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Bradley Walker of Nanonation: How to Innovate in Tough Times

Midlands Venture Forum (MVF), an Omaha-based non-profit dedicated to creating regional support for entrepreneurs in the Midlands, continues to hold top-notch educational events each month. Most recently, J. Joe Ricketts spoke candidly about founding TD Ameritrade and a number of his other ventures.

This past December, MVF took at road trip to Lincoln where they heard from Bradley Walker, founder and CEO of Nanonation. Bradley shared stories of innovation from his company’s clients – Nanonation serves 12 of the Top 50 Global Brands – to Napoleon’s Battle of Issus.

Here’s a short description of Nanonation and a bio of Bradley, from MVF’s website:

Nanonation is a Lincoln, Nebraska-based software developer and systems integrator for digital merchandising and consumer messaging in the retail, hospitality, entertainment, travel and financial services industries.

Since starting the company in 2000, Mr. Walker has led Nanonation’s rise to prominence in the digital media industry, garnering the 2006 Retail Kiosk of the Year, 2006 Best of Show and the 2005 Industry Leader awards from KioskCom, the 2005 POPAI Digital Retailer of the Year Award for Mazda and the 2003 Kiosk of the Year Award from Kiosk Magazine for Burger King.

Bradley is a Lincoln native and attended Lincoln High and the University of Nebraska, where he represented the Huskers in the 1987 National Debate Tournament Final Four. Mr. Walker was the recipient of the University’s Walter Scott Entrepreneurial Business Award in 2004, the Lincoln Business Journal’s Business Person of the Year in 2005 and the 2006 UNL College of Business Administration’s Young Entrepreneur award. His wife Kimberly is a senior analyst for the Gallup Organization and they have two children, Cecilia, and Raef.

Bradley’s an excellent speaker – the case studies he uses in his talk are second to none, from Apple stores opening in a tough economic climate in 2001 to Nike’s implementation of Nike iD in their Niketown stores. Below the video of Bradley’s presentaion you’ll find an outline of the points he covered.

The topic of his talk:

How to Innovate in Tough Times

“How do we become different, how do we grow, how do we thrive, how do we survive in a very diffucult economic time?”

Video courtesy of Matt Sherman, co-owner of Three Pillars Media.

Here’s an outline of Bradley’s presentation:

  • Talk through the lens of Nanonation – founded in March, 2000; 100% Nebraska-owned; 46 employees in Lincoln; serve 12 of the Top 50 Global Brands, and many others; US Patents issued and pending; and central position in a rapidly emerging market
  • Work in the digital signage market – which boils down to software that delivers a costumer message / interaction / value proposition on behalf of brands
  • You’ll see screens embedded in just about everything – that’s Nanonation’s business challenge: how to use that technology to the benefit of our costumers
  • Took experience and boiled it down into six different concepts:
  • 1. Expand Vision – Ah ha moment story of visiting Cyber Café in Eugene, Oregon; started with concept and built a model and plan, then in 2001, airlines created the self-service check-in, which left Nanonation to throw away its playbook
  • 2. Spin Your Plates – There is no straight line to innovation; be comfortable with ambiguity; and define what differentiates you and follow it – example of Gateway Country computer stores versus Apple stores
  • 3. Innovate Value – Millennial Generation comes along – story of working with Mazda about bringing new experience to car showrooms: moved Mazda from #7 in the youth market auto sales to #2 in less than three years
  • 4. Create Profound Results – Example of retail banking and examples of behavioral economics
  • 5. Seize the Moment – Example of Napoleon’s Battle of Issus as innovation occurring when inspiration collides with opportunity: “When you see it you’ve got to do it.” & “Innovation does not happen as experimentation.”
  • 6. Be the Cow – Build purple cows! Example taken from Seth Godin’s book. This is the point of innovation – “Seth Godin makes the case: Anything worth doing, is worth doing dramatically different.”