By Tiana Laurence, author, investor, and co-founder of Factom
In 2019, anyone can be an innovator. Previous knowledge or a stacked resume aren't required thanks to the emergence of technology. Citizen scientists now have the ability to rapidly prototype and deploy, seeding a new age of innovation. Through this unparalleled access to powerful development tools, hardware can now evolve at nearly the same rapid clip seen in software -- and at costs lower than ever before. This convergence of two distinct technologies forms an exciting path forward. Yet at the same time, new challenges have risen amongst a sea of competitors and risks.
I've personally seen this. In fact, over the past few weeks in Hong Kong and San Francisco, I've held many discussions with innovators. These innovators have a few things in common: They're looking to bring new hardware to market, they worry about securing IP from theft, they want to stand out from a sea of competitors and they're strategizing to incentivize consumers and collaboration.
As a tech industry veteran, my background in handling those situations has given me the ability to be a sympathetic ear for those on the journey. The path from concept to launch and beyond can be filled with rough patches, but a few recurring themes seem to be on people's minds:
The Narcissism of Small Differences
In emerging tech, fine lines differentiate between ideas and concepts. This means that friends and collaborators can quickly become rivals, and disputes may spawn over the smallest differences. These hypersensitive conflicts may even be invisible to outsiders -- but they result in breaking up teams, fracturing communities and stemming innovation.
In the blockchain space, this has been well documented. That community broadly believes that distributed networks are useful at creating small secure messages. The details, though, initiate fights: who writes what, what the messages should say, how the network should be structured, etc.
My recommended resolution: As a community dove, I have always emphasized that using existing tech and collaboration is worth it. Facts don't necessarily win people over in a "feelings" fight, but if you emphasize teamwork and inclusion, you'll find an easier way to resolution.
Doves and Hawks
The tech community is often divided into two types of people: Doves (like myself) look for middle ground and use diplomacy for conflict resolution, while hawks have a more aggressive attitude and use that as a way to push innovation, but only their own.
Being a hawk can certainly move things along and establish a protocol for making smarter decisions. But it can also be counterproductive when there is a significant divide between two camps -- especially when those camps feel like they're competitors (even if they may not actually be). It's important to remember that ideas are cheap, execution is everything and no one has a monopoly on good ideas or intelligence.
My recommended resolution: If you are a hawk, then stay out of the discussions. Instead, find doves on each side to come together, work out the differences and reach a point of collaboration. Division only hurts young companies and emerging industries -- wait until your company or industry has established itself to take more aggressive stances.
Framing Ideas for Investors and Consumers
As an inventor, you know the full vision of your dreams. Given a microphone you could share the full extent of your dreams with investors, employees or even partners -- if you could only get the funds and partnerships necessary. But until then, it's important to keep your proverbial cards close to the vest.
I've personally made the mistake of oversharing on an innovative idea. This cost me both team members and investors as my pursuit of this led to weeks lost down that particular rabbit hole; by the time I surfaced, that idea had already hit the market. That lesson was painful and expensive, but invaluable. Proper scale and scope are critical, no matter how many hours you've already put in. Remember, many of those poor souls will be hearing it for the first time and they can't hold the space for the idea.
My recommended resolution: To gain support, find a small piece of your idea as a starting point. Know who you are talking to, including what drives and motivates them. The trick is to paint a simple picture of your vision -- feed a little at a time and gradually build their interest in the bigger picture.
For entrepreneurs, the very emergence of an idea can be a spark toward a new career path. But seeing it through to completion, particularly in the sometimes cutthroat tech space, isn't always an easy path. The skill most vital to completing that journey isn't technical prowess but instead is a very human element: the ability to say no, say yes, ask for help or offer to collaborate.
Tiana Laurence is the author of Blockchain for Dummies (a #1 Bestseller on Amazon), investor, and co-founder of Factom.