Innovation Collective has arrived in Victoria, fully equipped to help new and existing businesses and entrepreneurs with new ideas.
Innovation Collective is designed to help people with ideas bring them to life and start businesses. One of the primary ways the group fosters an environment conducive to innovation is by providing spaces and events that allow the community to connect, said Carissa Winters, Victoria Collective Community Leader for Innovation.
She said that the first of several planned events that facilitate networking opportunities will take place this week.
Another way Information Collective helps companies and entrepreneurs is by helping shape their businesses and present them to investors, said Ken Colwell, dean of the University of Houston’s School of Business in Victoria.
Winters said the innovation cluster helps people start businesses.
“Lots of people in the community have great ideas,” she said. “They don’t even know how to start something like that.”
Winters said that networking within the community is a very important aspect of the collective.
“We are building the connection in the community, because we know that once that starts, it gets people to generate ideas and work together,” Winters said. “We are big on making society better.”
Winters said she believes the networking opportunities the innovation cluster provides are important in Victoria because the city lacks the kind of opportunities to meet new people.
“If you don’t go to the same church, if you don’t have children to meet other parents, if you don’t go to pubs, where do you meet people in Victoria?” She asked. “Where do you go? What do you do?”
To address this issue, the Innovation Collective holds regular events that act as mixers to meet with the area’s business minds and potential mentors, Winters said.
The first of these events, called the Fireside Chat, is scheduled for Tuesday night at 102 S. Main St., Winters said. The event will start as a free drink mixer and then move on to a talk with Don Burr, owner of Diamond Fiberglass.
Winters said the outreach aspects of Innovation Collective include connecting entrepreneurs with potential mentors like Porr. For the older members of the community who have built a business and want to leave a legacy in another way, this is a golden opportunity.
“Giving what you learned to someone else to improve their life and help them create something, really, what better legacy?” She said.
Colwell said working with the innovation group was “a kind of phased process.”
The first step in the process, he said, is the events you take. This includes Fireside Talks as well as others like Coffee & Concepts, which are more of an open idea sharing event. Coffee & Concepts “is where a lot of communication is really facilitated, where people say ‘I’m working on something similar’ or ‘I know something about that and I can help you. “
The additional stages, Colwell said, include helping people’s collective innovation shape their businesses. This type of assistance includes developing business plans and introducing entrepreneurs to investors.
Not every business that participates in the Innovation Collective will succeed, Colwell said.
“The thing about these private equity investments is, most of them fail,” he said. “If you invest in 100 of them, you might get one or two that will do really well. You have to expect that a lot of them will fall by the wayside as they move along the way.”
There are success stories, Colwell said. One project in particular, a robotic bread maker, was born in the Innovation Collective’s Coeur d’Alene, Idaho location and received investment from Walmart. Now, the product is being placed in the supermarket to be sold nationwide.
Victoria, like Coeur d’Alene, is a city of less than 100,000 inhabitants, and Colwell said the ideas coming from the Victorians were just as bright as those from larger populated cities that might be technical or economic centers.
“It’s a kind of democratization of ideas,” he said. “The idea is that people in the Victoria area have as many good ideas as people from Austin, for example. They don’t really know what to do with them. What the group is going to do is kind of guide them through the process.”