Choose innovation over invention, says local entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs and investors need to focus on innovation over invention, a local tech entrepreneur told the crowd at the February Tech Tuesday event earlier this week.

By Stephen Karmazyn

Tyler Nelson, co-founder and chief operating officer at cybersecurity startup Article 12, has also co-founded Ottawa firms Ackroo and You.i Labs. He told the crowd at The Marshes Golf Club he believes members of the tech industry shouldn’t be blinded by the potential of a “next Facebook.”

Too many young entrepreneurs, he said, are being taught to focus on the next big thing.

“That huge point of inventions is being pursued by everyone in every damn garage [around the world],” Mr. Nelson said.

Instead, he championed disruption of an established market as the better route to success. He used his time with a number of companies, but specifically at Adeyno – where he was CEO between 2009 and 2011 – as evidence.

“[At Adenyno] we did it fast, cheaper and better than everybody else,” Mr. Nelson says, “but we didn’t invent. We didn’t invent anything at all. We actually integrated two systems.”

Adenyo developed mobile marketing, advertising, and analytics solutions until it was acquired by Motricity in a $100 million deal.

Now splitting his time between Article 12, mentoring, and a number of board positions, Nelson said he has high hopes for some of the most recent graduates of the L-SPARK program.

He singled out FileFacets, a company that offers content analysis and data migration ability, as a firm that could become  “the biggest success L-SPARK ever has, at least in the first four or five years.”

He said he believes too often that entrepreneurs dedicated to invention versus innovation will often be too stubborn to pivot from ideas he called “ungrounded.”

He also said the tech industry is too often caught with “stars in our eyes” on the potential huge billionaire companies and inventing markets, whereas he believes speed isn’t everything.

“I’m happy to be very late to a market . . . because your competitors have already defined the market,” he said.