This stuff really works – Santa Barbara Innovators Program

Santa Barbara (wikipedia)

Last week I visited entrepreneurs and intrepreneurs attending the Santa Barbara Innovators Program.

I was inspired and energized by catching up with everyone and their progress. In this program we have a great cohort of five external startups, and three intrapreneur teams going though an intensive 12 weeks of business, customer and technology validation. At week five, everyone is starting to crank out new insights – alongside lots of techniques for customer empathy, and business modeling. It’s amazing what can be achieved with 10 customer interviews every week.

The Innovators Program combines customer development, design thinking, leadership training, and a focus on what it takes to succeed in b2b startups. It’s a Citrix Startup Accelerator initiative that also runs in Raleigh, Santa Clara and Bangalore. And you might well ask why we have intrapreneurs alongside entrepreneurs. This is some of the secret sauce – the cross fertilization and inspiration between our internal teams and the startups is simply amazing.

This stuff really works.

Citrix Startup Accelerator, and our Innovators Program are part of the Citrix Technology Office, and are focused on Open Innovation by working with startups.

Here’s a brief list of participating companies and Citrix teams – for more see the Innovators Program Santa Barbara page.

  • Encanta (Citrix): Customer interaction for mobile apps
  • Recapit (Citrix): App to capture knowledge from live meetings
  • Voitrix (Citrix): Improved lead information for incoming calls
  • 222LabsIoT for environmental and event monitoringCapyx: Cap Table Management
  • Caugnate: 3d extension of video conferencing for remote collaboration on field service work
  • Milo: Wearable alcohol sensor that actively monitors blood alcohol levels
  • Sanwood: Long life IoT sensor technology

All are interested talking with potential customers, so let me know (@michaelharries) if I can make an introduction.

R0010569On the way back to Silicon Valley from Santa Barbara, I visited Hearst Castle with my daughter. Hearst Castle is an amazing mansion built high in the hills of the Central Coast of California. From it, there’s an amazing view all the way down to the ocean, it seems that you can see everything. The Innovators Program is all about giving a similar clarity of vision to innovators, whether startups or intrapreneurs. 

On the dangers of “good” advice

“The aim of science is to seek the simplest explanation of complex facts. We are apt to fall into the error of thinking that the facts are simple because simplicity is the goal of our quest. The guiding motto in the life of every natural philosopher should be “Seek simplicity and distrust it.” – Alfred North Whitehead
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“Common sense is not so common.”
― Voltaire, A Pocket Philosophical Dictionary

“It is the obvious which is so difficult to see most of the time. People say ‘It’s as plain as the nose on your face.’ But how much of the nose on your face can you see, unless someone holds a mirror up to you?”
― Isaac Asimov, I, Robot

“Common sense is what tells us the earth is flat.”
― Stuart Chase, Language in Thought and Action

In short, to correctly interpret an aphorism you have to know the context, which isn’t present in the aphorism itself. Context is always vital.

The Future of Work – Amazing new technologies and Citrix Startup Accelerator (draft)

I recently attended the O’Reilly Solid Convention. it was very very cool, and right at the heart of current enthusiasm for ‘makers’, for IoT, and for hackery of all types. If you’re interested, go ahead and check out some of their videos. I’ll still be here.

One talk I found particularly inspiring introduced a new device designed to use emotive technology to very simply increase alertness or relaxation – the founder of doppel talked about some of the background to their work, exploring phenomena like the rubber hand illusion, and how this can be generalized with digital hands, and explored a range of doppelother cognitive illusions. The end result of their exploration was a very down to earth wearable device that provides a heartbeat like pulse that produces statistically significant changes in human physiology and performance. Unfortunately there is no video of this talk, but it is worth taking a look at their kickstarter.

I’m fascinated by these types of cognitive hacks, imagine how phenomena like this could enhance virtual reality, or make virtual meetings more productive. There’s amazing new innovation out there around giving new senses – such as seeing with the to2020 landscape docngue (now FDA approved), or explorations into adding a directional sense. The idea of using technology to make us stronger, faster, and more productive is introduced in the Citrix 2020 technology landscape document and is a one element of how our workplaces will change in the near future.

Another rapidly emerging area is the use of voice recognition. I’ve been using the Amazon Echo at home, and it’s amazing how quickly even the most technophobic of my family are willing to use this device. ‘Alexa, play <a random annoying teen pop artist> radio’. It’s fast, easy, and dramatically reduces barriers to use.

As of today, the types of commands provided natively by Echo are relatively simple. Yet even in challenging situations Echo can hear and understand requests so well that it feels like magic. Imagine having this technology in the workplace – in every meeting room. No more having to work out terrible user interface around different display options and more.

Check out a demo of this in action at Citrix Synergy 2015 with the Citrix Workplace Hub and Octoblu.

What about having meeting rooms that can identify who’s physically in a meeting, the discussion themes, if people are upset, or indeed foster better collaboration. Imagine having the Jarvis virtual assistant from ‘Iron Man’ at your work. Or, if thats not your scene, what else might be coming soon? How about instant hardware prototyping? What new IoT devices might make sense in the workplace? What if we could trial the hardware as simply and easily as software?

Future of workOne of the themes for Citrix Startup Accelerator is the ‘future of work’. The goal for this investment theme is to invest in first class startups, bringing new approaches and capabilities to these emerging themes in how our workplaces become more productive, and more human-centric. One example from our portfolio is WhoKnows. WhoKnows is an amazing company bringing very pragmatic improvements to the way we understand the rest of our team, and indeed everyone in the organization. I like to think of them as making the whole of a large company as simple to work with as a single workgroup. This is a huge challenge and one that existing approaches have not yet solved.

Do you have a great new approach to ‘The future of work’? Let me know.