Former Apple exec talks innovation in Milwaukee

Second Tech Hub Summit reviews progress [PHOTO GALLERY]

Guy Kawasaki gave the keynote address.

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:04 pm

There is nothing magical in the water in Silicon Valley.

Guy Kawasaki, Silicon Valley venture investor and former Apple executive, came to Milwaukee to deliver that message Wednesday.

“I’m from Silicon Valley, I’m inside of the reality distortion field. But let me tell you something: Silicon Valley is not a monopoly on thinking, on innovation. You can be anywhere and create a great tech company,” Kawasaki said.

Among his tips for those seeking to be innovative was, “Don’t worry, be crappy.” Innovators should not wait for perfection. Instead, they should iterate on the product to make it better once it’s already in the marketplace.

“As far as innovation, in Silicon Valley, we throw a lot of things up against the wall. And some number stick,” Kawasaki said. “You can always hit the bullseye if you paint the bullseye after you see what sticks.”

Entrepreneurs shouldn’t be afraid to take a risk and end up polarizing people, he said. The worst case is not being on customers’ radar at all.

“Don’t let the bozos grind you down,” Kawasaki said. “If someone tells you you’ll fail and you never try, you’ll never know.”

He also advised innovators to use the 10-20-30 rule for their pitches: 10 slides; 20 minutes; 30-point font.

Kawasaki spoke to about 300 professionals from various sectors gathered in The 42 event venue in the Pabst Brewery complex in downtown Milwaukee Wednesday for the Tech Hub Summit.

This is the second year Milwaukee-based Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. has hosted the Tech Hub Summit as it leads an effort among a number of local companies to position Milwaukee as a tech hub.

“When we kicked this off last year, I didn’t know where we would be, but I’ll say where we are now has exceeded my expectations,” said Northwestern Mutual chief executive officer John Schlifske, pointing to the creation of startup accelerator gBETA and the growing collaboration between the private sector and educational institutions. “The answers are right here in this room. If we don’t all own this and do it, it won’t happen.”

InvestMKE, the $10 million Advocate Aurora Health Inc. and Northwestern Mutual have committed to invest in Milwaukee startups; and the Wisconn Valley Venture Fund, a venture capital fund formed by Foxconn Technology Group, Advocate Aurora, Northwestern Mutual and Johnson Controls International plc, also were formed, in part, due to the tech hub initiative.

“This is about creating a new dialogue and new story about Milwaukee and where we want to go and how we’re going to get there,” said Nick Turkal, co-president and co-CEO of Advocate Aurora. “I’m a firm believer that the future hasn’t been written in this area, in Milwaukee. We’re responsible for writing it.”

James Hischke, director of tech advancement and outreach, has been leading the tech hub work at Northwestern Mutual.

“A lot of it is around us as a company really going through the quote-unquote digital transformation,” Hischke said in an interview. “To us, that really meant realizing that technology was more than just a back office function but really the way we were going to differentiate ourselves going forward.”

As Northwestern Mutual evaluated how it would solve its internal technology talent attraction challenges, it decided to look outward and form partnerships in the Milwaukee community to make it a regional effort.

The next stage, Hischke said, is defining and measuring success.

“There needs to be a collaboration of the key parties that are going to commit to this to come together and figure that out,” he said. “I’ve often talked about this effort as being both a top-down and bottom-up perspective. We feel like there’s an important need to rally and engage corporate leadership and make them understand the ‘why’ behind this so they can get involved.”

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Molly Dill, former BizTimes Milwaukee managing editor.

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