When we think about scalable startup businesses, our minds tend to focus on individuals or small groups who invent or develop ideas from scratch. Maybe they worked in a particular industry or have some specific training or expertise, but they work independently outside their “normal” jobs. As a region, we are building systems to help support this type of innovator, but we cannot overlook the value of corporate innovation: the new concepts, products and services that originate within the walls of a company and are launched as new companies. We see this all the time at large companies like Caterpillar,Komatsu, CNH and others. It is increasingly occurring within our medical community, but corporate innovation is also alive and well in smaller companies.
I recently had a chance to visit with Mark Hanback, Executive Vice President of Delivery at Tada Cognitive Solutions (Tada), a ground-breaking data analytics firm headquartered in downtown Peoria. Tada started as a part of CGN Global, also headquartered in Peoria. CGN Global is a business transformation company that has partnered with Fortune 500 clients for over 20 years to drive execution and innovation. About ten years ago, CGN began developing solutions in response to client requests around aggregating and utilizing data to enhance decision making and solve problems. One of their largest clients was looking for a way to better understand its global network of suppliers, production facilities, dealers and customers. CGN built a “digital duplicate” of the company’s supply chain by aggregating thousands of data points into a format that could be easily understood and manipulated to allow managers and other executives to make real-time decisions to improve efficiency. This prototype was an enabler that helped CGN realize it had a potential business that could stand by itself.
Over the following months, the product was refined and its capabilities were expanded. In 2016, Tada Cognitive Solutions was spun off as a separate entity. In three short years, Tada has grown from 11 employees to 55 in Peoria with an additional 15 in India. They boast clients such as Caterpillar, Vulcan, Etnyre and Martin Marietta. In addition to their work with manufacturing clients, they have also worked with healthcare, consumer products and other companies to drive efficiencies, find revenue enhancement opportunities and define savings opportunities. Tada is also applying its Digital DuplicateTM technology to other complex, data-rich industries like insurance and education. From a small but innovative project has grown an entire company.
The support systems for corporate innovation are not terribly different from those we are building for individuals. While assistance is clearly available within their home companies, corporate innovators may still need access to expertise, mentoring, space and even funding. This fall, Bradley University’s Turner Center for Entrepreneurship is hosting Brave Launch, a business accelerator designed for both traditional startups and corporate innovators. Brave Launch is an intensive seven week program that aims to rapidly accelerate the development of innovative companies. The program culminates in a pitch-day, where the participants will have the opportunity to pitch to investors and those interested from the community.
We are fortunate in Greater Peoria to have both innovative individuals and innovative companies that are driving the diversification of our economy. If you know of people or organizations that are looking to take the next step with their idea, please refer them to us at GPEDC so we can connect them with the right resources.