Editor’s note: John Warner is chief executive officer of Jute Networks, which manages the SwampFox.ws Website and the InnoVenture conference. He can be reached at JohnWarner@JuteNetworks.com..

GREENVILLE, S.C. – A friend of mine has a magic four letter word for what to do when you fail.


The economic storm raging all around us is wreaking havoc with organizations trying to reinvent themselves and tossing out talented people, who through their choice or not, are now entrepreneurs looking to create new organizations. The key for each of us is to tap into the network of expertise and resources all around to create what is next for us.

The on March 24 at the Carolina First Center in Greenville, SC will be the sixth annual event. After last year’s conference, I followed up with a top industry researcher and assured him that InnoVenture would help him attract expertise and resources he needed from across the southeastern United States, the eight largest mega-region in the world. “That’s nice,” he said, “but we look for expertise and resources on a global scale.”

Earlier in my career, I was a major investor in an entrepreneurial company that built a plant in Singapore, and then a vice-president at KEMET when we built two plants in Suzhou, China. Despite this, “That’s nice,” instantly seared into me that the world truly has become flat, as Tom Friedman notes.

Another author, Richard Florida, observes that while the world is flat in the sense that talent and resources can flow anywhere, they don’t in fact settle evenly throughout the world but pool up in certain places, like Atlanta or Silicon Valley or Bangalore, India.

Our opportunity, individually and as a community, is to get expertise and resources to pool up around us that allow us to create and serve global markets.

Universities are being starved of state funding and need to reinvent themselves. A top academic researcher and I recently explored a new model for research and economic development based on a virtuous cycle between academia and industry. Universities do top scholarship to create new knowledge, which attracts and develops top students, who graduate and commercialize that knowledge in companies, who then have a vested interest in providing resources to support top scholarship at the universities. Faculty should excel at what they do well, scholarship, and industry professionals should excel at what they do well, commercialization, and neither side should be asked to get outside their comfort zone. It takes strong, trusting relationships to create this virtuous cycle.

A senior executive of a global manufacturer recently laid off in a corporate reorganization contacted me about finding a new job. His old company is a world leader in its markets, and he had 60 plants around the world reporting to him.

After talking about where he might find a job, I asked him, “Why are you looking for a job? You have had a unique perspective to see unmet needs around the world which are enormous opportunities for those who solve them. Why aren’t you leading the change by inventing the world we all will live in tomorrow?”

He e-mailed me that night that the discussion was “both enlightening and thought-provoking.” There are more people around us tossed into those same entrepreneurial waters than at any time in the careers of most of us living today.

InnoVenture Southeast 2009 is a unique opportunity this year to meet several hundred talented, connected people creating what’s next. We will again feature the Innovation Hall, with dozens of innovation exhibits by major corporations, universities, and service providers, as well as fifteen entrepreneurs making elevator pitches. InnoVenture will also have an awesome line-up of global thought leaders.

Robin Karol, Executive director of Product Development and Management Association, and former Manager of the New Offering Development Process at DuPont, will discuss stories from her career and help launch the South Carolina Chapter of PDMA. Chris Thoen, director Innovation and Knowledge Management at P&G, will discuss lessons from their journey to becoming a world leader in open innovation. Larry Willey, GE Energy Advanced Technology Operations manager of Wind Systems Conceptual Design, will explore creating a community of innovation around the massive wind energy market. Bernie Dunlap, President of Wofford, Rhodes Scholar, and one of the "World’s 50 Remarkable People" will provide an inspiring crescendo at the end of a great day about the importance of vision and creativity in times like we live in today.

Ours is a time of profound change that holds the seeds of almost unlimited opportunities for those with the vision, courage, and ability to seize them.

Carpe diem.

Seize the day.