Concept Café .

The business of innovation & entrepreneurship

Lara Merriam-Smith:   Program Director NWIRC

Invaluable insights for startups


North West Innovation

Resource Center

Take-away notes from interview:



Contact Lara with questions

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Startup support & resource

NWIRC works with inventors and entrepreneurs with start up business ideas or products and help them to build strategy to take that idea from where they are - all the way to market.

We like startups that are highly innovative - theat are doing something that's going to break the mold - so it's a unique situation almost every time somebody walks in the door.

For innovators, the biggest challenge is often overcoming the personal attachment they have to their idea, beause every idea I've ever see come throug the door, comes from a place of passion.

For entrepreneurs who have more service based businesses, often times their challenge is going to be around understanding their customers.

I think that one of the things that is really interesting about working with start-ups is that people that come in and see us often times don't think of themselves as an entrepreneur. They're an inventor or just a subject matter expert who has a problem that they're trying to solve. And without thinking of themselves as an entrprepeur, they're not making the distinction between what it is that they have, what it is they're trying to build - and a business. And so moving into entrepreneurship is a challenge for them.

I don't think there's any one thing that makes an Entrepreneur a really good entrepreneur. It completely depends upon what the strategy is that somebody wants to take with that idea. If they want to take it to market themselves or are they going ot license an invention to somebody. That strategy, that understanding what it is they're about to market is so important.

We've identified 5 basic stages of starting a business:





  5. LAUNCH.

Within each one of those, there are elements that every E /I needs and that is STRATEGY TOOLS and COMMUNITY RESOURCES. So strategy can just be  - for some people it’s a business plan for some people it’s the start up approach, its just the organization of how you're going to get from where you are to where you're trying to go.

Clients come in and work with us at a variety of different stages: I'll get a lot of people that will come in at ideation - literally will have an idea on a napkin and will say 'I don't know what to do with it'. I will have people that will come in that have gotten through the prototyping stage or maybe they have filed a provisional patent and they're looking to figure out what tare the next steps. And that is what we're there to help them figure out- what are the next steps - where are you in the process of getting your idea out there.

Anybody that considers themselves to be an Inventor , an Innovator or an Entrepreneur, or if you're not sure what category you fit into - that's really the audience that we work well with. People who are going ot work with a different kind of business model, or take something traditional and turn it and move it in a different direction - that's a good fit for us.