2017 Sacramento Region Innovation Awards Launch

The Second Annual 2017 Sacramento Region Innovation Awards has kicked off and awards will be given out in the following categories:

  • ADVANCED MANUFACTURING (utilizes advanced systems for information management, robotics, and workplace organization)
  • FOOD & AGRIBUSINESS
  • HARDWARE & ELECTRONICS
  • MEDICAL & HEALTH (devices, drugs, diagnostics, medical IT products, etc.)
  • SOFTWARE (consumer/enterprise, social media, apps, gaming, cloud, big data)
  • SUSTAINABILITY (including clean technology, energy, water, climate change adaptation, green building)

You can nominate or self-nominate your technology or product for consideration here.   The awards will be evaluated by notable professionals in the Sacramento Region (Including StartupSac own Laura Good).  Applications are due by July 31, 2017 and announced during the Awards Luncheon on  November 7, 2017.  More information about the awards can be found here.  The coverage of last year’s awards can be seen here.

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

2017 UC Davis Big Bang Competition Awards

UC Davis Big Bang Competition is the biggest startup event in Davis.  This year, 70 companies participated in the 8 month program that started in October 2016 and concluded with the final pitches held on May 25th.   Personally, I was impressed with the final presentations.  Here are the award winners of the competition:

1st Place ($10, 000) 

Raydiant Oximetry has developed a low-cost, noninvasive fetal pulse oximeter that keeps mothers and babies safe during labor and delivery. The device is intended to reduce medically unnecessary c-sections that can create health complications to millions of babies and mothers each year and increase healthcare costs.

 

2nd Place ($5,000)

Chromatiscope aims to boost students’ scientific literacy by combining four specialized laboratory devices—each of which costs thousands of dollars—into a single, easy-to-use device that costs just $40 to $70. The result: more students can have the experiences necessary to excel in STEM.

 

People’s Choice ($2,500)

This award was voted by the audience.

AthleticOutlook:  A web-based platform that connects high school and college athletes with NCAA-experienced coaches for evaluations, feedback and resources.

 

Gowan / AGR Challenge Award ($10,000)

Two teams tied for this award and split the cash prize.

FloraPulse is building a data service for growers that provides water stress data for their crops in real time. This could replace current technology (pressure chambers) that dates back to the 1960s and that is slow, expensive and often inaccurate.

ReNew Foods is developing great-tasting, healthy snacks from high-quality rescued fruit and vegetable pressings.

Biomedical Innovation Award ($4,000)

Oomni Inc. is developing a drug called Oomnicoxib. When combined with current chemotherapies, the drug will improve cancer treatment.

 

Global Poverty Alleviation ($3,000)

Reach 1600 Foundation has developed a free, adaptive SAT prep program for students from underserved communities.

Innovation in Food & Agriculture Award ($3,000)

WISRAN identifies operation logistics inefficiencies in real-time for growers to capture profits.

1st Place Food + Ag Innovation Pitch and Poster Contest ($1,000)

Global Water Farms is working on developing solar powered desalination plants.

 

It will be interesting to see how the startups that participated in the competition turn out.  Sierra Energy can trace their roots as a past Big Bang People’s Choice Winner.  If you are interested in participating in next year’s Big Bang’s Competition, check out their site around October.

 

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

 

 

The Startup J Curve

The Startup J Curve

In his book, the Startup J Curve, noted entrepreneur and angel investor, Howard Love, essentially states that there is no straight line from startup to sustainable success.  Rather, it follows a J Curve where the company initially dips after it starts.  The dip can occur for several reasons:

  • Product takes longer to develop
  • Customers don’t embrace the initial product
  • The business model doesn’t quite work

Love describes this dip as the Valley of Death.  A young startup needs to be able to crawl out of it before they run out of cash.  Much of his book describes strategies in working through the Valley of Death.

Here is a description of the 6 phases of the Startup J Curve:

  1. Create: This is where the initial excitement occurs for a startup and the three elements come together: the idea, team, and the money.  This is the best time to raise money because the startup is selling the dream.
  2. Release: This is where a startup releases their product to market and where the market will provide feedback.  It’s where the rubber hits the road and reality hits.  It’s at this phase where founders really need to listen to their customers.
  3. Morph: In this phase, the startup needs to make adjustments on their product or business model based on customer feedback.  At this phase, there needs to be several iterations until product market fit is achieved.
  4. Model: In this phase, the startup needs to optimize their business model.  The goal is to get to a point where there is a direct ROI if more money is invested in the startup.
  5. Scale: After the business model has been nailed, this is where investment into the startup is able to scale the business.
  6. Harvest: this is where the startup graduates to a fully established business and is where the founders have the opportunity to reap the benefits of their labor. It is also where they need to decide on what direction they would like to take including IPO, acquisition, etc.

A startup founder needs to be aware where they are on the J Curve.  For example if they focus on scaling strategies before they actually nail the business model, the odds of success are diminished. This video is a great overview of the Startup J Curve.

If you like to meet Howard Love and get a copy of his book (while supplies last), he will be speaking at Startup Grind Sacramento on December 13, 2016.

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at @ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

Impact Global Venture Summit Highlights Sacramento Region Startups

Impact Summit

The inaugural Impact Global Venture Summit was held on November 14, 2016 at the brand new, state of the art, Golden 1 Center. Over 700 people attended and 50 Northern California startups participated in the summit with the goal of providing local startups exposure to investors.

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Impact VC Founders (left to right): Jack Crawford, Dixon Doll, Eric Ball

This was also the big debut for event organizer, Impact Venture Capital.  Impact VC was formed from Sacramento based Velocity VC in partnership with Dixon Doll and Eric Ball.  Dixon Doll is a well-known Silicon Valley investor with early investments in 20 unicorn (with a valuation over $1 B) companies.

Most of the event consisted of pitches from 20 startups.  Many were from local startups including HomeZada, California Safe Soil, Gatekeeper Innovation, and Barobo.  Startups from the Bay Area also attended with Mountain View based Nightingale Security and Santa Clara based Cornami each receiving an investment from Impact VC.

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HomeZada Co-Founder John Bodrozic

The other big star of the summit was the Golden 1 Center itself.  For many of the attendees, it was their first visit to the most technologically advance arena in the world. The event in concert with the arena really illustrated Sacramento’s emergence as an innovation hub. Sacramento Mayor, Kevin Johnson, tweeted out, “…Now that’s #Sac3pt0!”

 

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at @ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

Adobe Kickbox: Innovation in a Box

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Origin

Typically when an organization gets larger, it actually gets harder to innovate.  However, Mark Randall, VP of Creativity at Adobe, had a terrific track record.  In his interview with Startup Grind Sacramento, Randall stated that his boss at Adobe was amazed how quickly he was able to accomplish tasks and meet milestones. Randall was then tasked to develop a method that could show others how to do the same thing. The idea of automating complex processes was an attractive yet equally challenging endeavor that even Randall doubted would be possible to produce. After pondering on it for a few months, he wasn’t sure how something of that magnitude could be done until he looked at the project from a different perspective. “When I started to think about internal innovators at Adobe that were my customers and I wanted to make a product that could help them be an innovator, that sort of shifted everything mentally…to where I said I can do that, I can build that product.”

What’s in the Box?

Adobe Kickbox consists of a 6 step process that shows entrepreneurs the most effective ways to bring their product to the market. And it’s not just limited to the startup world. Government entities and nonprofit organizations all have downloaded this open-source system since offering it for free in February of this year. Randall explained it by saying, “It’s basically this system with essentially 6 levels and starts with level 1 about motivation and there’s a set of actions that you complete at the end of each level and their self-gaining so you check the boxes [required] and move on to the next…” Once all 6 stages are complete, users move on to the post “blue box” which helps you take your product to the next level. The entire system is void of a hierarchy and there’s no central source mediating or regulating how the system operates.

Streamlining Innovation

In a nutshell, Kickbox aims to eliminate the number of hoops innovators must jump through to get their idea approved. Adobe Research Scientist, Hailin Jin, said that, “Before, you had to get buy-in from your own boss, the product team, and other departments. Now, people work on projects without anyone’s approval.” Jin stated that before Kickbox, “risk taking was allowed. Now, it’s rewarded. That has really changed the way people think.” Randall illustrated how Kickbox simplifies tasks that more often than not, established organizations spend way too much time on. He recalls how General Electric asked him how many innovative coaches (out of the 300 available) should work with the Kickbox because they needed to deliver in a 6 month timeframe. He replied by saying that Kickbox doesn’t require many people to operate and it should only take about 3 weeks to complete. He concluded that like many companies out there, General Electric was overthinking an instrument designed to make business easier…much easier.

Randall feels that leading innovators at big companies are often denied the resources to innovate freely. Believing that innovating and creating is a natural human desire; organizations may stand in the way of employees carrying out the activities written in their job description. Why? Because company directors and presidents are afraid of taking risks which is not only irrational but can be counterproductive in the long run. Randall said in Fortune Magazine, “Ideally, you want to highlight that element of risk. Make sure everyone knows about it. Let employees know that you’re betting on them to come up with great ideas.” The most creative people out there can’t stand feeling limited and the bureaucratic structure of the workplace is usually the biggest obstacle when doing so.

Impact So Far

Still who would’ve imagined that a small red cardboard device, that looks similar to a restaurant “to go box,” could accomplish so much in a short amount of time? Inside the Kickbox, Adobe innovators find writing utensils, notebooks, snacks and a $1,000 prepaid debit card that they can spend however they choose. By placing innovators back in the driver’s seat, this allows them to do what they do best: create! However, only 23 of the 1,000 kickbox users have reached the mysterious blue box stage and so far, no Adobe products have been birthed from the concept. Nonetheless, the business model motivated organizations such as Cisco to adopt similar concepts such as “Adventure Kits” while launching a companywide “Innovate Everywhere Challenge.” In Q1 of 2016 alone, Adobe reported a 25% increase in revenue along with a 48% increase in profits. Although these improvements can’t be completely accredited to the Kickbox, it’s clear that Randall’s, “whole culture of experimenting” is catching on and empowering innovators nationwide.

It’s Free

One of the best things about Kickbox is that it’s free.  You can download all the materials here (minus the prepaid gift car).  It’s a great tool to help you develop that innovative idea that’s been spinning in your head and hopefully helps it become reality.

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

50 Years of Star Trek: Highlights of Some Predictions and Inspirations

The crew of the Starship Enterprise began their voyage 50 years ago, airing for the first time on September 8, 1966. As I kid, Star Trek was my favorite show. When my cousins and I would play Star Trek, I would always play Scotty, the miracle working engineer. In many ways, Star Trek was influential to me personally. My decision to go into engineering and join the U.S. Navy were both inspired in part by Star Trek. In honor of Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary, I would like to highlight a few of the predictions and inspirations that have arisen from Star Trek.

Diversity in the Work Force

If you watch the original series now, you probably wouldn’t think twice about the crew’s cultural diversity.  However, the crew’s diversity was unheard of the 60’s and included Lieutenant Uhuru (a black woman), Lieutenant Sulu (an Asian), and Ensign Chekov (a Russian). If you look at the times, the Civil Rights Movement was in full swing, the United States was also in the middle of both the Vietnam War and the Cold War. In comparison, Star Trek’s closest contemporary, Lost in Space, had an all-white cast. Star Trek had an optimistic view that in the future we would all learn to resolve our differences and work together.

startrekcrew

The Cell Phone

I was watching Star Trek with my niece and when Captain Kirk pulled out his communicator, my niece commented, “How cute, a flip phone.” Interestingly enough, Dr. Martin Cooper inventor of the first hand held phone admits his inspiration came from Star Trek. In addition, Motorola’s first flip phone, the StarTAC, looked remarkably like a Star Trek communicator.

The iPad

When the iPad first came out, it reminded me of Star Trek’s PADD (Personal Access Data Display). Interestingly enough, when Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, first demo-d the iPad, he showed the rebooted Star Trek Movie as an example of a video that could be watched. In a recent History Channel documentary, 50 Years of Star Trek, it was revealed that Apple approached Star Trek to license the “PADD” name.

The Tricorder

The Tricorder was a medical device used by Dr. McCoy to diagnose his patients. The Tricorder has yet to be invented. However, XPRIZE has a $10 M Tricorder Challenge which is an open competition to develop a “Tricorder device that will accurately diagnose 13 health conditions (12 diseases and the absence of conditions) and capture five real-time health vital signs, independent of a health care worker or facility, and in a way that provides a compelling consumer experience.” Results for the competition will be announced in 2017.

The Space Shuttle

The Starship Enterprise would use Shuttlecrafts to ferry crew members to a planet when they couldn’t use a transporter.  In 1972, when NASA began to develop a re-usable spacecraft, they called it the Space Shuttle Program. The prototype for the shuttle program was originally to be named the “Constitution.” After receiving hundreds of thousands of letters from devoted Trekkies, President Ford requested the prototype to be renamed “Enterprise.”

Star Trek creator, Gene Rodenberry, had an optimistic view that humanity will overcome the challenges that threaten to destroy us and travel to the stars. After 50 years, Star Trek is still going strong in books, video games, movies and television.   For you inspiring entrepreneurs looking for an idea for your next startup, try watching a couple episodes of Star Trek.

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014. Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

Public Sector:  The Risks and Consequences of Not Being Innovative

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Image source: http://fti-tmt.com/

In the private sector, not being innovative can lead to the demise of an organization.  Giants like Blockbuster Video and Kodak are recent examples of industry titans that became extinct by not being innovative and adapting to the current environment.

The public sector on the other hand, tends to be risk adverse and unfortunately avoids innovation.  I’ve talked to several public sector managers and their mantra is to avoid doing something that will put them on the front page of the local newspaper.  Hence the focus becomes maintaining the status quo.  However, there are risks and consequences of not being innovative:

Not Meeting Customer Needs

Although the government is slow to adopt the technology, the public, on the other hand may quickly adapt new technology.   Consequently, this may result in a disconnect where a public sector agency fails to adapt to the public.  For example, we are working with a public sector client on a project and a big issue is that they are still using a web site made in the 90’s. Consequently, they’re not meeting the needs of their population whose primary Internet access is through mobile.  (More about this can be found here).

Not Being Able To Scale

One of the main reasons that the private sector strives to innovate is to meet the demands of a growing population at a lower cost.   A great example is how the banking industry uses ATM and mobile banking to accommodate a larger user base at a lower cost. Compared that with a visit to the DMV; you have a choice of waiting in line for 45 minutes or scheduling an appointment weeks in advance.    When a public sector agency fails to innovate they also fail to scale to a growing population.

Becoming Vulnerable

If a public sector agency fails to keep up with technology, they become easy prey to the bad guys that are both creative and innovative.  Case in point is ransomware where hackers will lock out the data of an organization until a ransom is paid.  Ironically many police departments have become victims of ransomware and were forced to pay a ransom to hackers in order to get access to their data.

Increasing Cost of Legacy Systems

Many public sector agencies still use legacy systems that are decades old.  In doing so, they find that there is increasing cost to maintain them because their vendors increase the support charges as their knowledgeable employees become more scarce as they age.

Bankruptcy

Governments can and do go bankrupt.  Detroit, Stockton, and Orange County are spectacular examples.  Potentially, had they been innovative, they might have been able to become more efficient in running their operations, reduce cost and avoid going bankrupt.

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

 

Sacramento’s $10 Million Innovation Fund

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On June 21st, the Sacramento City Council unanimously approved a $10 million Innovation and Growth Fund.  The purpose of the fund is to promote innovation and entrepreneurship within the City of Sacramento.  As Mayor Kevin Johnson states, “A more diverse, more entrepreneurial economy means a stronger Sacramento: more jobs, more innovation, and mostly a better quality of life for all of us.”

The fund is one of the largest of its kind.  In comparison, Los Angeles’ Innovation Fund only has a $1 million.  In addition, the fund will continually generate $2 million annually.

Currently, $1 million dollars has been earmarked for the RAILS (Rapid Acceleration, Innovation, and Leadership in Sacramento) with Grants (ranging from $10 k – $250 k) being given out in these three categories:

Acceleration Grants:  Given to accelerators and incubators supporting Sacramento Startups

Innovations Grants:  Civic Tech companies and organizations that foster the innovation community

Leadership Grants:  Educational programs that help train entrepreneurs in technology and Leadership.

If you are interested in applying for a grant, you can do so here.   The deadline is July 22nd.

$500 K has been earmarked for the Economic Development Department to attract technology companies to move or expand in the area.  According to Ash Roughani, Program Manager, “Sacramento is also exploring venture fund investments to increase access to capital for area startups and put Sacramento on the map. “

“Sacramento is truly starting to become a hub of innovation, entrepreneurship and technology and it’s something I’m really, really proud of,” stated Mayor Johnson.

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.