Selling Innovation

This is the first in an ongoing series based on the highly rated book Selling Innovation, a guide to structuring a complete start-up revenue capture process.  The book is based on a day-long workshop held at the MIT Enterprise Forum in partnership with Microsoft.  Sections of each chapter will be shared here on The Startup Growth Blog.  Download the complete eBook, blog readers get a special 25% discount with code JA49Y.  


By John Harthorne, founder & CEO of MassChallenge

The world needs innovators and entrepreneurs who can sell.

Entrepreneurs are our value creators and problem solvers. Their nimble, high-growth companies create most of the world’s highly innovative technologies and groundbreaking solutions. More often than not, it is a startup that first determines how to extract energy from high altitudes, or from the ocean’s waves, or even human waste. More often than not, it is a startup that first figures out how to teach kids math using basketball or how to build the most intuitive mobile games. They build off-road wheelchairs, grow farms in freight containers, track migraines with cell phones and draw clean water out of slightly humid air. Take any problem in the world, and you can be certain that numerous entrepreneurs are working tirelessly on solving it, and that a few of them will end up revolutionizing a long-established industry.

Startups are also creating jobs. Early-stage ventures are responsible for virtually all net job growth in the United States, as confirmed by The Kauffman Foundation: “Net job growth occurs in the U.S. economy only through startup firms.”  Since 1977, established firms have lost 1 million net jobs per year, while startups in their first year added an average of 3 million jobs in aggregate. This trend has spawned scores of innovation centers and business plan competitions as governments, educators and the private sector world-wide work towards supporting this critical part of local economic development.  We need job growth, we need it now, and startups are the solution.

But launching a startup is difficult. Many innovations never get to make that impact and generate those jobs because too many innovators struggle to find the right resources before running out of time.  To succeed, entrepreneurs need access to advisors, talent, suppliers, lawyers, office space, equipment, funding, and other resources. Most importantly of all, though, startups need customers.

Customers are almost always the single best source of funding and growth. Customers are demanding. They force you to build what they want, rather than investing in the development of a large, complex “science project.” They keep your company alive and focused and, if they like your product, they buy more. Customer money is the cheapest, most productive form of capital on the planet.

Innovation can provide solutions to many of the world’s most challenging problems. Selling that innovation is what reifies the founding vision, establishes the desired impact and initiates serious growth.

The world needs entrepreneurs and innovators, and they must be great at selling their innovation.

Author: Ken Smith

Entrepreneur, Innovator, Author

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