by Dave Michels

Two words you don’t see so often together are innovation and enterprise. Innovation is often associated with young upstarts that intend to disrupt the established order – better, faster, cheaper. Enterprise conjures images of large organizations that were, at one time, innovative upstarts.
But we know that is not true.
Large enterprise organizations can be highly innovative – The top 50 most innovative companies in America by Fast Times lists almost all huge behemoth companies with 1000s of employees.

Hold that thought.

Start-ups are an important part of our culture – they represent the American Dream and we love to see smart young people with smart ideas succeed. The start-up is like a child – we love startups and want to foster them – help them grow. There are many conferences dedicated to the start-up and increasingly we are seeing launch-pad events at technical conferences. 
I blogged about Startup-Camp 2010 here almost a year ago and have been to about 5 more launchpad events since. Launchpad events are energetic, fun, and imaginative.

But there is a flaw

The flaw is most large organizations (AKA enterprises) don’t generally do business with young start-ups. The vast majority of the start-ups I see at these launchpad events are striving for initial funding or backing – and may be years away from large enterprise account customers.

The disparity is clear – how do we connect the innovation of young companies to the open minds at innovation seeking larger enterprises?

Innovation Showcase at Enterprise Connect

I am very excited that I am have the opportunity to do just that – the folks behind the upcoming Enterprise Connect conference have asked me to spearhead an Innovation Showcase. Enterprise Connect is a new, yet established conference. It existed for many years under the name of VoiceCon – and was focused primarily on enterprise telephony. That space is rapidly shifting – expanding – as unified communications includes other communication aspects, so the show is re-launching this year under its new name and broader focus – Enterprise Connect.

Fred Knight and Eric Krapf, the show’s co-chairs and I discussed the idea of adding a start-up launchpad to the venue – but decided a slightly different twist was appropriate; thus the name change to Innovation Showcase

Similar to a launchpad, we are seeking young companies – but the judging criteria is going to be the key innovation they bring to the enterprise customer. And unlike the American Idol format of judges critiquing contestants on stage – we are going to provide them a simple, large, venue – an enterprise audience – to present their ideas. There will be four presentations – between keynotes over two days. Additionally, the presenting companies will be provided booth space in the Innovation Showcase booth in the exhibit hall (great location).

But what really sets this apart from other launchpads – is the selected companies must have at least one paying enterprise customer to qualify. Dreams and plans are not sufficient. Let me summarize this:
Innovative companies around enterprise communications that have at least one enterprise customer.

The show takes place Feb 28-Mar 3 in Orlando, FL, so we don’t have a lot of time. The rules are posted here and the deadline to apply is Feb 10.