Neil Kane, the first Entrepreneur in Residence at EnterpriseWorks, led “The Innovator’s Secret Formula Workshop” on June 4, 2020, to share his extensive knowledge with others. Kane is a current member of the Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurs & Innovation at Michigan State University. He discussed his background as a CEO and as a self-described “serial entrepreneur” and explained concepts and theories that are presented in his newly-published book, The Innovator’s Secret Formula.
During his time at EnterpriseWorks, Kane worked with SolarBridge Technologies (which was acquired by SunPower in 2014) as the interim-CEO and co-founded Advanced Diamond Technologies, Inc., with two scientists from Argonne National Laboratory. The launching off point for acquiring all the knowledge he has today, he explained, was stepping into the role of CEO until 2011. He credited his experience at Advanced Diamond Technologies for giving him a vast amount of knowledge that allows him to have in-depth insights about the ups and downs of startups’ lifespans.
Kane reflected on his first experience in business as well. “When I got out of the MBA program at the University of Chicago… I was inspired to start a company to bring to market a famous barbecue sauce my family member had invented in the 1930s.” Although it may seem small in comparison to his later professional experiences, Kane remarked that embarking on this venture allowed him to better understand concepts taught to him in academic settings because this was one of the first times he could put those concepts into action.
In addition to speaking about his background, Kane provided his audience words of wisdom about business. He emphasized that venture capital is not meant for all businesses because “… there’s a lot of ways to build successful businesses…. be metrics driven…. it’s how the markets respond that dictate if your business is successful.” He also mentioned that venture capital means relinquishing some control, which is a key consideration.
For students, Kane recommended that communication and accountability are important for business and beyond. “The ability to be accountable for results and the timeframe with which you’re going to [present results] is important. Your cross-functional skills matter.” He encouraged students to “learn how to sell” since marketing can heavily impact progress and perception. “If you can learn something, you can accelerate your career,” he emphasized.
The Innovator’s Secret Formula was written by Neil Kane, Chris Sorensen, and Matt Brocchini. The book focuses on Product-Market Fit (PMF), which Kane defined as “the degree to which a product satisfies market demand.” The goal is to match well between what customers want and what a product provides. “The better the fit, the higher the market share,” he explained.
PMF is a constant underlying factor that is among the top five reasons why startups fail, Kane highlighted. Although everyone wants to disrupt the industry, he remarked that “disruption affects us all,” especially when considering the effects of technology that society takes for granted today. He emphasized the importance of product-makers’ understanding of what the market wants by using examples of coffee makers on Amazon to demonstrate. “A $25 Mr. Coffee is for a different market than a $169 Keurig. Products are like keys; the better the product market fit, the more market share the product will unlock.”
Kane invites all entrepreneurs, no matter their background and experience level, to learn more about PMF, its components, and how to change it by learning from The Innovator’s Secret Formula.
Contact Information for Neil Kane:
- Web: www.illinoispartners.com
- LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/neilkane
- Blog: www.illinoispartners.com/blog
- Forbes: www.forbes.com/sites/neilkane
To purchase The Innovator’s Secret Formula: For Innovation, Disruption & Market Leadership, visit Amazon.
View the slides used for this workshop on Neil Kane’s LinkedIn page.