Over the years I have met many startup founders. Some in pitch sessions, others for informal conversations. The people who catch my attention are the ones who have a vision of what problem they are solving and seek to understand how they can be of help to the customer. Relevancy matters to get attention. Good entrepreneurs know that. The best innovators are also leaders, building solutions for today while anticipating the future.
In essence, innovation is about solving problems. Some are clear and tangible. Others are hidden opportunities. What is often overlooked is that problems shift over time. We live in a dynamic world. This is especially true with today’s economic and political uncertainties. Great innovators understand how these shifts will shape the opportunities (and challenges) ahead. They are in touch with the world around them, connect with the customers they serve, and provide insights that help see the path ahead. Like Canadian ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, they skate to where the puck is headed.
One innovation area where opportunities are shifting rapidly is sustainability. The tangible consequences of climate change are taking the conversation from abstract concepts to explicit problems that must be solved globally. While carbon neutrality is a laudable goal to achieve for businesses, it doesn’t always resonate with individuals. But water shortage is a whole different problem when you see it directly impacting your life, forcing us to change how we grow our food, a very active area of innovation across the world.
Sometimes great innovation creates a whole new set of problems to solve that most of us don’t readily see. When the digital communication era took off in the early 2000s there was optimism and even euphoria that it would create an open and connected world that would make life better for everyone. But two decades later our connected world has created new problems. During Signal 2020, Twitter’s then-CEO Jack Dorsey gave us a glimpse into what it takes to navigate these challenges. New ‘Web3’ solutions are on the horizon. Let’s make sure we consider the lessons learned from decades of tech optimism to anticipate and solve for potential consequences of these new technologies.
Most successful startups take a modest approach to change the world. But they still have a clear vision and thought leadership on where they are headed. Take for example Instacart, started in 2012, because the founder disliked the experience of grocery shopping. Today it is the leader in last-mile delivery in the United States, shaping how we look at shopping for groceries and much more. CEO Fidji Simo shared with the Signal audience how Instacart will continue to shape the future of commerce. Another example of a startup anticipating the future is BrightLine, focused on creating useful and dynamic advertising experiences for connected TV platforms. Co-founder and President Rob Aksman explains how it took a total reset of his 20-year-old startup to solve for a problem that was rapidly changing.
Great entrepreneurs go beyond solving today’s problems. They are in constant touch with the world around them, anticipating what’s ahead and adjusting where they are going. We hope that Signal360 is one of your valued resources to sharpen your entrepreneurial insights as you look to lead us forward on your own innovation path.
Stan Joosten & John Battelle,
Editors-In-Chief, Signal360 / Co-founders, Signal P&G
NOTE: The Signal360 team will take the month of December off. We wish you all Happy Holidays ahead and will see you back in January 2023!