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The Future: From the Writers Who Cover Innovation

Top tech reporters tackle major themes from CES and answer the question of “what is next?”

Published On: 2020-01-23
XRC Labs: Retail Tech and Consumer Goods Rundown

XRC Labs Cohort 8 Demo Day highlights, key takeaways and ventures to watch

Published On: 2020-01-23
CES 2020 – Eureka Park Ventures to Watch

Last week over 170,000 technologists, brand strategists, product developers and investors converged on Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). We bring you the top startups and trends emerging from the Eureka Park startup floor, in digested form.

Published On: 2020-01-16
Emerging Ventures From Retail’s Big Show

We weaved our way through the 40,000 people and 800 exhibitors at the Javits Center in NYC this week for NRF 2020 to find emerging startups that can help accelerate our corporate partners.

Published On: 2020-01-16
Social Connections Off-Line

Last week we launched Happy Hour @ the Beer Garage, a thought leadership series with the innovation team at AB InBev. We gathered an elite group of investors, corporate innovators and startups to discuss Digital Connectedness, how technology can facilitate in person connection. Here are some key take-aways from the discussion as well as the 3 featured startups tackling this challenge. Communities flourish when we spend actual time together in person. “For millennia, beer has brought us together and been something we shared with friends,” pointed out Andrew Green, Global Director of Innovation at AB InBev. He pointed out that technology can enable more connections, not just digitally, but in real life, “Take eSports as a phenomenon that began digitally but has become a new occasion to get together.” Benjamin Lord, Executive Director of NARS cosmetics commented “Technology enables artists to reach more people and enable more fulfilling in real life connections at the counter.” It also enables inclusion, artistry and beauty to forge together to create a more beautiful world.

Published On: 2019-12-10
DeLorean: Driving Corporate Innovation

I just finished watching Framing John DeLorean, “the first documentary re-enactment true story of the man behind the car,” and am wowed by the connection between the challenging corporate climate of General Motors depicted in the film and the many corporations we assist today with their innovation programs. Here are a few insights for corporate innovators looking to drive change within successful, established organizations.

Published On: 2019-12-05
From Dorm Room To Board Room

Many successful companies started out of college dorm rooms before striking it big (Facebook, Rent the Runway, Dropbox, Dell to name just a few). EMRG seeks to showcase this student potential through their Pitch-Off competition. Here are 4 of the companies that corporate innovators should know about.

Published On: 2019-11-21
6 Top Female-Founded Startups

Los Angeles, CA: Only 2% of venture goes to female-founded companies, only 8% of venture capitalists are women and only 4 of the top 100 CEOs in Harvard Business Review’s list are women. That’s ridiculous on almost every level considering that female-founded companies outperform. We launched our Rogue Women event series with Rogue Ventures – to bring together the best female-founded startups, the brightest corporate executives and the leading venture capitalists to inspire, motivate and learn from one another. Learfield IMG College and LA Confidential generously helped us tackle issues like gender in the media and women in sports. Here are the top startups that we showcased to the packed house at The Riveter in LA.

Published On: 2019-11-06
NYC Media Lab Summit

NYC Media Lab is built from a consortium of tech and arts universities in NYC, along with the New York City Economic Development Corporation to drive innovation and growth in media and technology. Celebrating their 10-year anniversary of funding, they hosted their annual summit last week at the impressive new City Tech (CUNY) building in downtown Brooklyn to look ahead at the next decade of media and technology and its impact on communities, economics, sustainability and culture. Here are the top takeaways from the panel discussions as well as a few emerging startups to watch.

Published On: 2019-10-03
The Power of Inertia

Why can’t corporations innovate? I’ve never done an interview where some version of this question isn’t asked. They have the talent, the budgets, the elaborate distribution and marketing capabilities to fuel success. But their ability to innovate is shackled by their own inertia created from their original success. The innovation or unique market fit that originally enabled them to become an established player, stymies their ability to grow because it naturally creates change resistance. This idea is explored within Michael Mauboussin’s brilliant book, Think Twice: Harnessing the Power of Counterintuition.

Published On: 2019-10-03
MIT delta v Demo Day - VF Picks

The MIT delta v accelerator program is the capstone entrepreneurial experience for MIT students. Running from June through September each year, teams have a dedicated space at MIT or in NYC to work on their ventures full time. VentureFuel attended the culminating Demo Day event last week and heard from the 24 teams about their startups that span an impressive variety of industries and concepts. With an eye towards corporate innovation, we’ve curated a list of our top 5 picks with the highest future potential for impacting your business.

Published On: 2019-09-19
DMEXCO 2019

Last week, over 40,000 people gathered in Cologne for 2 days of ad-tech at the 10th annual Digital Marketing Expo & Conference. Consumer privacy was a focus of many exhibitors at this year’s DMEXCO, with GDPR now mainstream and advertisers preparing for the US to follow the EU’s lead with laws like the California Consumer Privacy Act set to go into effect next year. AI, in all its various incarnations, was also touted by many startups as setting their products apart from the rest.

Published On: 2019-09-19
LIFT Summit Startup Pitch Recap

The LIFT Summit featured a jam-packed morning of engaging content on leadership, innovation and not just keeping up, but staying ahead of the pace of change. In order to help marketers, VCs and investors in the room get ahead, we brought in 5 cutting edge startups from around the world for a fast and furious pitch session. Here are highlights from the 5 startup pitches.

Published On: 2019-09-05
LEADERSHIP IN FAST TIMES

Yesterday VentureFuel and Be The Machine hosted the LIFT (Leadership in Fast Times) Summit at Nasdaq in Times Square. Our goal was to bring together an elite group of leaders to discuss best practices in navigating change, driving innovation and excelling in a climate of relentless disruption. I wanted to share a few key take-aways from the all-star line-up of leaders as well as a few quotes that were captured by attendees and shared on their social media feeds from the event – #liftsummit – all hail, the wisdom of the crowd.

Published On: 2019-09-04
Y Combinator Summer '19 - For Brands

Last week, Y Combinator's summer Demo Days took the stage in SF with a whopping 197 startups pitching to an audience of investors. While Demo Day used to be a debut for many companies, their recent startup batches often boast major valuations and impending funding even before they pitch.

The sheer number of startups to evaluate is daunting, and most are irrelevant to corporate brands, so we vetted through the full cohort to identify 5 that could be relevant for our corporate partners.

Published On: 2019-08-29
NYC Media Lab Combine Highlights

Last week I was able to mentor several startups from the NYC Media Lab, which is a public-private partnership that supports early-stage emerging media technology entrepreneurship across NYC's universities. “We launched the Combine venture platform in 2015 and have invested over $1.1M of equity-free funding into 40 startups. Over a dozen have gone on to raise $8.5M outside of the Combine,” said Amy Chen, who is the Director of Entrepreneurship Programs for the NYC Media Lab. Here are a few of the companies that may be of interest to our corporate partners.

Published On: 2019-08-01
The Best Emerging SportsTech

I was fortunate to be a judge this past week in Frisco, Texas for the 9th cohort of the Stadia Accelerator, which is one of the best run startup programs in the world. Many accelerators lack focus, over-promise on their connections, and take on too many companies. Conversely, the Stadia team convenes the who’s who of the sports ecosystem to judge a well-curated group of emerging startups, focused exclusively on sports - where Stadia can make connections that move the needle. While we aren’t allowed to share the new companies we judged, we can share a few of our favorites from the demo-day reveal.

Published On: 2019-08-01
Cooper Hewitt Biofuturism

As our industrialized world becomes more tech-centric and globally interconnected, many eyes have turned towards the impact that this progress has made on our fragile planet. It’s hard to ignore the many conversations around sustainability, which can leave consumers feeling conflicted, confused and sometimes hopeless. As business leaders and brand builders, it’s within our power (and some might say responsibility) to influence the way we relate to nature and the world we leave behind for those to come. But how?

Published On: 2019-07-26
Innovation with Purpose

I have a confession: I love Cannes Lions. It is one of two conferences (ANA Masters of Marketing the other), of the dozens that I attend each year, where I leave inspired and with a better understanding of the challenges marketers face. But that value is buried under a rosé sipping Instagram avalanche launched by entitled, self-congratulating sales pitches on sponsored yachts. Worst of all is the endless purpose washing on panels, without concrete plans for delivering change. But, if you dig into the actual work and seek to learn from the executives that are having real conversations and implementing action, it’s amazing the amount of inspiration and creative invention happening in the advertising world. At Cannes, the startup/new tech scene is always a bit lagging (mostly due to staggering cost to attend and the inability to stand above the noise of the tech giants), but I have highlighted 5 partnerships at the intersection of startups (Davids) and corporates (Goliaths) that show that with purposed based innovation, the advertising community may be able to change the world.

Published On: 2019-06-26
Advice to Grow Your Career from Rogue Women

VentureFuel was so honored to host Rogue Women on May 7, 2019 in NYC where nearly 200 women gathered to learn from and connect with trailblazing women from Nike, The United Nations, Amex, AB-InBev, Nasdaq, Pepsi, Intel, Major League Soccer, Univision, Diageo, Comcast, Sunday Dinner, The Martin Agency, Meredith, and a dozen of the best new female-run startups, new tech companies and best female investors. This began as an idea for a small networking lunch before evolving into “A Force” and “The best conference I have ever been to” and the attendees leaving “feeling energized and inspired to continue dreaming crazy and being fearless.” One startup reported 6 proposals, a signed deal and negotiations with an investor within 7 days of the conference. Pretty cool. The word “inspired” was the most common reaction we got from the attendees and the speakers – so we asked the speakers to share “one piece of advice to guide the careers of future female leaders.” Below are a few of our favorite nuggets of wisdom that we hope will be helpful to all the Rogue Women out there:

Published On: 2019-05-15
The Future of California Innovation

VentureFuel was so honored to host Rogue Women on May 7, 2019 in NYC where nearly 200 women gathered to learn from and connect with trailblazing women from Nike, The United Nations, Amex, AB-InBev, Nasdaq, Pepsi, Intel, Major League Soccer, Univision, Diageo, Comcast, Sunday Dinner, The Martin Agency, Meredith, and a dozen of the best new female-run startups, new tech companies and best female investors. This began as an idea for a small networking lunch before evolving into “A Force” and “The best conference I have ever been to” and the attendees leaving “feeling energized and inspired to continue dreaming crazy and being fearless.” One startup reported 6 proposals, a signed deal and negotiations with an investor within 7 days of the conference. Pretty cool. The word “inspired” was the most common reaction we got from the attendees and the speakers – so we asked the speakers to share “one piece of advice to guide the careers of future female leaders.” Below are a few of our favorite nuggets of wisdom that we hope will be helpful to all the Rogue Women out there:

Published On: 2019-05-15
What Brands Can Learn From Braces

The direct-to-consumer model, from Dollar Shave Club to Casper to Warby Parker, has disrupted incumbents by removing the middle man, building modern brands, and delivering on specific consumer needs. These vertically integrated businesses own the entire consumer journey and, along with it, valuable data to enable hyper-personalized experiences. But surely, you can’t disrupt the recommendation of a dentist? I was considering getting ClearCorrect invisible aligners, recommended through my dentist, when I was flipped by new-comer, Candid. Here is the story of how Candid, a two-year old company, beat out a 13-year old brand trusted by dental professionals around the world and a road-map of actionable practices every brand can apply.

Published On: 2019-04-04
Complacency to Hypergrowth
In our article, Complacency to Irrelevance, we discussed 5 warning signs predicting your company’s impending disruption. The article had a doomsday vibe and with good reason, given all the recent store closings (4,300 announced in the first 2 months of 2019 from Gap, Victoria’s Secret and even Tesla) as well as the $15bn write down by Kraft Heinz. Without question, innovation can disrupt, but it also can differentiate and spark hypergrowth. In fact, since 2006, the companies perceived to be most innovative grew shareholder value by 237%, outperforming the S&P 500 by 2x. We studied these companies as well as our own clients to identify 5 actionable ways that you can inject innovation into your organization to avoid disruption and jump start your growth.
Published On: 2019-03-25
PepsiCo’s Jaime Fabricant Wins Corporate Visionary of the Year

NEW YORK CITY (March 19, 2019) – VentureFuel, the company that connects established companies with emerging technologies and startups, announced today that PepsiCo, Inc.’s Jaime Fabricant was voted its annual Visionary of the Year.

The Visionary of the Year is voted on by innovation peers at corporations, venture capital firms and startups to determine which corporate executive is the most innovative and best embraces new technologies to solve real business challenges. Thousands voted for the elite field of finalists that included executives from Beam Suntory, Principal Financial Group, AB InBev, Comcast/NBC Universal, Pernod Ricard, The Hershey Company, Miller Coors, General Mills and many more.

Published On: 2019-03-19
Backstage Capital’s Amiah Sheppard Wins Investor Visionary of the Year
NEW YORK CITY (March 19, 2019) – VentureFuel, the company that connects established companies with emerging technologies and startups, announced today that Backstage Capital’s Amiah Sheppard was voted its annual Investor Visionary of the Year. The Visionary of the Year is voted on by innovation peers at corporations, venture capital firms and startups to determine which Investor is the most innovative and best embraces new technologies to solve real business challenges. Thousands voted for the elite field of finalists that included investors from Alta Global Ventures, Bam Ventures, Comeback Capital, ICONNYC, Comcast Lift Labs, Courtside Ventures, FJ Labs, Mallory Ventures, RevTech Ventures, ThoughtWorks, Betaworks Ventures, Berman Strategic Advisors, Cornwall Trade and Investment, Sterling VC, Glasswing Ventures, and many more. As the Director of Backstage LA, Backstage Capital’s Los Angeles accelerator program, Amiah Sheppard is an innovation curator. She spent the last 5 years examining the myriad ways founders harness, strategize, and utilize their unique socio-cultural location to get to their desired successful outcome. A graduate of Columbia University in the City of New York, she cultivated an academic and practical education leveraging sociology to explore gender and organizational leadership (specifically women/women of color’s leadership experiences), human resources, non-profit, social impact consulting, entrepreneurship, and business development. As a perpetual learner, Amiah has prioritized creating and implementing intersectional solutions previously at BRAVA Investments and Propper Daley. Currently, she is particularly excited about investing in beauty and wellness tech companies; and about the thriving LA tech ecosystem for underrepresented founders.
Published On: 2019-03-19
Complacency to Irrelevance
You’re hitting your quarterly objectives. Not growing spectacularly, but your investors, the board, The Street and your consumers seem to think you are doing just fine. So, you stay the course. Double down on the status quo. Welcome to the first sign of your company’s future irrelevance. We studied companies that have been erased from the S&P 500 since 2000 in order to identify 5 warning signs that signal the precipitous drop from corporate complacency to complete irrelevance. First, some stats:
Published On: 2019-03-18
Luxury Experiences and Invisible Innovation
Luxury is no longer defined by price, but rather by excellence in experience – as I discovered at Columbia Business School’s annual Retail & Luxury Goods Conference last week in New York City. This evolution is being led by advances within the luxury wellness, retail, and beauty sectors. Here are a few of the conference’s top takeaways and innovations: ‘Invisible Innovation’ in Retail At VentureFuel, we stress the importance of avoiding ‘innovation for innovation’s sake.’ Rather than starting with innovation, brands should begin with their customers’ ideal shopping experiences and reverse engineer what is possible from a tech perspective. This is especially important for luxury brands, where technology can feel inauthentic to their classic elegance. Here are a few luxury brands that are reimagining the shopping experience, with technology as an invisible partner to heighten their customer experiences:
Published On: 2019-02-20
Marshmello, My 13 Year Old Brother and Fortnite Teach Brands What's Next
Marshmello made headlines last weekend with a special live performance inside Fortnite that drew 10 million concurrent views plus millions more via streaming on YouTube, Twitch and encore performances. The event showed the potential of tapping into emerging platforms to connect with new consumers and the potential of experiential story-telling to forge new sales channels. I asked my 13-year-old brother to give us the inside scoop on why this was “lit” and outlined 5 take-aways brands can apply to their innovation strategies. I asked my 13 year-old brother, Leon, what he thought of the experience and his feedback points to Epic Games’ deep understanding of and trust earned from their fans – enviable characteristics for any brand marketer:
Published On: 2019-02-05
2019 Visionaries Press Release
(NEW YORK, NEW YORK – January 17, 2019) – VentureFuel, Inc., the full-service innovation consultancy working with Fortune 500 companies to optimize new technology and emerging opportunities, announced the 2019 VentureFuel Visionaries, a group of the most innovative minds in marketing and tech. Visionaries include executives from PepsiCo, General Mills, Beam Suntory, Comcast NBCUniversal and leading investors and advisors from firms such as betaworks, SterlingVC, and BAM Ventures.
Published On: 2019-01-17
D2C Leads Corporates To Lab Experiences
My worlds are colliding. Immersive Experiences and Innovation Labs are coming together to give corporations a way to experiment with lean startup methodologies to capture some of that D2C magic. In the past, Innovation Labs or Skunkworks, were hidden away from corporations and VERY far away from consumers. The wild laboratories where mad scientists could try new things without fear of harming the bread and butter of the corporate machine. But as the lean startup and agile methodologies have gained business momentum and D2C products have sliced away at market share, larger corporations are putting their test labs front and center for their consumers. We saw the power of immersive experiences when we helped to launch the Museum of Ice Cream and have been helping corporations build out their corporate innovation practices for years. To put them together enables corporations to test new products in iterative sprints and gauge real customer reaction. It also enables brands to provide unique experiences that lead to loyalty, new customer acquisition, and a monetizable test kitchen for taking chances. Here are a few of our favorites.
Published On: 2018-12-20
What's That Smell? The Future
We get to see the best of what’s next every day. From augmented, mixed, and virtual reality to advances in biometrics, voice, and touch technology, there is an influx of new tech-enabled experiences in the market. An interesting emerging trend is the power of scent, and corporations are smelling opportunity to grab market share, differentiate themselves, drive loyalty, and in some cases, just be clever. Scent is the sense that has the strongest ability to evoke memories and trigger emotions and moods. Not to mention, the global fragrance market is worth $48 billion. Here are a few innovations that we think make scents.
Published On: 2018-12-20
The Innovator's Solution
Corporate innovation is one of the most dynamic, emerging, changing, challenging, rewarding, and confusing roles in the history of business. You must make bets while mitigating risks. You must evaluate that which cannot be measured. You must do the never-been-done-before while providing proof that it will work. And you must do all of this within corporate machines that were built to eliminate inefficiencies and differences. Often you are selling ideas 5 years out to people compensated and obsessed with only the next quarter. It can feel like a lonely island at times. If I could give each of you 5 books to help you on this journey, these are the 5. Some are written by friends of mine and all of them make you feel like you have a friend in the trenches.
Published On: 2018-12-13
Rideshare Equals Mindshare
$51 billion valuations. Hundreds of thousands of drivers. Tens of millions of riders. Companies like Uber and Lyft have ushered in an entirely new industry that has exploded, seemingly overnight. Several startups have emerged with unique, scalable opportunities for advertisers to win mindshare through rideshare. Here are a few of our favorite startups that are making the ridesharing experience more meaningful for customers and more profitable for drivers, while also creating greater opportunities for brands. Grabb-It Grabb-It projects video advertising messages onto the outside of the vehicles’ passenger window to targets pedestrians and other drivers. The tiny projector inside the vehicle serves customized content onto a specifically cut material thin enough so you can roll the window up and down. Drivers earn extra money while they drive and advertisers can trigger based on geo-location, time of day, and a host of other digital OOH triggers. White Raven This Israeli-based company connects the ridesharing experience to the physical world outside the vehicle by augmenting it with geo-aware information, retail offers, and entertainment – thus providing a customized AR experience. This real-time data is superimposed onto video feeds displayed on screens inside the vehicle from front and rear-facing cameras. Want to know the kinds of businesses you’re passing by during your ride or what’s playing at the theater you’re about to pass? White Raven allows you to do that and buy tickets for the show. It can also show you special sales curated specifically to your taste at the stores around you, with the ability to buy items during your ride.
Published On: 2018-12-05
Future of Retail
Fretting over your holiday shopping? ‘Tis the season! Thankfully, stores are paying close attention to consumers’ needs, and the future of retail includes some major enhancements to the traditional shopping experience. Nike and CoverGirl are paving the way for a new wave of tech-forward retail solutions this holiday season. Nike’s House of Innovation and CoverGirl’s first retail store opened to the public last week in New York City – and we were some of the first to check them out! Nike’s House of Innovation: Nike has coined the term “phygital” - a mix of physical and digital - to describe what it believes to be the optimal retail experience of the future. Its new House of Innovation is 6 floors of exactly that. Here, Nike employs technology mainly to provide a more seamless, efficient, and stress-free shopping experience for customers, with features like reservation lockers (shoppers can reserve items in advance to try on in-store) and instant checkout booths on each floor. CoverGirl’s Flagship: CoverGirl’s first venture into physical retail is the latest example of traditional brands expanding into brick-and-mortar to connect directly with consumers. This trend comes as D2C-centric entrants continue to gain momentum across various industries and as consumer data collection becomes increasingly vital. The Flagship uses technology to create a more memorable branded experience, encouraging consumers to interact with the brand and its products in new ways. ‘Instagrammable’ elements throughout the store, such as a photo/video booth, trendy décor, and branded makeup stations drive home these efforts. While the two flagship stores are vastly different, several underlying trends exist that give us a glimpse into what the future of retail holds.
Published On: 2018-11-29
Solving the Innovation Dilemma
Fretting over your holiday shopping? ‘Tis the season! Thankfully, stores are paying close attention to consumers’ needs, and the future of retail includes some major enhancements to the traditional shopping experience. Nike and CoverGirl are paving the way for a new wave of tech-forward retail solutions this holiday season. Nike’s House of Innovation and CoverGirl’s first retail store opened to the public last week in New York City – and we were some of the first to check them out! Nike’s House of Innovation: Nike has coined the term “phygital” - a mix of physical and digital - to describe what it believes to be the optimal retail experience of the future. Its new House of Innovation is 6 floors of exactly that. Here, Nike employs technology mainly to provide a more seamless, efficient, and stress-free shopping experience for customers, with features like reservation lockers (shoppers can reserve items in advance to try on in-store) and instant checkout booths on each floor. CoverGirl’s Flagship: CoverGirl’s first venture into physical retail is the latest example of traditional brands expanding into brick-and-mortar to connect directly with consumers. This trend comes as D2C-centric entrants continue to gain momentum across various industries and as consumer data collection becomes increasingly vital. The Flagship uses technology to create a more memorable branded experience, encouraging consumers to interact with the brand and its products in new ways. ‘Instagrammable’ elements throughout the store, such as a photo/video booth, trendy décor, and branded makeup stations drive home these efforts. While the two flagship stores are vastly different, several underlying trends exist that give us a glimpse into what the future of retail holds.
Published On: 2018-11-29
Best of Latam Innovation
In partnership with Advertising Week LATAM, we ran a competition to find the best startups in Latin America. These companies were then invited to demo at our curated TechX in Mexico City (@ the first Advertising Week in LATAM). We tapped into leading investors and tech/startup industry leaders from our Global Innovation Network to identify breakthrough companies from Ecuador, Honduras, Chile, Mexico, Brazil, and more. Here are a few of the standout companies that are solving real business challenges: AUREM is a Central American development company on a mission to catalyze the creation of immersive media via their augmented reality development platform. Masterful developers, AUREM also produces custom premium AR campaigns to help brands tell a more dynamic story. Winners of the inaugural Advertising Week LATAM Startup Pitch competition, Synapbox leverages facial recognition and machine learning to enable brands to understand their consumers’ emotional reaction to content. Instead of weeks of laborious focus group testing, Synapbox gives brands the ability to test content and get user/customer validation from participants worldwide on their own devices and get reliable and actionable analytics faster than ever before.
Published On: 2018-02-28