On Saturday, September 10, 2016, I gave a TED Talk called “Innovation Everywhere” at TEDxUtica in Utica, NY. I will post my innovation TED talk video as soon as it’s available. [Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mpT5gKWCKb0 added 10/10/16 dsm] But the big idea is that innovation isn’t about technology or money or being in the right place. It’s about regular people solving problems wherever they are by building teams and actively learning in service of a meaningful purpose. The TEDxUtica team is amazing and I learned so much through the process, which started back in March. I hope that lots of people will see the talk and be inspired to try new things to improve their communities. Maybe we will see at least a few more “community-minded innovators” starting new ventures. But creating the talk also changed me. If I’m going to admonish others to build something new and purposeful, shouldn’t I expect myself to do the same?
Developing my TED talk was part of the push I needed to start Good People Energy Technologies. Ethan and I have been working on it for about a year and talking about it even longer in one form or another.
Technology, Investment, Infrastructure
When I told folks about the TED talk and our new business, one person said, “But your TED talks says that technology, investors, and the right place aren’t necessary and you’re doing a tech product, looking for investment, and leveraging thINCubator (an awesome place) to help get started.” I think they missed the point of the talk (and the comment came from someone why hasn’t actually watched it).
I think tech startups are great. That’s how I got into entrepreneurship in the first place. But not every new idea or business is focused around technology, so lack of tech shouldn’t stop you. For most ventures, technology just means using the best solutions available for whatever you need, not creating new technology.
At some point, many businesses need outside investment of some sort. Venture capitalists, angels, and other early stage investors are extremely important for many growth models. But most ventures have to prove their concept before anyone other than friends and family are going to invest. In other words, you need to get started before you can seek funding. My point was that you can’t let a theoretical lack of investors in your area stop you from getting started. They aren’t necessary for everything and, particularly with the Internet, they are probably more accessible than you think if you are doing something worth doing.
Finally, the idea that you don’t need a perfect innovation ecosystem means you shouldn’t let your location stop you, just because it isn’t Silicon Valley or NYC or Boulder. But you should use every resource your area has to offer. We would be foolish not to take advantage of the resources and expertise at thINCubator. And we plan to leverage every resource we have to make this thing go.
Purpose, Learning, Team
The three guiding principles that I discuss in my innovation TED Talk are purpose, learning, and team. Maybe they seem simple and obvious, but it actually took me a while to figure these out as the distinguishing characteristic of successful ventures I’ve worked with.
The purpose of Good People is really two-fold. First, we want to make energy saving technology easy to find, purchase, and use, so that more people will use it. Less energy waste means less energy needed. So, we’re starting with an upgrade for heating and cooling systems that can deliver 10-30% energy savings. It’s been around for a while, but there has been too much focus on the technology and not enough on how to get people to use it. Our goal is to refine the design, tell the story, and build the relationships to get it out there.
Second, we want to demonstrate that community-minded entrepreneurs, focused on constant learning and improvement, make a great team and bring out the best in themselves and those they serve (all stakeholders). We’re a benefit corporation to build stewardship and service into our core. We’re also implementing “teal practices” like self-management and wholeness. We want good people to deliver good technology to good people for a good reason.
I’ve talked the (TED) talk. Now it’s time to walk the walk.