07 January 2010

Innovation Ninjas ~ Kirsner's Cultural Crew...

Innovation Economist Scott Kirsner rallied a cool crew of folks last night at the Microsoft NERD überspace for a vibrant discussion about what it'll take to really dial up our Innovation Economy here in New England. Our working assertion is that we are under-performing given our premier intellectual, cultural, and economic assets. I personally suspect there are deep and difficult socio-cultural anchors here which limit our ability to improve things much, but nevertheless we have to try. I leave it to Scott and the others to give their take on this, but my personal top-priorities here are:
  • Cluster Crafting -- Helping build especially new or under-appreciated technology-business clusters. Our MIT Media Lab classes on Development, Neurotech, Imaging, and newest offerings in Media and Urban Ventures emphasize emergent sectors. This goal has centrally informed my efforts with Pearl Freier to build up the Innovation Series at MIT, with Flagship VC colleagues on their Explorations, with Polaris VC Bob Metcalfe on our many InnovationSalons -- see here SocioSalon and NanoSalon -- since the mid-1990s, and many themed gatherings with Swiss Consul Pascal Marmier, colabs with TechLink and MIT Museum colleagues on InnovationNights, and more. And why I support the MassChallenge. But we need to dial this up, big time, and dramatically further develop our Mobiles, Design, Education, Consulting, Maritime, Marketing, Sociotech, Gaming, Social Health, Financial Service Innovation, Robotics, and many other open-opportunity sectors!
  • Sharing Our Story -- Helping tell of our historic, contemporary, and emergent success in getting things done. This is why I wrote about MIT as The Innovation Institute and why I make the time to host my MIT Innovation Tours. And this is why I've hosted MaximizingProgress.tv for this past decade and write this blog. And why I ran the MIT Founders Project in the 1990s to quantify the economic impact of all MIT-related entrepreneurs. I'm a big fan of the Boston History & Innovation Collaborative, but there's plenty of room for improving how our Commonwealth spreads the word!
  • Catalyzing Ventures -- Helping encourage young inventors and entrepreneurs to just do it. That's why I ran the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition for two years and continue to serve on the Board -- btw, props to those MIT alum companies that started under my watch, including net.Genesis, C-Bridge, Nanowave, Applied Impulse Systems, Harmonix, SiliconSpice, Neurometrix, Sensable Technologies, Firefly, and more. Mostly though this is a very personal, hands-on, time-intense mentoring and advising and friendly-support effort. Even though I'm not part of formal venture mentoring services, I try to be helpful.
  • Institution-Building -- Helping build the creative attractors and venture support ecology. When I started at MIT as an undergrad, I came here from Silicon Valley where all my high school classmates were the sons and daughters of engineers, scientists, executives, and entrepreneurs. So I was interested in entrepreneurship from the start of my time in New England -- and I stay here despite the weather and other serious demerits! But there was no Entrepreneurs Club or Entrepreneurship Center or MIT $100K any of the stuff MIT has now -- except the MIT Enterprise Forum, which indeed welcomed me as a student member. Since first landing here, I've gotten involved in either running or founding or advising clubs, classes, and programs throughout MIT -- including the Entrepreneurs Club, African Business Club, Global Startup Workshop, TechLink, Innovation Club, Energy Club, Sustainability@MIT, I-Teams, Responsive Cities, International Development Network, the original Development Ventures initiative, and several more.
  • Orchestrating Serendipity -- Helping link those who ought to know of each other. Mostly this means an infinity of introductions. And this is why for years I've run schmooze gatherings including the themed events mentioned above and more informal Delight-by-Design nights, Venturefests, $100K Teambuilding Dinners, Tech Dinner Talks, and the MuddyMondays immortalized in Teresa Esser's Venture Cafe book!
Hmm, seems like a lot of chest-thumping here. But I hold myself to task much like I berated Kirsner's crew last night -- we're too parochial (e.g. me @ MIT), too fragmented (everyone last night had their own "innovation support activity" instead of banding together), and we lack BHAGs (actually that's Bill Warner's rant, but he's right!-) To para-quote Bill:
We need a thousand angels investing in and supporting hundreds of entrepreneurial ventures in exciting, emergent sectors which aspire to become the next billion-dollar firms!

No comments: