Category: Startups

Hacking Innovation Culture

The Australian Government’s recently released National Innovation and Science Agenda confirms that Australia is well and truly in the midst of an #ideasboom.

In an effort to promote eco-systems that support Innovation Culture, the government has proposed initiatives such as access to Crowd Sourced Equity Funding, an Incubator Support Program, tax incentives for investors and even a Global Innovation Strategy.

Typically regarded as laggards when it comes to innovation, this is good news for Australia. However, there is still some catching up to do. While we managed to avoid a recession, the benefits of Australia’s strong economy in recent years has not resulted in a culture of creativity and risk taking. Since 2004, Australia has dropped from 9th place in the UN’s Global Innovation Index to 19th place. Despite being ranked 13th in the world for Innovation Inputs we rank an unbelievable 107th in the world for Innovation outputs.

When compared to the #resourcesboom fail we can understand why Innovation Culture is now a priority for our government and our nation’s future economy. So here’s a question for you; what are you doing about fostering your Innovation Culture?

Innovation culture is the work environment that leaders cultivate in order to nurture unorthodox thinking and its application. Workplaces that foster a culture of innovation generally subscribe to the belief that innovation is not the province of top leadership but can come from anyone in the organization. Innovation cultures are prized by organizations that compete in markets defined by rapid change; maintaining the status quo is insufficient to compete effectively, thus making an innovation culture essential for success.

Having spent most of my background in disruptive innovation and startups and challenged many Australian corporates to shift thinking and practices, I propose the following model:

Innovation Culture model – An integrated systems-based approach to innovation:

Hacking Innovation Culture

Foundation: Safety and Inclusion: This is the most important aspect of any highly functioning Innovative Culture. Google recently reported that safety as a value was the key ingredient to them out innovating. Without this foundation your culture is unstable and risk avers. As with most values they must be witnessed and demonstrated from the top before being adopted by the rest of the organisation. To ensure that its safe to take risks, to speak up and hold everyone including leaders accountable is how you live this value. Going out of your way to be inclusive in strategic and tactical aspects of the business with employees that are not directly responsible for these agenda’s fosters inclusion and ownership. Hence Safety and Inclusion is a leadership mandate and a virtuous value cycle. The more inclusion demonstrated the more safety will be generated and the safer we feel the more we are inclined to be inclusive. From this cohesive base you are now free to make meaningful changes to the next level.

Leadership: We need a new lens for leadership, connect and collaborate leadership models outperform 20th century command and control models every time. This is the only way we can harness collective wisdom and ownership for high performance. Typically fear gets in the way of this change however but the ROI on connect and collaborate based leadership far out ways old models due to qualitatively better information flows, hyper engagement and collaborative approaches to problem solving to say the least. When supported with corporate social networking technology like Yammer and Chatter connect and collaborative leadership styles become even more effective. However, beware, your integrity as a leader will be subject to more auditing than ever before as the organisation heads towards a Holacracy.

Engagement: It’s never been more important to engage your employees effectively. Don’t and you’re organisation is prone to flight risk at all levels. Enabling purpose-driven participation by actively engaging people’s sense of intrinsic value turns work into something more meaningful. Be human with your employees, discover their passions and align them to how they can contribute to your mission. Best to do this on the way into your organisation by getting real on values alignment, mastery pursuits and purpose goals. This too can be enhanced with engagement technology by rewarding and recognising performers who demonstrate values and ownership best.

Execution: Now its all good to have great leadership and engagement but if I don’t have the tools, be it technology, funding and loosened delegated authority to take risks the friction barrier may be too high hence hindering any self governed intrapraneurs and more importantly get in the way of employee’s sense of autonomy. Access to tools, resources and people that enable rapid prototyping and acts of innovation is why Google endorse their 20% time on personal projects that help their enterprise.

The integration of the above dynamics leads to high quality innovations more often in a really scalable model. The virtuous dynamics between an engaged and equipped team supported by a collaborative and connected leadership team that’s underscored by a sense of safety and inclusion enables your organisation to be joined at the hip in pursuit of meaningful goals much easier and consistently.

Sustaining Innovation Culture – Top 5 keys to sustaining your innovation Culture include:

  1. Measures – Organizations with innovation cultures measure success by asking what business value the person has delivered, how sustainable that value has been, what new ideas they’ve brought to the table and how many of them actually were executed. Change what you measure and you change behaviour.
  2. Coherence – Occurs when honesty, authenticity and integrity are easily identified within an organisation. Without this you are subject to hidden agendas, miscommunication and projections from leadership that are destructive. Carving out time for constructive and safe criticism so that you can surface issues within the culture before they become a cancer.
  3. Attitudes to Failure – If your culture deems failure to be negative in the pursuit of improvement you are destined to be left behind. Failure is a necessary part of the innovation process because from failure comes learning, iteration, adaptation, and the building of new conceptual and physical models through an iterative learning process. Almost all innovations are the result of prior learning from failures.
  4. Real Time Performance Reviews – The days where annual performance reviews where best practice are gone and for good reason. With the advent of engagement technology and social corporate networking platforms organisations can now get real time in project feedback on performance, which in turn affects sentiment, retention and engagement.
  5. Team Retreats – Not the old school reward only retreats exclusively for your high performers. Facilitated by organisational transformation agents who know how to get under the tent, enable a cohesive team environment through inquiry into the thoughts and beliefs that get in the way of team performance such as trust and honesty will foster true connectedness and purpose in the team where everyone thinks and acts like owners.

Nothing is more constant than change. Furthermore, the speed of change is accelerating. How will you keep up?

Constantine Georgiou has spent the last 15 years designing, building and scaling Innovation Culture through his own startups Velteo and One Million Acts of Innovation and currently with CapitalPitch, an Investor Readiness Accelerator for startups and scaleaups.


How Velteo DNA created Talent Gravity

I keep hearing about how difficult it is to find talent in the current climate. Dont get me wrong there is definitely a skills shortage out there but at Velteo we don’t deem skills alone to be the be all and end all. Talent in my book is the make up of a combination of motivation, awareness, experience and competency otherwise referred to internally as DNA. I would much rather hire a person based on their match for us on motivation and awareness than just experience and competency alone.

At Velteo we have discovered and are harnessing what we call the Velteo DNA:

Velteo DNA

Extracted from our Company blog here…

Velteo gets engaged with

I know, its been a while,

Been a tad busy disrupting the disruptive market place.  ;-)

These last 6 months have certainly been eventful for both Velteo and myself. Hence the time between posts. With the completion of the acquisition of Hallman Enterprises (one of the premier technical consultancies) to compliment our maturing business process improvement consultancy and our first conference appearance at’s Cloudforce in both Sydney and Melbourne, we have learnt a heap, achieved a lot and gained some great customers along the way. To them we say thank you and we look forward to the journey ahead.

In our experience we have found that too many organizations attempt to address improvements in sales, marketing and customer service through either technology, training or some process improvement. However, our approach to improvement integrates the collective power of all three of these dimensions. That’s what makes Velteo different.

As we set out to help organizations leverage the power of for the infusion of best practices our customers and partners have confirmed that this approach is valid.

Improvements in customer engagement are not just about any one of the dimensions, its about the integration of all three to create the collaborative value chain that extends from the customer to staff. The enabling platform is technology but only when deployed with relevancy. Meeting customers and staff where they are on their terms is engagement, understanding what they want and when is intimacy and that is nirvana for any top performing organization who wants to have customers for life.

Our recent projects have seen customers enable self service strategies via online portals and seamless customer service automation, empower the sales force with mobile workforce management applications on iPhone and iPad’s, provide simple to use user experience via Visualforce for intuitive CRM and improved adoption, enhanced visibility to reports, activities and data for real business intelligence and access to lead indicators to help management drive the business. Marketing Automation for improved campaign ROI and influence with tight integration into, the silo’s are starting to dissolve. Our popular Sales Maturity Assessment is proving its worth with customers experiencing 3200% returns on recommended improvements to their sales practices.

So from a Customer Engagement stand point we certainly have a lot to offer, but how about Staff Engagement?

With the release of Chatter, is now empowering the workforce with this phenomenal engagement tool. They call it Facebook for the Enterprise, but I call it Corporate Social Networking. What better way to keep abreast of developments in the organization or even that team proposal your working on than to have Chatter notify you of contextually relevant updates. In this age of data smog and time poverty, Chatter cuts through and enriches your access to valuable information when you need it most. By integrating’s Ideas, Knowledge and Content we are seeing organizations become more agile and effective as they relinquish their old world shackles and embrace the collective power of the organization to stop reinventing the wheel, oh and without the hardware.

Finally, I wanted to say a big thank you to the team at Velteo, together we have crossed the challenge of integrating both companies and have come out stronger. I have the pleasure of working with some of the sharpest consultants in the field which has in turn caused me to raise my own game. We liken Velteo to a pirate ship, everyone is a specialist in something different but together we are a finely tuned machine with a dynamic culture and a passion for fun and happy customers. So if you want to be a Pirate on a journey of disruption then contact us here.

Oh and a BIG thank you to the advisory board, you know who you are, for without you it would have been near impossible.

In the meantime I hope to be able to post here monthly, so stay tuned and if you want to know more about Velteo, feel free to contact us here.



On Entrepreneurship: Jason Calacanis style

Been thinking about posting my thoughts on Entrepreneurship recently, but with all the great things that’s been  going on at Velteo recently its proven to be difficult to find the time. However, this morning I was chuffed to find a great episode on this topic at TWiST from one of my favorite startup personalities Jason Calacanis.

Jason was asked to speak to a room full of students on being an entrepreneur and we also got his take on his past and why he is so passionate about Entrepreneurship. The core theme: Believe in yourself and don’t listen to naysayers. The core question: Are you a Samurai or a rice picker?

So if you wanna be a Samurai watch the video here, but beware Jason can be direct at the best of times (But I love it):

Keep up the great work Jason and team @TWiST,

TWiST #33 Review with Shawn Gold – An Influential Episode

Addiction to TWiST

I have a confession to make, I’m addicted to This Week in Startups (TWiST).  TWiST is a weekly podcast of interviews with New Age Entrepreneurs in a format that only its founder, Jason Calacanis, can pull off and still keep you pumped. Jason is the CEO of Mahalo a human powered search engine and recently a proud father. Most of the time the show runs for more than 2 hours and apart from a few times when the subject either doesn’t resonate or due to technical difficulties, does’nt run well, the show is packed with much thought provocation and insight into the minds and times of a successful startup.

I picked up the show by accident about 8 months ago and started listening from Episode 2, I haven’t looked back. Jason and his team (especially Tyler and Lon) do such a great job of keeping it real and raw that I recommended it to my partners and close friends as a resource to open the mind on business possibilities and execution. They too have now seen the light and we’re about to commence a TWiST meetup locally where we can riff off the topics presented from each show and build relationships with local budding entrepreneurs.

As I’m based in Sydney, I see much relevance for this type of podcast. Australia has the potential for the right ethos but for some reason I don’t feel that there is enough hustle here. Convening a local meetup could be the start of something big here.  If you’re in Sydney let us know if your keen to take part @Congo_ or @TiStartups or via this blog.

I prefer to consume the show during my commute to work (an hour each way) as TWiST is available in Audio and Video format via my iPhone. I have to admit that the show has certainly and continues to influence our own startup, Velteo.  I sometimes notice our team using Jason’s lingo like “No Doubt” and Gary V’s mantra of “Crush It”, we even started our own NOT NOW list recently as well. So for mine its a must for any person interested in business, not just startups, as the insights and challenges presented can help everyone, especially for those people looking to understand how others have monetized their ideas.

Ep 33 Review

Apart from the usual schedule of Ask Jason (Caller questions) and Jason’s Shark Tank (Pitch review), this episode featured Shawn Gold,  CEO of Cocodot (Funky greeting cards online) and founder of Social Approach, a social marketing advisory based on influence mapping technologies. Cool stuff by my books and the way marketing is heading moving forward i.e. identify the influencer’s and market to them.

Here’s the episode and my key takeaways below:

My key takeaways from the show:

  • If your Startup’s numbers aren’t right, delay your board meeting – a Jason insight.
  • Internet has changed the game but relationships (salespeople) still play a big part in business
  • Performance Marketing identifies the right person to market to. i.e.: Women 25-45 are the sweet spot for weight loss, vitamins, makeup, etc. They also hold the household purse strings in most cases.
  • Find the right people, motivate them and but most of all empower them to execute
  • Be passionate about what you sell
  • You need to have empathy and ego to win in sales according to Harvard
  • Remove the Gatekeeper by calling companies early in the morning (6:45AM) or late in the evening (8:45PM)
  • Avoided jargon at all costs, even a 12-year-old should be able to understand  your pitch
  • Social Media is a double edged sword when something goes wrong in your business
  • You’re going to get knocked down, accept it, but the champ never stops getting back up
  • Monitor your company and personal brand by setting up a Google Alert at the very least

Of course Lon’s coverage of the News was great too, the standouts for me were:

  • Facebook may be losing the plot with its privacy policies or lack thereof
  • Google’s efforts to buy Yelp could change the game as they attempt to enter the content game
  • Google and Facebook to release their own URL shorteners

The show ended with Jason announcing a competition for best review of the show wins a $500 Microsoft pack.

This was just what I needed to get me over the line and finally write this post on TWiST, I love the show so expect to see more reviews as time and content permits.

    Now of course TWiST would’nt be what it is today without alot of help from its sponsors.

    So a big THANK YOU to :


    PS: I Lurrrve Ustream!

    Cheers and keep fighting the good fight Jason,


    Startups using social networking to go giddy up

    Social media sites across the Web don’t seem to be scarce, in fact they continue to evolve and increase in number and functionality. The real question is however “What’s their use?” Many have answered the question, “It depends who you are and what you want”. So in this age of time scarcity how can an Startup Entrepreneur best use his/her time to take advantage of social networking for business and promotion? For entrepreneurs who are on-the-fly, I can recommend four “must join” social networking sites/resources:

    1. LinkedIn.
    This is definitely one of the most valuable professional networking sites around. Their current slogan is “relationship matters”, and this site certainly has what it takes to really last, being one of the original social media enterprises. Whether you’re searching for a new job, trying to stay connected with peers or making an effort to establish your company, there is an array of resources which are readily available. If you’ve got the time, it’s certainly best to interact on a daily basis, and to check out the group feature of LinkedIn as well. You must list your keywords accurately and clearly establish your brand so that you’re exposed to – and aware of, the best match of potential partners, business opportunities and service providers.
    If you can invest the time, and you’re able to really interact, you’ll be able to establish yourself as an expert in your field by leveraging the power of LinkedIn Answers. The more you interact with others, the more your marketing message may be perceived as desirable and trusted, in qualitative terms. The controls in place ensure that experts are just that and that show pony’s get thrown out of discussion quick smart.

    2. Biznik.
    Some entrepreneurs believe that a network that charges for membership will usually be made up of individuals who are quite a bit more serious, and much more likely to be active members too. Biznik is surprisingly serious about its position, and it has gone so far as to brand itself as the network that “actually cares about the entrepreneur.”
    There are three levels of membership available here; two of which are paid, up to $24 a month for the “pro” level. Their approach is – go it alone, but as a part of their team, and their rules are that you have to use real data in a system which uses a human review system to continually make sure that everybody is keeping it real. This site can be a shoulder to cry on, or a source of inspiration, but once again its benefits will come from an active involvement on your part.

    3. StartupNation.
    This option is rather different. It is a site created by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs, but it is chock full of content and advice. Apart from a great podcast, you’ll find innumerable articles on almost every business idea that you could envisage as well as active forums. In some respects it is also like a giant “super blog” where you can pick up so much information in one place without the feeling that you are being drawn to so many different sites during your research. The instigators of the site, Rich and Jeff Sloan, are nationally acclaimed entrepreneurs, publishers, celebrities and award winners, and the composition of this site reflects this in its details.

    4. TWiST – This Week in Startups
    Run by Jason Calacanis, this weekly Podcast is full of great tips, reviews, insight and humor. Jason does a great job oh hosting the podcasts and interviewing the entrepreneurs. His following online via the #TWiST tag has grown in popularity and they do a great job of keeping the sessions interactive by fielding questions from Twitter followers and seeking reviews on the show in real time. I love listening to TWiST during a long drive or flight, Jason never ceases to crack me up with his sometimes brutal candor.

    So there, any time poor person can reap best value out of intelligent and targeted use of time while embarking on a social networking campaign to build business relationships, brand awareness and credibility in your field. The alternative route for achieving the same result would cost much more time and money, long live social networking for business.

    Crowdsourcing the Velteo logo

    Crowdsourcing is a neologism for the act of taking a task traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people or community in the form of an open call.

    Being a new age company, driven by new age innovation and technology it was always going to be a challenge designing and deciding on Velteo’s company logo.  What with the experience of Jamie Pride, CEO of one of Australia’s largest online digital media companies, Frank Cuiuli’s taste for fashion and my appetite for ‘edgy yet funky’  we were in for a big battle, a battle of taste.

    Luckily after some personal experience on a similar project we decided to throw caution to the wind and Crowdsource our logo on 99designs. After some fine tuning of the creative brief we kicked off the contest on a Saturday morning, the contest runs for 7 days and we expected a decent result as the brief called for creativity and ingenuity.


    After only 3 days we began to receive some great results, we began to engage with healthy feedback and some crowdsourcing of our own, showing our friends and brains trust and seeking their opinions.

    By the 4th day we began to reach out to designers of other contests whom we liked and invited them to take part in our contest. Many responded with great ideas one of which was the eventual winner.

    So by engaging with the designers and inviting others to join in we increased the likelihood of achieving a desirable outcome. Unlike other contests who provide limited feedback and interaction we received over 150 designs from 83 designers within 7 days.

    Fortunately for us one designer stood out from the crowd after day 5 but we wanted to remain open to other potentials. So we continued to seek other designers and extended our own crowdsourcing via Facebook and Twitter to try and get a larger view on people’s favorite but also to validate our shortlist.

    In the end, during our board meeting over dinner one Friday evening we decided prior to the contests closing time that the designer RedLogo was deserved of winning the contest, so we awarded the prize by a simple click and requested multiple formats and color schemes of the logo below.

    Velteo on White

    Velteo on Black

    We are certainly all happy with the end result and continue to get great responses from people who see the logo for the first time. So my advice if you want to create or redesign your brand or logo and fear the impending design fight with your partners, let the crowd sort it out for you, you will definitely save money, time and get the right result. If you want Velteo to Crowdsource your next creative project drop me a line here.

    A funny spin on crowdsourcing… enjoy

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