There is nothing like hearing from the experts, and the fourth day of YPO Innovation Week featured exactly that: high-profile entrepreneurs offering advice on leveraging innovation for success.
The experts speak
Ashif Mawji, YPO member and president of Trust Science, took a simple question — Is it possible to calculate someone’s trustworthiness? — and used it to build a successful company. Mawji recalls, “When we first proposed the idea to colleagues, there was agreement that a need existed, but also considerable skepticism about finding a way to meet it.”
Trust Science solved the problem by using artificial intelligence to evaluate personal data and devising an algorithm to assign a score on a 1 to 1,000 scale. “A score of 600 is pretty trustworthy,” Mawji explains. “Of course, the higher the better.”
Along the way, Mawji has learned a few lessons about the importance of relying on non-critical customers to work out early kinks and fundraising more than you believe you will need. He also stresses not considering a “reboot” a failure (“You’ve learned something”) and the need to think in future terms. “Innovation moves faster than you think it will. If you think something will happen in 10 years, it will probably happen in three. Build with that date in mind.”
Brad Feld, co-founder of Techstars, a startup accelerator company, offered advice for entrepreneurs making a pitch for funding. “There is no generic ‘best approach.’ Do your homework and learn what the funder is interested in. If there is no overlap between what you are doing and what they are interested in, don’t waste your or their time.” He further suggested that before asking someone for something (funding or assistance), find a way to help them. “Don’t ask, ‘How can I help?’ They don’t have time to answer you. Engage with them through content, move their intellectual agenda forward.”
He noted the mantra of Techstars — Give first — and explained his belief that givers are more successful than takers. Feld suggests being willing to put energy into something without defining a transactional benefit up front. “You don’t know what benefit you may get in the long term. YPO is an organizational manifestation of that. YPO members don’t join for the purpose of getting something, yet they end up getting great value out of it. We should all look at our businesses that way.”
Elsewhere around the world
Other global YPO Innovation Week events on 11 May included a presentation by Pascal Pilon, YPO member and president of Averna Technologies, on the application of artificial intelligence and machine learning to create opportunities for musical artists and collaborators. John Elkington of Volans, Patrick Thomas, CEO of Covestro, and Justin Taylor, CEO of KAER, addressed the use of innovative business models that embrace value beyond the financial bottom line. A panel at the University of Washington’s CoMotion featured the leaders of six of the fastest-growing companies in the region discussing how they use innovation to address business issues, and Larry Swedroe, author of “The Incredible Shrinking Alpha,” talked about why alpha is shrinking and the things investors can control to look beyond it.