Monday, June 04, 2007

Low-level == innovation, high-level == entrepreneurship

If you work in a place where innovation is stimulated (like C.E.S.A.R), there are certain ideas that you can truly identify as innovation and others that are new or providing services that do not yet exist, but are not necessarily "innovation".

I'm looking at a couple of ideas all around for new technological "break-throughs" and a good number of these ideas, described as innovation, actually are "new systems" that just do not yet exist in the market. There are big problems here for the execution of these ideas:
  • Large systems are very risky to build and the effort required to actually complete them is always at least two times higher than the estimated effort. (see Vista, see internal "large" projects).
  • To make money of these "larger" systems is difficult. You start from a couple of clients maybe (if you succeed in selling it), but this is not the beginning when you start to make money. That is only after x years.
  • Support, after-care etc. are difficult to arrange. Your "development" doesn't just stop right after development is terminated. You may actually need more people to be able to seel than you did during development. Do you really want to start a company?
  • Maybe the system does not exist in the market, but is the problem actually more or less resolved in other ways? (is there truly market need?)
  • By the time the system is finished, the market may be gone.
Thus, you should consider:
  • If you want to start a business, aim for some niche market, develop a large system and focus on customers and selling product/services. This is not innovation in its entirety. Maybe only one line of code will be.
  • If you want to innovate, but not start a business as usual, focus on smaller parts at a lower level in the system.
Lower level innovations are for example search algorithms, distribution libraries, audio/video codecs, operating systems, embedded software, graph algorithms or the combination of the above to solve a *very* specific problem in technology. The focus should be on developing *technology* not directly applicable to any market problem. You'll have to focus on better efficiency in most of the cases of innovation.

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