Alena Eager

Meet the company fighting food related allergies to help millions live without fear.

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June 21, 2021 1 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

More than half a billion people live with -related allergies around the world, and Intrommune Therapeutics aims to help them live without fear by transforming allergy immunotherapy with its revolutionary treatment platform, a toothpaste that delivers proteins to the immune system allowing sufferers to develop a gradual immunity. 

Intrommune’s immunotherapy toothpaste, known as INT301 is in Phase 1 clinical development for patients with peanut-related allergies and a second toothpaste product designed to address other food allergies is in development. With an estimated $7 Billion per year market potential in the US, and an even greater potential across the globe, Intrommune Therapeutics is poised for growth, aided by its global, exclusive rights to 35 patents. To learn more about Intrommune, watch the newest episode streaming on Unicorn Hunters now.

Watch Unicorn Hunters on demand and if you are intestered in investing, click here.

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June 21, 2021 7 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The Covid-19 pandemic’s ongoing effects across societies and economies are upending long-held simplifying models and assumptions about our complex world. We feel as if we are in a perpetual state of disequilibrium and are searching for stability and predictability. The uncomfortable truth is that we’ve never been here before and leaders have very few proven best practices to apply.

We typically approach innovation with the mindset of transforming from one known static state to the next predicted static state. Instead, we need to recognize that we live in an unpredictable, dynamic system featuring many unknowns. With this understanding, we can proactively build our capability to react and respond to signals, emerging threats and opportunities. As entrepreneurs, we can endeavor to continuously sense, learn, adapt and innovate.

Related: Innovate or Die

Adaptability and resilience are not mindsets or cultures. Instead, they are distinct properties of complex systems — whether that system is an individual, team, unit or organization. As distinct properties of the system, they can be deliberately designed and architected. To an adaptable learning system that can respond to unpredictable change, we need to deconstruct the system and understand its granular components.

The individual person is the essential, complex subsystem in the business architecture of an organization and the most significant connection with the rest of the world. At the root of our complex reality lies the fundamental nature of humans and human-to-human connection, trust-building and bonding. The pandemic has revealed that previously unknown and unmet needs for success come from close physical human collaboration, co-creation and interaction.

Satisfying core human needs

With this understanding (and to encourage individuals’ journeys to innovation), organizational leaders must tackle a range of design elements across their enterprise architectures — in a coordinated and interconnected fashion — to satisfy core human needs. This guiding principle for innovation and lasting change within a company is person-centricity, or the “person experience.” To enact this principle and create the conditions for continuous innovation, entrepreneurs should implement three key design practices:

1. Enable continuous learning

In a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (or VUCA) future, the ability to learn how to learn is the best means for enduring and thriving. To cross the threshold of knowledge, an organization must become what Peter Senge, senior lecturer at MIT’s Sloan School of Management and co-founder of the Academy for Systems Change, calls a “learning organization,” which continuously challenges its mindsets through triple-loop learning — or learning how to learn — in order to examine underlying beliefs and assumptions.

Related: Are You an Explorer in the VUCA World?

Are we pursuing what is right? Are we serving a higher purpose? Given the opportunity to learn, people increase in motivation. They contribute more to their organization’s shared purpose with new ideas and creative thinking. In a learning organization, leaders bring outside perspectives into early-stage co-creative product ideation and design. Instead of treating the end user or customer as an external stakeholder, limiting their participation to early-stage market research and late-stage user testing activities, include them in the design team. Involve them in the “messy” middle stages of ideating, designing and prototyping to increase the likelihood of meeting their unmet needs.

Leaders also probe for unmet needs and possible futures through feedforward methods or ways to give critiques focused on future development (such as appreciative inquiry or scenario planning). From there, they deploy adaptive processes through hypothesis-led cycles of experimentation, learning, feedback and adaptation, incorporating continual reflection in the form of before and after action reviews to understand how to learn better.

2. Reimagine old ways of working

For many reasons — including habits from working in physical proximity — work is more tightly coupled with countless dependencies among people, leading to workdays full of meetings, context switching and interruptions. Work also often lacks a shared and cohesive outcome or purpose. Rises in productivity we are currently seeing in remote work environments often feel like running faster on a treadmill but getting no closer to our destinations.

Related: 3 Trends That Will Define Remote Work in 2021

Work must be structured to enable team and individual “flow states” in which people are immersed in their work and creativity flourishes. Leaders need to strive for genuine collaboration where teams have generative, inclusive discussions in brave spaces (instead of simply sharing status and coordinating activity).

Entrepreneurs and startup leaders need to foster high cohesion among individuals on teams (and teams of teams) with a clear shared purpose surrounding the job to be done, as well as prioritize time and establish practices to build social bonds and trust between individuals and teams to boost the flow of ideas and knowledge. It’s also worthwhile to rethink structuring, packaging and distributing work in modular ways, allowing flexibility in where, when, how, with whom and by whom jobs get done. Deconstruct work into cohesive bundles with close collaboration, rich communication and the collective intelligence of an inclusive team.

Within teams, bundles need to be deconstructed further to be well suited for an individual to perform with relatively little clarification or interruption. Loosely couple these cohesive work bundles to reduce dependencies and ambiguous feedback loops; this creates autonomy for individuals and teams to explore, experiment and make decisions.

3. Deploy more sensors in value chains and ecosystems

In a dynamic world, customer needs constantly emerge and evolve. Leaders must probe for unmet customer needs and create brave spaces for their discovery by their enterprises. Frequent feedback loops with insights curated from a variety of sensors (human, digital and combination) are essential components of intelligent adaptive systems.

Given the quintessential role of people and their relationships as the backbone of every value chain, it is important to continually probe the alignment between individuals, the teams in which they collaborate and the broader organization(s). Individual and collective purposes must align for successful outcomes. Sensors deployed to detect alignment among individuals, teams and organizations include deliberately articulating purpose, regularly validating alignment with the intended purpose, and recognizing individuals and teams demonstrating behaviors aligned with a shared purpose.

Alignment allows organizations to imagine and create products and services (authentic to their purpose) that resonate, generate stickiness and create lifelong relationships. Startup leaders need to embrace that the fundamental building block of our complex social and organizational systems is the individual — whether they’re an employee, customer, user, candidate, partner, supplier or another stakeholder in the ecosystem. Keep this in mind while designing products and services, moving beyond features and functions. Go deeper to explore the underlying human needs a product or service seeks to meet, whether they are functional, emotional, social or driven by deeper motivation.

Build feedback loops (through human touch points and digital data collection capabilities) into product architectures and customer lifecycle management practices to collect and curate insights about customers’ experiences while using products and services. Do the same with process and people architectures inside the organization.

Business leaders now have an opportunity — almost an imperative — to rethink entire business and product architectures and the ecosystems they live in from the perspective of the individual as the elemental component of a complex system. Satisfaction of human needs and wants along with person-to-person connections in a social system are vital to its capabilities as a trustworthy, sustainable system. Now, with person experience principles at the core, change and innovation can be disseminated one person at a time.

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June 20, 2021 5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Whether you’re a corporate real-estate agent or a marketing guru, innovative thinking is often what is needed to take your business to the next level. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to get stuck in a rut. If you’re not careful, that stagnation can easily cause your business to flounder.

If you need help thinking creatively so you can achieve better results for your brand, the solution may come down to retraining your brain. By reshaping your thinking process, you’ll be able to generate innovative ideas that make a real impact.

Related: 5 Key Trends in Innovation and How Leaders Can Capitalize On Them in 2021

1. Read a book

The time you spend reading and writing is always going to improve your creative thinkingstudies have confirmed that habitual readers and those who have a positive attitude toward reading in general are going to have greater creative thinking abilities than their peers.

While entrepreneurs are often tempted to only read business books, it’s worth noting that reading fiction has been found to be especially effective in connecting your creative right brain and analytical left brain. In other words, feel free to curl up with The Lord of the Rings or your favorite Tom Clancy book.

2. Let yourself run wild with brainstorming

When it comes to improving your innovative capabilities, think of your brain as a muscle. Just like you would lift weights at the gym to strengthen your arms or legs, you should also “work out” your brain to enhance your creative thinking abilities.

One of the best ways to do this is to let yourself truly run wild with brainstorming. Consider periodically challenging yourself to come up with as many ideas related to a particular problem all at once. Write down everything that comes to mind — no crossing out ideas because they seem too outrageous or unfeasible.

The main idea is that you can get into the practice of writing down as many ideas as possible. This will help you become open to a wider range of ideas in the future, allowing for more creative thinking when it’s time to solve problems for your business.

Related: Can Brain-Training Games Really Make You Smarter?

3. Emphasize lateral learning

Many business owners pride themselves on being true specialists in their niche. There’s nothing wrong with developing specialized knowledge that helps you deliver better results to your customers. But to enhance creative thinking, you need to embrace lateral learning.

Lateral learning essentially means that you try to learn more about a wide variety of topics — including those outside of your chosen profession. You won’t necessarily become an expert in these areas, but the idea is that you will expand your knowledge to the point where you at least have a solid understanding.

Broadening your knowledge base gives you a wider range of facts and experiences to draw from when trying to come up with solutions. In the classroom, studies have found that horizontal learning enhances student interest, making learners more likely to seek out additional learning opportunities in the future. Increasing your thirst for knowledge will make you more innovative and help you make new discoveries.

4. Learn how to manage distractions

Distractions and have a unique relationship. Highly creative people have been found to be more easily distracted than their peers, being more likely to pay attention to irrelevant information rather than filtering it out.

Though this seems like a disadvantage, it means they are actually taking in more information — more resources that can be used to generate ideas and solutions. This subsequently makes creative thinkers more likely to think of a variety of potential solutions, rather than just the obvious one.

That being said, some visual distractions will only detract from your thinking process. A messy workspace or too much smartphone access could draw you off task. While it’s clearly okay to allow distractions that help you absorb more information, maintaining a clean work environment will help you stay focused on the task at hand as you work towards a solution.

5. Don’t be afraid to take a break

Taking a break may feel like giving in to potential distractions entirely, but smart breaks can provide a massive innovative boost. To fuel innovation, taking a break can often come in the form of switching tasks. Task switching has been found to improve cognitive flexibility, making you better able to adapt to different situations.

Mindful task switching can fuel innovation without hurting your productivity.

For example, setting a timer for when to switch away from your original task can help you avoid the psychological tendency to keep working on a problem, even if you’re completely stuck. Switching tasks forces you to change the way you are thinking, allowing you to return to the original problem with a fresh perspective.

Related: Can Creative Breaks Boost Your Employees’ Productivity?

Unleash your innovative brain

Everyone has creativity and innovation inside them — sometimes, however, it simply requires a little extra effort to tap into these abilities. Whether that comes in the form of the perfect marketing slogan or a better way of serving your customers, you’ll be able to thank your brain training efforts as these breakthroughs begin to come more easily.

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June 16, 2021 6 min read

Throughout the pandemic, people spent more time at home than ever before — and more time with their pets. Whether they had dogs, cats or reptiles, owners quickly discovered the pluses and minuses of their new circumstances, which included more quality time with their beloved animals as well as increased exposure to less desirable tasks, like scooping a litter box. 

Jacob Zuppke, President and Chief Operating Officer of AutoPets, is proud to say that in the five years he’s had a cat, he’s never scooped a litter box. And it’s not because he’s leaving the unpleasant chore to someone else. It’s because the Litter-Robot by AutoPets, which has become a fast-growing success for the 22-year-old company, eliminates the task completely. 

“It’s a household appliance”

Starting at $499 and up with added features, the Litter-Robot is significantly pricier than the run-of-the-mill, no-frills options. But the product’s price tag reflects its level of innovation — a litter box of equal caliber simply doesn’t exist. “It’s a household appliance,” Zuppke says. “It solves what I would define as the grossest chore in the house. I would much rather take out the trash or do the dishes — other things that appliances solve.”

The Litter-Robot fills a need that’s been ignored for a considerable time; many companies interested in solving pet-related problems focus disproportionately on dogs. In fact, according to Pet Food Industry, approximately 51% of U.S. cat owners think channels treat cats as “second-class citizens.” Now that AutoPets has solved the biggest issue facing households with cats, it’s committed to offering more solutions. 

“There are a lot of problems in the market,” Zuppke says. “The litter box was just one of them. The next one we solved was the cat tree. We felt like the cat tree had a decades-old design: traditional, carpeted, multipronged. So we designed several different cat trees that I would call modern, beautiful furniture. Our cat trees have carpet, sisal, holes and hiding spots — they’ve solved the same core problem of giving your cat a playground, but we’ve done it in a beautiful way.”

Related: 4 Reasons the Pandemic Is a Boon for the Pet Industry

“People, especially in the Millenial age group, are starting to treat their pets the same way they would treat children”

Despite the high price tag, there’s a clear for AutoPets’ solutions. The company has experienced 1,000% five-year growth, 90% year-over-year growth in 2020 and is up year-over-year more than 130% in Q1 2021. 

Zuppke cites the pandemic and Millennial purchasing power as factors in the company’s recent explosion. “People, especially in the Millennial age group, are starting to treat their pets the same way they would treat children while also holding off on having children,” he says. “And probably spending a lot of that disposable income on their pets, which really makes our business all the more attractive right now.”

In the past year, AutoPets launched in the EU, U.K. and China, and today, its highest rated products are sold in more than 10 countries worldwide. But the company’s significant influence has gone unrecognized by some. Zuppke notes that many people don’t necessarily associate AutoPets with its most iconic products. Articles often refer to the company’s Feeder-Robot, one of its newer offerings, as “the Feeder-Robot by Litter-Robot.”

Related: Why The $91 Billion Pet Food Industry Is Still Open for Disruption

“We’ve done a great job building our iPhone, but we haven’t stepped back to build an Apple”

Ultimately, AutoPets strives to position itself as the dominant pet-care company — to have it be the first thing consumers think of when it comes to pet-care products, much like they think of Apple when it comes to personal electronics. “We’ve done a great job building our iPhone,” Zuppke says of the Litter-Robot, “but we haven’t stepped back to build an Apple.”

“As a consumer, I love Apple. I’ll buy almost anything Apple,” he continues. “[AutoPets] doesn’t have that as a business. So, we’ve been working on this for a while, and this summer we’ll be launching a rebrand to bring everything under one flagship and really tell our business and story in a better way.” 

To accomplish its ambitious goal, the company won’t just stress the efficacy and advantages of its products — it will sell a lifestyle, one anchored in the emotional connection people have with their animals. “It’s about what we can do for pet parents,” Zuppke says. “Not scooping a litter box creates a different relationship with my cat. I hear this story all the time with significant others who move in together: One has a cat, and the other doesn’t, then there’s the debate about who’s going to scoop. Or if one significant other is pregnant, all of a sudden the partner inherits the litter-box duty. There’s all these little things that become this emotional tie to the pet, and we need to tell that emotional story. So our rebrand is really designed around that.”

Related: Wild for Animals? Check Out the Top 6 Franchises for Pet Lovers

Right now, AutoPets products are sold in 13 PetPeople locations, on track to be in 30 by the end of the year; the brand resides as a “store within their store.” But the company’s relaunch will include a standalone store for the first time — one that meets the modern-day demands of retail spaces. 

“We understand that the world’s changing and that retail now needs to be an experience, not just a shopping center,” Zuppke says. “And that’s what we’re trying to do by building the pet store in the future.”

A standout storefront is another page torn out of Apple’s playbook; you’d be hard pressed to find consumers who aren’t familiar with the tech giant’s glass façades, glowing emblems and Genius Bars. Creating a comparable experience for pet-care consumers is a strong first step, positioning the company as the go-to for all pet-care product needs — and securing its place as a lifestyle brand in the process. 


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The problem isn’t your team or your processes.

June 9, 2021 5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Consider this scenario: A semi-truck has struck a low clearance bridge. It’s wedged in and blocking traffic. You call a towing company, and they can’t pull it out — it has to be unwedged first. So, you think about a variety of solutions. Maybe call in a team of metalworkers to cut the vehicle out. Yet, you don’t want to damage the bridge any further, and getting the team there with the necessary equipment is going to take a few hours. Now a crowd is starting to gather around the scene. Bystanders ask about the situation, and you explain it’s just going to take some time to get it unwedged. Then a 12-year-old boy speaks up, saying, “Why don’t you just let the air out of the tires?” A brilliant, elegant, and no-cost solution. Why didn’t you think of it?

Related: How to Spot Business Ideas Worth Pursuing

and innovations are often so obvious, they’re actually difficult to identify. They can’t be created like widgets, yet many organizations believe that with enough pressure, impetus, and initiative, innovation can be produced. Some companies create cross-functional task forces, or competitions to make it happen. Or they hire an outside consultant to help draw out innovation by going through exercises. Yet if these efforts actually worked, organizations wouldn’t be continuing to look for new methods to address the problem.

Related: Seven Ways To Foster Innovation In Your Company

Well-entrenched companies seem to hold all the keys to success–they have the means to attract top talent and the resources to support the launch of new innovations. But even successful companies don’t capitalize on these capabilities. Even they show symptoms of innovation blindness — failing to respond to customer feedback and continue to do what they’ve always done, despite the fact the market may no longer value what they deliver.

Innovation blindness is caused by holding onto outdated assumptions and internal overconfidence that the has all the answers. Opportunities to innovate are overlooked, dismissed, or remain unexplored. Yet the problem isn’t lack of process — it’s organizational mindsets and behaviors. Fostering organizational innovation requires two things — exposure and exploration of the new.

Exposure means getting employees out of the building. Getting them exposed to new environments, perspectives, processes, and situations. Working within your organizational bubble, where feedback and ideas are reinforced by the proverbial echo chamber, will not garner anything new. Employees need to be intentionally exposed to customers in their own working environment. Employees need to see first-hand how other organizations operate, even outside of your industry. Employees need to get periodically removed from the day-to-day, interrupting the rhythm of sameness and jolting their thinking through stepping back from a myopic perspective.

How can companies increase employee exposure?

A great way to do this is to develop formal Action Learning programs. Action Learning is becoming directly exposed to specific business challenges and participating hands-on in the development of solutions. This approach engages employees who would traditionally be on the sidelines and enables them to be exposed to different perspectives and ways of thinking. For example, , a in health care, formed Action Learning Groups with six noncompetitive organizations to work on shared issues that cut across all their companies. uses Action Learning for diversity training, where employees are put into diverse gender and race balanced groups to develop new approaches to handling issues involving sexual and racial bias.   

Exploration means providing employees time to discuss, debate, inquire, and question new ways of doing things. Developing a new idea requires thinking time – an opportunity to reflect and ask ‘why’ something is the way it is. Why it couldn’t be done a different way. Why it hasn’t been addressed before. This exploration enables employees to practice processing information differently. When you’ve been operating on autopilot, it takes a bit of effort to turn off that reflex and switch to a more active mode of thinking. Exploration also needs fostering and encouragement, as many times the first idea isn’t always the best idea.

How can companies increase employee exploration?

A simple way to address this is through Growth Mindset training. A Growth Mindset is a belief that ‘brains and talent’ need to be enhanced through continuous learning and encouraging resilience. While labeled as a mentality, a Growth Mindset is a learned behavior. Organizations that have established a Growth Mindset report that employees feel more empowered, committed, and receive more support for collaboration and innovation. A study conducted at seven Fortune 1000 companies found those with an organizational Growth Mindset had 49% of employees stating innovation was fostered and 65% stating risk-taking was supported. This mentality encourages employees to explore new ideas through direct support of that behavior.

Without exposure and exploration, your organization will eventually succumb to innovation blindness. The idea that revolutionary innovations will spring forth from formal directives is equivalent to believing if you say you want something, it will simply appear. Generating real innovation requires an intentional effort to increase exposure and foster exploration for employees. By creating the environment for ideas to flourish, your organization will more easily discover those elusive innovations which bring about revolutionary change.

Related: 9 Ways Your Company Can Encourage Innovation


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May 26, 2021 7 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

I’ve always known I wanted to make a big impact in the world, but it wasn’t until I had my daughter that I realized I wanted to fundamentally enhance the world she lives in, which led me to jump at the opportunity to be the CEO at Nexkey. 

I’ve held many leadership roles, including chief officer at an augmented-reality company and VP in the cyber-security space, which prepared me for this challenge. I knew being CEO was going to involve more weight on my shoulders, more risk and more impact on the team, but I don’t think you really know what it takes until you actually step into the role. 

In the last three years, we emerged from stealth, launched several amazing products, increased our team by four times, closed two rounds of funding and steered through a global . Here are my top lessons learned during my first three years as a startup CEO.

Related: 13 Leadership Lessons from Zoom Founder and CEO Eric Yuan

Don’t compromise on talent

This by far is the most important advice I have to give, so it’s up first. Innovation, success, culture —everything stems from talent. One of the most important jobs you have as a CEO is to recruit and hire “A” players across the business. 

Why is this important? “A” players take ownership. There’s no room for anyone in a startup to say, “That’s not my job.” Every challenge needs all hands on deck, and everyone needs to work together to take initiative. The right people will elevate the business, sometimes in ways that you didn’t think were possible. Lean on these people and trust them. 

“A” players also attract other “A” players. This cycle is a continuous loop and needs to be top of mind. Different stages of the business might require different people, so never stop recruiting (that doesn’t mean you always have to hire).

If you haven’t already read the book Who by Randy Street and Geoff Smart, do so. I give this out to hiring managers before they even start crafting their job descriptions so they too can adopt this strategy of hiring “A” players while building their own teams. 

Forget stealth and start selling

Too many businesses I see fail before they even get off the ground. Why? They waited too long to start selling. What they don’t realize is that you can’t perfect the product without getting real feedback from paying customers. Beta customers aren’t going to give you the real criticism you need to see if there is a product-market fit. 

If you’re waiting until the product is “perfect,” you’ll never get out of stealth mode. Get your product in front of paying customers ASAP. Send Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys to analyze customer satisfaction, invest in market research, gather feedback regularly and then make educated decisions on how to continuously improve the product based on customer input. 

Related: How to Really Hear and Use Customer Feedback

Make decisions and changes quickly if necessary

It’s okay to make mistakes; you’re going to make a lot of them. Embrace them as a chance to grow and learn. Be prepared to make decisions quickly, and don’t delay the inevitable when something needs to change. It’s far more hurtful to a business to defer decisions than to make the wrong ones, realize it and  immediately make a change.

Communicate with your team, have one-on-ones, look at the information and data presented to you, and then make your decision. You won’t know if it was the right decision until you make it. Delaying necessary change will kill growth and progress. Did the change not work out like you hoped? Re-evaluate, rinse and repeat.

Encourage teams to collaborate, then step back

You can’t be everywhere, and from the beginning you actually shouldn’t be. That’s just not reasonable, nor scalable. Encourage your team to connect, discuss and come to decisions among themselves without relying on you. Only then can the company scale. 

Encourage team members to look beyond their department and consider how their own actions might affect others. A new iOS update, for example, will impact , which needs to educate prospects; support, which needs to train the customer; , which can sell those new features; and it goes on.

Everyone needs to be on the same page, and it’s up to you to foster a culture that encourages collaboration and . If you do that right, teams will organically work together. If you stay too involved, decisions will be delayed as teams await your answer or decision. This also requires trust, which is why, again, hiring “A” players is so important.

Related: Six Tactics to Improve Collaboration for Remote Teams

Find mentors and meet with other CEOs

I’ve always been a big advocate of having many mentors and connecting with people going through similar experiences. Having conversations with these people will be extremely helpful in making those quick decisions in a bind and may even open your eyes to something that could be better. 

Gather as much input as you can, but ultimately make your own decisions. Having mentors doesn’t mean be a sheep and follow every piece of advice you hear. You also need to trust your gut because no one knows the business like you do. 

When the pandemic hit, I kept hearing over and over that I needed to let people go. It didn’t feel right to me. We need people to innovate and bring necessary changes to help our customers in this new normal. I didn’t lay off one single person because of the pandemic. That decision paid off. We innovated more in just a few months and saw three times the revenue we had in the previous year.

Keep moving forward 

The biggest test as CEO came this past year. We were a couple weeks away from showing off our new product in . Everything was flipped upside down with the news of Covid-19 spreading worldwide. 

The show was cancelled. Our culture, communication and collaboration was put to the test as we worked from home. Sadly, some of our customers were forced to shut down. The future was full of unknowns. I learned more about being a leader in the last year than I have in the last three. 

There are going to be ups and downs, sometimes out of your control. Keep moving forward. Don’t dwell on the setbacks, but see them as an opportunity to improve and do better. We took this time to really focus on what our customers need right now. Our platform evolved to help businesses reopen their doors and run their business more efficiently, and it was a huge success. Remember to celebrate those major milestones, but then quickly shift gears and focus on the next one. 

These last three years were tough, but being CEO has been more rewarding than I could ever have imagined. Remember to stay focused on your purpose and enjoy it! As CEOs, we are in the position to impact how people live their lives. If you’re striving to bring positive change to the world, there’s nothing you can’t do.

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It’s time for legacy institutions to do their part and implement more environmentally friendly practices.

Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox

Stay informed and join our daily newsletter now!

May 26, 2021 5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

As the world embraces the Paris Climate Agreement, legacy institutions have no choice but to embrace the mission to go green. 

The climate crisis is hardly ever a pleasant topic to discuss. Global greenhouse-gas emissions currently stand at over 10,000 million metric tons of carbon. At this rate, stands to displace two billion people worldwide as a result of rising ocean levels, cost the global billions of dollars and lead to 250,000 deaths per year before the year 2100. The list of harmful effects is endless and justifiably led to public outcry in recent years, pressuring industries to go green and be more environmentally responsible. One of the biggest questions remains: Who’s to blame? 

Related: 3 Simple Ways Cultivators Can Shrink Their Carbon Footprint

The blame game

Between expert opinions, industry narratives and public sentiments, people are pointing fingers in different directions, but one good look at the data reveals the clear perpetrators-in-chief. Close to 100 investor- and state-owned fossil-fuel companies are responsible for around 70 percent of the world’s historical emissions. The numbers speak for themselves, highlighting the need for more effective clean- solutions.  

Then again, many would argue that blame shouldn’t solely be placed on fossil fuel companies, as wealthy countries also tend to contribute toward significantly. The U.S. alone has emitted more CO2 than any other country — by as much as a quarter of all emissions since 1751. By comparison, despite ’s huge rise in emissions over the past decade, emissions per person still sit at less than half of that from the U.S. 

This, in turn, brings us to the energy-consumer level, and here, there is also room for the blame game. Out of a total of over 33 billion tons of carbon dioxide produced globally, the average American household only produces 8.1 metric tons. Once we get past the average, however, we see that the wealthiest tenth of people consume about 20 times more energy overall than the bottom ten, wherever they live. This puts the blame on the social elites, with their multiple cars, huge mansions and jet-setting lifestyles.

Amid the spats and the outcry, the world is now waking up to the climate change threat and moving to counter it. The Paris Agreement, one of the most recent landmarks for climate action, calls for a massive shift of the global economy toward renewable-energy sources, such as natural gas, wind and solar power. This has sparked a frantic search for solutions that are greener and more sustainable, ones that address the climate crisis more effectively.

Related: How to Create a More Sustainable Supply Chain

The new renewable-energy ecosystem

Assertive but isolated initiatives, such as minimizing the use of plastic straws and promoting public transportation, do make a difference, but ultimately have minute effects when considering the sheer scale of greenhouse-gas emissions. What we need is comprehensive, industry-level change embracing sustainable innovation across a plethora of sectors. The energy industry, as noted before, is a sphere where this need is the most urgent, and it’s no surprise that is now one of the hottest topics of discussion among entrepreneurs, policy makers and consumers alike. As such, innovations are emerging across four primary dimensions of global power systems: 

  • Enabling technologies. This refers to technologies, such as electric-vehicle charging, that play a key role in facilitating the integration of renewable energy. Blockchain companies are also stepping up to provide a new level of sophistication to energy supplies, as seen with WePower, Power Ledger, The Brooklyn Microgrid and The Sun Exchange.
  • System operation. This refers to companies that provide innovative ways of operating the power grid, with solutions that expand the use of renewables, not just for power generation, but for other purposes as well. Renewable technology can do more than that — Nostromo, for example, offers an ice-based, thermal-energy-storage solution to make traditional building-cooling systems more environmentally friendly. Legacy chillers tend to exert a large amount of energy throughout the day just to cool the water used to provide air conditioning. Nostromo’s technology leverages literal blocks of ice to supplement the water chillers used to cool buildings, opening the door to reduce the overall energy consumption of buildings and even entire cities.
  • Business models. This refers to innovative models that enhance the flexibility of systems and incentivize the further integration of renewable-energy technologies. Notable examples include energy-as-a-service and pay-as-you-go models.
  • Market design. This refers to new market structures and changes in regulatory frameworks that encourage flexibility and value services in a renewable-based power-energy system. Notable examples include time-of-use tariffs and net billing.

Now is the time for business leaders, policy makers and industry drivers to stop pointing fingers and take action. Instead of spending time and resources on shifting accountability, it would be best to step up and take on renewable-energy initiatives to cut emissions and do their part in fixing the climate crisis.

Related: Top Renewable Energy Stocks to Buy Today? 4 Names to Watch

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May 24, 2021 7 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Using innovation to foster business growth takes a considerable amount of skill. Intelligent minds like and Elon Musk have driven a significant amount of innovation capital throughout Amazon’s, ‘s and Tesla’s existence. 

Forward-thinkers constantly strive to diversify and streamline their products and services. Bezos and Musk are two models of the best of their kind, which show us there’s an effective and precise strategy applicable to all businesses. 

According to professor , over 30,000 new products are marketed and introduced to the world every year, and 95 percent of these products fail, meaning the majority of new founders still have many lessons to learn. 

Below are four innovative ways for companies to create and sustain market , as well as understand the formula behind innovation. Once implemented, leaders will be able to withstand the weight that comes with being the driving force behind an innovative venture, all while turning novelties into commodities desired by many.         

Related: 61 Books Elon Musk Thinks You Should Read

1. Look before you leap

The task of constantly taking stock of where the market is heading while keeping up with the relentless ever-changing consumer demands can be challenging for business owners. It requires a level of expertise and accuracy that few entrepreneurs reach.

An exemplary model that comes to mind is the venerable and well-established company Informative Research.

Informative Research was founded in 1946 and is a market leader in the innovative technology-solutions sector, offering lenders a wide range of solutions for each step in the loan cycle. The company serves over 3,000 mortgage companies, banks and lenders across the United States.

It’s clear IR has reached the level of expertise and accuracy necessary in order to sustain market leadership because a company that’s been around for 75 years undoubtedly has the staying power to weather the impact of changing market conditions and the ability to adapt accordingly. 

IR started out as a research company for the mortgage industry, and by 1973 the company was purchased by the Buckner family, who grew it into a technology and service giant. Chief strategy officer Patrick Buckner has played a crucial role in growing the company into the powerhouse it is today. He’s transformed the trajectory of the business, including acquisition, development and opportunities for expansion. Buckner has over a decade’s experience in the mortgage industry, and according to Harvard Business Review, it takes at least that long to achieve expertise.

Experts are made, not born. To “look before you leap” does not mean simply focusing on the things we already know how to do, but more so focusing on deliberate and specific practices with great precision. 

Also, those who take the less comfortable path do so because they understand the importance of the next piece of advice — playing the long game.         

Related: 7 Steps to Quickly Becoming an Influential Expert in Any Field

2. Create a roadmap and play the long game         

Playing the “long game” in business does not simply entail a two-, five-, or ten-year road map. A longer-term strategy in delaying short-term gratification is necessary to ensure success and sustainability over a significant period of time.   

This is a powerful business strategy as it benefits from the advantages of taking gradual and continual steps throughout the process. It requires a well-structured roadmap with standardized checkpoints, which allow a business to be clear about how its various roles, tasks and responsibilities all come together —  as exhibited with IR.

“Lenders have historically been slow to adopt new technology and that is why it’s up to companies like IR to drive the innovation forward. Most companies in our space do not even know where to start and that is why we are growing nearly 100% year on year,” Buckner says. 

Effective road-mapping (while taking into consideration the long-game) has been crucial in illustrating initiatives across various sectors of IR’s business. 

Alternatively, those who play the short game in business often end up losing, as they’re competing with millions of others who are also playing the short game. Amazon suffered extreme challenges in the late ’90s and early 2000s, but the company’s ability to play the long game ultimately allowed it to become the online retail giant it is today. It takes vision to make predictive, strategic moves. As Buckner says, “[A major challenge is] having investors see the mortgage technology space for what it is instead of what it used to be. It’s fresh and growing with a lot of innovation happening in AI, ML and Platform Strategy.” Leaders and teams that can think this way are the ones who connect and collaborate with exceptional success.           

Related: Why Progressive Leaders Focus On Playing the Long-Game

3. Build an exceptional network

A business’s most valuable assets can be found in its team and network: one that is made up of leaders, builders and marketers. Prospective clients or partners like to ensure your wider team is equipped with a great amount of experience and expertise to successfully execute and lead them to their desired outcome.

Henrik Johansson is the co-founder and CEO of Gembah, a company that helps take a product from concept to market. Intended to empower businesses and product innovation, Gembah understands that it takes an exceptional process to bring to market an exceptional product. 

This involves technology, a great product and most of all, a network of experts in each product-development area. Johansson says, “We continually build our global manufacturing network by personally vetting each potential manufacturer to meet our high standards. We travel to each potential factory and meet with the owner and , speaking their language and ingraining ourselves into their business to understand how they operate.” 

Gembah also finds factories with experience manufacturing specific products so they can align their clients with manufacturers with the appropriate talent, tools and machinery, ensuring a quality and streamlined process. 

Related: Building and Maintaining Your Team Remotely

4. Great leaders are decisive

Analysis paralysis is detrimental to productivity. The inherent fear of failure or making a bad decision leads to risk aversion and the inability to move forward in the decision-making process. 

Decisions should be action-oriented, fully rationalized and understood. Musk uses a specific 6-step process when making decisions. According to the SpaceX and Tesla founder, “It’s really helpful for figuring out the tricky things.”

Anyone who has been following Musk’s career and life in recent years knows he is anything but conventional. However, the self-made billionaire is respected because he seeks proven, scientific logic to support each of his decisions.

Not only do great leaders cultivate skill in making smart and fast decisions, but they also train and develop effective decision makers. It’s a simple task for leaders to attract top quality talent, but it’s how leaders pass down their abilities and skills, such as , that positively impacts a business’s bottom line.

Using innovation to foster business growth can’t be achieved through creative innovation alone. Whether you’re spearheading a multigenerational company or launching a startup, no one can bring to the table the same unique set of skills and talents as your own team can. Whether it be technology, people or a systemized process, all pieces of the puzzle are vital in contributing to the greater whole.

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May 17, 2021 5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Giving is an essential part of a leader’s role. It shouldn’t be overlooked, but it can be a complex task, as it’s not always well-received. Sometimes people want to improve, but they can’t handle the constructive feedback required. 

Feedback can improve performance, enhance trust and respect, and advance the achievement of mutual goals. Misused, it can be toxic to relationships, teams and culture. can embody fear, create environments where people feel like they are being attacked and rock people’s confidence and self-esteem. It can carry an intent of belittlement, embarrassment and harm.

At times, delivering constructive feedback can be difficult: There’s a fine line between feedback and criticism. Yet one Harvard Business Review study found that employees preferred constructive feedback (57 percent) to praise or recognition (43 percent).

As a leader, giving and receiving feedback when things are going well is often easier. It can be tricky when an employee grates on you or is under-performing. Feedback requires artistry. Here are eight ways to offer helpful and well-intended feedback.

Related: 5 Ways to Be a Leader Your Employees Will Respect

Ask permission

Before offering feedback, ask your employee if it’s okay for you to do so. Prefacing the interaction with courtesy, respect and transparency sets the right tone, allowing you to deliver your feedback freely. When you lead the conversation with an intent to be kind and compassionate, you set the stage for growth and conversation.

Feedback isn’t indicative of anyone’s value as a person

When workplace conflict has arisen, or processes go haywire, considerate leaders confront the problem, not the person. Focusing in isolation on the person creates a defensive dynamic, where people perceive a personal attack, often distracting from the real issue.

Feedback must involve suggestions for improvement within the context of the challenge. For instance, if a staff employee presented an unmotivating presentation that did not engage the team, rather than providing feedback that the production was “boring,” focus on how using a picture and story to highlight the key message within the presentation may be more engaging.

Related: How to Make Negative Feedback Work For You

Approach with tact and humility

HBR research reported that 69 percent of managers were not comfortable giving feedback, and 37 percent would not give critical feedback at all. When delivering unfortunate news to an individual, especially to someone you are frustrated with, imagine speaking to someone you respect. When you are conscious of how another person may feel upon hearing feedback, you will approach him or her with honesty, kindness and respect. If you overhear one of your employees delivering some terrible advice, you don’t come out and say, “Your advice was crap.” You guide them in the right direction.

Place your employee in the driver’s seat

When you want to turn the tables, give your employee a chance to stand in your shoes. For example, if a team leader is giving feedback to a staff member about a complaint from a customer, ask your employees how they would suggest a situation be managed if they were leading the group. Opening a discussion and exploring how all parties might react creates fruitful dialogue without throwing anyone under the bus.

Avoid the feedback-sandwich approach

Can you remember a time when you received praise at the start and end of the conversation and, in between, a barrage of criticism? The feedback sandwich is a lousy technique that reeks of insincerity and sets a precedent for people to brace for criticism every time you praise them, diluting the real message in the middle of a conversation.

Leaders must separate feedback into different conversations — deliver all the praise in one exchange and in another, focus on corrective feedback and how improvements can be made. Ongoing, casual check-ins and consistent one-on-one meetings combat the tendency to sugarcoat, provide platforms for frequent feedback and prevent future awkward disagreements.

Assist your team in creating a definition of feedback interactions

As a team, breaking down the critical elements of a constructive-feedback interaction could establish a safe and inviting environment and build trust. Leaders can explore helpful questions: What are examples of behaviors you would like to see when giving feedback? Can you share some of the ways you can bring solutions to feedback conversations? What has not worked in the past when giving and receiving feedback? What would the ideal feedback interactions look, hear and feel like for both parties?

Related: 22 Qualities That Make a Great Leader

Every piece of feedback offers an opportunity to improve

Leaders create pathways and build cultures for learning to reinvent, renew and pivot consistently. Officevibe’s research reveals that when managers nurture a culture of feedback, there is a higher chance of cultivating an environment where people feel that they can express their views and innovate.

How you deliver and receive feedback determines whether your employees will follow suit. As a leader, demonstrating composure, patience and executive presence sets the tone of the culture, reflects your character and creates the expectation that feedback can be shared without fear of retribution. When feedback is viewed as neither good nor bad, it serves as a bridge, allowing employees to get where they’d like to go. 

Create a culture of action

Insights are one thing, but most successful people take the next step and translate feedback into actions and tangible change. In a leadership role, be specific to enable your employees to build upon what they are doing right and measure progress. When your feedback is non-specific or focuses on ultimatums rather than coachable behaviours, frustration builds and toxic behaviors infect the team and culture. 

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It is essential to leave behind the “it has always been done like this” and nourish yourself with the experiences and learnings of the startup ecosystem.

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May 17, 2021 4 min read

This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors may exist due to this process.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Startups have been a key element in refocusing industries and markets, thanks to their perspective of challenging the “we have always done it this way” to consider new solutions, which leads to various learnings and experiences: from developing new lines of business, entering new countries, adapt to new cultural approaches until seeking financing.

According to the study of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB): “Large companies, startups and innovation in Latin America. Promises and Challenges ”, one of the features that differentiate Latin American ecosystems from other more developed ones is the low articulation of large companies with the world of entrepreneurship and innovation, which translates into wasting knowledge on the part of new entrepreneurs as well how to create barriers -which should not exist- for the emergence of dynamic enterprises.

That is why -at least for the next few years- it is essential to leave behind the “it has always been done this way” and nourish ourselves with the experiences and learnings of the startup ecosystem, to be able to adapt to a different world than the one we leave in -what seems Already a long time ago- 2020, where trends have strengthened, consumers move faster, it is essential to establish a network of allies with increasingly broad approaches, in addition to a necessary digitization where we guarantee not to lose control of our businesses.

What are the main learnings that traditional businesses can take from the startup approach?


Innovate, innovate and innovate again. It is very easy for a business concept to be “caught up” by the competition. There will always be someone willing to offer the market a cheaper, more comfortable or closer product than yours, so the fundamental thing is to be in constant improvement. One of the main barriers is considering that innovation belongs only to one area of the business or only applies to final products. Innovation is a comprehensive process, in which the entire organization participates and encompasses all critical operational aspects: from processes to delivery of the product or service to the user.

Trust your differentiators (and continually seek to strengthen them). Almost all the entrepreneurs I know are very clear about their source of concern: how to finance the project? One of the learnings we’ve had at Justo is: focus on differentiators. For us, it was a challenge to enter a market dominated by apps to order food delivery.

We change the focus: we want to offer a platform for restaurant owners to have control of the business. With this approach, we were able to be part of the Y Combinator acceleration program and begin our expansion process throughout Latin America.

Explore different paths. Startups have been characterized by telling a story different from the path of traditional entrepreneurship. An example is the search for allies and attracting the interest of investors interested in adding value to the business, beyond capital, as well as entering new markets. In all these aspects, it is essential to investigate and learn about the various laws of each country, in order to highlight the strengths of the projects.

As entrepreneurs, we have the opportunity to have a rapid response approach to the changes that we may observe in our clients, partners and environment. I know it may seem that we are building the plane where we are flying: that is one of the most important learnings: remembering that the constant is to change and adapt.

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