In 2012, CEA’s Innovation Movement launched a new campaign called “Faces of Innovation.” Every week, the Innovation Movement highlights a new innovator or entrepreneur on its website and “Innovation Conversation” newsletter. The individuals featured in the campaign are the real faces of American innovation and are job creators making a better America for today and for future generations. Each innovator has an opportunity to tell their story and voice which issues in the industry are the most important to them and their company. Their stories illustrate the struggles and highlights of running an American business, large and small. As an outlet for entrepreneurs, the Innovation Movement hopes their insights will inspire current and future innovators alike. The “Faces of Innovation” campaign will continue through 2013, featuring entrepreneurs from all aspects of technology. I3 will introduce several of these innovators in future issues. You can find out more at DeclareInnovation.com.
Hajj Flemings, CEO and co-founder, Gokit
is an online identity platform. Below is a candid discussion about startups, innovation and politics.
Explain the concept of GoKit
Currently, most people are dealing with the challenge of having their identities scattered across the Internet in multiple social networks. Gokit allows users to curate and manage their identities in one centralized location in a visual way.
What inspired you to start Gokit?
I am the founder of Brand Camp University, the largest personal branding conference in the Midwest. The flagship market is in Detroit, with conferences in New York and Boston, and new markets being added in 2013. As a personal brand strategist, I began to see a need for people to manage their online personal brand and more importantly their identity in one
centralized location. So, I decided to create a hub that would address that need in a creative and innovative way.
Our competitors only allow users to tell part of their story. What distinguishes Gokit is that it allows users to create and share multiple personas from one centralized location. Personas allow users to segment who they are. For instance, my profile (gokit.me/g/hajj) displays my entrepreneurial, speaker and media sides within a single profile. In the future, users will be able to provide secure access of specific personas to share with specific communities.
What does innovation mean to you?
Innovation is an opportunity to solve an existing problem in a creative way. True innovation requires risk-taking with a tolerance for failure coupled with the mindset that each failure is one step closer to genius. The most rewarding part of developing a startup is taking an idea birthed from a conversation with friends and creating a product that meets a need the masses didn’t even know they had.
What is the most challenging aspect of creating a startup?
Initially in Detroit, the startup ecosystem was just beginning to develop, compared to Silicon Valley, which is the breeding ground of startups. We had to really be patient in a market that initially wasn’t a tech hub. However, Detroit is hungry for growth and is rapidly changing to rebrand itself as more than an automotive town. From a startup perspective, this also makes Detroit a rewarding and gratifying place where any and all possibilities are on the table and no idea is deemed a bad idea.
What do you think the government can/should do to encourage entrepreneurs?
On a federal level, there needs to be legislation that makes it easier for entrepreneurs to launch, build and grow companies. Small businesses are the job creators in the U.S. economy, responsible for 100 percent of the net job growth in this country and they need the red tape eliminated to do what they do best. Specifically, small businesses innovate at a much faster rate than large corporations but the cost to effectively protect their intellectual ideas while staying in business is very difficult. Eliminating the red tape associated with intellectual property (IP) protection would be a start.
Also, more incentives from local governments to encourage local startups to stay in their geographical area versus leaving for other tech hubs are needed. This can be done by providing co-working space and easier access to capital and resources.
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