Yesterday Tim Rowe gave a speech as he stepped down from the Kendall Square Association to focus on the Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC). It was about the biggest buzzword of all time: innovation. Except Rowe was pretty much like, “Let’s pause, take a step back, and be real here. Let’s look at what this word actually means.”
“We tend to think there’s a formula for it: Money + ideas + talent = innovation. MIT!” Rowe said as the room laughed. “But what we find are that the leaders and founders of these startups are the ones with the passion.”
“We found it was the passion of someone who almost irrationally believes in their idea that really leads to these successes.”
Time Rowe is one of those people. He’s spent his whole career trying to marry innovation with actually addressing problems in the world, and using the power of community to press it forward.
So if there’s no magic formula, what is innovation really? Well, Rowe explained, it’s collaboration—and it’s happening everyday within the CIC at the Cambridge Coworking Communtiy (C3), a shared community space where hundreds of entrepreneurs work side-by-side. The average headcount of their startups is 1.2. But new ideas are born and zoom forward every day through working together and helping each other—through collaboration.
It’s garages. Places where huge ideas start with one person tinkering late at night. He showed us a series of normal-looking garages where Steve Jobs first invented Apple, or where Walt Disney dreamed up a magic world that would exist in real life. Then those people must believe in their idea and must be able to tell its story. This is what innovation really is.
Rowe began with showing us slides of incredible innovations that have actually changed the world in the past 10 years.
The smartphone and social media, for example, have totally changed the news game, in one way by allowing for citizen journalism. AKA major news networks no longer can control the news we see. He showed a photo of an Egyptian Riot Police officer beating a protester in Cairo’s Tahrir Square during the Egyptian Revolution that went viral. This was one of the first examples of how social media allowed us to see what was really going on; the Egyptian people were heard all over the world in real-time. It has created communication on a larger scale—basically a world-wide community connected via Twitter.
“The first entire human genome was published in the last 10 years,” Rowe explained. In fact, right down the street in Cambridge, they’ve figured out how to introduce messenger RNA into our bodies that tell harmful genes not to express themselves.
“The messenger RNA tell our bodies, ‘That whole cancer thing—don’t do it,” Rowe explained. “Swallowing these medicines, these RNA, is like swallowing data. And this all was discovered in the last 10 years.”
These are just a couple pieces of an incredible speech bringing “innovation” down to earth–but what we really want to do is to thank Tim Rowe for inspiring us yesterday, and for creating a place where entrepreneurs can be inspired every day.
Every entrepreneur who works for themself goes through periods when it feels like A LOT. When you wonder if you really do know what you’re doing, or if you did the right thing starting your own company. When the sharp focus on your idea is replaced with delirium—it’s 2am and you’re still working and you wonder if you’re batshit insane. But Tim Rowe’s speech last night reminded us again how important your idea, or your “innovation” is to help society, even if it has become a buzzword.
“Do we have support of politicians to help make the world a better place?” Rowe asked the crowd. “Not really. So what else do we have?”
“This [innovation] might be all we’ve got,” Rowe said. “If this is all we’ve got to make the world a better place, we’ve got to get on it.”
Tags: Apple, Cairo, cambridge, Cambridge Coworking Communtiy (C3), Cambridge Innovation Center, CIC, entrepreneurs, innovation, kendall square, Kendall Square Association, RNA, startups, Tahrir Square, technology, Tim Rowe, Walt Disney