Last week, we had an opportunity to head down to New Orleans, Louisiana, to hear from some of the world’s most innovative business people, social entrepreneurs, journalists, and economists talk about innovation in practice at The Daily Beast’s “Reboot America!” Innovator’s Summit.
(If you’re not familiar, The Daily Beast is relatively new media venture founded by Tina Brown, the distinguished former editor of The New Yorker and Vanity Fair.)
The conversations were wide ranging but two themes popped up again and again: innovation in cities like Braddock, Pennsylvania and New Orleans, and the potency of small businesses as engines of economic progress.
Changing the equation at city scale
The event kicked off with New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who argued compellingly that his city should be looked at as “a laboratory for innovation and change in education, health care, transportation, [and] technology transfer”:
One organization in Mayor Landrieu’s lab is non-profit The Idea Village, a local group of businesspeople that support NOLA entrepreneurs with a blend of consulting and financial capital. The companies in The Idea Village’s portfolio generate more than $87 million in annual revenue, creating 1,000 jobs for the community.
HP CMO Michael Mendenhall announced that HP would provide a $100,000 grant to The Idea Village during the conference. In making the announcement, he remarked that entrepreneurs are the innovation “backbone” of the business world, a comment that echoed his conversation a day earlier with Napster co-founder and former Facebook President Sean Parker.
(above: Sean Parker [far left] and Mendenhall [second from right])
Sean Parker and “business nightmares”
Answering a question from Auletta about what each panelist’s “business nightmare” was, Mendenhall said that democratized access to technology has expanded the definition of “potential threat” for HP, and that the company “can’t just look at other big companies” because brands can be made overnight on the Web. To help address this issue, he added that it was critical to have the capability to scan the Internet for emerging issues.
Sean Parker jumped in and took the perspective of the disruptor, underscoring Mendenhall’s view on asymmetric competition by saying that he is constantly looking at incumbents in existing industries and asking himself, “Where are the weaknesses I can exploit?”
Parker famously answered that question for the music business in 1999 with Napster, which turned the existing distribution and discovery model on its head. In the clip below, Sean discusses some of his goal to “fix what I broke” via another music service, Spotify:
The summit featured more than a few other insights into topics like education and the media business from serial innovators like Barry Diller, HP’s Shane Robison, and Vinod Khosla; stay tuned for more later this week here on Data Central.
To learn more about HP's vision for "City 2.0", read this interview with HP Labs sustainability expert Chandrakant Patel.