How many times do you need to be told your business idea is crazy before you give up? Or do you just shut your ears to the critics, like Icelandic entrepreneur David Helgason did? A university drop-out and self-taught programmer, Helgason kept plugging away at his gaming start-up, Unity, until it became one of the most popular licensed game engines in the world.
Helgason’s stubbornness and tenacity are what got him nominated for last year’s Real Innovation Awards, which celebrate the authentically messy way that products and services come into being, and the inspired individuals and teams that create them. Unity was in the George Bernard Shaw Unreasonable Person category, and alongside the judges’ vote, there was a people’s vote – Unity came out on top.
This year’s awards will highlight a whole new tribe of disruptive, creative, independent thinkers – if you fit that description, get moving, as nominations close at the end of this month.
BEST BEATS FIRST
One of the idiosyncratic award categories is the Best Beats First Award, for companies that move quickly to dominate an emerging market, often with a better business model than the first mover. Last year’s people’s choice winner was Grab, which started as a simple taxi-hailing app and in four years has grown into Southeast Asia’s largest mobile internet company, with the most funding ever raised by a homegrown business.
Voters were impressed by Grab’s expansion into 30 cities and the way they’ve used technology to achieve world-first aims like cross-border ridesharing. Grab also collaborate with the World Bank to help solve traffic congestion, and eight in 10 women feel safer taking a taxi with them.
Sometimes a big business breakthrough can happen by mistake. Last year’s people’s choice winner for The Alexander Fleming Serendipity Award was Empatica, a developer of wearable medical devices. In 2007, MIT professor Rosalind Picard and her team developed iCalm, a wearable designed to detect signs of stress in autistic people by measuring their electrodermal activity.
A student borrowed a pair of wristbands for his autistic brother, and when Picard was looking at the data she noticed there was a huge peak, which turned out to be a seizure. Picard had accidentally invented a device that could save lives by monitoring epilepsy. The company has now completed a successful crowdfunding campaign to launch the Embrace watch, to help people with epilepsy monitor their activity and seizures.
Do you have an inspiring business story to share? We want to help you get recognised for your achievements – and with a London awards ceremony and ongoing coverage in Management Today, there’s plenty of publicity up for grabs. So celebrate your team and enter the 2017 Real Innovation Awards.