Forge, Legendary VCs, Innovators Discuss Protecting Innovation at Salt

America has long been thought of as one of the most innovative countries in the world with  Silicon Valley at the heart of that innovation. However, other countries have outpaced the U.S. in leading innovation.

In fact, the U.S. is now the eighth most innovative country behind Singapore and Israel according to a Bloomberg report, which is an improvement over last year when the U.S. was not included in the list of the top 10 most innovative countries in the world.

Jumpstarting U.S. innovation, protecting startup founders’ vision, and allowing companies to cultivate innovation longer, were a few of the topics discussed during a panel discussion — led by Forge CEO Kelly Rodriques — at the annual Salt 2019 conference.

Watch the panel discussion about protecting innovation start the video at 2:45:00.

Rodriques took the stage at Salt 2019 in Las Vegas with the legendary venture capitalist Tim Draper, Steve Tidball, CEO of Vollebak — an adventure gear startup —  and Rudy Cline-Thomas, founder of Mastry, Inc. a financial advisory group for athletes.

Each panelist offered a unique perspective on the current state of the innovation economy and what will spur innovation in the future.

Legendary VC Tim Draper Asks ‘Will This Work?’

When looking for the next investment opportunity, Tim Draper —  world-renowned VC and founder of Draper Associates that invested in several top companies such as Twitch, Skype, and Forge — told the panel that he looks for unconventional companies.

“We’re looking for that thing that doesn’t have precedent,” Draper said. He continued to explain that “the weird [companies] become incredible.”

“Twitch started out as Justin TV … a guy following himself with cameras everywhere he went during the day. And, then when it became Twitch — people watched other people play video games. Bitcoin … my God, it’s a currency that’s virtual. I mean, all these things, they were very unusual but really interesting.”

In order to protect a startup’s innovation, Draper is looking for startups that have a limited number of partners.

“The larger your partnership, the less likely you are to find those companies… all those smart people will find all the things that that are wrong with that business, and not the thing that could go right.

“I ask myself the question, ‘What if this works?’ It’s kind of an unusual, and you won’t see a lot of venture capitalists admit this. But that is the way it works,” he concluded.

Vollebak Makes the Entire Company an ‘R&D’ Machine

Steve Tidball, CEO of Vollebak, approaches innovation at his adventure wear clothing company very differently.

“We basically tried to turn the business into a serendipity machine. I think the reality that is not often acknowledged is just how much chance and serendipity play a role in innovation,” Tidball said.

“What if you could turn an entire company into an R&D machine? Not just 2 percent or 5 percent of it, or a nod to it, but actually make the entire company all about bonkers moonshots.”

As a result of building his entire company around R&D, Vollebak has created interesting, “experimental,” clothing that garnered the attention of VCs as well as the press — especially for products such as the pants that are built to last for a century.

When Tidball — who currently lives in London, where Brexit and its impact on innovation is a concern — was asked about how he thinks about the globalization of innovation he said he worries that as the U.K. becomes an increasingly insular country, that innovation will shut down.

“I think you see innovation clustered, like in Silicon Valley [with] companies like Apple, but these are open, porous companies that have talent pouring into them. So when you have stuff shutting down, specifically in the U.K., and shutting down in Europe, I come to America.”

Rudy Cline-Thomas Ushers In the New Investor

A new class of investors are entering the VC space — professional athletes. Most of these athletes are looking for solid innovative, investment opportunities but need guidance.

Cline-Thomas identified this gap when he was managing professional athletes, and launched Mastry, Inc. to provide this service.

“I realized that the real need was investing their money and helping them save it. So after four years of being an agent, I shifted over to managing their finances. And that’s where I spent most of my career … making money investing in the tech space.”

Cline-Thomas educates his clients on the types of companies athletes should invest in and helps to identify the opportunities in tech.

“Athletes are much more aware of the opportunity associated with being investors, and [finding] the partnerships that are there,” he added.

Forge Protects and Fuels the Innovation Economy

Forge is well positioned to help fuel the innovation economy by helping startups access persistent liquidity.

“It’s our mission to be the patron and protector of the innovation economy through liquidity,” said Rodriques during the panel.

“Companies have typically gone public faster to get liquidity to continue the dream. And we have a belief that innovation — and the talent that’s required to fuel innovation —  requires liquidity over the duration of private existence,” he continued.

Startups that want to remain private and drive innovation unencumbered can do so with persistent liquidity, and Forge can be a partner in fostering that innovation.

Visit Forge to learn how we empower companies, investors, and shareholders with liquidity.