How the IU is Moving Startups Forward with V-REEL®

At Advent GX, we’ve been truly inspired by the overwhelming response to the launch of the Innovation Underground, the independently owned and operated business incubator we opened in historic Downtown Bryan, TX in 2009. In the last several years, we’ve served more than 70 start-ups and graduated nearly a dozen fledgling businesses, many that have gone on to grow a significant presence here in the Bryan-College Station community. Start-ups like next-gen-educational-gaming company Triseum, and Beautiful Abilities, a community services provider to adults with intellectual disabilities, are expanding in our own backyard. Others, like Imani Collective, are making their mark in the global marketplace. Still others came to us from points across the pond and as far away as South America, expanding into the U.S. market through our humble operation in the basement of a former post office.

It is a privilege to work alongside these innovators and, frankly, it’s a lot of fun! Where else can you move between space technologies, bovine reproduction, performing arts, and medical devices all within the course of a single morning…and under one roof? We get to do a lot and we are grateful. We are also grateful for “Think Beyond Value: Building Strategy to Win.” This book, by our colleague and friend Dr. David Flint, introduces the V-REEL® Framework for strategy development.

What is V-REEL® and Why it Matters

V-REEL guides users to think through how they will create value and be rare in the marketplace, prompting important questions that all entrepreneurs should ask themselves and be prepared to answer as they are starting their business or expanding into a new market. Our members tell us that V-REEL has been incredibly valuable to them as they think beyond the value proposition to form a strategy to win in the marketplace.

“Think Beyond Value” has been equally important to our leadership team as we have come into our own as an incubator. Here’s why…we cannot and should not serve everyone we talk to. That’s true of every business and it’s certainly true of any business incubator.

All of us who are working to support start-ups have some way we focus and screen potential companies. At the IU, we focus on five core competencies of the individual entrepreneur but we also look to the entrepreneur to articulate their value proposition and an early concept of the business strategy. We’ve found that many, if not most, entrepreneurs struggle to articulate their value proposition. Our founder and CEO Jose Quintana joined David Flint on his podcast “Thinking Beyond: Conversations with Strategic Thinkers.” They talked about how V-REEL is addressing the problem.

“Today, we ask all prospect new members to read ‘Think Beyond Value’ and then present their concept to us in V-REEL terms,” Jose explained. “This exercise gives us a sense of the individual’s commitment and we are able to rapidly move into meaningful discussion of strategy.”

Entrepreneurs always have at least one idea. They have enthusiasm, and they generally have business acumen, but focusing in on how they will create value and articulating the challenges to doing so is a very common struggle. “Think Beyond Value” presents the V-REEL Framework, using simple, common language and a process that guides the user to a place of clarity. It has really changed how the IU operates for the better.

V-REEL® in Action

Today, our conversations with entrepreneurs really begin after they have “V-REELed” their ideas. By they time we are sitting down and spending significant time together prospective IU members have already considered how they will create Value and be Rare in their market. As prompted by the framework, we ask them to think through Eroding factors that might diminish their ability to be valuable and rare, and to consider what Enabling resources and capabilities they might be able to put in place to extend their ability to be both valuable and rare. Finally, we ask them to think about Longevity. How long before things change? How long before they can put enablers in place to defend against erosion? Do they have enough time to actually create value in the market? If so, wonderful! If not, we need to keep working through the framework.

Perhaps one of the most valuable aspects of the V-REEL Framework is the simplicity of the language. Increasingly, our operation is global, so the simple, easy-to-understand terms that Dr. Flint uses are a big boon to communication. We begin our relationship with common language and so we can really dig into the work of business strategy that much faster.

A Framework of Frameworks

Starting a business incubation relationship with a book isn’t an especially unique approach. I know many incubators have required or, at the very least, recommended, reading just like we do. In fact, we use “Think Beyond Value” and the V-REEL Framework right alongside other popular and useful tools, such as the Business Model Canvas. Dr. Flint designed the framework for that very purpose…to organize how and when to put various tools to work for your strategy formulation effort. The Business Model Canvas, the Resource Based View, SWOT analysis…these are great tools for thinking through and mapping out a strategy and Dr. Flint discusses all of them in “Think Beyond Value,” all the while avoiding overcomplicating the conversation. In fact, many of our entrepreneurs do not have a business background. You can see why a book like this is, well, valuable.

We incorporate all the great thinking that “Think Beyond Value,” the V-REEL Framework and other tools generate into our own proprietary ASD (AdventGX Strategy Deployment) process when consulting with start-ups as well as established corporations. We’ve done so since we began using ASD two decades ago, but using V-REEL to begin the conversation has proven invaluable because it saves time. Affording the entrepreneur the opportunity to stop and think things through in a simple yet complete fashion is incredibly important. Providing a common language we can all use as we determine if the company is a good fit for the Innovation Underground community is invaluable. And, if, for whatever reason, we or a prospect company decide we will not move forward together, we know we’ve at least given them a really solid basis upon which to build their business strategy.

Pecha Kucha

Pecha Kucha returned to Downtown Bryan Tuesday June 6th for the eleventh installment at the historic Grand Stafford Theater. Originally started in Tokyo in 2003 by an architecture firm, Pecha Kucha has since expanded to over 900 cities worldwide, connecting Bryan to a worldwide community of creative people who are excited to share their latest projects or passions. Working in partnership with the Institute for Applied Creativity (IAC), AdventGX is proud to once again feature talented members of our Bryan-College Station community.

With Jennifer Robertson of the IAC performing as emcee, the evening began with local photographer Michael Kellet on the importance of physical image preservation in the digital age. Ryan Terry, who works with Strong Towns, followed with a presentation on regenerative real estate development. The evening also saw talks by Bailey Mullens, the podcaster behind Mindless Millenials; Texas A&M Visualization professor Bill Jenks spoke on creativity and digital visualization. Zofia Rybkowski capped the evening with a presentation on the behavioral psychology behind getting people to work together.

Pecha Kucha will return to Downtown Bryan with all new presenters in September. Join us at the Grand Stafford Theater for specialty cocktails and be a part of the live social network that is bringing communities together over the free exchange of knowledge, inspiration and creativity.

For more information, visit the website of the Institute for Applied Creativity or the Pecha Kucha website where you can see thousands of talks by people from all over the world. See you in September!

SEAD Gallery Hosts TEEX’s Inaugural Product Development Series Luncheon

On January 22, 2013 the SEAD Gallery hosted the inaugural luncheon of Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) Product Development Series. The monthly luncheon aims to give new start up companies the opportunity to meet with businesses, industry contacts and other resource providers. The main mission of the group is to help aid Texas entrepreneurs as they develop their products from idea to the marketplace.

Attendees at this month’s event heard presentations from Caleb Holt, TEEX Product Development Center coordinator, Dean Schneider of the Texas Center for Applied Technology and Jose Quintana, our own Advent GX representative. Quintana spoke briefly about the history of Advent GX and followed with a tour of the Innovation Underground. Quintana also demonstrated a new Advent GX developed innovation aimed at enhancing engagement with visual arts. The ArtsInteractive app currently in beta testing enables visitors to the gallery to hear from the artist about each work by simply pointing the iPad at the artwork.

Thirty people attended the luncheon catered by Village Cafe. To learn more about SEAD Gallery or hosting your event in the gallery, visit www.seadgallery.com.

Advent GX Welcomes Cassidy Barton as Director of Community Development



We are excited to announce that Cassidy Barton has joined the Advent GX team as Director of Community Development. In this capacity, she focuses on the development of projects and experiences that enhance quality of life and economic vitality in the communities we serve. Cassidy has particular expertise in cultural and heritage experience creation and was a key member of the team that created SEAD Gallery, featuring fine artworks by regional artists and presented in partnership with Arts Council of Brazos Valley.

Prior to joining Advent GX, Cassidy served as the Executive Director of the Downtown Bryan Association, providing leadership and logistics support for activities and events Downtown. During her tenure, Cassidy was the face and voice of Downtown, routinely appearing on television and radio promotions. Cassidy has extensive knowledge of arts and culture as a foundation for local economic and community development, having contributed to the formation and implementation of programs and venues downtown such as Texas Reds, Lights On, First Friday, Art Step, Rock the Republic, Grand Stafford Theater, the Innovation Underground and SEAD Gallery. She as degree in Liberal Arts from the University of Texas at Austin.

TripleSTAT accepted to Texas A&M University MBA Venture Challenge


We are excited to announce that TripleSTAT, an IU member company, has recently been accepted to the MBA Venture Challenge at Mays Business School. The Challenge asks teams of MBA students to quickly and effectively evaluate early stage firms, providing a clear, unbiased, and business-oriented evaluation of the businesses’ strengths and weaknesses. MBA students deliver presentations to judges from the business and academic community. A typical firm selected for evaluation in the Challenge is early in its life cycle with between $100k – $5 million in funding raised, and has an interest in an unbiased external assessment of the firm. It is an honor to be selected as a participating company for this program.

TripleSTAT is a 21st century solution to the medical alert bracelet.  Their hope is that not only customers will buy the product but that EMS personnel, nurses, and doctors will actually use them. They are very excited about the opportunity to work with Mays Business School and be a part of the MBA Venture Challenge.

 

Imani Promotes Simply Love Campaign to Support Africa

 

The Innovation Underground’s only non-profit, Imani Tumani Upendo, Inc. is currently advocating the Simply Love campaign through the month of December. Simply Love is a campaign about a simple calling; a calling dedicated to following in Christ’s footsteps.

Simply Love by giving to those in need. Through this campaign, individuals will have the opportunity to assist Imani in supporting these different projects:

  1. Sponsor A Child: $40/month
  2. Help Build A School: $40/one time
  3. Help Buy Solar Paneling for Orphanage: $40/one time
  4. Sponsor A Woman (ImaniXChange): $40/month

Imani will place the tree at different locations throughout December, with details posted on their website. You can physically pick up an ornament and donate at the tree location or contribute online.

Look for the Acacia Tree and Simply Love!

Imani-Tumani-Upendo is a young non-profit  that serves mission organizations in Africa. By complimenting existing organizations, Imani helps families develop a better future and defeat poverty. Imani is located at the Innovation Underground, a private business incubator owned by Advent GX and located in historic downtown Bryan, TX. Imani-Tumani-Upendo means Faith-Hope-Love.

Grand Stafford Theater Honored with Willie Bennett Spirit of Downtown Award

This week, Grand Stafford Theater, a member of the Innovation Underground and a new live music venue in Historic Downtown Bryan, was honored with the City of Bryan’s Willie Bennett Spirit of Downtown Award. The team is honored and humbled by the award and eager to tell the story of what is just the beginning for this great downtown venue. The Innovation Underground (IU) took a few minutes to interview Grand Stafford Theater General Manager Carlton Lee to hear first hand the story and plans for the Grand Stafford.

IU: How did it feel when you and the Stafford team first heard that the Grand Stafford Theater received the Willie Bennett Spirit of Downtown Award? Were you expecting this at all?
Carlton Lee, GST: I was surprised and very proud of the hard work that the people on our team put into making this happen. It is humbling to know that there are unnamed people out there that have been positively influenced by Grand Stafford Theater. It is hard to know everyone of your supporters by name so this honor let’s us know that we are on the right track. I am thankful to all of our patrons, partners and supporters. Without their help this would not have been possible.

IU: Who all was involved in the remodeling of the Stafford? What was the experience like from remodeling to the first opening?
Carlton Lee, GST: Our contractor Larry Daniel of Make Rite Contracting was amazing! We had a hard deadline and I let him know that up front. I called him because I know his strong work ethic and quality craftsmanship. Larry would clock 40 hours in three days because he wanted to see us up and running and was committed to the goal of Grand Stafford. Other pivotal people on our remodeling were James Tates of Christian Brothers Plumbing and B&B Electric. We thank all of them for their hard work!

IU: What drew you and the people involved to reopen the Stafford?
Carlton Lee, GST: I was drawn in by the opportunity to be a part of something different. Music is exciting. It breaks down barriers between people and creates a common bond. Also, downtown Bryan is historic. I have heard stories about the Stafford from people who remember it as far back as the 50s. I am happy people can build new memories in this place. Our team really wanted to put together a project that would bring something fresh to the community as a whole; contribute in a meaningful way to culture, commerce and community downtown.

IU: Do you and the Stafford team have any particular plans or ideas for the future?
Carlton Lee, GST: One thing we are doing is listening to feedback from our community. We are headed in a new direction and the community has a lot of influence on where we go from here. Starting in the spring we will feature Two Tons of Steel once a month. If you haven’t seen them they are a wildly talented Texas swing band from Austin. Some of the crowd’s favorite shows from the fall will be back, like David Ramirez, a singer-songwriter based in Austin.

We are also going to bring a lot of up-and-coming bands and artists to introduce the community to the quality music that Texas has to offer. Some of my favorite shows in the fall were bands I didn’t know existed and now I have their album on my playlists!

To keep up with the latest on Grand Stafford Theater, visit the web site at www.grandstaffordtheater.com , follow on Twitter @StaffordTheater and like GST on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/GrandStaffordTheater .

 

 

 

SEAD Gallery Adds Cultural Impact and Sustainability to Innovation Underground

When we opened the Innovation Underground, we planned to find ways to utilize our historic building to generate revenue beyond that earned through primary business incubator operations. In keeping with our focus on creating meaningful cultural and heritage experiences for rural communities, and given the potential of the first floor space of the Federal Building, we decided an art gallery would create a dual purpose space for both art sales and special events.

The idea for SEAD Gallery was born of our ongoing passion for both science and engineering innovation and the arts. Our good friends at the Network for Science, Engineering, Art and Design (SEAD Network) graciously allowed us to borrow their name and establish a venue to explore collaborations across the disciplines of Science, Engineering, Art and Design. Through exhibits and events, Advent GX seeks to encourage innovation and discover new ways to understand and positively impact our communities and our world.

Arts Council of Brazos Valley agreed to partner with us as curators of the gallery, lending their expertise and talent to the exhibitions. With the team in place, we set out to renovate former IRS offices into a space worthy of both visual and performing artist expression. We also sought to visually represent the name SEAD Gallery in a way that would encourage further exploration and even open the door to future collaborations in other fields.

Our in house branding team set out to model a brand identity. The facilities team tacked the space, choosing paint colors and art hanging systems, and Arts Council found an artist who could fill our walls with a dynamic solo exhibition that would draw a crowd.

After about six months of planning and hard labor, the gallery opened with a crowd of area art enthusiasts enjoying the vibrant work of Anguspaul. The solo exhibition features oil on canvas, metal sculpture and pottery. The opening reception provided a venue to showcase Advent GX’s newest technology innovation, ArtInteractive. The iPad app currently in beta, is designed to allow visitors to enjoy artist commentary on each work of art in an exhibition by simply viewing the work through the iPad. The application will enable galleries with limited resources to easily enhance user experiences without need for technical skills.

As more and more communities seek to engage artists and entrepreneurs, SEAD Gallery will provide a model for operations that showcases the unique resources of each community. Advent GX is documenting operational and business plans with an eye toward expansion to other rural markets.

Visit the web site to learn more about SEAD Gallery or contact Advent GX Managing Partner Joan Quintana  at joanquintana@adventgx.com to learn how Advent GX can support your community and economic development efforts.

Urban Farming Initiative Launches Kickstarter Campaign

At the Innovation Underground, we are always working on projects to support communities as they seek to grow vibrant economies. The Distributed Urban Farming initiative, better know around here as DUFi, is one of those projects. DUFi uses local, urban farming to encourage healthy communities. Over the last several months our project team has been researching best practices, building test planting beds and building the relationships that will be critical to sustaining DUFi over the long term.

After a great deal of work by our interns and volunteers, the DUFi pilot garden is open and the team launched a campaign on Kickstarter to generate the financial support we need to take DUFi to the next level. We plan to:

– build additional food plots around downtown Bryan

– share best practices and demonstration projects with the community

– grow food and provide it to local restaurants so we can eat healthy food grown right here in Bryan

– share our enthusiasm for great, fresh food with kids and adults

– bring other communities to Bryan to learn how they can start their own DUFi

To learn more and support DUFi, visit our Kickstarter page and be part of the movement for good food, good health and good growth!

Visit our DUFi project website to see more project pictures and learn more.

Imani M.O.V.E. Comes to First Friday in Historic Downtown Bryan

Imani Tumani Upendo, Inc. will hold its second annual M.O.V.E. event in coordination with First Friday in Historic Downtown Bryan this Friday October 5th. The M.O.V.E. event will feature Jimmy Needham and offer a motivating message encouraging all to use their voice for the Lord.

The M.O.V.E. message encourages participants to MOTIVATE others, seek OPPORTUNITY for change, use your VOICE for the Lord and EXPERIENCE God’s grace. The show will also feature inspiring stories of Imani’s mission work in Africa.

The event will take place at the Palace Theater with doors opening at 7PM. Event tickets are available for purchase online at Eventbright. Tickets are $8 online and $10 at the door.

Imani-Tumani-Upendo is a start-up non-profit  that serves mission organizations in Africa. By complimenting existing organizations, Imani helps families develop a better future and defeat poverty. Imani is located at the Innovation Underground, a private business incubator owned by Advent GX and located in historic downtown Bryan, TX. Imani-Tumani-Upendo means Faith-Hope-Love.