Innovation Acceleration Group Blog

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Yoda Ozan teaching startups

"Do or Do not, there is no Try" in Innovation!

“Do or Do not, there is no Try" - Master Yoda

I am quite late to reflect on my experience running the first fully English and International Accelerator in Turkey in partnership with UC Berkeley’s Innovation Acceleration Group; but hey I was trying to get to the ‘inbox zero’ Nirvana. Although I failed at getting the Nirvana of the Inbox Zero, I think I am as close as I can get to ‘We really made a difference’ Nirvana when accelerators are considered.

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IAG Innovator Highlight: How Embr Labs reached 5x their Kickstarter goal

For the past 4 years, Sam Shames has transformed his position from CTO to the Chief Enthusiasm Officer at Embr Labs. In the fall of 2014, the IAG team worked with Sam and his co-founders from MIT during the Intel Make It Wearable Challenge. This challenge was based on IAG's Enterprise Startup Engagement program. The goal was to create a global challenge for startups to create wearable technology by implementing the, then newly released, Intel Edison chip. IAG worked with the startups to teach them how to validate and pitch their businesses, while Intel worked with the engineers to develop a working prototype.

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IAG Innovator Highlight: Dave Krawczyk, from Maker to CEO

Intel and IAG have been collaborating for years in developing IAG's Enterprise Startup Engagement program. IAG was able to help Intel engage Makers in developing scalable startup companies using Intel's new tiny semiconductor product, The Curie Module, in a reality TV show called America's Greatest Makers produced by "Shark Tank" and "Survivor" developer Mark Burnett.  The show was nationally televised competition of 25 teams composed of America's best Makers.  The teams entered the competition with a product idea and were judged on their creativity, entrepreneurship skills, building a working prototype and pitching their company for the grand prize of $1 million. IAG guided the teams through the process of finding a produict-market fit for their device while Intel mentors guided teams on how to use their cool, new computer on a chip, the Curie Module.

In fact, I first met the IAG team as a participant of America's Greatest Makers. (And enjoyed it so much, I joined!) One of my most vivid memories was the first time all the teams got together. I sat across from Dave Krawczyk and his 2 other NWTN team mates. While looking around the room, I could feel the tremendous pressure for all of us to perform to our highest ability in order to win that $1 million. IAG instructors told us that our goal was to create a successful start up that would sell an innovative product - easy. But, there was a catch, we only had 6-months to do it!

Moving quickly, the IAG instructors jumped straight into customer discovery, that is, getting out there and talking directly to customers, users, payers, influences and more. It only took a few days before most of the teams in the competition pivoted their product concept to something new. That was because as we listened to our customers we learned that if we didn't create something useful, there would be no market for our product, no matter how "cool" or innovative it was.  Neither Dave's nor my team were crowned "America's Greatest Makers." However, before the program concluded, we began to believe in the value of talking to our customers. As entrepreneurs, we are resilient. Therefore after the show, Dave found the time to jumped into a new startup that had been lingering in his mind since 2011: GlanceMirror.

GlanceMirror is a smart mirror that can update you about your health, meetings, and social media activity. Dave, knowing the value it provides, started his customer discovery process immediately. Within the first week, his team spent $40 to create a concept prototype that was shared with the public. Dave shared his customer discovery journey so far, "the Innovation Acceleration Group has helped me to direct the vision of the company. Every new connection, opportunity, or feature needs to be weighed against the value it will provide to our customers. Why spend hours of engineering time on a feature nobody actually wants?"

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IAG Innovator Highlight, Hakeem Javaid

Team BLOCKS with Andre Marquis and Mark Searle of IAG 

Hakeem Javaid met the Innovation Acceleration Group (IAG) in the first Intel’s Make It Wearable Challenge. Hakeem and his team, Blocks, set forth to make a modular smartwatch based on Intel's Edison Module. The competition invited entrants from 26 countries to create the most innovatove wearable products for a $500,000 grand prize. The IAG instructors and mentors pushed these global entrepreneurs to connect deeply with their customers to solve significant problems and rapidly create the best product with a scalable business model. In our Berkeley parlance - to iterate and pivot at the pace of a Silicon Valley startup. By the conclusion of Make It Wearable, Hakeem’s team learned that the conceptual prototype they originally walked in with had to be updated significantly to meet the desires of their customers. “I found myself struggling to define an ideal persona of each customer segment,” Hakeem told me on a Skype interview. “One of my favorite quotes was from Andre’s [Marquis] first lecture. He said something like, ‘It’s good to interact with your customers early on because then your customers are able to help build a product they love.’ Since then, I try to do this with all my products.”

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