Speed Selling & Innovation: Lessons from the master

I want to post some additional thoughts about Gordon Bell's comments on my previous post on speed selling and innovation.  For those of use who know Gordon, he is a person who defies categorization.  (He is also one of our Diamond Fellows.)  He is as much a practical businessman as he is a world class scientist; a theorist and practical engineer who among other things invented the VAX mini-computer; a wise man with the spark of a curious child.  Also, as some may know, Gordon was, in a way, the father of the internet.  (Here's a useful link on the apocryphal idea that Al Gore claimed to have invented the internet.)  In 1987 he chaired the National Science Foundation's Computing Directorate which created the plan for the National Research and Education Network (NREN) -- aka the internet. In their report, which makes for fascinating reading for anyone interested in how the internet really came to be, on the first page they say:

As a first step, the current Internet system developed by the Defense Advanced Research Project agency and the networks supported by agencies for researchers should be interconnected.  These facilities, if coordinated and centrally managed, have the capability to interconnect many computer networks into a single virtual computer network.

They then go on to detail how much it will take to make this happen and why both higher performance and more connections are so vital to US competitiveness.  So, every time you Google something, you should thank Gordon.

Consequently, when Gordon says he has already written about something, like the importance of speed selling in innovations, I tend to pay attention.  Almost twenty years ago, in his book co-authored with John McNamara, High Tech Ventures: The guide to entrepreneurial success Gordon had a chart which illustrated the path of a company from concept to success or death.

This wonderful diagram, which in typical Gordon style is littered with frank language like die, kill, and the walking dead, he notes in stage IVa how important it is to accelerate marketing.  It is at this time in the process of entrepreneuring when speed selling, and fast revenue is most critical or the venture will die.  As he also notes, it is at this very moment that the entrepreneurial team is finally testing their market model.  Put another way, until you get to phase IVa, the venture is still only a complex economic hypothesis -- and has not been tested by economic reality.

So, if you're planning a venture, I'd recommend Gordon's book.  If you are creating an innovation inside an organization, it's useful reading too.

Useful links:

You Robot: An innovation in conversations?

Intel & Vice: Innovation where hip meets bits, and the Digital Gift meets art