my partner and his wife over a weekend. I had put a couple of years into building this application. My wife said, “What’s the worst that could happen?”

Well, in Texas, which is where we were at the time, they couldn’t take your house. They couldn’t take one of your cars and they couldn’t take your kids. She said, “If that’s the worst that can happen, then you ought to try it because if you don’t, you’ll never know.”

If you can’t hear the clip, click here.

Sebastian also took a hands-on route:

… Before I started cutting hair for other people, I cut my own hair. … It was a pretty good haircut. … I just used a Schick razor and lined up the edges of my hair. Didn’t cut any off the top. I gave myself kind of a little taper or fade on the side and the back, and it was decent. Used my dad’s clippers. …

It was spring break. I saw other people doing it. My barber did it and I said, “If he can do it, I can do it.” …

Now, that first time kind of validated that I had the ability. The second time, I was so confident that I had actually tried to cut the top down. I left patches and everything everywhere. … It was terrible. …

I went to the barber, and he fixed it.

That first time stuck with me though. I had the confidence that I could do this and I continued to do it.

… From my sophomore year, when I was 15 years old, I started making five bucks a haircut, three bucks a shape-up, and started to travel to different clients in their homes, in their parent’s homes. I made a little bit of pocket change in high school, out of my parent’s garage, and out of other friends’ basements and garages.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here.

Sebastian has a founder’s signature tenaciousness. He had to write four business plans to get the OK to open his barbershop.

Wayne State saw that the previous business had failed, so they said, “No, no, no. No non-profit. We’ve got to make money here. How are you going to pay us?”

I wrote a second business plan and it showed how I would pay them. (It showed) the support I had to raise money to pay them and they still didn’t like that.

The third business plan was a for-profit showing an actual business model. It was very simple. We’re going to cut hair, people are going to pay us money, and then we’re going to pay you a portion of that.

… They said, “You’re onto something here.”  

The fourth one was the social club, which explained how we would create impact within this space …

… Wayne State wanted to create a campus where student life was abundant, where they can really have students live on campus and have a great time. We showed how we could add value there …how we could use a barbershop to create a place where students could come and have a good time, and get a service that actually make money. A service that … they’re willing to pay for. … 

If you can’t hear the clip, click here.

The Social Club Grooming Company has become a community hub, in part because of its Shop Talk monthly panel discussions.

… We bring people of interest in; they tell their story while getting a haircut.  

…As you’re getting your hair cut, you’re on the panel with maybe one other person and it’s a traditional barbershop talk. It’s an audience of people sitting around these 2 barber chairs. We take our other six barber chairs out of the way and we have two barber chairs that are front and center. People sit around and you tell your story. I moderate and then there’s a Q&A between you and the audience. It’s a TED talk in a barbershop.

… The real stickiness here is we’re able to have these unfiltered conversations … where you can tell us some secrets that you may not be willing to talk about in a traditional panel discussion setting.

The barbershop breaks (down social) barriers. If Reggie Bush comes in and does a Shop Talk, or if whomever comes in to a barbershop and there’s a line (to get a hair cut), they have to wait. You’re no longer this celebrity. You’re no longer this influencer 

…It’s a leveler and I think people really appreciate that about the barbershop heritage. … I think … my team … can … execute this and I think it’s because of my … being an entrepreneur and a highly technically skilled barber.

I understand the barbers and I understand a bit about business and I’m asking a lot of questions and I’m getting opportunities like this when I can ask you more questions. … Also, in interacting with our customers every day, I can learn quite a bit. I can ask them questions and really figure out what they want, what they want to pay for, so on and so forth. …

If you can’t hear the clip, click here.

Pat discussed the characteristics of world-class founders and told me why he can’t imagine doing anything else.

Tenacity.… persistence … perseverance. I like the word perseverance because the word severe is in it, and you often face things that are severe. An entrepreneur who is formidable typically finds a way to get through it. I love the book, The Hard Thing About Hard Things (by Ben Horowitz) that there’s always a way …

Steve:  So why do you still do it, after 30 years?

Pat: Well, first of all, it’s the only thing I get paid for, so it makes me a professional. I would be totally unemployable, there’s no one who would hire me, because they always know I’m going to do another startup. (And) doing something with particularly young, really, really bright people, doing something that’s hard, is just a lot of fun. …

If you can’t hear the clip, click here.

Listen to my full interviews with Pat and Sebastian by downloading them from SoundCloud here and here. (And download any of the past shows here.)

Next on Entrepreneurs are Everywhere: Andrew Breen, Vice President of Product Delivery for American Express’s World Service division; and David Binetti, founder of Dinadesa, from the Lean Startup Conference.

Tune in Thursday at 1 pm PT, 4 pm ET on Sirius XM Channel 111.

Entrepreneurs are Everywhere Show No. 10: Reetu Gupta and Mandela Schumacher-Hodge

A startup is not a part-time activity. Trying to do a startup while keeping your day job may doom you to failure. So will failing to understand your customers.

Successful founders have a laser-like focus and commitment; a keen understanding of customers’ needs; and a tenacious spirit, said the latest guests on Entrepreneurs are Everywhere, my radio show on Sirius XM Channel 111.

Reetu Gupta

Reetu Gupta

Joining me in the Stanford University studio were:

Listen to the full interviews by downloading them from SoundCloud here and here. (And download any of the past shows here.)

Mandela Schumacher-Hodge

Mandela Schumacher-Hodge

Clips from their interviews are below, but first a word about the show:

Entrepreneurs are Everywhere airs Thursdays at 1 pm Pacific, 4 pm Eastern on Sirius XM Channel 111. It follows the entrepreneurial journeys of founders sharing their experiences of what it takes to build a startup – from restaurants to rocket scientists, to online gifts to online groceries to entrepreneurial education and more.

The program examines the DNA of entrepreneurs: what makes them tick, how they came up with their ideas; and explores the habits that make them successful, and the highs, lows and pivots that pushed them forward.

Before starting CirkledIn, Reetu Gupta spent 20 years in corporate America doing internal startups as well as marketing and engineering work at Fortune 50 companies including AT&T Wireless and Honeywell. In between, she started a wearable startup in her spare time, but failed. Here’s what happened:

Timing the market is a critical piece of any successful startup. We were early to the market. Even though there was a real need in the market it wasn’t right (the right time) for a wearable (product). Today, everybody is wearing an Apple watch, five years ago, not so much.

… another reason (we failed was that it was a) side project. …The thing is, when you do it as a side project, one, you don’t have enough fire under your feet. … You have consistent paycheck coming in. There’s no reason for you to freak out and you’re not running out of money and you’re not trying your best (and) your resources are diffused. …

If you can’t hear the clip, click here.

Named to Forbes 30 Under 30 in Education list in 2014, Mandela Schumacher-Hodge is a former high school teacher who later served as global director of Education Entrepreneurs, a Gates Foundation initiative operated within UP Global, now Techstars. Her first startup was Tioki, known as the LinkedIn for educators. 

While building Tioki, Mandela fell under the spell of her own reality distortion field:

One of the biggest lessons I learned was really understanding the problem… of your user. …. You think they want your product … or you think because you are one of those users everyone would want what you want. I think that I gave myself a little bit too much power in the sense of, well, I’m a teacher; I know what all teachers would want, instead of getting out of the building and really practicing those early skills I learned at Startup Weekend. Get out of the building and really talk to people. Really understand their pain points. …

… I (also) wish I would have just understood how this industry works a little bit better,” before jumping in, just so my expectations would be equal to what the circumstances would require of me, like constantly learning and iterating and being super agile. I don’t think I had ever had to be that way in my other career paths. That is a for sure requirement of entrepreneurship that I wasn’t aware that I would … I thought, “Oh, we’re getting funded. We made it.” But that’s just the beginning.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here.

Playing sports helped prepare her to be an entrepreneur:

The elements I learned from being an athlete, as well as a captain (are) first and foremost … being a teammate. I think that you can be an individual and build a great product, but in order to really turn it in to a fantastic sustainable company, you really have to understand team dynamics, and you really have to understand complementary roles and skill-sets, and how to position people in the right seats, at the right time, depending on where you are at, in a season, or in a game and, of course, (in) your startup life…

Steve:  … Team captain is a lot like the founder and CEO of a startup. We talk a lot about (how) startups need teams with complementary skills. … When you get a monoculture, you sometimes have a less successful startup. …

Mandela: … The teamwork aspect is huge. … Aside from teamwork, I would say a huge thing I learned was perseverance by being an athlete. When you want to give up, and you’re tired physically, mentally, and the effort it takes to just keep going, get up one more day, I have oftentimes found that’s when I score that last-minute goal. It’s the same thing in my entrepreneurial career: If I just stick with it and I put myself in uncomfortable situations, that’s oftentimes … where success is found.          

If you can’t hear the clip, click here.

Mandela gave up a Ph.D program to become an entrepreneur:

…I was on my way to the Ph.D… that I had worked my behind off to get into. It was a really big conundrum for me.

… I tend to feel like sometimes I am Super Woman. Like I can do everything. … (so) I was going to do both — naivete, right? So I started my PhD program. I did that for several months, and I started building the Tioki … with my co-founder.

…and I got quickly pushed on my behind — humbled you can call it — and I realized that I’m being good at two things but I’m not being great at either. I understood the importance of making a decision and having a laser-like focus to really hone in my energy, my time, everything on one thing. So I made the decision to drop out of the Ph.D program and take the plunge full time. 

If you can’t hear the clip, click here.

Today she is applying the lessons she learned from her Tioki experience to The Startup Couch:

I tried to learn lessons from my previous startup failure and this time around I didn’t launch anything for three months. I just solely tested and rather than go out and build a site I just utilized Medium to test the content. … Medium is a blogging platform and you can start a blog in a matter of seconds rather than investing time in WordPress which I did later. It was just an easy, light lift and I started blogging about these private struggles I had gone through with anxiety and depression and insecurity and financial strains, being broke — my cofounder got his car repo’d at one point. It got bad. And I was honest about it and people reacted. In that first month I got 20,000 hits and all this engagement, and I started doing surveys to see what are people doing to solve this solving that they say they, too, have.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here.

For Reetu, coming to America from India marked a watershed moment:

I always felt I was a misfit in India . … I don’t have any brothers and India is still a very male-dominated society. When I was growing up, it was really bad. Everybody used to feel sorry for my parents. I remember one particular incident when a next-door neighbor came with his three sons. It was a dispute. He said that my dad didn’t have any son to protect him. It used to boil my blood. I was very frustrated. I always used to tell my parents, “I’m going to be that son that you don’t have.”

… Women (in India) were not safe. Girls …couldn’t do this … couldn’t do that. I was very frustrated. In fact, I used to think, “I should write a book on how to raise a rebel in society.” It made me that rebel.

When I came to Maryland for the first time, I was like, “Oh my God, this is where I should have been born. This is where I fit. I can go to the store at night and not be afraid of getting killed.”

Just basic necessities are met. Infrastructure is there. There’s no corruption. You can really focus on things that you really care about. There’s running water in the sink and there are no potholes in the road. There’s no electricity card. I can focus on my career, my job, my business idea if I have one.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here. 

Reetu’s current startup idea came out of her experience of documenting her daughter’s achievements for a school application. Here’s how she validated it:

After we went through that process, I said there’s got to be a better way. I started Google-ing “kids’ profile,” “resume building,” and all of that, and I did not come up with anything. … The first thing I did was I made a lookalike of our website, what it would look like, and I went and started interviewing people. …

I had a Kindle and I took that to the mall. …I started in my neighborhood, everybody I met with, I said, introduce me to two other moms, two other parents, two other whatever. I interviewed a hundred people over two and a half months. At that time, we had three different offering ideas and I asked them to prioritize those three. Everybody asked for a profile. The words we heard were, “It’s a godsend, when can I have it? I wish I had it when I was growing up. This is a great idea.”

If you can’t hear the clip, click here.

Here’s Reetu’s advice for other founders:

One thing I will say is know what you are getting into. Entrepreneurship is very glamorized. You hear about 20-year-old billionaires, you hear about success stories. What you do not hear about, all the antidepressant consumption that’s going up. You do not hear all the failures of the startups that did not go anywhere, didn’t get any funding and died. It’s like, I say, it’s like child(birth): you do not know what you are getting into until you go through it.

… Just know that it’s harder than anything you have ever done.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here.

Listen to my full interviews with Reetu and Mandela by downloading them from SoundCloud here and here. (And download any of the past shows here.)

Next on Entrepreneurs are Everywhere: Elin Elkehag, founder of Vinna Ventures; and Hillary Hartley, deputy executive director and co-founder of 18F; in the first of three episodes recorded at the Lean Startup Conference.

Tune in Thursday at 1 pm PT, 4 pm ET on Sirius XM Channel 111.

Entrepreneurs are Everywhere Show No. 8: Phil Randazzo and Derek Andersen

Successful entrepreneurs show up a lot and make their own luck. And they are resilient – they’re able to bounce back after failure.  Both of these traits made all the difference for the two latest guests on Entrepreneurs are Everywhere, my radio show on Sirius XM Channel 111.

Phil Randazzo

Phil Randazzo

Joining me in the Stanford University studio were

  • Phil Randazzo, is the founder of American Dream U, a national entrepreneurship and coaching program that helps transitioning soldiers find work or start their own business
  • Derek Andersen, is the founder of Startup Grind, a 200,000-person entrepreneurial community with chapters in 75 countries run by more than 1,000 volunteers
Derek Andersen

Derek Andersen

Listen to the full interviews by downloading them from SoundCloud here and here (And download any of the past shows here.)

Clips from their interviews are below, but first a word about the show:

Entrepreneurs are Everywhere airs Thursdays at 1 pm Pacific, 4 pm Eastern on Sirius XM Channel 111. It follows the entrepreneurial journeys of founders sharing their experiences of what it takes to build a startup – from restaurants to rocket scientists, to online gifts to online groceries to entrepreneurial education and more.

The program examines the DNA of entrepreneurs: what makes them tick, how they came up with their ideas; and explores the habits that make them successful, and the highs, lows and pivots that pushed them forward.

Phil Randazzo is a serial entrepreneur and the founder of American Dream U, a nonprofit that helps soldiers transition to civilian life. Phil also owns Nevada Benefits Corp; and is the co-founder of Drive Safe Mode, an app that prevents teens from texting while driving. In addition, he started Capital MD, Inc., a medical billing and financial company; and owns interest in 44 Subway Sandwich shops and in Source Intelligence compliance firm.

In short, Phil has a lot of ideas and is eager to make them work.

I get bored really easy. … (so) I just start new things. (The) first thing was I wanted to be a land developer because I wanted to be my own builder. What did I know about land development? (But) someone told me it’s better to own than to rent. … (So) I bought some land. I had a meeting with a guy who lived (next to) the land and I said, “Hey. I can’t buy this whole piece. You want to go in with me?” He went in with me. … I’m still in that building today. 

… I bought several buildings. People think I’m smart because I sold a lot of (buildings) in Las Vegas (at the peak) in ’04 and ’05, before the big crash. I just was lucky. 

Steve: … entrepreneurs make their own luck. … I’ll contend that showing up a lot, trying a lot of things (makes a big difference). If you’re just sitting at home saying, “Woe is me,” that’s pretty different than, “Hey, I tried X, I tried Y, and I tried whoa!” That’s not luck. … 80% of entrepreneurship, I’ll contend, is (showing up so you can be) in the game.

Phil: For sure. There’s that movie, The Secret, where you wish and hope things happen to you. (The reality is that) if you don’t act and there’s no movement, nothing happens.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Before founding Startup Grind, Derek Andersen spent four years in product management at Electronic Arts working on games like The Godfather, Burnout, The Sims 3, and Mirror’s Edge. He left EA in 2009 to start Vaporware Labs, a product incubator that mostly failed, but also created products including Commonred, which was acquired by Income.com in 2012. His first startup, built soon after the birth of his son, was advertising on trucks. Here’s what happened:

… It was a bad idea, because … in spite of all my efforts I couldn’t beg anyone to buy it. I worked for months on it and eventually realized I was just spinning my tires. … It was the wrong product and people didn’t want it. …

… I felt awful because I just quit my job. Not only that, but when I told Electronic Arts I was going to quit, this is in the summer of ’09… the middle of … the Great Recession. My boss called me and said, “Look, if you’ll stay we’ll give you a double promotion and a 25 percent raise.” … 

…. Here I am. I’ve just quit and I’ve turned down this huge thing and … my brilliant idea is nothing. … It was heartbreaking. …

Steve: So why didn’t you go back to EA?

Derek: Like every great entrepreneur I would’ve been too embarrassed to go back.  

Steve: So that’s a big idea … a little hubris. You said no, I’m right, just wrong idea. I’d do it again.

Derek: Yeah. …

… (And when a friend with a new startup called asking me to do some marketing for him) I said, I’m totally focused on on this truck idea. I can’t deviate from that. He said, “Well, why don’t you (work for me for) 20 hours a week?”

I said, “How much would you pay me?” He said, “Well, how about 80 bucks an hour? 

It’s one of those moments where you remember exactly where you were. … I looked at the phone and my jaw dropped. I put it back to my ear and said, “I couldn’t do it for anything less than 85. … So for those 20 hours a week, I could pay all of our bills, and that felt really good. 

If you can’t hear the clip, click here.

Here’s why working at big companies wasn’t for Derek:

I was working really hard. I was the first person in. I was the last person out every day. I was rated in the top 2 percent of the entire organization. One day I was having lunch with my boss and I’d worked really hard on the weekend, and he said, “Hey. You need to do XYZ more.”

I said, “Look. I’m not getting paid like an investment banker. I’m working as hard as I can. I’m already working harder than everyone.”

…A few hours later, he pulled me into his office and he said, “Hey. I’ve rallied for you. I’ve really worked hard and I’ve gotten you a … $4,000 raise.”

The biggest thing that bothered me about it was, not that it was only $4,000, which was laughable, but I said to myself, if it takes me complaining or, if people don’t notice my work, then it’s just not worth it to me.

I didn’t want to be a cog in the system. Then I realized, if I worked 110 percent, I was in the top 2 percent. Then I had this great epiphany. … I realized if I worked about 70 percent, I would still be rated in the top 90 percent. I started going to Starbucks in the morning and working for an hour and half. Then I’d come in, I’d be like the third person in. Then at night, I would go home earlier and I would just work on my own projects.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here.

Like many founders, Phil was not academically inclined:

My senior year, I finished with a whopping 1.8 GPA … I was ineligible to play sports. I was not a great student to say the least. I didn’t even like attending class. …

…The good thing was, back in the day when I went to school, they didn’t have online reporting. I used to run home and take all the notices out of the mailbox before my parents would see them whether it was poor grades or I think I set the record for the most absentees.

My dad was an immigrant from Italy. He was born in Sicily. … He was a smart kid as well. … (and went) to University of Chicago as a junior in high school. He skipped through. School is really important to him so I think I was a little bit of disappointment. …

If you can’t hear the clip, click here.

But Phil has an incredible work ethic:

(My) wife of 24 years … got pregnant, while I was still in college. …I had to grow up pretty quick, and figure out how to support a family. … I worked my way through it. I did odd jobs.

I ended up getting a job as 100 percent commission salesperson selling insurance. It built both (character and desperation).

Then I had two other …. jobs, and my wife worked two jobs. … I delivered newspapers at night … for the Las Vegas Review Journal. Then I helped write parole and probation reports for first-time offenders. …My wife had a daycare in our apartment, and worked at SafeKey in the school district. …

(The work ethic) definitely (came) from my father … he really instilled in me, (that) hard work solves a lot of problems.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here.

And a resilient spirit

… if you look at my background and look at my education, I would not be .. one that (you might guess) would be (an entrepreneur) …. I did not drop out of Stanford to start (a company). … Anyone can be an entrepreneur…

… I think we are either winning or learning, and I have a lot of failures. I considered those learning experiences, some of them are really expensive learning experiences.

… You are going to hear a lot of chatter from friends and naysayers. …

Probably the biggest thing was, “Ah, Phil, you can’t possibly do that.” Right?

I was voted second class clown in high school. And I was actually funnier… than first guy. My whole life it was like, the joke of my house, was my dad would say I was going to be the head dishwasher and my sister was going to be the assistant head dishwasher. …

Resilience, is not listening to all the noise going around – that’s big.  

If you can’t hear the clip, click here.

World-class entrepreneurs are comfortable in chaos, and Derek is no exception. Here’s how he learned to embrace new experiences:

When I was young my family moved to Europe. My dad was working over there, and we spent six years moving across Europe and then back across the United States. I was, at one point, in 10 schools in 10 years. …

(The travel) affected us a lot. … it either makes you stronger or it kind of turns you into a mess. I don’t know which one I ended up being, but it brought our family very close together. At times the only friends we had were our brothers and sisters. …

It was interesting because every year was … in some ways … a new startup because I knew every year I would be saying goodbye to everyone, and so I would start fresh somewhere new. Each summer as I started the new year I would say, “OK, this didn’t work last year. This didn’t work. I’m going to try this. I’m going try this.” You try to make friends as quickly as you could, or you cry yourself to sleep.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here.

Startup Grind evolved from an effort to help fellow entrepreneurs, but didn’t take off immediately. Here’s how Derek made it work:

We tried … all these different platforms. Every month … kind of like school, it became a new cycle. … We tried apps, we tried different technologies, we tried different formats, and nothing really worked. I had this event where we had four people come, and I got in the car and I remember saying to myself, “What a freaking waste of time.”

… This is four years ago. (It) was a one night a month thing… a side project just for fun, and I’m building the game and then I was building Commonred, these were the things that I was really focused on building.

(But then) I decided that even if it was a side project, I was either going to do a job I was really proud with, or I was going to shut it down and stop wasting my time. …

Six weeks later, we got a speaker who had sold his company to Oracle. We brought him in, he was a friend of Spencer’s, the guy who started with me, and we had 40 people show up. No one was more shocked than me. I didn’t know hardly any of them. They weren’t my friends who I had been begging to come. We … had our epiphany of “Wow, we need speakers. We need people who have their own brand who can share. We need to raise the education bar of these events.” The next month we had a bigger speaker who’s a friend, and we had 55 people. …

Then the next week, or the next month, we had 80, and the next month we had 100, and then the next month after that, which was our 1-year anniversary, I invited Jason Calcanis to speak, who’s a fairly well-known investor and entrepreneur in technology, and he said, “Look, I don’t have time to prepare a talk. … But if you want to interview me, I’ll just show up for an hour and then I’m going to leave.”

And I said, “Great, no problem. I can interview you. That’s easy.” So I prepared an interview, we filmed it, it’s still online, our very first interview. (People can see it on) …Youtube.com/startupgrind

People really liked it, and it was so easy for the speakers, so the value proposition kind of aligned that night, where the speaker could come in and they just had to share their knowledge. They didn’t have to prepare anything, and they could leave. They get a really great hour of mentorship. The audience had this really great value proposition because they got to really get close to the speaker (and network with themselves), and then it was great for me as the organizer, because I got to get to know this guy.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here.

Listen to my full interviews with Phil and Derek by downloading them from SoundCloud here and here. (And download any of the past shows here.)

Next on Entrepreneurs are Everywhere: Jered Lawson, co-founder of Pie Ranch, and Chase Adam, founder of Watsi.

Tune in today at 1 pm PT, 4 pm ET on Sirius XM Channel 111.

Entrepreneurs are Everywhere show No. 4: David Lerner and Gary Marcus

Growing interest in entrepreneurship is driving a culture change across Columbia University. And Silicon Valley’s pay-it-forward culture is a huge help to startup founders.

Culture matters whether you’re starting up or helping others to do so. That was the message from the latest guests on Entrepreneurs are Everywhere, my radio show on Sirius XM Channel 111.

Dave Lerner

Dave Lerner

David Lerner is an entrepreneur, angel investor and director of entrepreneurship at Columbia University. Gary Marcus, one of the country’s best-known cognitive psychologists, is a professor of psychology and neural science at NYU and founder of Geometric Intelligence.

Listen to the full interviews by downloading them from SoundCloud here and here(And download any of the past shows here.)

Clips from their interviews are below, but first a word about the show:

Gary Marcus

Gary Marcus

Entrepreneurs are Everywhere airs Thursdays at 1 pm Pacific, 4 pm Eastern on Sirius XM Channel 111. It follows the entrepreneurial journeys of founders sharing their experiences of what it takes to build a startup – from restaurants to rocket scientists, to online gifts to online groceries to entrepreneurial education and more.

The program examines the DNA of entrepreneurs: what makes them tick, how they came up with their ideas; and explore the habits that make them successful, and the highs, lows and pivots that pushed them forward.

Entrepreneurship bringing people together 

David Lerner became the director of Entrepreneurship at Columbia University after seven years running Columbia’s Venture Lab. He is also an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at Columbia Business School, and an angel investor hailed as one of New York City’s top 100 early-stage investors.

He explained that entrepreneurship is the galvanizing force as Columbia University works to redefine its culture and became an outward-facing institution.

Dave: We’re trying to take a lot of the stuff that you’ve done with the Lean LaunchPad methodology and move that out across university into the other schools.  

… Entrepreneurship is the tip of the spear for efforts to try to galvanize siloed groups. Everyone is interested in solving problems. And entrepreneurship is a mysterious force that everyone is interested in and it brings everyone together. It’s not threatening. It’s collaborative. It’s creative. We’ve had a lot of success in bringing people into the community and welcoming them. 

Steve:  This is both student projects and faculty research as well figuring out how to apply some of the basic research that faculty is doing, right?

Dave:  Absolutely. … I would say that in the last five or six years, it’s gone from a weird conversation to have to if you’re not having it, you’re not in the mainstream anymore. Everyone is involved in the innovation entrepreneurship community in some way now.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here.

What’s more, as the Lean Startup revolution has gone mainstream, Dave said, it has started to change the trajectory of our economy.

I’m seeing it in real time. I’m teaching Launch Your Startup and the Greenhouse Accelerator at the (Columbia) Business School. There’s more interest on the business school students and engineer students than there’s ever been. A lot of them are fed up, they’re not going back to the consulting firms, they don’t want to go back to their banking jobs. They want to create something new and it’s palpably different than it was five years ago. It’s in the air. It’s a conversation. If you don’t know about it your first year, you certainly will find out about it by meeting your peers. …

… I think universities that don’t have an entrepreneurship focus now are in the minority. I’ve seen so many of my colleagues are hiring entrepreneurship directors, creating new programs. They want to collaborate. They want to learn from what we’re doing, from what other schools are doing. It’s in the air, whereas five, six years ago, it wasn’t even spoken of.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here.

Gary Marcus is professor of psychology and neural science at NYU and CEO and founder of the artificial intelligence (AI) startup Geometric Intelligence. Described by The New York Times as “one of the country’s best known cognitive psychologists,” he is the author of four books including Kluge: The Haphazard Evolution of the Human Mind, and the New York Times Bestseller, Guitar Zero; and writes frequently for The New York Times and The New Yorker. In addition, he is co-editor of the recent book, The Future of the Brain: Essays By The World’s Leading Neuroscientists.

As he has worked to build Geometric Intelligence, Gary has found valuable help from other founders thanks to Silicon Valley’s pay-it-forward culture.

I’ve been blessed by having a lot of very supportive people in Silicon Valley, including you. … We’ve spoken a few times and you’ve been very generous. I found a lot of people in the Valley have really been there for me when I’ve had questions, “How do you handle this? What do you do with an advisory board?”

…It’s an amazing (pay-it-forward) culture, actually. Academia does not have that culture, at least in the parts that I’ve been. I actually found that people have been nicer to me in the business world. I don’t doubt that we will come up with some cut-throat competitors yet and so forth … but so far people have been really generous with their time. It’s been great.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here.

Gary also told me why being a science professor was good training for being an entrepreneur

It’s not that different from running a lab where you have to raise funding. You have to pitch your ideas to different people all the time. …I had a lab in the university…. It varied between two and ten people at different times…. A lot of the skills that I developed there, and also in the writing for the public, have been very valuable in making, you know, in liaison with the investors and helping to recruit people. It’s actually not that different a skill set.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here.

The stuff founders are made of

Dave shared what he looks for in a founder:

I’m always looking for somebody who is courageous, who is relentless, who’s prepared for the long slog that is inevitable, and who’s on a mission and so focused that they’re just going to keep moving no matter what…

… I remember with my dad and myself, people were saying no to us constantly, I don’t even think it registered when people said no to us.

Steve:  I’m going to remind everybody that no is just the beginning of a conversation for an entrepreneur …

Dave:  Exactly right. …

Steve:  Maybe fearless and relentless (are also key traits)?

Dave:  I think so. The one thing the one sort of tale that I have is, when you’re having a conversation with an entrepreneur, how deep down the rabbit hole are they ready to go? I’ll give you an example, there’s one friend of mine … the CEO of venture-backed company… it’s a parking app… but when he was starting out, … I said, Sean, what do you know about parking, you’ve been in e-commerce … and then probably for two hours, question after question he just kept going down a rabbit hole, and he was ready to go for eight hours to talk about algorithms, and zones, and cities. Every aspect of parking you could possibly imagine. I was ready to get carried out on a stretcher- 

Steve:  He became a domain expert?

Dave: Yes he did.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here.

Dave was a champion chess player in high school and honed his game with the help of his peers. He told me why learning to play chess is like being an entrepreneur:

Dave:  In retrospect I’ve kind of realized that those guys to me, they had this closed knowledge. This is of course, pre-Internet. Once you were sort of in with the club, so to speak, and had access to this knowledge you immediately starting performing, you know, 10 acts of what you ever were before.

Steve:  I see. I’m surprised you went there. It wasn’t like chess taught me how to think multiple layers deep, it was actually that it was a closed system of knowledge, kind of like investment banking or venture capital or startups that once you got in the club someone would actually teach you. Is that?

Dave: Exactly. Truly it was like an apprenticeship model and of course, they didn’t have an eloquent way about them, it was gruff and rough, and there were a lot of insults but … kind of like startups, they let you in fine, begrudgingly and if you showed up and you had heart they appreciated it.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here.

Listen to Dave’s full interview here

If you can’t hear the clip, click here. 

Gary shared why he decided to go for it and do a startup.

I had dinner with somebody … who closed a deal one night. … He couldn’t tell me what it was, but I read about it the next night. It was this company DeepMind, which sold to Google for $650,000,000. I read what they did, and I was like, “You know, what they had is one really interesting technology” …

…I was like, “Why am I writing about this for trivial amounts of money? Maybe I should do it.” They assembled a really cool team, and they had some good ideas. I had some good ideas that I’d been sort of ruminating on for a long time. I knew how to put together a good team, and I started doing it. Then, I started talking to people in Silicon Valley, and they were very receptive.

(I had) an epiphany …These ideas that I’ve been chewing on might actually be useful to somebody on a large scale.

… For three months I just sat on the idea. … “Should I write a book, or should I start a company?” … There’s a good chance I’ll make more money doing this, but I’ll also be more stressed.

I really like writing for The New Yorker. This is a good gig I have, and I figure the odds of becoming manic-depressive if I ran a company were pretty high. I was like, “Is that going to be worth it?” Eventually, I decided that this was a special moment in time. This was my one chance. I could always write another book.

This is a moment where the kinds of ideas that I had seemed like they might be commercially very valuable. It seemed like there was a lot of funding around. I talked to Adam D’Angelo, who is the CEO of Quora, about what I was doing. I didn’t even ask him for money. He offered me money, and his name sort of helped me to raise money from other people.

It wasn’t very hard to raise money…. Some of it’s like the feel was at a right moment. I approached an old friend, Zoubin Ghahramani, who’s really a top machine-learning expert, and he was excited to do it. All these things seemed to fall into place very quickly.

… Five years from now someone else might have had the idea that I had. A good idea isn’t fresh forever. … The whole market could change. … It felt like this really is the moment if I’m going to do it. Now is the time.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here.

Still, it’s been a steep learning curve

There is a ton of things I had to learn about lawyers, which I’ve hated every minute of… There are (also) challenges in the beginning like negotiating equity (how to split up stock) among your founders and with your employees and things like that. …There are lots of things that need to be negotiated. I have gotten … a lot of practice at negotiation let’s say, and you don’t do it in quite the same way in academia, but it’s not totally different.  

If you can’t hear the clip, click here.

Listen to Gary’s full interview here

If you can’t hear the clip, click here.

Listen to Dave and Gary’s full interviews by downloading them from SoundCloud here and here(And download any of the past shows here.)

Next on Entrepreneurs are Everywhere: Daniella Yacobovsky, co-founder of BaubleBar and Jane Moritz, owner of of Challah Connection.

Tune in Thursday at 1 pm PT, 4 pm ET on Sirius XM Channel 111

Innovation @ 50x in Companies and Government Agencies

I’ve spent this year working with corporations and government agencies trying to adapt and adopt Lean Methodologies.  In doing so I’ve learned a ton from lots of people. I’ve summarized my learnings in this blog post, and here and here and here and put it all together in the presentation below.

if you can’t see the presentation click here.

But the biggest surprise for me was getting schooled on how extremely difficult it is to be an innovator inside a company of executors.  More on that in the next post.

Graphic recording - SteveBlank - Innovation at 50x - Trent Wakenight OGSystems 20150814

The 7 Deadly Healthcare Startup Sins

Todd Dunn is the Director of Innovation and runs the Intermountain Healthcare Transformation Lab, which is working to foster innovation in the healthcare industry. Todd DunnHe’s now run several Lean LaunchPad classes and has seen a ton of healthcare startups. Here’s his advice for startups in this space.


I have spent the last 10 years in the Healthcare space. Over the past couple of years as Director of Innovation for Intermountain Healthcare I’ve mentored and worked with many Healthcare-focused startups. During that time I have seen teams that really seem to understand the industry and those who are relatively uninformed.

Our healthcare system is complex, under intense regulatory pressure, the pressure of the aging population, reimbursement changes, and an oncoming shortage of clinicians, among other challenges. It is in need of innovation on many fronts and is also trying to embrace the amazing amount of innovation happening with early-stage companies.

Yet, I have noticed that many healthcare startups make “leap of faith assumptions” as they try to build their businesses. Let me highlight the 7 deadly healthcare startup sins!

Sin 1: Healthcare startups assume hospitals will let them host patient data in “their portal.” The reality is that healthcare customers know that startups’ portals are likely hosted by AWS, Azure, or Google, and therefore pose security and privacy concerns. My reference points on these startups are digital health startups and small device startups that gather data from patients remotely. Many startups make the key assumption that hospitals will trust their data to a startup’s “cloud” for the long term. For a proof of concept or pilot this may be OK. For the longer term it may not be. The only way to know for sure is to test that assumption by getting out of the office and talking to customers.

Sin 2: Startups assume that clinicians will be willing to access yet another portal for their data. Basically, startups make assumptions about clinicians’ workflow that may be myopic. In completing their Business Model Canvas some startups assume that a clear value is having their solution hosted in the cloud but often overlook the workflow impacts from a value perspective. The challenge is that many of them haven’t done enough “get out of the office” work to understand how their proposed solution will or won’t fit into a healthcare provider’s workflow. Doctors and nurses want more time with patients. In addition, doctors have many data points for making decisions. Having to go to multiple places for data about one patient reduces the time they can spend with each patient and complicates sound decision-making. The “job to be done” is to diagnose and prescribe. One pain that doctors and nurses want to avoid is going to multiple locations to get the needed decision support data. Clinical decision support needs to be simplified. Going to another portal for patient data is simply onerous. If your solution reduces the time a clinician can spend with a patient or makes it harder to make a decision you have reduced the value.

Sin 3: That one doctor or hospital lends enough credibility for other organizations to simply accept a startup’s solution. Many startups believe that if they have a doctor on their team or as an advisor (the idea of having a KOL – Key Opinion Leader), or if one hospital has written a letter of support, they have credibility. The reality is that it doesn’t suffice. More homework needs to be done. Healthcare regulations, processes, and delivery approaches often vary from system to system. A broader base of KOL’s would simply lend credibility to the solution’s applicability across multiple customers.   “Getting out of the office” and talking to customers is a necessary endeavor to get these deep and broad insights from KOL’s.

I recommend that teams get a least five KOL’s to support their value claims. This isn’t just about conducting 100 customer interviews. This is about getting evidence that Key Opinion Leaders agree that the value proposition offered by the startup can be realized. As Steve recommends, use an MVP to get evidence that validates those opinions.

Sin 4: Believing that ONE key leader inside a hospital is the decision-maker, influencer, etc. all in one role…. The Startup Owner’s Manual clearly articulates the need to understand “how” a company buys a product. ….Most startups I see want to go directly into a pilot and many want to speak directly with the C-level clinical leaders. Part of the weakness is that most startups aren’t asking learning questions … they are making statements vs. being curious enough to test their assumptions.

Sin 5: Thinking that conducting a “proof of concept” and/or pilot is a simple endeavor. In working with eight early-stage companies in the last two months I have consistently asked, “What do you want from us?” Oddly I found some teams did not have a crisp answer. However, all of them wanted to hop directly into a proof of concept within an extremely short time. In wanting to do so, they overlooked

  • the need for an IRB (institutional review board,) (especially where patients are involved)
  • a security review (especially if they are in “the cloud”)
  • a compliance review
  • the time needed to design a study
  • and last but not least signing a contract!

All of these are easily in the “Activity” portion of the Business Model Canvas and few early-stage companies fully understand these needs, especially when working with a large IDN (integrated delivery network) like Intermountain Healthcare.

Sin 6: There isn’t anyone else out there solving the problem. A large percentage of startups struggle to answer the question, “Why do current solutions fail?” This suggests that they haven’t completed a petal diagram to look at the existing offerings, or analyzed the “job” that someone needs to hire a solution for. As an example, a med-adherence solution approached us recently and offered that there wasn’t “anyone” else with a technology like theirs. That may be true…not likely. I suggest that teams thoroughly think through this.

Sin 7: Believing that startups need to have more answers than questions. Almost unanimously startup teams want to have an answer for every question. I understand their desire to appear knowledgeable. But you don’t get out of the office to have answers – you get out of the office to ask questions. This goes back to a fundamental that I believe all startups need until they truly know: curiosity.

hypotheses experimentMy advice to healthcare startups.

  1. Use the Lean Startup tools! Regardless of where you start, it comes down to your value proposition as a starter or non-starter. Use Alexander Osterwalder’s Value Proposition canvas and Steve’s guidance to “get out of the office.”
    value prop map
  2. This often tries the patience of entrepreneurs. I cannot overemphasize the need to use the learning loop in every single part of the Value Proposition and Business Model canvases. The only way to do that is to GET OUT OF THE OFFICE!
  3. Be curious about workflow and how large IDNs (integrated delivery network) like Intermountain Healthcare are thinking about the integration of patient data into a workflow. Be empathetic to your user.
  4. Study the industry more deeply. While you may have a great value proposition for one or two hospitals, how does your solution fit into the regulatory landscape, workflow, etc. of multiple hospitals?
  5. Listen! Assume you don’t have enough evidence to scale your business yet. Act like you don’t know enough. While an entepreneur’s “go get ’em” attitude is appreciated, it isn’t appreciated when the entrepreneur isn’t open to feedback, seems to have all the answers, and has a condescending attitude toward the way “jobs” get done today. Test your assumptions! Come loaded with questions that are related to your assumptions.
  6. Last but not least, structure a learning plan. Embrace the Lean Startup tools and methods. Following this structure will cause you to write a learning plan. A foundational question to guide your learning plan in every part of your business model is “What do we need to learn before we invest more time and money?”

Best of success! Healthcare needs innovative startups and innovative startups need the knowledge and access that Healthcare can provide.

Lean Innovation Management – Making Corporate Innovation Work

I’ve been working with large companies and the U.S. government to help them innovate faster– not just kind of fast, but 10x the number of initiatives in 1/5 the time. A 50x speedup kind of fast.

Here’s how.

Lean Innovation Management
In the last five years “Lean Startup” methodologies have enabled entrepreneurs to efficiently build a startup by searching for product/market fit rather than blindly trying to execute. Companies or Government agencies pursuing innovation can Buy, Build, Partner or use Open Innovation. But trying to find a unified theory of innovation that allows established companies and government agencies to innovate internally with the speed and urgency of startups has eluded our grasp.

The first time a few brave corporate innovators tried to overlay the Lean tools and techniques that work in early-stage startups in an existing corporation or government agency, the result was chaos, confusion, frustration and ultimately, failure. They ended up with “Innovation Theater” – great projects, wonderful press releases about how innovative the company is – but no real substantive change in product trajectory.


In working with Greg Hannon, the head of Innovation at W.L. GoreI’ve found two corporate strategy tools developed by other smart people helpful in bridging Lean Startups with Corporate Innovation. The first, the notion of the “ambidextrous organization” from O’Reilly and Tushman, posits that companies that want to do continuous innovation need to execute their core business model while innovating in parallel. In other words, in an ambidextrous company you need to be able to “chew gum and walk at the same time.”

The second big idea of corporate innovation is the “Three Horizons of Innovation” from Baghai, Coley and White. They suggest that a company allocate its innovations across three categories called “Horizons.”

  • Horizon 1 are mature businesses.Three horizons
  • Horizon 2 are rapidly growing businesses.
  • Horizon 3 are emerging businesses.

Each horizon requires different focus, different management, different tools and different goals.

The Three Horizons provided an incredibly useful taxonomy. However in practice most companies treated the Three Horizons like they are simply incremental execution of the same business model.

While these theories explain how to think about innovation in a company they didn’t tell you how to make it happen.

Fast forward to today. To move innovation faster, we now have 21st century tools —Business Model Canvas, Customer Development, Agile Engineering – all adding up to a Lean Startup. We can adapt these startup tools for use inside the corporation.

HBR Lean Startup articleTo do so we’ll keep the concept of three unique horizons of innovation but reframe and combine them with what we’ve learned about Lean Startups. The result will be:

  • a new, Lean version of the Three Horizons of Innovation
  • an ambidextrous company, and
  • a way for existing organizations to build and test new ideas at blinding speed.

The Lean Definition of the Three Horizons of Innovation
In this new model, the Horizon level of innovation is defined by whether the business model is being executed or searched for.

  • Horizon 1 activities support existing business models.horizons with Bus Model
  • Horizon 2 is focused on extending existing businesses with  partially known business models
  • Horizon 3 is focused on unknown business models.

Horizon 1 is the company’s core business. Here the company executes a known business model (known customers, product features, competitors, pricing, distribution channel, supply chain, etc.) It uses existing capabilities and has low risk in getting the next product out the door. Management in this Horizon 1 works by building repeatable and scalable processes, procedures, incentives and KPI’s to execute and measure the business model. (And if they’re smart they’ll teach Horizon 1 teams to operate with mission and intent, not just process and procedure.)

Innovation and improvement occurs in Horizon 1 on process, procedures, costs, etc. Product management for Horizon 1 uses existing product management tools such as StageGate® or the equivalent.prod mgmt for Horizon 1

In Horizon 2 a company/agency extends its core business. Here the company looks for new opportunities in its existing business model (trying a different distribution channel, using the same technology with new customers or selling existing customers new products, etc.) Horizon 2 uses mostly existing capabilities and has moderate risk in getting new capabilities to get the product out the door. Management in Horizon 2 works by pattern recognition and experimentation inside the current business model.

Horizon 3 is where companies put their crazy entrepreneurs. (Inside of companies these are the mavericks you want to fire for not getting with program. In a startup they’d be the founding CEO.) These innovators want to create new and potentially disruptive business models. Here the company is essentially incubating a startup. They operate with speed and urgency to find a repeatable and scalable business model. Horizon 3 groups need to be physically separate from operating divisions (in a corporate incubator, or their own facility.) And they need their own plans, procedures, policies, incentives and KPI’s different from those in Horizon 1.

Product management for Horizon 2 and 3 uses existing Lean Innovation Management tools such as Lean LaunchPad®, the NSF I-Corps™ or the equivalent. prod mgmt for Horizon 3Using these tools internally a company/agency can get startup speed and urgency. Horizon 3 organizations organized as small (<5 person) teams can talk to 100+ customers in 10 weeks and deliver a series of iterative and incremental minimal viable products.  Given the minimum size of these teams and expenditures, companies can afford to run a large number of these initiatives in parallel.

Get to Yes
Horizon 2 and 3 activities are not entirely separated from the corporate structure. Get to YesTo help Horizon 2 and 3 organizations navigate all the processes, procedures and metrics the company has built to support Horizon 1 activities, individuals from support organizations (legal, finance, procurement, etc.) are assigned to work inside Horizon 3 organizations. Their function is to help Horizon 2 and 3 organizations navigate to a “Yes” inside the company.

Horizon 1 operates on goals and incentives. And Horizon 1 managers need to be incented to embrace and support innovation going on in Horizons 2 and 3. Companies need their Horizon 1 managers to both encourage mavericks to propose projects, as well as to support mavericks and then incentive for adoption and scale of Horizon 3 projects.

If supporting Horizon 2/3 is not part of Horizon 1 goals and incentives, then there is no real commitment to corporate innovation.

Oh no! Yes! We’ve Succeeded
What happens to successful innovations from Horizons 2 and 3? innovation becomes executionThey either get adopted by a Horizon 1 organization (a division, P&L, functional organization,) they reach a size large enough to become a standalone group or they can be sold/spun out. To make this work Horizon 1 execs and managers need incentives and job descriptions to support Horizon 2 and 3 activiities.

One of the biggest complaints from Horizon 1 managers is that successful Horizon 3 innovation projects leave a mess of technical and organization debt that a Horizon 1 organization has to clean up. refactoringThis isn’t some exception; in fact it’s a natural part of corporate innovation.

What is missing is the realization that there needs to be a dedicated corporate group to refactor (cleanup) the debt from successful innovation projects.

Do it Again!?
When a Horizon 2 or 3 program finds success, it can either grow on its own (and hence become their own divisions) or the founders and early employees may get folded back into a Horizon 1 organization that will scale the program. Typically this is a bad idea for all involved. In short-sighted companies the Horizon 2 and 3 innovators get frustrated, and leave. Do it againIn far-sighted companies they get to start a new cycle of disruptive innovation.

Lean Is the Language of Corporate and Government Agency Innovation
We have a common language and process for execution–product management tools, financial reporting etc. Yet we have no common language and process for innovation and searching for business models.

We can adopt the Lean Vocabulary–Business Model Canvas, Customer Development, Hypotheses, Pivots and Minimum Viable Products and Evidence-based entrepreneurship as the corporate language of “search versus execution.” And we can use Lean Metrics (Investment Readiness Level and Technology Readiness Levels) and Lean Portfolio management tools to provide rigor to go/no go funding decisions. Finally we can use the open-source lean classes from the National Science Foundation I-Corps and the Stanford/Berkeley Lean LaunchPad classes to run Horizon 3 projects.

Lean is The Engine for the Ambidextrous Organization
An ambidextrous company or government agency runs large numbers of Horizon 2 and 3 projects simultaneously while relentlessly improving the way it executes its current business model and serves its existing customers. This happens when the C-level executives share a common strategic intent, a common vision, explicit values and identity, and they are compensated for both execution of the current business model and the search for new ones. They also realize that operating at all three horizons will require them to tolerate and resolve conflicts.

Lessons Learned

  • Corporate and Government Agency Innovation needs Lean tools
  • When combined with the business model canvas, the Three Horizons of Innovation provide a framework for corporate innovationLean Innovation Mgmt
  • Horizon 2 and 3 (new/disruptive innovation) are run with Lean Startup speed and organization
  • Lean Innovation management combines Three Horizons of Innovation with the Lean Startup to deliver an Ambidextrous Organization
  • The entire organization must be incented to value and embrace not only continuous improvement but also successful innovations
  • Result: 10x the number of initiatives in 1/5 the time

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 195,875 other followers