5 Tips for Startups from #TechweekDET

3 minute read
Lori Alcala avatar

The city of Detroit is trying hard to reinvent itself as more than just a manufacturing hub. And if this year’s Techweek Detroit is any indication, it's succeeding.

The celebration of technology and innovation last week brought together more than 30 speakers from across the country to Ford Field, with events held throughout the city.  It featured sessions around everything from emerging cities to mobility and entrepreneurship.

Attendees discussed not only trends and tech innovation but ways to grow and capitalize on technology in the Motor City.

If you weren’t able to attend the sessions, you can still get a flavor for the atmosphere, with some quick highlights about the event, focused specifically on how startups can succeed in a sea of big business.

Startup Ideas from Techweek

1. Big Isn’t Bad


Despite the current thinking about how small companies have more agility to adapt and innovate than do large enterprises, the fact is that both big and small need each other, Chris Rizik, CEO of Renaissance Venture Capital Fund, told the Techweek audience.

Big companies need the innovation that comes from small companies, and small needs the scale that big supplies, he added.

“The problem is, it’s not a cultural fit,” he said. “It’s unnatural for big companies to deal with small, external organizations. Traditionally they’ve handled things internally or have dealt with big partners.”

The solution? Rizik advocates the following:

  • Big business should embrace innovation by changing restrictive processes for working with suppliers, and instead, make it easier for small companies to work with them.
  • Small companies need to act as professional as possible so big business can better collaborate with them.
  • Governments, unions and foundations should work to reduce friction and incentivize big and small to work together.
  • Everyone needs to communicate successes and remember where you came from so you don’t repeat the mistakes you’ve made in the past.

2. Know Your Patent Rights


“You need to know your rights before you develop your product. You need it up front to make smart business and design choices.” — Michelle Lee, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property, and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office

Learning Opportunities

3. Build a Startup Community


“Set up your company where other startups are located. Set up together and build communities around you because it’s hard going.

"There are lessons to learn from others about building company culture and how to scale people.” — Dug Song, CEO, Duo Security

4. Get Life and Work Experience


“The perception is that entrepreneurs have to be young. But the reality is that the typical successful founder is 40 years old, and has at least six to 10 years of experience. And, those who are twice as successful are entrepreneurs who are over 50 years old.

“It’s a great thing when you’re young to join a company. Go work for somebody. Go learn something.” — Carl Erickson, CEO, Atomic Object

5. Best Advice for First-Time Entrepreneurs

“Do something useful. Be a nice person. It sounds silly, but you need to build something people want. And if you want to build a team, you need to be interested in them and invest in their personal well-being.” — Dug Song, CEO, Duo Security

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