A Co-Founder’s Picks for NewCo’s Bay Area Festival


NewCo is blowing out all the stops for our fifth annual Bay Area Festival! Not only are we running the event concurrent with our first executive forum, we have added a day of “masterclasses” where attendees can learn directly from the brightest business leaders in Silicon Valley. We also have three full days of sessions where attendees will get to go inside the most innovative companies in the Valley to learn how they are changing the world. For the first time ever, our event is showcasing companies from all over the Bay Area. Without further ado, here are my recommendations for sessions to check out:

Monday, February 6 — Masterclasses at the St. Regis in San Francisco

Read More

Five Ways BigCos Can Partner With Scrappy Startups


Get Shift Done: Management

Image credit

We are living in an entrepreneurial renaissance. Every day, thousands of creative business people bring new solutions to market, addressing an ever expanding set of problems and opportunities. Incumbent businesses can either view these insurgents as competitive threats, or they can view entrepreneurs as outsourced R&D.

But outsourcing R&D only works as a corporate strategy if an incumbent company can truly recapture that innovation. Very few BigCos are really good at finding nimble ways to recapture innovation. Those that fail will be left to fend off a whole host of new competitors. Here are a few ways to integrate corporate R&D and the startup ecosystem:

Read More

Build Networks, not Walls: A Report From Mexico City


Anyone wishing to change the channel from Trumps dystopian reality show would have done well to tune in to the second NewCo Festival in Mexico City this past week. The inside out NewCo Festival once again revealed a generation of determined business leaders working hard to make the world a better place.

Mexico City has been a hive of human activity for over 500 years. In 2016, it has all the mind-bending juxtapositions of any mega city in the developing world. It also has the fertile ingredients for burgeoning innovation scene:

  • Talent drawn from around the world. This past week I meet entrepreneurs in Mexico who hailed from Germany, Canada, and the US.
  • Creative inspiration in the form of daring architecture, world class parks and museums, international cuisine, and uniquely Mexican entertainment. For example, my wife and I enjoyed some late night jazz in a pulqueria.
  • A growing entrepreneurial support system. NewCo Mexico City sponsors included Mexico IT, a public/private initiative to support the local tech industry; Digilant, a global programmatic marketing tech firm, and co-working companies Kokatu and WeWork. Pepe Villatoro, the General Manager of the first WeWork facility in Mexico City, said they had signed up 1,600 members and were at capacity just months after launching.
Read More

My picks for NewCo Mexico City


On October 19 and 20th, we will be staging our second NewCo Festival in Mexico City. Over 60 innovative businesses will be opening their doors and sharing their experience and insights on tackling meaningful problems. Contrary to those who would build border walls, the NewCo movement believes solutions can come from anywhere, and there are great groups of people inside companies all over the planet working to bring these solutions to market. I’m looking forward to getting up close and personal with innovators south of the border. Below is where I’ll be.

Scene from NewCo Mexico City 2015

Wednesday, October 19

9:00 AM: Tu Canton

Read More

Using Blockchain for Good


Last week policy shapers from Washington DC traveled to San Francisco to meet with representatives from across Silicon Valley to promote the Blockchain Trust Accelerator. The event was chaired by former Secretary of State Madeline Albright. Albright currently serves as Chairman of the National Democratic Institute, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that promotes democracy around the world. The initiative is also sponsored by New America, a technology think tank, and by Bitfury, a full-service Blockchain technology company.

Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright convenes a roundtable discussion on Blockchain

Blockchain, the core technology behind Bitcoin, is receiving a lot of attention from the financial sector and beyond (both Debby Hopkins of Citi, and Bruce Aust of Nasdaq mention it in our Shift Dialogs series). Blockchain’s distributed encryption creates a public, audit-able transaction ledger without any intermediaries. The reason why blockchain works for a currency like Bitcoin is because it cannot be manipulated or gamed. In other words, it provides canonical records that cannot be corrupted.

This functionality has captured the imagination of policy makers because of the obvious benefits for tasks like property records, voting, health care records, identity, market clearance, etc. Blockchain can help assure these transactions are done with transparency and without manipulation.

Read More

Fast Forward Demo Day: Y-Combinator, but with Purpose at Its Core


Fast Forward was founded in 2014 to bring the same level of support found in for-profit incubators and accelerators to tech non-profits. The firm provides its members with grants, pro-bono support, and a network of mentors and colleagues. It was founded by successful Kevin Barenblat, a successful entrepreneur who founded Context Optional which was later to sold to Efficient Frontier which then got bought by Adobe, and Shannon Farley who previously founded Spark, a marketplace for millennial philanthropists.

Kevin Barenblat, Founder and President of Fast Forward kicks off Demo Day

Earlier this week, Fast Forward presented its 2016 cohort at its annual Demo Day. In true NewCo fashion (Fast Forward has been showcased at NewCo SF), each of the nine companies shared their purpose and demoed their products. Although the focus was more on potential lives impacted rather than potential market share, like other high profile start up pageants like Techcrunch Disprupt and Y Combinator Demo Day, the goal of the presentations was to recruit investors.

One can’t help but root for all the companies who participated. You can see all nine demo videos here. Fast Forward looks for companies working on education, environmental, health, and human rights issues. The challenge, of course, is finding an economic model that gets these solutions to market. Without equity to give, non-profits rely on the generosity of donors and foundations — Fast Forward Demo Day was supported by Google.org, the Omidyar Network, and Black Rock. Google.org announced $25k grants for all participating companies and offered to match individual donations up to $100k.

Read More

Four Ways Purpose Fuels Innovation


For the last four years, NewCo Festivals have sprung up in innovation hubs all over the world, literally opening the doors of thousands of fast-growing, disruptive companies. Along the way, we’ve observed some common characteristics of these innovative businesses. Foremost is the centrality of purpose. Purpose beyond extraction of profit, or maximization of shareholder value, unlocks many benefits for nimble, fast growing businesses. Purpose helps attract talent, accelerates key partnerships, and fosters truly innovative ideas.

Pop the hood on a NewCo, and you will inevitably find a purpose-fueled engine. These can be as broad as Google’s “Organize the world’s information,” or as precise as Best Bees’ “Expand bee populations.” As my colleague In “Does your Company Know Why It Exists,” John Battelle wrote that a corporate mission should speak to solving a real problem, and ultimately, making the world a better place. A good corporate mission situates a profit generating market opportunity within a nobler cause.

HostCo office art from NewCo Oakland

And missions can’t just be slogans. They must inspire engagement in their communities of employees, investors, and customers alike. NewCos walk the talk, and align their operations so as to accomplish their stated mission. When they do, the results are extraordinary.

Read More

More than a Promise: Brands Are Platforms


Image Flickr

David Ogilvy defined a brand as “The intangible sum of a product’s attributes: its name, packaging, and price, its history, its reputation, and the way it’s advertised.” This mantra has driven brand building for decades. It’s also incomplete.

Because of the relatively limited number of inputs on the intangible outcome, the craft of brand building was once seen as an exercise in control. Obsessive attention was paid to every detail of how the brand is represented in the customer’s experience of the product or service. Consistency was the mantra, so that the promised expectation aligned with the experience itself.

Then the world went digital. The world’s information is now available in the air around us. A representation of any product or service can be conjured on your phone. Consumers expect to access a brand on demand. There’s an ever expanding way that brands can be accessed — via web, app, voice command, chatbot, augmented reality, connected devices, IoT and more. In his recent piece, “This Company Might Make Apple and Google Irrelevant,” my colleague John Battelle profiled Viv, the startup from the makers of Siri that provides a computational “smart assistant” that sits on top of apps and web services. Imagine accessing a brand via the Scarlett Johansson character in Her!

Image by Flickr user m01229
Read More

Is Austin the Next Silicon Valley?


This past week it was hard to tell if the folks braving the heat in downtown Austin were Pokemon Go players or NewCo Austin attendees. While searching for our next session, I started talking with another NewCo attendee, a young woman who recently moved to Austin. She graduated from an elite university, had gotten her first real job at a start up back East, and was lured to Austin because she heard from a friend there was a really good “scene” in Austin. Not a music scene or social scene, but a start-up scene.

Mellie Price, Executive Director of Technology Innovation at the Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin and Brian Monahan, NewCo Co-Founder at the NewCo Austin Kick Off

The pumping Sonos system that hits you entering the lobby of the Capital Factory and the frenetic swirl of earnest young people coming and going in Austin’s signature incubator makes it obvious that something cool is going on. But aside from the energy and the talent, NewCo Austin — produced by Capital Factory — showed that there are some true world-changing companies being built.

Flush with a $14M series A, the rock star team at Data.World is building the GitHub for linked, open data sets. Hungry Planet is leveraging innovation in LED lighting to revolutionize indoor farming. The Dell Medical School is the first tier 1 medical school to be launched in 50 years, and they are leveraging that opportunity to link to the innovation ecosystem in ways that will surely inspire the rest of the world.

Read More