‘Get out on the edge,’ businesses advised at 'Speak Easies' event

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Posted: Friday, July 26, 2013 12:00 am

Corporations have a responsibility to promote innovation internally and externally, a technology fellow for a global biopharmaceutical company said Thursday.

“You’ve got to have a game plan and commit to see it through,” said Ty Harmon, who was the keynote speaker at the first event in a “Speak Easies” series hosted by the AIM Institute and e-commerce and software accelerator Straight Shot.

About 100 people involved in information technology and Omaha’s startup scene attended.

The event was the first that AIM has put on with a startup, said its president and CEO, Kandace Miller. Although the organization has put on events for years, this was more laid back, hosted at DJ’s Dugout at Aksarben Village and featuring a fast-paced format, with Harmon given 20 minutes and three other speakers given even less time.

“We have to be adapting to what the new tech ecosystem wants,” Miller said.

Other speakers were Alex Adelman of Cosmic Cart, a company in Straight Shot; Mike Santo of Crateful, a company in Straight Shot; and Bob Stolzberg, a senior solution design engineer for Savvis.

Harmon, who works from Atlanta on funding, identifying and developing emerging technologies for the research-based biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, discussed the best practices that corporations can follow to foster new ideas.

He said companies need to look beyond consultants, vendors and analysts and instead to startups, accelerators and investors on how to create new products and services.

“You have to get out on the edge,” he said, noting that their strengths lie in being on the front lines and having some of the freshest ideas.

Harmon also stressed the importance of corporations adopting new ideas and services earlier despite potential competitive blunders and government scrutiny. The risk can be worth it, he said, and can attract talented workers who like a company that takes chances.

In Omaha this week, Harmon observed lots of opportunities that other communities don’t have, such as the Straight Shot accelerator, the Peter Kiewit Institute and the strong business community willing to assist new companies.

Taking advantage of those resources will result in better investor returns and a competitive advantage over others. Most important, Harmon urged attendees to never lose sight of their passions with purpose.

“It’s in your backyard,” he said.

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