Leaving Las Vegas
Published by Bill White , November 19th, 2015
Bright Lights and Bright Ideas
It was Friday, November 13th. What could go wrong? It was right about the time the terrorists were attacking multiple targets in Paris, I was speaking to attendees at the 2015 R&D 100 Awards Conference in Las Vegas. It was the "Oscars of Invention" in the capital of gambling. We were unaware of the tragedy in the City of Lights.
In one sentence I’ve opened three boxes to explore.
First, the terrorists. Like the poor, they will always be among us, more or less. I prefer less. As leaders of the free world are called to set aside their differences and rid our house of this latest plague, it’s up to the rest of us to go to work and do what we do best. It’s tough to work with a clear mind when we’re outraged beyond description, both with what happened and what our leaders are doing (or not doing) about it. As professionals, however, just like great football defenses, we have to stay in our lanes and do our jobs.
Our contributions to society arise from labor, materials and intellectual property, all of which will be optimized by our serving up best ideas on how to do things better, quicker and more efficiently. In summary, we’ll go on inventing things but we’ll keep one eye open when we sleep. It's possible, believe me; I've done it.
Second, about the R&D 100 Awards Conference organized by the Advantage Media Group. Among hundreds of submissions this year, the selection committee chose the top 100 finalists to step forward at a black tie dinner in a fancy casino hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. The entire affair was first class and befitting of some smart people who risked capital – theirs or that of others – to drive a new idea to the point of commercial success, perhaps even to change the world.
Congratulations to those who won. The award winners are listed here. I was privileged to meet and talk with many of them. As someone who has submitted product ideas in the past (none selected as finalists) I admire the intellect, tenacity and perseverance of those who took home the trophies. Add to this group those who applied but did not win; I have firsthand experience at just how valuable these ideas can become when lifted into the light of day.
This leads us to gambling. I’ve done a little of this in Las Vegas. It offers no satisfaction. But when it comes to gambling on developing a new technology, it’s usually a second mortgage and third-party funds at risk in an environment where competition for capital is fierce. That’s where we come in; at OffWhite, we can improve the odds.
My R&D 100 presentation was about communicating what’s behind the curtain of R&D, through engineering and product management, through marketing and sales, and through the front door of a key customer who has a need and the cash to slide a little over to our side of the table in exchange for our brilliance. But this works only when brilliance has a value. I concluded my presentation to these engineers, physicists, biochemists and computer programmers with a simple truth: If you can’t explain it, you can’t sell it. And if you can’t sell it, it doesn’t matter.
To arrange to view this presentation by webinar please let me know.
There is significant credibility applied to the OffWhite resume when we’re asked to present to industry professionals. Last year Jane Cirigliano and Steven Hollis presented a seminar on Social Science (that’s social media for life scientists) at the BioOhio conference in Aurora, Ohio. Later that day Abby Spung and I were at the same conference convincing newly ordained Ph.D. types thrust into unfamiliar marketing roles that their brand isn’t what they think it is, it’s what the customer thinks it is.
This year we accepted invitations to speak to technology and commercialization classes at Ohio State University, and to entrepreneurs newly migrated from academia to private business – a place where grades are expressed in a P&L.
My experience in Las Vegas was another opportunity to preach our mantra that "sales is getting rid of what you have; marketing is everything else – especially R&D".
Next up, Abby will join other professionals in a panel discussion at the December, 2015 Women in Bioscience conference in Columbus, sponsored again by BioOhio.
Inventions, awards and gambling. There is a strange thread there, but we’ll leave that for another day.
Going forward we’ll let the politicians deal with the bad people. It's up to us to go to work. Inventors must invent. And we must remain confident that this, too, shall pass.
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