Recipes for innovation

The co-founders of Beyond the Rack and Busbud shared their keys to innovation and creativity at a Toronto event last night.

Two HEC Montreal business school alumni took to the stage in Toronto last night to share their recipes for success and how innovation and creativity helped build their startups to what they are today.

Beyond the Rack co-founder and CEO Yona Shtern and Busbud co-founder and CEO Louis-Philippe Maurice spoke to a crowd at last night’s event at the Hotel Novotel Toronto Centre, which followed a panel discussion moderated by Lowe Roche CEO Monica Ruffo.

Since its birth in 2008, e-tailer Beyond the Rack has jumped from a team 400, shipping about 30,000 units daily, with a customer base of about 11 million. Sharing the underlying factors it become successful, Shtern said when the startup looked to first establish brand equity, it was faced with a lack of funds. So the company decided to borrow brand equity, since it wasn’t in the position to buy any.

“It’s kind of like if you want to look better, stand next to good-looking people,” Shtern says.

The brand sought out events with which to associate itself such as the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes, and initially sold high-end brands such as Hugo Boss at a loss to add value to their lower-priced items in consumers’ minds, he says.

Montreal startup Busbud allows users to find international bus schedules and buy tickets online – an idea that Maurice devised while travelling in South America in 2011. This past year alone the team has grown from five to 25, and offers bus schedules from more than 10,000 cities in 89 countries. Maurice shared his model for innovation and creativity, which he compares to an onion: starting with “you” as the centre, the succeeding layers are vision/idea, organization and product/service. The product or service is the least important element, he says, and is the result of the inner layers. If the other elements are strong, your offering will follow suit.

As an entrepreneur, Maurice spoke to the importance of constantly observing, analyzing and connecting with the world around you, reading and travelling, as you can find other ideas to bring home. Additionally, the idea of living in the future can be beneficial, he says.

“If you’re a year or two ahead of the curve, you’ll have better ideas and you’ll be a lead on everyone else,” says Maurice, explaining how if you know about a new feature on the next iPhone, you could begin to create something for it earlier.

When it comes to your vision or idea, Maurice says it should be focused and definite. Such focus can be valuable because it limits the amount of competitors, he adds.

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