Atlassian is a sponsor of Innovate!100, a global program to identify and promote up-and-coming technology and communications startups from around the world. Ever since releasing our Starter Licenses ($10 versions of our products, priced with startups in mind) we have sponsored several startup events and we even ran our own startup event last June. By providing software for startups and small teams, we’ve been hoping to facilitate a little more innovation.
One of the founders of Innovate100 is Chris Shipley, the entrepreneur behind the grandaddy of startup events, the one that started it all, the alpha and the omega, the young Elvis (if you will) of startup events, DEMO. We wanted to catch up with Chris on why she would create another startup event after she already had such a successful run with DEMO. Here’s what she had to say:

In a few words, what is the purpose of Innovate 100?
The Innovate!100 program seeks to identify, encourage, and showcase high-potential startups around the world. In its first year, the list of 100 startups establishes a benchmark; in time, we’ll be able to chart these companies as they grow and improve their businesses, based on the changes in their G/Scores over time.

You already run DEMO, an incredibly successful event, so why create another startup event? How is Innovate100 different?
You’re right, there are many showcases for young companies. DEMO focuses on the product more so than the company. The Innovate! program is all about the company and is the only showcase of startups that seeks to assess and benchmark startups on their path from an idea to a sustainable, growing business.

What is the G-Score? What was the impetus for creating it?
The G/Score is a standard, transparent, and largely objective assessment of a company’s progress from idea to sustainable business. It measures how a company has executed on its business concept across seven key areas: overall concept, market opportunity, competitive landscape, product development, business development, team, and business model. We wanted to develop a standard for talking about how a company grows that gives the entrepreneur valuable, actionable feedback about the business and reduces the friction that larger organizations face when doing business with startups.

What is it that attracts you to startups?
Startups are full of optimism and possibility and challenge. It is intellectually rewarding to work with companies to navigate the challenges in pursuit of the possibility. They are often hard problems to solve, yet if they can be solved well, they create positive impacts on the business, its employees, customers, and investors. Startups create an opportunity to have real impact.

You describe yourself as, “I look at technology…with a human eye for usefulness, practical advancement, and social change.” What kind of companies inspire you?
I’m most excited by passionate and determined entrepreneurs taking on significant and challenging problems. Ultimately, I ask “why does this matter?” at a very basic level. While fundamental technology can be quite impressive, I care most about the impact. Why does this product matter? What will it do to improve business or change lives? No matter what market segment or how fundamental the technology, that has to be the goal: to make an impact, to affect positive change.

In creating these events, what have you learned about building your own startup?
That we have to be as diligent about taking our own advice as we are adamant about giving it to others. Focus and execution matter most. We can’t take our eye off our own game and expect that we can help others improve theirs. We’ve not always lived up to that, but we try every day to improve our operational efficiency, please our customers, and sharpen our focus on fostering the path to innovation.

You’ve used DEMO to introduce a range of new technologies like device computing and web-based software. What innovative trends are you excited about today?
I’m paying more attention now on how to innovate rather than what to innovate. This word “innovation” gets thrown around pretty carelessly in our community, and in so many ways it loses its real meaning. We need to respect innovation more as a process and a culture than as a result.

What advice would you give entrepreneurs looking to create a successful startup?
Know your customers, focus relentlessly on what they want and need, build and deliver it efficiently, listen and learn. Shampoo, Rinse, Repeat.

What advice do you have for startups giving pitches on stage at Innovate100 or DEMO?
Understand why the audience is there; what’s in it for them? Then deliver that answer clearly and succinctly. Less is always more.

What’s the funniest thing that’s happened on stage at Innovate or DEMO?
It’s hard to say, but I’m sure whatever it is, it is only funny in retrospect. The faux pas that we can laugh at now were no doubt traumatic at the time.

Thanks, Chris! Check out Innovate!100 in a city near you.

An interview with Chris Shipley on startups...