When crises like COVID-19 create problems, companies – be they established businesses or emerging startups – must find innovative solutions.
To the 19 speakers and panelists of the Executive Next Practices (ENP) Institute recent virtual summit, “Intrapreneurship and Entrepreneurship: Two Sides of the Innovation Coin,” innovation never stops – even during a pandemic.
“Although these are difficult times, this is also a time of opportunity,” said Richard Sudek, Ph.D., executive director at UCI Beall Applied Innovation and chief innovation officer at UC Irvine (UCI). “In a lot of ways we’re just trying to survive, but we need to be thinking about how we innovate through this, so when we come out the other side, we’re stronger.”
The half-day Zoom conference included featured speakers, two panels and a Q&A session with business leaders from the Orange County ecosystem and other parts of California. Scott Hamilton, ENP Institute CEO and event host, created an interactive experience by encouraging attendees, who were tuned in from Southern California, Canada and Mexico, to ask questions while speakers and panelists exchanged words of wisdom and entrepreneurial anecdotes to help attendees stay inspired.
“When hearing about innovation, we all think fancy, high-tech engineering,” said Bob Wolpert, Golden State Foods chief strategy and innovation officer. “[But] think about the restaurant that put a tent up in the parking lot. That’s innovation.”
Aside from crisis recovery strategies, panelists also discussed general success tips for early-stage companies. Garrett Brown, J.D., USC adjunct professor and founder of Agency18, a consulting firm that helps companies build and scale their sales teams, said a common mishap with early entrepreneurs is “mistaking a mile marker for a finish line.” He said mile markers such as raising money, releasing new features or hiring new team members, can be confused as a simple remedy, which can lead to the downturn of a startup – or, as Brown refers to as, a “landmine.” According to Brown, the key to success is never losing sight of the bigger picture.
Francis Duhay, M.D., MBA, cofounder and CEO of Makani Science, a UCI startup company that uses a wireless sensor to noninvasively monitor a person’s breathing rate and volume, stressed execution over ideas when it comes to running a company.
“When we look at medical device innovation, at least 90% of those companies will fail,” Duhay said. “As a physician-engineer, [I] do the root cause analysis to gain a better understanding of failure modes. Those failure modes are all around business execution,” he pointed out. “There is no shortage of great ideas. What is lacking is that execution piece and management piece.”
Sudek ended his presentation by sharing insight on name-brand companies, such as Disney, Coca-Cola and Microsoft.
“All these are massive companies,” said Sudek. “You might ask, ‘well, what’s so special about these?’ All these companies were started during a recession … This is a crisis, but it also might be an opportunity.”