6 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Everyone’s constantly looking to innovate, and innovation is how we move forward as a society. It’s how we empower our local communities, as well as make massive waves at a global level. It’s what every organization on this planet is trying to incorporate in its operations, and it’s what several next-gen start-ups revolve entirely around.
The best businesses are born when entrepreneurs combine their experience and passion with an aim to add value to society. The best solutions explore ways to reimagine what innovation can mean in different contexts. When entrepreneurs truly innovate, they become agents of change, smashing old boundaries while building new bridges. There are many ways in which entrepreneurs all around the world are doing this. Here’s how EarlyBirds, a platform I co-founded, is innovating, and how some of the lessons we’ve learned along our journey can help you.
Related: 9 Ways Your Company Can Encourage Innovation
Build a network of bridges
From my experience, most technology platforms provide tremendous value because they bring together (and solve) multiple problems of several stakeholders simultaneously. They function as bridges, connecting various parties previously unknown to each other. Innovation is achieved, in a sense, because an intelligently designed platform allows for seamless problem-solving, and as a result, the development of a thriving community.
In building EarlyBirds, we observed and addressed the following problems being faced by our stakeholders: Tech innovators with novel products and solutions, in some cases at the proof-of-concept stage or minimum-viable-product stage, were looking for ways to identify and engage early adopters. There were early adopter customers, private and public sector organizations, looking to create an edge by finding solutions to their problems. They wanted innovations they could truly use. Additionally, there seemed to be concerns with the confidentiality of problems and a need for subject-matter expertise, in areas ranging from finance to biotechnology. We envisioned a platform that would bridge all these gaps. We helped early adapters find relevant solutions quicker and enabled innovators to scale faster, fueled by specialist knowledge from independent experts. In less than two years, the EarlyBirds ecosystem has identified over a million innovators, more than 400 organizations and 100 consulting experts.
From my experience, if you focus on helping forge genuine connections and on building bridges that solve pressing problems for communities, you’ll be on your way to your next powerful innovation.
Related: 4 Secrets to Starting a Business and Scaling an Online Platform
Most organizations (or even people) look for innovation because they need to transform some aspect of their businesses or lives. They are looking to discover the latest, most effective and most enjoyable solution to a problem. Are you an entrepreneur thinking about how to best revisit your product or service design from a fresh perspective? My suggestion is to look at the problems businesses or people face when they want to transform. Where do they get stuck, and how can you help them?
For instance, our aim with EarlyBirds was to help organizations in their quest for innovation to solve their business’s technical and commercial problems. We wanted to help them find solutions that would leave them with tangible, actionable outcomes. As we began to design our framework, we realized that we could help organizations on two fronts: building a competitive edge and developing agility. Our platform thus equips organizations to “self-learn” by showing them how to continuously improve across all business functions, how to quickly solve business and technical challenges and how to keep on top of disruptive innovative processes, models and solutions coming up in the market.
As the world around us changes at an unprecedented speed, everyone’s looking to level up and stay on top of the next big disruption. No one wants to be left behind. The more creatively you can help your customers proactively transform and stay on the right side of the wave, the more successful and welcome your innovation will be.
Related: Why Innovation Is Increasingly Becoming Critical to Entrepreneurship
Make it easier, smarter and faster
The best-designed interfaces do exactly what their users expect them to intuitively do. Think of any of the tech platforms or ecosystems you commonly use. It’s possible that Airbnb, Facebook or Uber are among the first to come to mind. Each of these are interfaces guide their users through every stage of their journey, staying one step ahead of their requirements. They even use programs to better package their users’ needs as per their budgets and preferences. They allow their customers to explore what is available in the market, which they might otherwise be oblivious to. Innovation is achieved by means of providing a thoughtful and intuitive journey of discovery to the user, which is made immersive, smarter, and quicker. The users are left delighted when they find exactly what they’re looking for.
At EarlyBirds, on the one hand, we encourage tech innovators to onboard by allowing them to register on the platform for free. The platform subsequently guides them to list their offering for customers to discover, quote their price, show supporting collateral and even share an online sales contract option if they don’t already have one. On the other hand, the platform encourages early adopters to list a business or technical challenge and state their exact requirements. EarlyBirds then leverages big data to identify innovators and to connect adopters to relevant innovators based on the challenges they are facing. By choosing to focus on making things easier, faster and smarter for all the users on our platform, EarlyBirds has grown into an open innovation tech ecosystem based on the three pillars of innovators, adopters and consultants.
My advice to entrepreneurs building platforms or tech-led businesses is to create compelling interfaces that anticipate and effectively solve each user’s requirements. You want to help your users define their problems and challenges and hand-hold them through the solutions. At each step of the user’s journey on the platform, you want to find ways to add value. On your platform, problem-solving should be a pleasure.