We. Cannes. Innovate.
Innovate – the process of making changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products.
For the last 6 months I’ve been solely focussed on innovation as I bring to life my first start-up. Over the last few years I’ve spent a lot of time with people who, like me now, have started their own ventures… to all levels of success (where total failure is the success of at least learning what didn’t work). One thing is common to all of these people and organisations… the desire to change things for the better.
A start-up can be simply explained as Audience + Innovation + Money or, as I refer to it, the AIM. The audience is a group of people whose behavior you want to change. The innovation is a method, idea and/or product that can change audience behavior. The money is the capital needed to make the innovation a reality and communicate it to the audience.
No individual or co-founding group can engage, perfect and/or achieve all three components of AIM alone. Therefore a main staple of being a start-up (whatever the industry or vertical) is the process of showcasing your idea and networking your business. Aside from now living on LinkedIN I’ve attended a number of start-up events focussed on bringing people together to showcase and to network. Typically these events bring together start-ups, potential investors, press and, what I like to call, start-up support services (these include experts in marketing, data analytics, tech development etc selling their wares) to do just that.\
For me a missed opportunity common across these events is a deeper understanding of the audience. With no real audience representation to understand whether an innovation is worthy or not of money means an inability to accurately gauge a start-up’s potential success. Of course, start-up founders (me included) generally have a deep understanding and experience of the audience they are trying to engage. They (we) are foolish though to rely on their own single point of view. Many of the founders I’ve met on my own journey have shared the belief that as much feedback from and debate with the intended audience (or experts on the audience) as is possible is critical to success.
Queue Lions Innovation. No stranger to change themselves (introducing Lions Healthcare last year) this year sees Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity add an innovation component to the program and I for one am really excited by the prospect of being there. The festival brings what no other event could claim to do because it is already recognized as THE event that assembles people who deeply understand the audience… and these people represent THE brands who are creative world leaders in changing audience behavior. To assemble these brands and their marketers together with start-ups properly delivers on that principle of innovation… change through introduction of the new.
While a focus will be on marketing innovation (ad-tech) there is still huge potential for a consumer-tech start-up like mine. I believe Jill Avery (Harvard Business School) is right and today’s consumer is in control of today’s brands (via “open source branding” as Jill put’s it). Therefore it is incumbent on today’s brands and marketers to understand the latest developments in something like consumer-tech. Both Unilever and R/GA have clearly understood this opportunity also. Unilever have chosen the event to embrace and promote independent innovation by running an incubator with 50 start-ups in their Foundry 50 program. R/GA are running a Start-up Academy where 10 start-ups can leverage the muscle of the R/GA network to sharpen their brand identities, focus business plans and discover how to market themselves more effectively.
So, what do I want out of it? People. Just over a year ago I was lucky enough to pitch the concept of my start-up to one of New York’s best known Angel Investors. At the start of the meeting I asked if he’d sign my NDA, so to protect my idea – his response was “stop worrying about people stealing your idea and start worrying about them liking it”. I’ve taken this on as my philosophy and so Lions Innovation represents a great opportunity for me to talk and get as many points of view as possible. I’m grouping these loosely into four categories:
Marketers – what cash-flow-conscious start-up founder wouldn’t want free advice from the very best.
Investors – I won’t lie, we’re always chasing investment, or at least feedback from those who finance innovation.
Brands – an exploration of possible partnership and/or collaboration.
Other start-ups – working alone and drinking endless cups of instant coffee, sometimes I feel like I’m going mad… it’d be good to meet others doing the same.
What do I give in return? I hope I can offer a non-marketer’s point of view on what is happening in the consumer-tech space. I’ve recently completed a survey of +300 users of my app – I spoke to them myself – to understand how and why they use it. It is fascinating to me that their behavior is so influenced by the technology and brands of right now (Periscope, Tinder, Uber etc etc). I hope too I can provide an example (or show the pathway at least) of how existing businesses can build relationships with and benefit from new businesses.
If you’re going to be there, come and find me… I’m the festival’s official start-up correspondent reporting on all things from the first Lions Innovation.