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!

Welcome, Rare Model

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The Innovation Underground would like to welcome our first independent film production, science-fiction short film, Rare Model. Produced and directed by TAMU Visualization students and led by Adam Rothstein, Rare Model is set to be filmed this spring in far West Texas, known for its unique terrain and exotic landscapes.

The short film will be the first of its kind in terms of film production and story writing coming out of Texas A&M. From costume design to visual effects, many aspects of the film will be produced by former and current Texas A&M University students. Stay tuned for updates on the filming of Rare Model and its upcoming release in historic downtown Bryan by following on Facebook and Twitter.

If you are interested in finding out more or supporting this initiative, please contact hannahchilds@adventgx.com

HTS and ResponderX Join Innovation Underground

The Innovation Underground would like to welcome two unique leaders in the safety industry to the business incubator program, Health Technology Solutions (HTS) and ResponderX. Health Technology Solutions is developing a wireless system offering “real-time” statistics to prevent the 90% of unreported sport-related injuries. ResponderX is currently in the development and design phase of a very exciting technology that will allow task forces to track the physical location of workers in quickly changing emergency situations. Each company is a leader in its industry, offering a more efficient take on day-to-day practices.

HTSHealth Technology Solutions offers a platform that combines neuro-muscular mechanisms and adaptation that sense critical physiology levels via electrodes knitted into a fabric. These signals, in addition to details of the person’s movements, are recorded and made available in a consumer-facing application. HTS’ revolutionary technology has been embraced by hockey arenas across the globe, and provides critical information and statistics for pro-athletes.

rxlogoThe purpose of ResponderX’s product is to provide decision-makers with intuitive and real-time information that is not normally available on the emergency scene. Information will include: exact location of personnel, the amount of time personnel has spent inside a hazardous environment, and the availability of personnel for quick tasking. Faster and more effective decision-making will create a reduced risk of death or injury to first responders operating at emergency scenes.

Health Technology Solutions and ResponderX offer frameworks that are flexible enough to be applied to endless practical scenarios. The Innovation Underground is proud to host such creative innovators in the fields of health and safety. To learn more about our revolutionary members, click here.

AdventGX hosts Director of the Texas Music Office of the Governor


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The Advent GX team was recently honored with a visit from Brendon Anthony, the newly appointed Director of the Texas Music Office at the Office of the Governor. Mr. Anthony toured all of our current downtown projects, including the 140-year-old Grand Stafford Theater where, it turns out, he once performed early in his music career.  We were honored to have him back at the Stafford and supporting community development just one week into his new role as Director of the Texas Music Office.

The Texas Music Office (TMO) is a state-funded business promotion office and information clearinghouse for the Texas music industry.  The office promotes the development of the music industry in the state by informing members of that industry and the public about the resources available in the state for music production. The TMO is the sister office to the Texas Film Commission, both of which are within the Office of the Governor.

In the Fall of 2012 Advent GX opened the Grand Stafford Theater in a 140-year-old building located in Historic Downtown Bryan as a community development project showcasing the economic potential of the arts and heritage preservation. The theater, now featuring state of the art sound and lighting equipment, has been host to Grammy-award winning artists, up-and-coming talent, and local musicians across a wide variety of genre.

Leadership Brazos Tours Bryan Community Development Campus

Yesterday our AdventGX team had the privilege of hosting this year’s Leadership Brazos graduating class for a tour of some our local community development initiatives.

After a brief introduction by AdventGX President, Jose Quintana, the group began the grand tour, which is not for the faint of heart or those wearing uncomfortable shoes. Starting at the SEAD Gallery, our guests had the opportunity to choose their favorite “Character” from Marie-Renee Hoek’s exhibit in the SEAD Gallery and see a live demonstrations of the ArtInteractive app. Following, the group was taken to the Innovation Underground, AdventGX’s private small business incubator, where they were briefed on the various businesses currently supported and even snapped a picture with the Innovation Underground’s mascot, the Innovation Crow.

Then it was time to take a stroll to Main Street where the tour made a brief stop at Grand Stafford Theater, a live performance venue and current AdventGX project. The tour made it’s final stop at Amity Project where our guests were given an up-close and personal introduction to adaptive reuse and were updated on the excited plans we have for the newly acquired space.

Leadership Brazos is a program of the Bryan-College Station Chamber of Commerce. The class, led by Mike Record, is made up of community members and business owners within the Brazos Valley that have the desire to learn more about our area including its rich history and heritage as well area arts and culture. Following their time at AdventGX, the Leadership Brazos cohort had the oppurtunity to hear from Art 979 founder, Kristi Petty and tour Arsenal Tattoo.

Open Worldwide Innovation Network – Technology Mission 2014

On Tuesday, October 21st, representatives from the Belgian-based Wallonia Foreign Trade and Export Agency (AWEX) stopped by the Innovation Underground as a part of their visit with the Research Valley Partnership (RVP).

AWEX is a Belgian government agency that specializes in stimulating local economic activity, specifically among universities and research centers. Similarly, RVP prioritizes economic development utilizing the Texas A&M University system; together, these two entities form the Research Valley International Gateway. This collaboration has allowed the efforts of both entities to be recognized and implemented on a global level, making the impacts reach an international audience.

The Innovation Underground’s mission to encourage entrepreneurship, both on a local and global level, makes us a proud supporter of AWEX. The IU was pleased to host our new friends in Historic Downtown Bryan for company presentations at the SEAD Gallery and later at Grand Stafford Theater for a happy hour.

To learn more about Open Worldwide Innovation Network, visit their website at openiwin.com

Member Spotlight: Florita Bell Griffin’s Little Flower™

Florita Bell Griffin’s Little Flower™ is an International Cultural Art Project focused on curbing the corrosive tide of childhood bullying, and celebrating the diversity and imagination of children from around the world. Using art, music, spoken narrative, video games, and written word-separate, yet corresponding components of Transmedia communication, the Little Flower™ ventures are designed to inspire creativity and build self -esteem in tween, pre-teen and teen-age youth, while pushing forward the idea of integration and interconnectivity of all things aural, sensory, tactile, and visual.

The Project, slated to launch in early 2015, is comprised of creative ventures that include: Children of the World Storybook and Educational Series (four dual-languages), Little Flower Lyric 4-Inspirational Rap Music, Children of The World Art Series, Children of The World Original Art Doll Series, Little Flower Dream World in Minecraft, and The Little Flower Transmedia Collaborative.

To learn more about Little Flower ™, or any of our other Innovation Underground Members, visit our Member’s Page.

Member Spotlight: Kinzbach & Associates

Innovation Underground’s newest member, Kinzbach & Associates, is a business consulting firm specializing in inventory and logistics, as well as business operations and management. Their team provides a hands-on consulting approach that implements custom, cost-effective, long-term solution strategies for each business and individual.

Kinzbach & Associates genuinely has family values at heart, as the company was developed by a father-daughter duo. CEO and Principal advisor – Brad Kinzbach, CPC, ELI-MP – has more than 35 years of experience understanding business priorities and contributing to business development and revenue-producing activities. Sarah Kinzbach, Chief of Operations, provides a fresh outlook on business, combining her creative skills with a seasoned resume that includes Associate Editor of the local Insite Magazine.

Working alongside a talented team, Brad and Sarah are committed to serving the community’s business needs. Their consultants specialize in all areas of business operations and management, including accounting, warehousing, human resources, and more. “If we are unable to offer assistance, we’ll help locate someone who can,” says Brad. Kinzbach & Associates is committed to the success of every individual or business, regardless of size, location or profit-margin.

To learn more about Kinzbach & Associates and find contact information for a free, confidential assessment, visit our members page.

Meet Minio Labs!

Today’s  Smartphones are powerful enough to put a man on the moon, but we usually limit their use to sending text messages and browsing the web. Additionally, when new models come out, we simply throw the current ones away. Imagine the possibilities if you could use the computer in your pocket to its full potential? With Innovation Underground’s newest member, Minio Labs, you can! Discover all the possibilities using your mobile device: control your DIY projects, take measurements using existing sensors and play games free from limitations.

Using a small, external attachment, Minio enables you to make your device into whatever you dream it could be. Traditionally, your phone is locked into the hardware installed by the manufacturer. With Minio, however, users can unlock the potential of hardware IO blocks instead of conforming to standard boundaries. The Minio SDK even allows you to incorporate your custom hardware blocks into your apps.

Customization has never been easier (or more fun): with Minio, you can connect your smartphone to hardware that you create. Not only will your projects become truly mobile, but your smartphone can now be an extension of your project and your imagination.

To learn more about Minio Labs, or any of our other Innovation Underground members, visit our members page.