European Innovation Academy 2017

This year the main program of the European Innovation Academy is taking place in Turin, Italy. Over 450 young entrepreneurs from +100 countries have come to take part in the EIA program that helps young entrepreneurs to go from an idea to a tech startup in just three weeks.

To help accomplish this ambitious goal there is a stable of top mentors, coaches and experts available to the teams, including such well known entrepreneurs, developers and investors as Ravi Belani — Alchemist Academy, Anastasia Whiteley — Wildcat Venture Partners, Jeffrey D. Abbot — Wasabi Ventures, Martin Omander — Google, Danny Lange — Unity Technologies, Duncan Davidson — Bullpen Capital, Anastasia Ashman — Topaz Ventures, and many others.

Alar Kolk and Ken Singer kicking off EIA 2017

As one of the Chief Mentors, I got the chance to coach multiple teams, and observe the program dynamic over a two week period. At the start of the program each participants had the opportunity to post their idea to the joint platform and then also solicit team members in person. Very quickly an interesting dynamic presented itself — what I would call “average” or “me-too” and “me-three” ideas very quickly picked up team members. Founders with interesting, innovative and original ideas had a very difficult time recruiting any members to join their team.

This immediately brought to mind Adam Grant’s book “Originals.” Grant is the youngest tenured professor at Wharton and New York Times bestselling author. Grant very succinctly shows how most people naturally resist original and innovative ideas at first exposure. Generally people like what is familiar and similar to things they have heard and seen before.

People enjoy their comfort zone and to get them to leave extra effort is needed. Just think how difficult it would be to get a fan of classical music to reprogram his car radio to rap stations, or someone who likes modern art to put up the poster of dogs playing poker on his dining room wall.

Advice from Grant on how to effectively advocate and champion innovative and original ideas:

· connect to ideas that are already understood by the audience (e.g. after rejection Lion King script was reframed and repitched successfully as Hamlet with lions),

· use a Trojan horse — appeal to beliefs that people already hold (e.g. Meredith Perry of uBeam overcoming strong skepticism among engineers of her ultrasonic laptop charging system by pitching the invention as a new transducer),

· exposure to and repetition of an original idea every few days, especially if mixed in with other messages makes it seem familiar to audiences (significantly more positive reactions after 10 to 20 exposures).

CEOs don’t be too discouraged by the initial negative reactions to your truly original and innovative ideas — keep pitching and pushing the project forward.

Yrjö Ojasaar
Investment Partner
Change Ventures

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Change Ventures is a seed-stage venture capital fund backing ambitious Baltic founders. We invest primarily in B2B and SaaS technology startups. Find us at changeventures.com.
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