Unconvention 2014
10 October 2014

Unconvention 2014 Day 3: Creativity, Thinking and Life as an Entrepreneur

Today was the final day for the Unconvention. For three days we have thought and discussed about entrepreneurship, innovation, failure and success and listened to other’s stories. To close our journey, today we listened to entrepreneurs pitching their ideas at InnoPitch competition, had a masterclass on creativity and heard successful entrepreneur’s story directly told by him. Here’s a summary of what went on. See you next year!

InnoPitch Contest

Carlos Espinal, from Seedcamp, Carlos Silva, CEO of Seeders, and Jan Reichalt, cofounder of Mendeley, gave their opinion and mentored our ten innopitchers (see their projects online), from where we took some useful advise. Pitching and telling your story? As an entrepreneur starting a company, try keeping things simple, solve a problem without creating another and separate the model from the technology – in other words, don’t underestimate the complexity of building the technology. Once done, mentors said, choose your ambitions and focus on one.

Simplify the world you have in your brain

But those were advices to specific projects. The major session came with Luc De Brabandere, senior adviser at The Boston Consulting Group and professor at Ecole Centrale Paris. He gave an inspiring talk on leadership development and more especifically on creative thinking. “Creativity is my passion. When I was 42, I had the privilege to turn my passion into a job”. What is creativity? Comprehending it from scratch has helped De Brabandere turn the creation into actual stuff. “Sometimes I look backwards to creativy. For twenty years, I was convinced that the role of a brainstorm was to produce an idea that nobody had before. But that’s not it”, he thinks. “Ideas exist, but we don’t see them”.

De Brabandere compares the once revolutionary walkman with the iPod: they are based on the same idea. Ideas are “there” (and there were probably others who had the same one before), but just some are taken to reality. “I completely changed my way. I realized had made a big failure. I was convinced than in the creative thinking the keyword is creative, but no: it’s thinking”.

Now you are an entrepreneur and you want to have, or you already do, an idea that would change the world. How do you have to think of it then? The key, for De Brabandere, is to simplify. “How many colors has a rainbow? Seven. But there are many more, there are millions of colors. If you want to change the world, put the world in your brain and simplify it”. To innovate, then, is according to him the ability of making profit of this simplification and creativity, on a later stage, is the skill to make a change in the previous simplification.

How do you deal with all this steps, from the idea, to its simplification, innovation and creativity on it? Play.“The thing is to play”, he finishes. “Think out of the way you simplified the world before”.

European Young Innovator of 2014

The closing plenary started off with n announcement of InnoPitch winner! It was 3sourcing, an innovative and disruptive startup which makes finding people much easier. The runner-up was Invoice House and the public voting winner: BLITAB Ltd!

Entrepreneurship as a way of life

Mendalay simplified a problem they faced: while doing their PHDs, the founders wanted to make the research and academic content, and the sources on it, as accessible as other kind of content (think of music) is on the web to ultimately speed up the whole process of scientific discovery. They created a free reference manager and let users upload their work to the cloud, making searchable libraries and being able to cite as they write, which turned into an academic social network.

“Education is a slow moving world”, told Reichelt, one of the cofounders. That is why their tool was fully embraced by the researchers community and led, in April 2013, to the acquisition by Elsevier, a scientific, technical and medical publisher – keeping the product with its distinctive identity and brand. For him, there were some mistakes on the journey: they hired too junior people, they listened too much to investors and they tried to do too much.

But the hardest part were, and are, emotions. “You go one day to the office, and someone has quitted the job. Or your growth has doubled… and it’s due to spam”. It affects also on the personal relationships, with cofounders and investors.

Altogether, and as the journey is not going to be easy, Reichelt gave a final advice. “Take entrepreneurship as a lifestyle!”

Europe’s support to entrepreneurs

The day ended with the announcement of the nominees of the Web Entrepreneurs Award and a debate on Europe’s support to entrepreneurship. “There is not a common understanding in Europe of what to do to help entrepreneurs”, continued Mendeley’s founder. Indeed, “there’s a need for a better understanding of the importance of the business you are doing at a EU level”, added Erika Mann, head of Facebook’s policy office in Brussels.

Said so, speakers moved to the importance of education. “We need”, Calypso Harland Devlab’s founder considered, “to start changing the way people thinks about entrepreneurship in an earlier age through education”. Will we see this initiatives from the public side having developed by next year’s Unconvention? We hope so. Until then, as EYIF’s President, Kumardev Chatterjee ended saying, now that you know what to do, go out there and do it. See you next year!