A New Perspective on Innovation
Focusing on the product and community is the route to innovation success
By YeeLing Chang
We see a ton of coverage these days about tech startups, often neglecting to discuss other new businesses that have been established in recent years. These businesses may not be selling a product or service with groundbreaking technology that changes our lives, but they impact us in subtle and meaningful ways. I can think of three companies here that encompass these values.
A friendly match
There’s nothing new about headhunting, but Taipei-based R&S Careers, co-founded by Sabina Huang, is offering a human-centric approach. Going beyond matching, the company helps job seekers by organizing monthly workshops around upskilling, conducting mock interviews, reviewing their resumes, and hosting networking events.
Positioning and personal branding is certainly something that Huang understands based on her experience at AKAD Group, an MBA consulting firm. Like top-tier universities, employers look for highly-mobile and adaptable talents.
One can argue that headhunting can potentially be automated, as we have seen on platforms such as LinkedIn Jobs. But the human touch is more effective in identifying suitable talent and developing a deep understanding of individual industries and company cultures.
Going back to brick and mortar
From the days of streetside stalls to Amazon Prime, we have been obsessed with shopping for millennia. Although ecommerce has put countless retail giants out of business, more and more small business owners are taking back the brick and mortar model and making it their own.
A personal favorite of mine is Perk by Kate, a feminine lingerie brand that uses comfortable fabrics. Founded in Singapore in 2012, it started as an online business, but the company moved into a beautiful shophouse unit last year.
As much as shopping online provides a variety of benefits to both the customer and operator, for founder Kate Low, a physical store means having more opportunities for interaction with her customers. In doing so, she’s able to form long-term relationships with her customers and journey through life with them. For instance, if a new mother needs nursing lingerie, but is unable to find time for a fitting, the store will send items to her home, and the customer can keep what fits.
The retailer-customer relationship is reciprocal, as the benefits of being able to see, feel, and try on the products have led to higher sales conversions.
New region, new produce
Harrow & Hope, based in Marlow, England, planted their first vines in 2010. Its first commercial harvest was in 2013, which was released for sale in 2016. Founders Henry Laithwaite and his wife Kaye started the venture when it became clear that climate change was making England a suitable place for producing sparkling wines. With the same chalky soil as Champagne, England now has the same climate as the region did 100 years ago.
Given the increasing temperatures, the grapes can now ripen within a suitable time frame. The co-founders recognized that the greatest asset a winery has is soil, so Harrow & Hope steers clear of herbicides and only uses organic nutrition. He believes the vines should be healthy and balanced to produce the best flavors.
These three companies use tech tools to run their business and understand their target audience, but what sets them apart is having an intimate, human understanding of their customers. They may reside in traditional industries, but their value rests in other elements: education, empowerment, and sustainability.
About the Author
YeeLing is Content Director at CAREhER, the only bilingual platform that takes a comprehensive approach to personal and professional development for women. CAREhER offers personal branding and coaching, and resources for learning, such as interviews with successful women. She is also an entrepreneur with over 12 years of experience in the F&B industry.
This story was originally published in Jumpstart Issue 29: Back to Basics as A Different Type of Innovation.