In Case You Missed It…

Event Recap: How to Build, Own, & Sell It

HCDC’s Office of Innovation + Creativity hosted How to Build, Own, & Sell It on December 4th at the Hamilton County Business Center.  A diverse group of passionate entrepreneurs, #startupcincy ecosystem supporters, and speakers connected to learn Practical Ways to Fuel Innovative Growth for their companies.  The stars of the show were three local innovation rockstars: Colin Flynn, Vance Van Drake, and Jordan Hildebrandt. Their collective expertise was on full display. Plus, Paul Fisher highlighted how companies can get no cost sales and market research help with the Office of Innovation + Creativity.  Here’s what you missed.

Building Winning Custom Software –

Colin Flynn is Managing Director of Differential, a Cincinnati based custom software developer.  He distilled his 10+ years of experience into a lightning round of tips, tricks, and tools we all can use to build amazing software products.  According to Colin, digital product development is challenging. For example, products must be beautiful and functional. 90 percent of startups fail within 5 years, and 70 percent of all IT projects fail.  Three reasons for failure were listed: they lack definition, avoid uncertainties, and involve too much process.

Design Sprints: One Tool To Help Build

Solutions exist.  One tool that helps is a Design Sprint: a step-by-step process for solving big problems and validating new ideas.  Google Ventures created the process. Many innovative companies including Slack, Netflix, Lego, Nest, and others have used it.  The process helps teams focus on developing innovative solutions to problems in just a few days. Colin closed by sharing a few tools his team uses to design, build, and deliver software products.

Challenges in Building Products

Jordan Hildebrandt is CoFounder and Partner of 39A, a Cincinnati based design firm.  She helps companies launch and grow through design.  Jordan drove design at companies such as LPK and The Garage Group before starting up 39A.  She shared common challenges entrepreneurs face and concepts that help businesses grow. Two common challenges her clients experience are: not solving the TRUE human need and failing to move products forward.  Clients stumble because they assume perceived customer preferences are most important and they fail to create a product strategy.

Build With Canvases

Her solution: develop a vision canvas for your innovation.  Vision canvases link the consumer need to a company’s strategic objectives and then to the products and services a company launches.  Too often companies develop products that do not align with both the high priority consumer need and distinct company strategy. 39A’s vision canvas is based on other tools such as Lean Canvas and the Golden Circle.

Own It: Call The Lawyer

Vance Van Drake is Partner at Ulmer & Berne and an entrepreneur.  His new book, The Patent Game, is the #1 New Release in Business Law an Amazon.  Vance helps companies to ensure they protect their intellectual property and to minimize potential pitfalls that routinely derail innovative ventures.  Just because you are aware of IP basics, simple errors and omissions can turn out to be major snafus down the road.

Own Critical Elements of Your IP

We all should focus on the four categories of IP: trademarks, patents, copyright, and trade secrets.  Vance provided tips for each and shared a few horror stories along the way. For example, did you know that your company has trademarks just by operating?  Also, companies routinely share IP at demo days, investor pitches, and other highly energized and important meetings. Not every company that shares its valuable hard work is sufficiently protected, which can create patent nightmares down the road.  The best bet before you share: Consult your trusted legal counsel to ensure your IP is protected.

Closing Down The Event

Paul Fisher, HCDC’s Director of Innovation Services closed the event with a few sales tips and highlighted HCDC’s Office of Innovation + Creativity.  He shared a simple process on how to think about selling products, be it in person or online. The key: make sure you spend the majority of your time understanding the customer need before you ask for the sale.  Spend upwards of 80 percent of a sales call on asking open ended questions to know your prospective buyer from all angles. Then, quickly pitch your product and highlight the key benefits.

Last, Paul highlighted HCDC’s Office of Innovation + Creativity Technical Assistance program.  This program helps proven companies grow by equipping them with no cost market research, competitive intelligence, and digital analytics tools.  Qualifying companies get an extra team of researchers who answer their 2 – 3 growth questions. To qualify, companies need to be located in Hamilton County, to have about $1 – $50  million in revenue, and to employ roughly 10 – 100 employees.

Know a company that could use growth help?  Get them in contact with Paul Fisher, HCDC’s Director of Innovation Services.  He can be reached at

Be sure to follow HCDC on LinkedIn and Eventbrite for future events.

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