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Innovation is a critical driver of many well-known brands. Think about it: If you are not offering something fundamentally new, then how do you plan to get attention?

Creating an innovative product – much less a brand known for innovation – is no easy feat. The most successful companies invest heavily in research and development, viral sharing features, and top education, training and talent. What is important is to walk the talk. Any company can put innovation into their web copy, tagline, or mission statement, but few companies take drastic steps such as frequent innovation training, opening up next to education or learning hubs, or making the investment into top talent to really ensure they stay ahead of the curve.

What are the constituent parts of innovation in your company? Beyond the hype, beyond the claims on the mission statement, what are the fundamental, atomic ingredients that have led to your success? Is it a high concentration of top local talent? VC giants and incubators? An open-minded attitude? Four entrepreneurial businesspeople share their answers are below to give deeper insight into innovation.

Andrey Kunov, Silicon Valley Innovation Center

"Many countries – from Russia to India to Brazil – have tried to create their own version of Silicon Valley and foster innovation, none with the same success. The idea being that if a company is founded in an area ripe for innovation, they too shall become innovative. The Valley has numerous features that make its companies so successful, but no one feature is king. The secret to Valley companies’ success has been that unique combination and openness which drives innovation. The degree to which Valley royalty is willing and encourages failure, the access to education, the access to capital, all of that is what makes it tick. So don’t be afraid to take chances. The way you build your business resume in today’s world is by failing to succeed, so the crazier and riskier an idea seems, the higher its potential reward."

Ishan Puri, Synocate

"Starting your company next to some top schools is a good idea. Building a company near universities exposes you to the vibrant milieu of innovation and talent. Local hackathons, events and meetups can be free marketing and a source of talent. If you can’t be next to a large school, try to have a presence there anyway. The age-old tradition of attending a job fair can lead to some surprising results."

Asim Khaliq, Colligur

"Don’t be afraid to rock the boat, even if it means some potentially serious, disruptive short-term consequences. The first car put a lot of sailors out of business. The first typewriter must have been a bad day for scribes, but does this mean we shouldn’t drive or type? Ten to 20 years later, society rearranges itself for the better. So if your idea creates social or political backlash (a la Uber), bite the bullet and keep pace with history. Controversial disruptors should eventually improve quality of life by ushering in an era of concierge, on-demand, app-based mobile services, from food delivery, to in-home massage and personal training."

Geoff Ladell, Finish Line Floors

"Determination and grit have been the driving factors behind my business. My wife hated me for the first year after I left my comfortable six-figure job to start a company, and two years into it, her fears seemed valid: We were running a $100,000 deficit on the company and facing the potential of bankruptcy. But we stuck to it and by turning it around, created a growing, legacy operation whose clients include some of the biggest universities, hospitals and government agencies in the country. The federal government has been helpful by providing sourcing opportunities for small businesses like ours and through SBA lending programs that make funding more accessible. If you have the option you should try to set up in a place where your local and state government is a good neighbor, with low regulations that allow companies like mine to fail, take risks and pick themselves back up again."

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