March 6th 2014
By Crystal Kang
A growing incubator space for small businesses, the Stamford Innovation Center at 175 Atlantic St. recently invited 100 business leaders and software developers for a lunch event focused on how corporations and startups can solve business problems together.
The event “Smart in the Suburbs,” sponsored by Sikorsky, Pitney Bowes, the Stamford Innovation Center, Constant Contact and the Business Journals, featured corporate leaders and small business owners who shared how user-friendly technological innovations helped their companies streamline information and services to their clients efficiently and effectively.
Call it the integration of technology, innovation and interactivity, an Innovation Center hallmark.
As Stratford-based Sikorsky celebrates 91 years in the aircraft manufacturing industry, Laurence Vigeant-Langlois, Sikorsky director of business development and technology partnerships, said the company must constantly reinvent itself to stay competitive.
Sikorsky’s helicopters, which have saved more than 2 million people in 70 years, are constantly mastering three technological goals: increasing the speed of their aircrafts, creating automated controls that run helicopters without a pilot and using data science and smart technology to predict and prescribe actions that are normally done manually.
Along the lines of innovation, corporations are collaborating with startups to solve business problems. Bernie Gracy, Pitney Bowes vice president of strategy and digital commerce solutions, discussed how the Stamford-based postage machine company is starting to integrate itself with a social media startup. The company last year signed a multimillion-dollar licensing agreement with the leading global real-time information network Twitter to provide location intelligence solutions for its mobile platform.
“We believe entrepreneurs are the future,” Gracy said. “They’re our future customers, but they’re also teaching us innovative things.”
When it comes to marketing a product or service, businesses must keep in mind the end user is a human – not a machine, said John Lim, founder and CEO of Life In Mobile. The global mobile monetization agency, which was founded in Westchester County, N.Y., last year and which has now moved to Stamford, aims to find user-friendly ways to integrate mobile into marketing.
“Technology is not the key to innovation at all,” Lim said. “We’re giving humans the ability to react to the data that the machine gives you. We’re putting power back into the hands of the people who make the decisions to run the business.”
Echoing the importance of interactivity and user-friendliness as clients turn to mobile devices as their source of information, Ellen Williams, Constant Contact regional development director, said more and more people are “abandoning computers.”
Williams said statistics showed 80 percent of adults have a mobile phone with them 22 hours of the day.
“It’s an appendage,” Williams said. “If you forget your cell phone at home, you’re going to go back home and get it.”
With a growing population of tech-savvy adults, businesses can benefit from creating mobile platforms to reach more potential clients, Williams said. She pointed out strategies that make mobile platforms more user-friendly, including the use of fewer words and single columns and the avoidance of unclear actions and tiny fonts.
During the closing remarks, Williams prompted the audience to stand. She asked the women to put their hands together and the men to keep their hands apart and in front.
“Thank you for the standing ovation,” said Williams moments after snapping a photo of the audience on her Smartphone to demonstrate the constant use of mobile devices even during her presentation.