In this episode Nate and Elliott dive into the history and necessity of optimism in entrepreneurship, the challenge of maintaining innovation in large corporations, and the importance of running fast, cheap, and weird experiments.

Elliott Parker is the CEO of High Alpha Innovation, a venture studio that works with large-scale corporations and universities to co-create startups. 

Elliott is also the author of The Illusion of Innovation, a book to help big corporations escape efficiency and achieve progress.

You are going to walk away with actionable items insights on creating a culture of innovation and the practical steps to blend the strengths of both worlds for sustainable success.

Check out these great clips:

  • 00:20 Historical Perspective on Optimism
  • 01:04 The Innovator’s Dilemma
  • 01:35 Elliot Parker’s Background
  • 02:29 Early Entrepreneurial Influences
  • 03:17 Lessons from Family Business
  • 05:18 First Steps in Entrepreneurship
  • 07:45 Business School Insights
  • 13:53 Journey to Indiana
  • 16:19 Corporate Innovation at Roche
  • 20:56 The Innovator’s Dilemma in Practice
  • 28:42 High Alpha Innovation
  • 29:57 Spinning Out High Alpha Innovation
  • 30:47 Early Experiments and First Launches
  • 31:51 Partnering with Corporations and Universities
  • 32:47 Challenges of Corporate Innovation
  • 35:59 The Walt Disney Tinkering Story
  • 38:46 Encouraging Innovation in Organizations
  • 46:00 The Role of Optimism in Innovation
  • 53:34 Lightning Round and Closing Thoughts

Get IN. is the show focused on the unfolding stories and most extraordinary innovations happening in the heartland today. The show is hosted by Matt Hunckler, CEO of Powderkeg and Nate Spangle, Head of Community at Powderkeg.

By listening to this episode you will learn:

  • The value of an MBA. Is it worth it?
  • What is the innovator’s dilemma and how to overcome.
  • How contrarian thinking can be game changer for your company as well as your personal life.

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Episode Transcript

Nate: From the crossroads of America in the Hoosier state of Indiana. This is Get IN, the podcast focused on the unfolding stories and extraordinary innovations happening right now in the Heartland. I’m Nate Spangle, head of community at Powderkeg, and I will be your host for today’s conversation. On the show today, I’m joined by Elliot Parker.

Elliot: The last 20, 30 years for the first time since we’ve been tracking this, the majority of people feel like the future is going to be worse than the present for a sustained period. That’s never happened before. If you go back to this, the 1700s, the enlightenment, people thought like things are going to be amazing from here on out.

That was wrong. That was too Pollyanna ish. In the mid 1800s, you had all these things happening at the end of slavery and industrial revolution coming people out of the world is just getting, turning into an amazing place. Very optimistic. 20th century that started to slow down a little bit. You had things like atomic weapons and world wars that got people to feel a little bit less optimistic about the future perhaps.

But in the last 20, 30 years when you poll people and ask, do you think the future is going to be better than the present? Majority of people surprisingly for the first time ever say, I don’t think it’s going to be better. When you’re an entrepreneur the way that you succeed is by being Non consensus and turning out to be correct, right?

If you think about it, if you are consensus going along with the crowd and right, you’re not going to win. If you’re running a big business and you’re going along with the crowd and right, you’re going to go out of business. That’s the innovator’s dilemma. You have to be non consensus. You have to come up with ideas that the rest of the market people don’t understand yet.

And then you have to turn out to be right. Well, a really easy way to be non consensus right now is to be optimist because you’re going to turn out to be right. On average over his time through history, the optimists have been right.

Nate: Elliot Parker is a CEO of High Alpha Innovation. A venture studio that works with large corporations and universities to co create startups.

Elliot is also the author of The Illusion of Innovation, a book to help big corps escape efficiency and achieve progress. More on that later. On the show today, we’re going to dive into the illusion of innovation that most corporations fall into, how to build a culture of innovation within your organization.

And we’re going to take a dive into ways that some of the most innovative entrepreneurs and organizations think and operate. Elliot, welcome to Get IN. Great to be here. Dude, I am so pumped for this convo. Um, backstory to the listeners. My cousin Hunter is, uh, is a recent new employee at Hiava Innovation and he’s been raving about what y’all are doing.

He’s crushing it. So, I mean, he is, that’s just his M. O. Like, he is just that guy. Uh, Hunter is, uh, so shout out to him. I think he helped orchestrate and make this whole thing happen, so. Okay. Had to start with a little shout out there. So Elliot, as I did my research, I originally, if I found out you’re not originally from Indiana, I’m not right.

So let’s talk about kind of where you grow up. I knew that your dad and your grandpa were both entrepreneurs as well. So take us back to, you know, where you grew up in that first exposure to entrepreneurship, besides selling candy in fourth grade, as we talked about. Right.

Elliot: I’ve traced my family history back to.

A long, long time ago, and as far back as I can go, entrepreneurs, so it’s in the blood. It’s in the DNA. Really? Okay. So what are some of those early ones? Lots of farmers. Yeah. Lots of farmers.

Yeah. My, uh, so I’m originally from California and my, um, my family back in the mid 1800s left Missouri, went to California, Central Valley, started farming, but way back before that farming.

Nate: So this makes sense why you end up in Indiana. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. So your, your dad and your grandpa, and they weren’t farmers, right?

Elliot: No. So my grandpa had a music store, tried a whole bunch of things. Uh, my dad, uh, when I was young, um, he came home from work one day, quit his job. What was he doing? Yeah.

Investment banking. And, uh, just didn’t like the environment there and came home one day and Set up, uh, in a spare bedroom, a desk with a couple of phones, shut the door. And for two years, kind of locked himself in there and got a business going. This was back with well before internet, anything like that.

Right? So it’s two phones on the desk, making phone calls. As a young kid, I was like, what is he doing in there? That’s what’s what’s happening. So, but I, I got to see him build a business from the ground up, hire employees and do amazing things.

Nate: The employees did not work out of the spare bedroom.

Elliot: Eventually moved out.

Nate: What was the business and how, well, first off, how old were you at that time?

Elliot: So boy, I was probably six, seven years old watching this happen.

Nate: And you’re, at that time, your grandpa also owned the music store? Yeah. So do you remember being six, seven years old, seeing your dad build this, and then also hanging out at the grandpa’s music store?

Elliot: Yeah, of course, yeah.

Nate: What are some of the lessons you learned from being just immersed in entrepreneurship at that early age?

Elliot: Well, I mean, the big lesson was I didn’t know there was another way. Right. I mean, you gotta, you gotta figure out a path in the world and go make it happen was kind of the, the lesson from the very beginning.

What business was your dad building? An investment bank as well. Oh. Investment bank.

Nate: Yeah. The spare bedroom investment bank. Yeah. That’s something. What was the trajectory of, of dad’s business? From two years in the spare bedroom to? When you’re like eight years old and he like moves out in an office and things are ripping and entrepreneurship’s fun and you make a ton of money and then you exit and life’s great.

Elliot: Yeah, if only, right? Yeah, it’s the um, ups and downs the whole way, right? Um, Mark Andreessen famously said that entrepreneurship is uh, terror and euphoria at the same time, all the time, every day. Right? That’s what it is. And so I saw that firsthand too. But my dad did eventually exit his business, sold it.

Bought it back again, sold it again, um, did really, turned out really well, really good for him.

Nate: So when did you know, first of all you said you didn’t know there was another way, but what was the moment when you’re like, this is for me, like I want to be an entrepreneur?

Elliot: Yeah, so I, coming out of college, I knew that I needed to go learn something.

And, uh, I was, uh, got married with a year of college left, so we were, Uh, when I graduated college, I was married and our first baby was on the way. I had to go get a job. And, um, so I did, but not, but I, I, I learned a lot. That first job, I was working at a company called Arthur Anderson, which, uh, was a big accounting firm, global firm.

And, uh, I was working in this consulting business there. We had a small team that wa that was commercializing IP out of big companies. So we’d scour their 30,000 patents trying to figure out what existed in there. We could spin out, go spin it out. You had shut GPT to do that, right? Yeah. If only, if only.

It was a lot easier. It was amazing. Super great experience. But that company. Um, rapidly and famously went out of business in about six weeks. So, uh, Arthur Anderson was the accounting firm that, uh, Enron used and did some stuff, uh, at least a, uh, a small team of people, um, did some things associated with the Enron, uh, uh, debacle and, uh, the, the firm went out of business.

In about six weeks, they got in, firm got indicted by the U. S. government and this, this 35, 000 person or whatever it was, global firm collapsed. And I remember coming out of that thinking, man, that was, um, I thought I was taking a safe job and I remember driving in the car with my dad and he said, you know, a lot of people think big companies are safe, but the reality is in a big company, you don’t control your fate.

Not really, kind of, but not really, not really, because anything can happen, uh, and you can lose your job. Whereas in a small company. You control your fate. Yeah, some people perceive that as risky, but at least you, it’s up to you. You have yourself to blame if it doesn’t work, and, um, that, uh, that was appealing.

So I went to business school and immediately started a couple companies there and got into it.

Nate: This whole debacle happens, you stay till like the very end, it’s like, hey, the office is just like, we’re done tomorrow. And it’s like, great, like I’ll take my last paycheck and then Go to business school.

Elliot: So what happened is a lot of the teams got bought by other firms and our, our team was eventually purchased by KPMG where I went for about six weeks before business school started.

Okay. And where’d you go to business school? UCLA.

Nate: Okay. And what’s the, all of these business schools all have focuses, right? It’s like this thing, that thing. What was UCLA’s? What is UCLA’s focus?

Elliot: Well, it, the big geographic appeal. There you go. Yeah. Fuck it. I mean, I was from the L. A. area. I thought I’d be there my whole life.

I thought, well, I’ll go to business school here, and this is where we’ll be. My wife is from nearby as well. But their primary focus was entrepreneurship, which was also appealing to me.

Nate: Okay, well, that’s nice, having the entrepreneurship. I’m always intrigued, right? Like, entrepreneurs usually sit on one side of the fence or the other, right?

It’s like, yes, go to school and study entrepreneurship. Or the opposite side is just like, go be an entrepreneur. Tell me how you fall in that one.

Elliot: Oh, the latter, definitely. I mean, so, business school is interesting. I love my experience there, but the lessons I learned were all outside of the classroom.

Right? The biggest lesson I learned at business school is that none of the buildings were named after consultants. Right? They’re all named after entrepreneurs who had done well and donated back to the school. Um, the, the, the other big thing that I learned was that, um, being in business school for a couple of years just gave me the opportunity, the excuse to be able to reach out to anybody.

I realized pretty quickly you’ve got a, a, kind of a magical superpower when you’re in school and that is that you can pick up the phone, send an email, reach out to anyone and there’s a good chance they’re going to respond. The day you graduate, you lose that. And so I took advantage of that and had the opportunity to meet some amazing, amazing entrepreneurs.

Nate: And that’s not just Siloed. I think that’s a really good point too. Any undergrad listener or MBA, like, If you have the badge of student, it’s a cheat code to get into rooms with people. Yes. I didn’t realize that until I was an Orr fellow, right? I had just graduated, and in Indianapolis, the Orr fellow badge like helps you get in the door with other Orr fellows.

And it’s like, dang, if I would have known this when I was an undergrad, I would have just reached out to everyone. Like, hey, I’m a student. I don’t really know what I want to do. I’m interested in entrepreneurship. Like, would you give me 20 minutes? Yeah. It’s like, Especially in Indiana, from my experience, like people are willing to give you that time.

Elliot: Yeah. Yeah. You got to take advantage. It’s one, one quick story about an example. I was in school, heard that Richard Branson was going to be in town. I thought that’s a guy I’d love to meet. And he was coming in town to speak. And I thought, how am I, how am I going to go meet Richard Branson? How could I do that?

And, um, somehow found out that, uh, you could get a press pass to this thing. And I was writing a column for our school newspaper every couple of weeks. And so, Use that to say I’m like, I’m a columnist for a school paper and they gave me a press pass and I got to go spend 90 minutes interviewing Richard Branson and learning about him and, um, getting encouraged that, uh, boy, he, he was an amazing guy, obviously, but he took chances and did it, made it happen.

I can do that.

Nate: I love that. That is, that’s a good. Like I think the modern hack to like the press pass is having the podcast. Totally. Like this has been, like we started it, it’s been amazing and it’s like we’ve kind of grown getting some amazing guests like yourself and I mean, go back and look at the episode list.

But I know college kids and young entrepreneurs, young hustlers are like, No one ever, if you ask them to be on your podcast, they never say, how many listeners do you have? It’s like, no, everybody wants to be famous for a day and being a podcast. And then one day it’s like, you get a bunch of listeners and it’s really fun.

But early on, it’s like reach out to a CEO. If you have a pod, do it on maybe not on zoom, get like a Riverside or something and just be like, Hey, I have this podcast. I’d love to interview for 30 minutes about X, Y, Z. You’re gonna get, I’d say nine times out of ten, that’s your, that’s your modern day press pass, right?

Yeah, a hundred percent. Um, well I know there’s a few comments, but I was always reading and looking through and doing some research. There might be an issue with like the, uh, the business school and, and modern management. And I know that there’s like a topic that you’ve talked on and spoke on and had some content around.

Yeah. So talk to me about what you think the issue is with going to business school. And as a 27 year old that has no plans to go to business school, like what, what would you say to the opposite of me that wants to go to business school?

Elliot: Yeah. Well, know what you want to get out of it before you go, right?

Um, for, for most people, I think the actual classroom education for some people that may be useful. If you’re shifting from a. Uh, you know, some career without any business involvement, something doing business, well, yeah, taking those accounting and finance classes and so on might, might actually be helpful, but there are cheaper, faster ways to learn that stuff, too.

So the thing for business school is, um, uh, that you, for, again, for me, it was just getting the confidence and seeing the, the patterns, seeing what good look like, uh, having exposure to world class that I otherwise wouldn’t have had, um, for me as an aspiring entrepreneur, that was helpful. Um, but, uh, the, uh, the caveat to that is as well, a lot of people at business school I was going to, you know, in class with, when you asked them, what do you want to do five, 10 years from now, they’d say they wanted to be an entrepreneur.

And then they were going and interviewing for big company jobs. And most of them aren’t entrepreneurs right now. And so, The trade off is, it’s, you know, um, if you know what you want to do, just go do it. Sometimes there are more efficient ways to go do it, and you might get sidetracked.

Nate: I think that’s like a poll that should be put out there to people with their MBA.

It’s like, when I, I talk, and I ask that question to a decent amount of people that have gone to business school, and it’s always about like the people, the connections, the community, like being around excellence. Like, you can’t put a price on that. Like, that’s why, You pick organizations like, or fellowships, like be around good people, that’s why a lot of people pick companies, to go be around excellent.

But I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say like, my accounting 356 was like a game changing class. Life changer class. Like, I wonder what they’re, I wonder if there’s one out there, I’m sure there is, where like, there’s people that went to, Wharton and are just like, no, there’s this one class at Wharton.

That’s like in game changer for being an entrepreneur. I haven’t found it yet, but if you have any ideas or you come across what the class is, I’d love to,

Elliot: I mean, for sure. I had some great professors, great classes, learn some great case studies. But like I said, there are cheaper, faster ways to do that. If your goal is to just learn a subject,

Nate: You graduate from business school and why everyone’s going out to be consultants, maybe they’re starting a business.

Maybe they’re going to get their next thing. You’re in Southern California, hanging out in the sunshine, having a good time there. How do you end up making a huge life transition there?

Elliot: Yeah. So I moved to Indiana. So we, when I was in business school, uh, fell in with a bunch of other aspiring entrepreneurs.

We, in fact, our first year, we locked ourselves in a room and said, we’re not going to leave until we identify a business to go launch. And I had a list at the time of probably 150 ideas. We went through the list, came up with an idea, launched a company. Uh, built a chain of retail kiosks and movie theater lobbies.

Super fun. Super fun.

Nate: Retail kiosks and movie theater lobbies.

Elliot: Yeah, so the idea was, you go see the movie, you’re, you’re super pumped about the, the movie coming out. You buy the t shirt on the way out. Just like you would at a sports or rock concert, right? So, why doesn’t that exist? And for many movies, the, the merchandise sales are greater than the movie ticket sales.

So, why not put the two together was our thought. Uh, and it worked. It was, um, we didn’t know what we were doing and learned all sorts of lessons, uh, but, uh, you know, the business in movie theaters was breakeven and, uh, with us knowing nothing, I think we could have optimized that and done better.

Ultimately, I sold out to one of my friends who I’d started with, who took it and turned it into a pretty nice business, uh, doing, uh, if anybody listening has ever bought superhero or comic book related stuff online, there’s a good chance they’ve bought it through my friend’s business. No way. Yeah. so much.

So I turned out, and then so second year, I started another company too, but in between in that summer, um, by the end of my first year, I got a phone call out of the blue from a guy in Indiana named Mike Fitzgerald, who has become a great friend. Uh, I didn’t know him at the time. He called me and said, Hey, I got a copy of your resume.

You don’t know me. I was golfing with this guy last weekend. You don’t know him either, but he had your resume. He’s an alum of UCLA. I’m hiring for this job. I think you’d be great for it. And what if you came out to Indiana this summer and did an internship? And I’m like, what? Who is this? What are you talking about?

Where’s Indiana? Yeah, 20 minutes later though, Mike is persuasive. One of the superpowers. He’s very persuasive. And 20 minutes later, I was like, you know, that could be a lot of fun. Called up my wife and said, what if we went to Indiana this summer? Gave it a shot.

Nate: Nothing like packing up the wife and the kid,

Elliot: right?

Yeah. Hang out

Nate: For your summer internship in Indiana. Yeah,

Elliot: yeah. So we, I remember driving out to Indiana. Uh, we had, at the time we had two kids actually, my wife and I in the car. And we, we’d always imagined our whole lives would be in Southern California. And remember looking at each other and just saying, what if we like it?

What do we, what do we do?

Nate: Well, if we like it, we like it. What do we like,


Okay, so you end up here. What are you doing that summer with Mike?

Elliot: So, uh, Mike was running a, uh, a small, um, growing, uh, corporate innovation, corporate venture capital team at Roche Diagnostics at the time. So I joined him that summer, um, and actually, um, was working with, uh, some entrepreneurs out in Massachusetts who had technology they’d invented, and Roche was using that in its business and considering other ways to use that technology.

to expand the use of it in their business. I’m, uh, I ended up, after the summer was over, Um, working with those guys, taking a license on a technology for an alternative use and building a business around that, that ultimately, unfortunately, failed on graduation day. In our caps and gowns, my business partner and I walking out to the graduation ceremony with the lab results on this technology and realizing it wasn’t going to work.

Nate: No. Until graduation day, caps and gowns and you’re like, you get your results and you’re just like, well, now we got to go take a job. Go get jobs. So what, what, what was the opportunity after that? Right? Business fails. So

Elliot: Mike was great, said, Hey, if your business doesn’t work out, you’ve got an open, open chance to come back here.

We’ll take you. So I called him up today. That’s still good. They said, yep, come on out. So we moved to Indiana. Came out here for about seven years. Uh, this is back in oh four. So back at Roche? Yeah, back at Roche. So spent a few years there and then, um, uh, learned a lot about corporate innovation, trying to build things inside of big companies.

And in fact, I would argue we ran an early version of what became High Alpha at Roche. We were building startups inside of Roche and if we couldn’t, Uh, you know, or, or investing in outside startups, um, and learned a lot in that process.

Nate: Oh my gosh. Yeah. And I, I think this is interesting, right? Just the whole ethos of you’re a lifelong entrepreneur from like birth, right?

Like, you know, you grew up immersed in this. And when I think of entrepreneurship, I do think more of like, you got to go out and start something from zero to like get someone to pay you a hundred bucks, a thousand bucks, a million dollars, you know? But there is this, what you’re doing now is entrepreneurship, right?

High Alpha Innovations. And you guys are entrepreneurs. But within places like Roche, right, it’s like within this like ecosystem of big corporation, which like for me as like the entrepreneur, like startup, like small company side, it’s like, that’s tough to wrap your brain around. So I just like to like double click into that of like entrepreneurship within big companies and how that’s like, you can build this environment.

Right. And I want to get into like the launch of high alpha innovation and where you guys are, but like talk to the listener, like that when they think and hear the word entrepreneurship, right. They’re thinking small startup, scrappy, in the back closet of something, wherever.

Elliot: Yeah, and that is the right way to think of it.

That is the best way to do it. But, boy, these large corporations have amazing reach and scale. I remember in one of my, uh, my first week at Roche, a young kid from California, right, for one lesson I learned was I remember being in the corporate office and the guy next to me saying, Hey, pretty soon, in a few months, all these ponds will be frozen over.

I was like, What? What are you talking about? It’s cold enough that the ponds freeze? I had no idea. Which is so funny to me now. But also, looking, looking out the corporate office at the parking lot and the thousands of cars, and, uh, each of those cars representing a household, a family, an individual, who were, you know, making their lives happen through their work at Roche and what that enabled them to do.

And realizing that all of that had been started by one guy 20, 30 years previously. And I thought, that is amazing. I want to be that guy. I want to do that. Let’s have that kind of impact. What a thing to aspire to be and do. So, a lot of lessons learned. But yeah, we, we were, these companies have amazing reach.

And so if you can build things with, alongside, or even inside these large companies, um, you’ve just got the potential for scale that is really hard when you’re starting something in your, your back closet.

Nate: Yeah, I think a lot of, especially early entrepreneurs like dream of like getting that big partnership or building that, getting that deal from the massive whoever, you know, and it’s like kind of a cheat code to that as I build alongside with them and we’re going to dive into that in just a second.

Let’s flash forward from your time at Roche, you go out to Boston for a while, you end up back in Indianapolis and I want to just talk about, you’re at High Alpha, the venture studio here that is a business that builds businesses, right, in the studio. But then this idea of the corporate innovation arm of high alpha innovation is an idea.

How does this, where did the idea come from and how did you guys get it going?

Elliot: I did leave Indiana. So left Roche after a couple of years and then for three years, something like that and went and started a whole bunch of companies, restaurants, a private equity fund in China, software companies, you name it, a whole bunch of entrepreneurial endeavors, super fun.

And I, I at the time was an admirer of a guy named Clayton Christensen, who was a professor at Harvard Business School, uh, who had come up with this idea of the innovator’s dilemma, disruptive innovation theory. That was his idea. And I thought if I ever had a chance to work with him, I’d drop everything and go do that.

And the chance came up. So in 2012, um, moved with the family to Boston and went and worked at Clay Christensen’s consulting firm for a year. Uh, about seven years and had amazing experience traveling around the world working with Fortune 500 companies. I think at that time period I, I advised, worked with maybe three dozen Fortune 500 companies trying to help them be more innovative.

How do you overcome this problem of the innovator’s dilemma? And the innovator’s dilemma says that, Executives can do everything right, serving their best customers and doing it ever more profitably, their businesses will ultimately fail because as they move up market to serve those customers, they leave themselves exposed at the lower end to new entrants who come in with good enough products, grab a foothold and then move up market themselves and displace those incumbents.

It’s a really hard problem to solve.

Nate: Okay, wait, let’s, let’s put this in context for the listener. Yeah. Like, tell me, show me, tell me about the innovators. Innovator’s dilemma that we’ve all seen. Yeah, examples of it are everywhere.

Elliot: Once you, you see the pattern, it is, it’s, it’s I go

Nate: to like blockbuster to Netflix me.

Elliot: Sure. Blockbuster’s, Blockbuster’s a great example. Blockbuster is, boy, they should have moved to do something online. The reality is they did, actually. They launched an internal version of a Netflix. They tried to do it. Uh, a new CEO came in and said, Nah, we’re going to stick to our Our guns and keep doing what we do best and kind of ride the retail stores.

And it went out, but that’s a great example. Netflix in the beginning, it was a good enough alternative. It wasn’t immediate. You had to wait for stuff to come in the mail. Uh, it wasn’t perfect, but boy, it, it on other performance dimensions, it really met the needs of customers, much broader variety. They didn’t run out of movies.

It was easier to find stuff, get recommendations.

Nate: Are you familiar with Jeff Smulyan? Yeah. You’re founder of Emmis . He talked about this when he was on the show and he talked about, there was a time when he made the decision. They were like trying to innovate on radio, but they didn’t think that streaming was the answer.

He was like, it’s just too much, you know, bandwidth or whatever. And it’s not, that’s not going to stick. And he made the decision to like lean into radio and not go into streaming and not go into television. And like, I mean, it’s been a wild ride for him, and literally his book is like, Never Ride a Roller Coaster Upside Down, and it’s like, he talked about on the show about this, he was at the top of that with the Innovator’s Dilemma, right, and he built this insanely awesome radio broadcast network, and then kind of like falls from, from their like superiority as radio kind of gets pushed to the wayside and streaming comes up, so, uh, subtle plug to go back and check out that episode if you want to hear about the, Innovator’s Dilemma.

Okay, so, we all see this in context. You’re working at this consultancy in Boston.

Elliot: Yeah.

Nate: And working with dozens of Fortune 500 companies to help with this problem. What do you ultimately find out?

Elliot: Yeah, that it’s a really hard problem to solve. And that most of what we were recommending, even though it was all well intentioned, didn’t work.

Meaning these companies were coming to us and wanting to transform their business models. Fundamental transformation. They would see that disruption, uh, was coming, new competitors coming online, and they recognized they would need to change their business model. We’d recommend ways to do it. Most of it didn’t stick.

We, a lot of, a lot of things we could point to were on the margins. We were creating innovation, being helpful, lots of sustaining innovation, but that fundamental transformation remained really elusive. It’s so hard to do. And so I remember having conversations about this with Clay Christensen and just thinking through the problem, like, how do we really address this?

At the same time as an entrepreneur, well aware of what startups can do and. Watching startups get foothold in the market and move and learn really quickly, get to scale and achieve kind of exponential outcomes. And I thought there’s gotta be a way to combine the best of both of these. You’ve got these scaled organizations that are amazingly, um, efficient in, uh, in, in terms of their capital efficiency.

They can do amazing things. They can do it at scale. They understand their markets and customers incredibly well. And we need these corporations to be effective by the way. They can do things that startups cannot. But they have a hard time learning. They’re not set up to learn as these companies scale, they build systems that are designed to run things profitably and predictably and safely.

They’re not designed to learn startups are. So if you could somehow harness that learning ability of startups and combine it with corporations, maybe the startups would be better off to through their association with the corporations, corporations would be able to learn. Everybody wins. What would that look like?

Nate: That’s interesting that you say you don’t want these big corps to fail. I think a lot of time, the entrepreneur mindset, it’s like, Screw them, right? I don’t care if, I don’t care if the Fortune 500 company fails, like, make room for the emerging technology that is innovating. Why, why as a, you know, why as anyone do we need these Fortune 500 companies to thrive and not to fail?

Elliot: It’s true. That’s absolutely true at the level of a single entrepreneur, but at the level of society, we need these companies to succeed. And the, the, the corporation is an amazing invention if you think about it. Um, it’s only been around for a couple hundred years, this idea of a limited liability corporation.

All it is in the end is a piece of paper where people agree to do certain things and then magically people do those things and we have pulled our promises and you can scale that to hundreds of thousands of employees across the world. That’s crazy. That’s amazing. When you stop and think about what that is and it’s through those means that we as people collaborate to solve really big problems.

Corporations can do things that would be really hard to do in any other way. And so there’s a great scene in the movie Ford versus Ferrari, best movie ever on innovation, by the way, one of my favorites. Um, where you’ve got this contrast between Carroll Shelby and his business, they build race cars.

They’re like the startup, they can do amazing things. There’s a scene in the movie where they show up at the racetrack and they’re collaborating with Ford and Ford has a car on the track that’s got this big heavy computer in the passenger seat so they can track the data as the car goes around the track.

And the team from Shelby tosses the computer out on the racetrack. And tapes yarn on the outside of the car, inexpensive, cheap, fast, and then runs the car on the track and watches how the wind plays on the yarn as it flows. Right? So, like, classic. But there’s also a scene in the movie where Carol Shelby goes to visit Henry Ford III, and they’re in the office of Ford, Ford Motor Corporation, looking out on the factories, and Henry Ford turns to Carol Shelby and says, During World War II, we converted all these factories to build airplanes for the war effort.

And, you know, thousands of airplanes came out of these factories was the idea. Just kind of like, you couldn’t do this. Only a big corporation like this can do something like that. So, we need these corporations to be really effective at solving problems. The problem is they’ve gotten worse at it over the last 50 years.

And that is a huge issue. We need them to be better at it. We need them to be able to reclaim, kind of be, be able to pursue progress again.

Nate: So we’ve identified this problem, right? The problem is that they’re not as good at innovating as they should be or need to be for progress to continue to go.

Elliot: Yeah.

Nate: And the solution that kind of you guys have, have adopted at High Alpha Innovation is to co create these companies. Yeah. Right. So not, not build a, in a silo, go and build your own startup, but like really work with them. To build an independent, but yet co created org. That’s right. Alright, so talk to me about like what you guys are doing at High Alpha Innovation

Elliot: and bringing this to life.

So High Alpha is an amazing organization, right? Founded by four friends of mine back in 2015 to go build startups and uh, doing a great job of it. I joined them in 2018 because around 2017 I had this idea, maybe I ought to go raise a fund and go build startups with corporations. And ran into a couple of my friends who had started, Mike and Kristian Anderson, who were among the founders at High Alpha.

And they said, we’re kind of doing a version of this already. Come, come join us. So just as fun too was starting at High Alpha, I joined them in 2018. And we started having corporations reach out to us saying, we’d love to learn from your process. How do you build a startup a month? What does that look like?

Startup a month. That’s crazy. Yeah. And so we started, um, you know, we thought we can do one better than show you. What if we built things together? We started experimenting with this idea of what if we were to partner with these corporations to build startups from scratch, take the problems that they understand, access to customers.

Build startups that help these big co’s access innovation that would otherwise be hard for them to do on their own. Um, what would that look like? How would we do it? So we started running experiments with that and realized there was a big enough opportunity out there that in 2020 we spun out, uh, took two people out of the company, three of us formed High Alpha Innovation as a spin out from High Alpha in early 2020.

And began taking that playbook we were, we developed at High Alpha and making that accessible to corporations. So fast forward four years now, we’re Uh, over 50 employees and um, launching, we’ll launch somewhere between 12 and 15 companies this year. Uh, launch 20 to date, all with corporations, universities.

So now we, we part of corporations, universities to help them build their own venture studios that we run with them as well as startups that we launched together.

Nate: Okay. So talk to us about those early, I want to, I want to see where we are. This was 2018. You were testing with some big corps. Yeah. What did testing mean?

Like launching a company? Yeah. What was the

Elliot: first one? Uh, boy, the first one that we launched, Hiawatha launched, was with Cummins, a company called Anvil. I was going to say,

Nate: I’m pretty sure some of my friends were early employees. I don’t know if you know Cody Campbell. He’s like an early employee at Anvil and is still crushing it.

Actually, he’s in business school now, but. Rode that, and it was something to do with, um, safety or

Elliot: Fields, uh, yeah, the safety for fields, uh, technicians. Mm hmm. So, uh, finding ways to, to make sure that they’re not getting hurt on the job. And company’s doing great. Yeah, so that was our first foray into it.

Learned a lot in that process. And we then went and launched a company with Silicon Valley Bank. Oh! And, uh, yeah, called Bolster, which is also doing amazingly well. They do, um Uh, help, uh, venture backed startups find fractional executive talent and board members. And, uh, anyway, yeah, looked at a lot of other opportunities, realized there was a chance to just go do this.

Nate: And so you guys have launched 20 to date? Yeah. Uh, what are some of, like, the, the, so Cummins, obviously, Silicon Valley Bank, awesome. Are there other, like, core partners that are, like, oh my gosh, these are, like, The blue chip of the blue chip that you guys are working with.

Elliot: Yeah, yeah, many. I mean, we have amazing companies we work with, um, um, here in town, Elanco and, um, companies like Capital One and, and so on.

Many universities, uh, I’ve also started reaching out, which was a surprise to us initially, but we love the work that we do with universities. So we partner not only with corporations, with universities, and in some cases even government now to help build startups. So we, um, we work with closely with Purdue and Notre Dame here in Indiana.

Uh, UNC, uh, University of Wisconsin.

Nate: That’s awesome. I mean, that, that’s incredible. And you’re finding, are a lot of these corps coming, the big corps coming inbound to you guys of like, Hey, we have this issue or we want to work, we want to build a more innovative team culture. We have problems that need to be solved.

Elliot: Yeah. Yeah. There’s a recognition that innovation inside of these companies, they know it’s hard. And uh, I don’t think there’s a single executive in the country who’s satisfied, satisfied with the progress of. Innovation efforts inside the corporation. So a lot of people are trying to find new ways to solve the problem.

Innovation is getting harder inside of companies. Uh, for a lot of reasons, it’s, it’s actually pretty interesting, but it’s getting a lot harder, it’s getting more expensive and so they’re looking for alternative ways to do it that, that might be more successful.

Nate: Well, launching a company is obviously hard.

I mean, entrepreneurs out there like launching a business that sells your widget or whatever it is. It’s like not easy. Yeah. I just have, I’m trying to wrap my head around launching a company that launches companies. I talk about just like the exponential factor of, it’s like the problems that like the average like normal entrepreneur faces, it’s like multiply that by X, however many more.

So take me through four years now, the like launch of high alpha innovation and a trip to Palo Alto. Right. When, when you guys kind of got started there. Yeah. Yeah. Take us to catch us up with what’s been going on the last four years.

Elliot: Yeah, our very first day in business. You’re right. We were on a plane out to Palo Alto to meet with one of the first organizations we worked with was Xerox PARC, which, uh, it was just like a pinch me moment.

If you’re familiar with Xerox PARC, they’ve been around for a long time and invented things like graphical user interface and the computer mouse and just kind of the fundamental technologies that we all use every day and take for granted came out of the Xerox PARC. And, uh, we went out there to work with them and see if we could help them commercialize some of their inventions.

So. It was very surreal to kick off that way our very first week.

Nate: I mean, just, let’s just take a minute to just like Your dad starts a company in the spare bedroom day one. It’s like he goes to the spare bedroom with some phones and that’s where he’s building his company on day one of launching high off innovation.

You’re in Xerox PARC hanging out and like in Palo Alto, like that’s just amazing. Like, isn’t that entrepreneurship and this whole thing can happen in many different ways. Yes. It doesn’t always look like the spare bedroom. Sometimes it looks like Silicon Valley and sometimes it looks like some mixture in between there, but I think that’s important for people to know as they’re like looking to like, Hey, I want to be an entrepreneur, but I don’t have the like.

I’m not, I’m risk averse or whatever it might be. And it’s like, I don’t have the guts to go be in the spare bedroom.

Elliot: You know, it’s like, doesn’t always have to be a really good point. I mean, one of the things that, that animates us a lot at high off innovation is this, the idea that the world needs more entrepreneurs and not only do we need more entrepreneurs, we need more of them to be successful.

It’s way too hard and it’s, it’s harder than it should be. And we should collectively all be running a lot more experiments about ways to, to enable more entrepreneurship and more success.

Nate: We just had an episode with Max Yoder and he talked about the power of tinkering. Yeah. And it’s like in your adult life, it’s like a lot of times like, let’s say you’re, you’re a salesperson at whatever and you just like you do the same thing and you know it works and it’s like it hits that your close rate is 50 percent and your, you know, email response rate is 20 percent and you know that you’re going to get whatever on the other end of it.

But it’s like, do you ever still like tinker? Like, and he talks about music being a way that has powered him to like tinker within his professional life and like entrepreneurs and experimenting. And it’s like, it’s okay to fail. We can learn something. And we can innovate from that.

Elliot: Yeah. Yeah. One of my business heroes is Walt Disney.

Amazing guy. Uh, I grew up Southern California, about 15 minutes from Disneyland. We could see the fireworks at Disneyland out the window, uh, every, every summer at 9 p. m. when they went off. Um, and Walt Disney famously, like he, he came out of World War II, he built this amazing animation studio. He invented the whole industry of feature length animated movies, right?

These were wildly successful, studios crushing it. World War II, things slowed down a little bit. He’s doing some movies, some films for the government. But coming out of that now, way more competition. It’s hard to make movies of the quality they wanted, the cost that he wanted. And he was just kind of burnt out.

And his, uh, one of his assistants said, you know, you ought to take a trip. Just go take a vacation, go relax. And she said, you know, there’s this train convention coming up in Chicago. Why don’t you, you and your buddy, ride the train out to Chicago, go to the, this train convention. And just have fun. And so he did.

He rode the train out, went to Chicago, and absolutely fell in love with model trains at this thing. And came back to, um, his home in L. A. and started tinkering with model trains. And probably more than tinkering. That’s all he did. He, he got some of the, the studio employees to help him build train sets. He moved his family to a new house that had a bigger yard where he could build a model train set that he could ride on in the backyard.

So. Absolutely obsessed with model trains and people at the time thought he had lost his mind. The movie critic at the New York Times says it’s such a shame this, you know, this visionary entertainer, he’s, he’s kind of gone off the deep end. He’s focused on model trains. It’s too bad he’s not making movies for us all to enjoy.

But he was burnt out and this was what he found interesting. He was tinkering. And what he started doing along with his train sets is building Little villages and scenes that to go along with the train sets. He thought these are cool. I bet other people would want to see them. And he started putting those on tour and he called that tour Disneylandia.

So you see where this is going, right? So somewhere along the way, he realized he could combine his storytelling experience from the studio with. Building rides and understanding environments from the, the little towns he was building, uh, and came up with the idea for an amusement park called Disneyland and went ahead and created a whole new industry.

I mean, there were amusement parks, but he redefined what it meant to build an amusement park. Most magical place in the world. It is. It is. And so just like that idea that just go pursue what’s interesting to you, you’re more likely to trip into big potential opportunities and new growth curves. Then you would otherwise.

That’s true of us as individuals. It’s true of corporations and companies, too. You’ve got to find room to tinker, and to experiment, and try things.

Nate: Well, let’s talk about, right, there are listeners out there that, whether they work at a Fortune 500 or they might work at a, you know, scaling tech company, they want to be innovators.

But maybe that’s the more traditional way of thinking where it’s like, go do your job and maybe we’ll do a little bit of innovation. What can the listener out there do to start to build this culture of innovation within their org?

Elliot: Well, not everybody can. I mean, start with that, uh, inside of, especially if you’re in a large company, um, the company needs people who are focused and heads down and just operating the business.

Uh, there’s sometimes you’ll hear CEOs say innovation is everyone’s job, and I think that’s absolutely wrong. Uh, you know, you want some people to just execute, not worrying about innovation, like just do the thing really well, maybe do a little bit better, maybe that’s a form of innovation, but do that thing well.

So, if you’re an individual wanting to drive a more innovative culture at your company, um, you might need to shift roles to a role that enables you to do that some more, or you might need to find outlets outside of work that enable you to tinker and explore and go play with trains.

Nate: Mmm, I like that. I like that.

Okay, here’s a question for, for like executives, right? It’s like, how, if you’re an executive, if the, if Dave Becker, uh, no, no, no, who’s the, uh, who’s the CEO of Lilly? Dave Ricks. Dave Ricks. If Dave Ricks is listening to this podcast, maybe he is. How can you tell, or any other Fortune 500 CEO out there, how can they tell that they might need to get a pulse check and like change up their innovation strategy?

What are the signs you might be seeing within this big org?

Elliot: Well, you look at the results of the innovation efforts, and if you’re not happy with them, you do need to try something different then. Over time, the last many decades, the primary tools for accessing innovation have been internal product R& D, um, or acquisitions.

Both of those still work really well. But both of those are getting more expensive than they used to be and harder to execute. R& D is a lot less efficient than it once was because individuals and small teams outside of corporations can do a lot more than they once did. Like think about Bell Labs back in the 1950s.

Amazing organization. They brought all the world’s top engineers, physicists into that company and were able to Build the modern electronics industry that won’t happen anymore inside of corporations just because the world has changed. People have more access to communication and ideas and access to funding than they did at that time.

So it’s gotten more expensive. M& A also, uh, much more expensive, much more expensive to acquire businesses, uh, than it once was. And, and the lifespan, uh, over which those companies endure post acquisition is also shorter. And so the time you have to extract value is, is shorter. Is shorter, uh, in, in, in every way, M& A is more expensive than it used to be.

Nate: Let’s, let’s dive into that one a little bit, because I think that is a way that a lot of big companies think about innovation. It’s like, oh, we’ll just acquire the startup, we’ll just buy them out, you know? And there are benefits to that, that’s part of the entrepreneurship ecosystem. Like, we’re not, I don’t think we’re here saying that like sales and transactions need to stop happening.

Um, but what are some, some problems or, or just issues that you see with going the acquisition, acquisition of innovation route?

Elliot: Yeah, it is a great path, but it’s like I said, it’s just more expensive. Every large company should be very good at acquiring businesses when they need to. The primary problem we see, um, large companies, the big mistake we see them making in acquisitions is, um, acquiring at the wrong time.

And the, the framework for thinking about this is the large corporation is very good at execution. Um, startups are great at learning. And so, As long as the problem that the startup is solving is a learning problem, that startup’s going to continue to go out after that learning problem and attack it better than a corporation does.

But as soon as they do learn and the assumptions convert to knowledge, they’re dealing with less ambiguity, more certainty, that problem shifts to become an execution problem. Now you know what you need to do, you just have to go do it. That’s when a corporation can come in and actually make a difference, because a corporation is designed to execute.

The problem corporations run into is they acquire startups when they’re still in learning problem phase. I think that they can bring it in and scale it or apply the, the, what the corporation does to that and it’s, it’s often too early.

Nate: You, you just changed my, uh, just a big way that I thought about entrepreneurship.

I thought that like entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs succeeded because they were masters of execution.

Elliot: No, no.

Nate: But it’s like, they’re masters of learning. Masters of learning. You’ve gotta like, test something. The old, uh, bullets first cannonball, you know, like, test, test, test, test, test, and then like, boom, you figure it out.

Masters of learning. I think that is, that’s like, I don’t know, that’s crazy.

Elliot: Startups are designed, they’re optimized to be capital inefficient. What I mean by that is they have a limited amount of money, right? You, you have to run, you have to be fast, but you’re not executing efficiently in a startup.

You’re trying a bunch of things and trying to figure out what works along the way. That’s actually really capital inefficient. Contrast it with a big company. What we, we say in the world of startups and venture investing, or if you’re an entrepreneur building startups, is the magnitude of correctness that matters, not the frequency.

Meaning, you can be wrong a lot because when you’re right, It’s going to pay off really well. The opposite is true in a corporation, it’s the frequency of correctness that matters, not the magnitude. Meaning, don’t be wrong, don’t screw up. Keep things safe and predictable. You need to be right often. It almost doesn’t matter how the magnitude of your correctness, as long as your frequency is turned to pi.

Nate: And?

Elliot: And so that’s where, boy, when you try and take that system and make it innovative when the frequency of correctness matters, it doesn’t work. Because in innovating, you, you want to be wrong a lot. Actually, that’s how you learn. You have to uncover anomalies and surprises and figure out what’s going to work.

Entrepreneurs do that really well.

Nate: I mean, blending this idea of the big corp, like this has been just a productive conversation around the idea of blending my vision of entrepreneurship. With the big corporations because I’ve always kind of been like, uh, I’m not a big corp guy Yeah, that’s that’s not for me.

I like that startups the entrepreneurship one learning How why we need big corpse and like these big corporations like we don’t want them to fail We actually want them to succeed

Elliot: the caveat. We want them to succeed as long as they’re producing surplus for society Oh, okay, right Bezos famously said told his employees Amazon’s gonna go out of business one day And I remember reading the articles on this.

People were shocked. How can the CEO of a company say that his company’s going to go out of business? I was like, of course, Amazon’s going to go out of business one day. But what he also told his employees was that it was their job to postpone the bankruptcy of Amazon for as long as possible by continuously experimenting in the service of customer needs.

So in other words, as long as the corporation is serving customer needs in better ways, A corporation deserves to exist, right? Society should want that corporation to succeed.

Nate: You talk about innovation there and Amazon’s insane at innovation. Like I was just shopping last night and I have overnight delivery.

Like, I could have clicked the button at 10. 30 or whatever and I was laying in bed, and if I hit the 25 minimum, they were going to drop it off on my doorstep between 4 and 8am. Yeah. That’s absurd! Decidal surplus,

Elliot: right? So that’s amazing.

Nate: Yeah. That’s, that’s, that’s innovation. Um, well, in that vein then, talk about Walt Disney, you talked about Jeff Bezos.

Are there any other like, master, these entrepreneurs that are well known that are like, they were really really good at innovating, innovation, and, and who would that be?

Elliot: Oh man, so many. So many. Um, I think about like an Edwin Land, the founder of Polaroid. That’s amazing. Uh, not as well known as he should be today.

Amazing entrepreneur. One of the things Edwin Land used to say all the time. Optimism is a moral duty. And I love that. I love that. I agree with him. I agree with him. Because optimism drives us to build and to do things and to have a desire to be a good ancestor for those who are yet to come.

Nate: Oh my gosh.

Optimism. Say that again.

Elliot: Optimism, it leads us to want to, well, first of all, it leads us to think in longer timelines. It leads us to want to build things that endure and that benefit those who are yet to come. I want to be a good ancestor for those who are going to come a long time from now. Wow. That’s powerful.

Yeah. And by the way, being optimistic is not, people can misunderstand what that means. It’s not being Pollyanna ish, thinking everything’s going to be great from here on out. That’s not true. Um, being an optimist, what that means is that, uh, we recognize that problems are going to come. In fact, every solution creates more problems.

And as the solutions get better, the scale of the problems increases. But optimism is the belief that our, our ability to address those problems and solve those problems is going to increase over time. And if that’s, that’s how I define optimism and with that definition, I am, I am certainly an optimist.

Nate: Yes, absolutely. And it’s like, That’s just the way to be, in my opinion, right? It’s like, realizing it’s like, no, everything’s not hunky dory and fine. It’s like, but I believe that it will be, I believe that we can find the solution and it’s like, don’t, I, I’ve done a lot with like just different teams that I work on everything.

And it’s like, great, we’ll take this beginning piece and we’ll like, Gripe and complain and then get all the problems out. Once all the problems are out, it’s like, we’re now we’re in solutions mode. Like, let’s figure out there’s a way to get through this and find the next way to go. And it’s like, we, it’s our job now to find that solution.

Elliot: When things break in our companies or in our, in high off innovation, boy, that’s an opportunity to learn something before the rest of the world has learned it. And that’s how you create. Yeah. Defense, right? But think about the last 20, 30 years for the first time since we’ve been tracking this, um, the majority of people feel like the future is going to be worse than the present.

That’s never happened before. Um, go back to, well, for a sustained period, that’s never happened before. If you go back to the 1700s, the enlightenment, people thought like, well, things are going to be amazing from here on out. That was wrong. That was too Pollyanna ish. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Uh, in the mid 1800s, you had all these things happening, the end of slavery and industrial revolution coming people out of the world is just getting, turning into an amazing place.

Very optimistic. 20th century, that started to slow down a little bit. You had things like, um, uh, atomic weapons and world wars that, that got people to feel a little bit less optimistic about the future perhaps. But in the last 20, 30 years, when you pull people and ask them, are you, do you think the future is going to be better than the present?

Majority of people, surprisingly. For the first time ever say, I don’t think it’s going to be better. And so when you’re an entrepreneur, the way that you succeed is by being non consensus and turning out to be correct, right? If you think about it, if you are consensus going along with the crowd and right.

You’re not going to win. In fact, if you’re running a big business and you’re going along with the crowd and right, you’re going to go out of business. That’s the innovator’s dilemma. You have to be non consensus. You have to come up with ideas that the rest of the market people don’t understand yet. And then you have to turn out to be right.

Well, a really easy way to be non consensus right now is to be optimist. And, and because you’re going to turn out to be right on average over his time through history, the optimists have been right.

Nate: Yes. I love that is I’m going to clip that. That’s amazing. Yes. It’s like right now, if the rest of the world is saying that the future is going to be blah, be the person that’s saying one, just cause that’s a world that I want to live in.

And two, you that’s the fact that it’s contrarian to be an optimist is wild to me. It is wild. That’s wild. But I love that. And I think that’s a, a great pin in that piece and that this part of the conversation, it’s been amazing. I’ve loved learning about innovation and just. The way you’re thinking about being contrarian, I just, I’m, I’m, I’m just overwhelmed by that last statement there.

That’s awesome. Like, I just love that as an op, as an optimist, I’m like, let’s, yeah, you’re going to win. Yeah. Um, but let’s talk about the book. Right. Real quickly. Uh, we just did a, I mean, 50 minute conversation around innovation and what big corps are doing, what startups are doing, co creating these startups like you guys are doing at Alpha Innovation.

Elliot also wrote a book, The Illusion of Innovation, um, who’s this book for?

Elliot: The book is for individuals who, um, see the need for organizations to reclaim progress and be good at innovating again, and who want language and analogies they can use to persuade others to also want change.

Nate: Oh, okay. One quick tip from the book where it’s like, if I read this thing, I’m going to learn like something.

Yeah. Run more experiments, fast, cheap, and weird. Fast, cheap, and weird.

Elliot: Yeah.

Nate: I love that. Do you have an ex, I want to, I want to double click. Do you have an example of one of your big core partners or anyone that’s like running a weird, fast experiment?

Elliot: Yeah. Uh, I, all of the startups that we launched to some one degree or another are weird, and what I mean by that is challenge the status quo beliefs, challenge the beliefs of the organization.

So an organization as it grows and expands. These assumptions about the way the world works get embedded, because that’s what got us to be successful. You want to run experiments that challenge those beliefs. You want to find the anomalies that are going to lead you into new growth paths.

Nate: I love this. I actually just had a conversation with one of your CEOs at Hey, uh, Make Hay.

At Make Hay. Yeah, it’s an awesome example. Yeah, it’s talking about being weird. It’s like content creation for farmers. Yeah. And from, I mean, I’m obviously all over Indiana and one of my best friends is a true on farmer. Yeah. I was talking to him about this and it’s like, you’re creating content around farming and That’s like a weird, fun experiment of just like, how do I get the rural Indiana farmer to create content to make another stream of income?

Elliot: Well, I think about the, the, so make a, yes, they, they enable right now it’s an ag might expand beyond that over time to help all big companies do social media advertising better than they do. But think about the assumptions embedded. If you’re running a, a large, um, restaurant chain, you’ll see a running McDonald’s.

The way you think about advertising marketing is we have to hire. And they have studios and we want to put out a 30 second spot somewhere. It’s gotta be 30 seconds, by the way. And it’s going to cost millions of dollars and we’re going to buy time. All of that, none of that is true in the world anymore.

That’s not viewed as authentic by younger customers today. And it doesn’t work. Instagram. You’re hearing this, right? Yeah, totally. Set up your phone and just start talking about stuff. Right. So here comes make, Hey, with, uh, we’re going to challenge those assumptions. And our belief is that we can, we can do connect with, with customers better through authentic raw.

Self made stuff that in the past 20 years ago, people were like, we can’t air something like that.

Nate: So true. Like the, it’s crazy. The lower produced videos do so much better. Yes. So, so for the farmers listening out there, if you want to make some content about your farm, come talk to us, shoot us an email, I’ll get you introduced to the whole crew over there.

Yeah. Uh, they’re doing some awesome stuff, but maybe we can round up five or 10 Indiana farmers to come help pilot, uh, make a, that would be sweet. Um, this has been an amazing conversation. We’re down to the final two minutes for a lightning round. Our, um, the rule is just first thing that comes to your mind, right?

So quick, rapid fire. Uh, this is fun. No wrong answers unless it’s the wrong answer. All right. So when you were driving into Indiana, you’re coming from California, you’re driving, you cross the welcome to Indiana sign. What was the first thing y’all thought? It’s a lot of fields, field, a lot of fields to make hay.

Yes. Okay. Awesome. Outside of the amazing entrepreneurial ecosystem, what is Indiana known for? Uh, racing. Yes. Are you a 500 fan? Yes. Are you gonna be at the race? Uh, no, but we’re gonna go to, we’ll go to Carb Day this year. There we go. I mean, arguably, I mean, not as much fun, but, but a pretty good time. Yeah.

Okay, I love that. This is my favorite one. What is a hidden gem in Indiana?

Elliot: Um, there are so many. Um, I don’t know if it’s hidden, but my favorite place to go in Indiana is Grater’s Ice Cream. I mean, it’s the start in Ohio, but when we were living here in Indiana, originally, I was so in love with Greater’s Ice Cream, the closest one was in Louisville, Kentucky.

And when we’d go down there, I’d go with a cooler, we’d buy dry ice and stock up and bring it back. And I was sending emails to the company, like, please open Graters in Indiana. So now we’ve got a few of them here in Indiana.

Nate: Yeah, the one on Illinois, uh, Eric

Elliot: and Midtis, I don’t even know what you call it.

Rabbi Butler.

Nate: Rabbi Butler. I, that’s, that’s the spot. Grater. I actually did not know that they were that big. Yeah. So it started in, in Ohio. Yeah. Cincinnati. Hundreds. A hundred years ago. So you can thank, we can thank Elliot. Yeah. Totally. Full credit. Yeah. It was me. Absolutely. And then I moved. Yeah. He’s like, Oh, when we moved back, there was graders.

So that made it. It’s like they, plane touches down and he’s like, I know I have this important business meeting, but I gotta go to graders. Yeah.

Elliot: I, you know, here’s another one. Uh, hidden gem. It’s not hidden, but man, I, so I, I work downtown, live in Carmel, drive up back and forth. A big chunk of my commute is on, uh, Michigan.

And there’s a stretch there where you can find some of the best tacos, uh, anywhere, right? Just a whole, like, pick any place along that between like mid fifties and mid eighties.

Nate: I was gonna say, there is also the international market over there. Um, and like, there’s just like a whole global culture that’s happening on that stretch on Michigan Road.

Someone just recommended to me the pupusaria on 71st and Michigan. I saw that, yeah, I gotta go check that out. Yeah, that’s on my list of places to go. All right, I have, I have two more questions for you. One, who is someone that we need to keep on our radar? Someone who is doing big things? Besides your cousin Hunter Haynes?

Yes, besides, well we can give Hunter the shout out, he is doing big things. Unfortunately though, I think he’s uh, he’s wheels up, he’s headed up to the lake, and then I think he’s going to Chicago for a time being there, so. He’s leaving Indiana, which we don’t love, but I know he’ll be back.

Elliot: Yeah, we’ve got a lot of, uh, young entrepreneurial talent here in the state.

And, uh, just very, I’m very bullish on Indiana. Let’s go.

Nate: I love that. Finally, what’s an organization? Doesn’t have to be a company. Doesn’t have to be a startup. Could be if you want it to be. What’s an organization? In Indiana, that’s making a huge impact.

Elliot: Oh, gotta shout out to my friend Mitch Frazier at Agrinovis.

Uh, just a huge vision for the future of what ag and, uh, what Indiana, Indiana’s well positioned to do with ag, food, and health in this state. And how those things eventually converge and what becomes, and how Indiana can lead that. He’s, he’s doing amazing things.

Nate: Mitch is a previous guest of the show, big Jeep guy, which I also drive a Jeep, so he and I bonded over that.

Um, Thank you so much, Elliot. This has been an amazing conversation, all about innovation, ways to build that into the culture and the DNA of your companies, ways to co create where the big corp and the small startup can, can live and cohabitate in peace. So I appreciate the combo. I appreciate the insight.

It was amazing for those listening at home. We’re going to link the, his book, the illusion of innovation in the show notes, check it out, and just thank you one more time for, for all the change and impact you’re bringing, not just to Indiana, but. Across the globe, right? Yeah, going to Japan, uh, next week.

Launching our first company there, so. Let’s get, we’re going to need an episode two. We’re going to need do it. Cool. Come on, Nate. Appreciate it. Thanks.

Matt: This has been Get In, a Powderkeg production in partnership with Elevate Ventures, and we want to hear from you. If you have suggestions for our guest or segment, reach out to Matt or Nate on LinkedIn or on email.

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