By Eleanor Haas
What differences does it make? That’s the first question for every entrepreneur and innovator.
The country – and the world for that matter – is buzzing with new start ups. Most of them will fail of course and it won't matter because most really don’t makd a difference for anyone.
How does your product differentiate itself? That’s what the investor will ask – because being different from other products that serve similar purposes is fundamental to being marketable.
But isn’t it time for new companies and new products to make a difference as well as differentiate? We live in a time when every product category is already saturated with options. That’s why branding has become hot. Creating a distinctive image in the minds of customers is the sine qua non of differentiation. Now some entrepreneurs and innovators are adding an important new dimension to differentiating. They are creating new ways to improve the quality of life.
Arshad Chowdhury did that to create Cleargears, a startup that promises to make a difference for employees of any company sufficiently enlightened to deploy it. What it delivers is a system for real-time performance review by everyone of everyone. Unlike the traditional process – and that hasn’t changed for years – where performance review occurs in huge chunks once a year from the narrow perspective of people at the top, Clearview delivers ongoing feedback in bite-sized chunks from the 360-degree perspective of everyone you work with – anonymously. The vision of Arshad and his early customers alike is that companies can perform better if they help everyone on the team perform better as well
Sandy Heck, MD, is making a difference with Reach Bionics, a start up that is developing technology to help paraplegics wirelessly control electronic devices by activating vestigial muscles around the ears.
Michael Huerta and his partners at BrightPath Energy are making a difference by applying their skills in providing capital and deal infrastructure to the renewable energy sector. One of their first projects is Power.ly, an angel-stage product company that solves cost and logistical problems for remote electricity – such as post-disaster, rural areas, the battlefield, or anywhere the grid is limited – with a truly portable generator that uses solar power.
When I’m lucky enough to discover start ups like these, I hear Stevie Wonder’s lyrics echo in my head: “And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.”