Traveling to 35+ countries, both professionally and personally, has given me a very unique worldview. I love experiencing new cultures, and embracing diversity, which plays a big role in my career and has broadened my perspectives. In recent years I was fortunate to be asked to join five other leaders in a “quasi” combat training program that focused on working in teams of six where everyone’s role was of equal importance, and we each learned how to perform the others’ functions. This interplay and reliance upon one another further shaped my thoughts on what leadership means and that everyone on a team has a leader role. You can’t go further together if each team member is not personally accountable for themselves and each other. In my opinion, teamwork is behind every successful innovation.
Perspective on Innovation
Innovators and entrepreneurs are the backbone of the economy, and have to be willing to take risks in order to lead it. But in any ecosystem, there are other elements that must be in play to support the entrepreneurs success. That connective tissue that drives real sustainable innovation includes; capital, operators and marketplace strategy.
Any innovation can be a great idea, but having capital meets the stage of company and ready to fund an idea at the right time is key to turning an idea into a viable business. The next piece that holds innovation together is operating partners. Innovators on their own can be brilliant and very savvy, but you need operators who know how to handle operations and the nuts and bolts of a business in order to get traction. Finally, every innovation must have someone (or a group) in place that can drive the overall assessment of the business, its position in the marketplace and create corresponding strategies. Your go-to-market plan, sales and marketing plan and operational go-to-market must be thoughtfully crafted by an experienced person or team if you want the innovation to make it in the long term.
I recognized the lack of capacity and connectivity in most markets, including Arizona for these areas and simultaneously was energized by my own excitement and interest in the entire ecosystem. So when we founded Tallwave, we created answers to two of the three areas, plus a network for operators. The first business was Tallwave itself, which was built to offer services that transform companies and help them get innovations to market. We currently focus on five core areas to help support our clients’ innovations and grow their businesses: 1) Business strategy, 2) Digital marketing, 3) Product & brand exploration, 4) Product design & development and 5) Brand design & development. Since the founding of Tallwave in 2009, we’ve worked with hundreds of companies and helped them achieve really incredible results. Some of our most notable clients include PayPal, Shutterfly, Natural Grocers, Mobile Mini, Dime, DUFL, and beyond.
The second business we launched was Cobre Capital (formerly known as Tallwave Capital), in order to fuel innovation in the southwest region and provide an anchor for promising companies. Since we launched, our first investment fund was $13.2 million and we invested in over 20 B2B SaaS companies and have been named the most active VC from CB insights in 2016 and 2017.
As we’ve evolved ourselves through the years, the heart of our company (and my personal mission) has always been about innovation.
The labor pool in Phoenix has exceptional talent, ASU was named #1 most innovative in the country for four years and there’s a growing market around innovation and culture here. Sky Harbor makes business travel convenient, and you can’t beat Phoenix’s weather. I love being part of the whole ecosystem.
The Future of Innovation
Innovative disruptors are constantly working to find better ways to create connected customer experiences, and big brands are either acquiring those companies or trying to catch up with them. I believe startups have the advantage over those big brands in terms of innovation because they’re moving faster and more nimbly.
Advice & Best Practices
Understand the marketplace you’re disrupting, and your customer. Talk to them and test with them early to create the right MVP. Know your strength as the founder, and quickly bring in talent that makes you complete. It’s better to be focused and excellent at one thing, than average at 10.