Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Innovation - combining two worlds

Taken from a post I made to the Bootstrap Group:

The group definitely has a foundation in technology. But the core is "bootstrapping" and building innovative companies. One powerful view of innovation is that it happens when two previously separate spaces get combined by an entrepreneur who sees the possibilities. One cool example is Craig Nadel's Groove Labs (http://www.groovelabs.net/) which combines music and leadership development/training. In a similar vein, Enspire (http://www.enspire.com/) combines training and interactive gaming.

Look at two examples in Austin of this in food: First, our last speaker, Amy, the founder of Amy's Ice Cream(www.amysicecream.com) showed how a basic retail product such as ice cream could be turned into a totally unique experience through the customization of your ice cream! Going to Amy's is an experience of joy and amusement.

Second, Alamo Drafthouse (http://www.drafthouse.com) is perhaps the clearest example of this innovation-through-combination approach. They combined food with film! Indeed, their innovation is to take film and turn what generally is a broadcast experience to an interactive one. All the special events at the Alamo have a very interactive feel to them. I always prefer Alamo's fun, friendly and amusing experience to the staid Multiplex.

As entrepreneurs, we can certainly create businesses which simply copy others in our space. But we can create something truly innovative if we combine 2 or more elements that others have not. Of course, much of this discovery process happens in the Valley of Death - which makes it so crucial and vital to our ventures. In Ideation, we think we know what our unique idea is, but we don't fully. It's through the interaction with customers, we discover a further twist on it that creates just the right new angle.

Austin's power (!) lies in its welcoming of multiple communities - music, film, food, technology, etc. But it's only when Austin fosters the interaction BETWEEN these communities that we're going to unleash some serious innovation power. I see Bootstrap's role as being this crossroads for entrepreneurs in different industries to meet and combine forces. We therefore welcome all kinds of entrepreneurs to the group. When we get together with each other, new ideas and innovations will spark. And out of that process, we have the potential of building some truly innovative companies!