Musings on Innovation

August 1, 2016



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FREDERICTON'S CULTURE OF INNOVATION

Gleaner Column

Chapter 9 - Musings on Innovation

This is the ninth installment of this innovation column. We have talked about innovation from many angles—Innovation Week, Innovation District and leveraging innovation and assets toward job creation. But what is innovation? How do you innovate? Let’s talk about that today. I’ve spent a lot of time the last few months learning about local startups and some of the revolutionary things they’re doing in Fredericton like Resson Aerospace, Mycodev Group and ReadyPass Services Inc. Through my research, I discovered innovation is many things. It’s a goal. It’s mindset. It’s a practice. It’s an idea. It’s a product. It’s a solution. It’s hard to pin down right?

Before, when thinking about innovation, I pictured lab coats, microscopes, nanotechnology, intricate electrical circuits and coding to create cutting-edge technology, apps, medicines and services. But that’s not the whole picture. I’ve come to realize innovation is anywhere and everywhere. At its very roots, innovation is in many cases people solving a problem.

Peter McMath is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Timbre Cases Inc., a Fredericton-based startup that manufactures premium guitar cases. He’s also Planet Hatch’s most recent Entrepreneur In Residence, a free monthly event at the centre where successful entrepreneurs are invited to talk about obstacles, milestones, lessons and successes in their entrepreneurial journeys with lunch provided.

Musical instruments are often made of wood and therefore hygroscopic, meaning they absorb and releases moisture from the air. Too much or too little moisture can lead to instrument damage such as swelling or cracking. This affect the instrument's tone, tuning or general sound quality. I know a lot about this problem as a bagpipe player for nearly 15 years, I’ve replaced many pieces. It’s expensive.

Peter McMath solved a problem.  With a background as a musician and repairing instruments at Tony’s Music Box Ltd in Fredericton, he had knowledge of instrument maintenance and experience travelling with them. Seeing the problem with guitar cases not matching the quality of the instruments they hold, resulting in damaged instruments, he started a quest to manufacture premium guitar cases.

His product, DNone, is what he calls the “purple cow” of guitar cases. It fits standard six and twelve-string dreadnought-style guitars, the shape of most acoustic guitars. Made with aerospace grade Kydex thermoplastic, it’s lightweight, strong and has a basically scratch-proof exterior. It has recessed latches, a water-resistant seal and humidity control in the interior to maintain an optimal humidity level for wood instruments between 45 and 55 per cent. It’s the ultimate protection for your guitar.

McMath had the knowledge, formed the idea and went with it. In his lunchtime presentation he spoke about the entrepreneurial journey. It wasn't without mistakes and setbacks. But his idea saw him through many iterations.
What does this mean for you? If you have an idea that addresses a problem, fills a gap in infrastructure or is something you think is the next big thing, then try it. The great thing about an event like Entrepreneur In Residence is getting advice from people like McMath who have done it or experienced the setbacks. I’ll leave you with a few pieces of advice he had:

Bring people in as needed and fill your team with people who believe in your vision.
You probably won’t get it right the first time. In fact, McMath says he’s on his third.
Talk to people and get feedback
There is no secret or shortcut. You just need to put the time in.

You can see a pattern here. You don’t need the manufacturing, designing or coding expertise to be an entrepreneur or innovator—just an idea. What I found to be most inspirational in my research is only does innovation solve problems, but even deeper than that, it empowers everyone who has an idea. Anyone can bring life to an idea. From there, Fredericton’s many organizations such as Ignite Fredericton/Planet Hatch can help you develop that idea—like they did with McMath to help jump-start his business.  You might be the next Peter McMath!

Thank you for reading these innovation musings.

Laurie Guthrie, EcD, BIS
Economic Development & Marketing Specialist
Ignite Fredericton | Knowledge Park | Planet Hatch
www.ignitefredericton.com

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