Innovation Beyond Borders

One of the things I enjoy most about what I do is that it gives me the opportunity to connect with other entrepreneurs. No matter the firm, no matter the field, I always find it energizing to meet smart and motivated people who are passionate about great ideas -- their ideas. So it’s a real treat for me every year to attend the Intel Capital CEO Summit, as I did last week. There were a lot of exciting conversations, inspiring stories, and of course, fantastic speakers like author and consultant Keith Ferrazzi, Marissa Mayer from Google, and Intel execs Dadi Perlmutter and Renee James. Here are some of my top takeaways from the Summit:

Great ideas are everywhere. And so is innovation. It’s easy to get stuck thinking of the U.S. as the center of the media and technology world, but really we’re just one village in a global community of innovators. In his opening keynote, Intel Capital CEO Arvind Sodhani stated -- in so many words -- that Intel’s mission is to support the development of technology that will help every single person on earth. This year alone, Intel Capital has invested more than $450 million to seed entrepreneurship all over the globe. Audacious? Yes, but looking at the roster of meeting attendees -- from companies in Singapore, Turkey, Russia, and every other corner of the world -- one has to believe that Intel might just succeed. But what’s interesting about Intel’s approach is that it doesn’t invest in India (for example), for the sake of growing the Indian economy; it invests in an Indian company because that company has the most innovative idea or best technology in a given sector. Intel is cultivating smart technology and innovation beyond borders.



Success is about making connections. The Summit’s overall theme was “connect,” and another great presentation came from Keith Ferrazzi, whose book “Never Eat Alone” focuses on the value of relationships (customer, competitor, partner, and others) in business. It seems obvious, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. Ferrazzi talked about the “First Five:” the importance of those first five minutes after you sit down with someone in order to forge a personal bond.

I’m a firm believer in the First Five. At my weekly staff meetings, nobody talks business until we’ve all shared the (non-business) highlights of our weekend. It doesn’t take long, and it builds cohesion within the team, by making connections and celebrating everyone’s uniqueness.

Making connections with new colleagues isn’t always as easy, but technology can help. For the Summit, which had 900 or so participants, Intel developed an iPad app developed to help attendees connect. Sound goofy? Not at all. I used it, and it worked.

Listen to the marketplace. Another great talk came from Google’s Marissa Mayer, who always has great insights to share. Mayer talked about product development. As she pointed out, it’s the rare company (you know who) that can cloister itself for months or years in its R&D labs and come out with a product that everybody wants (even when we didn’t know we wanted it).

But most companies don’t -- and can’t -- develop great products in a bubble. They, like Google, adopt an iterative product-development method: make something, put it out there, get customer feedback, make it better. Repeat as needed.

This is what we’re seeing in TV right now -- a very active and exciting dialogue among manufacturers, advertisers, programmers, and consumers about the future of our industry.

As an example, look at the industry shift away from Smart TVs. Just last month Intel announced that it would move away from digital televisions to devote more resources to its set-top box, tablet, and phone businesses. Logitech and Broadcom have also moved away from digital TV. All these companies want to continue supporting the television ecosystem, but they’re changing their respective tacks, and responding to the evolving needs of the marketplace, a marketplace which is all about better serving the consumer.

There is one common denominator, which is that everyone still just wants to reach the right consumers with the best programming and most relevant advertising. (We all know my position on how to do that: use a powerful, data-mining media software solution.)

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