It happens here: Consumer-centric Innovation in Charlotte and beyond

Local reporter traces that text donation to Haiti by Nheeda Enriquez

At this point, everyone’s heard about the new text-message way to support disaster relief in Haiti.  By making donations so quick and easy (literally 8 taps on my phone “Haiti” and “Yes”  It’s 10, if you count hitting “send”) wireless providers have raised record amounts for the Red Cross at unprecedented speed.

Local grocer Harris Teeter has also been using its lower-tech way to raise money at the register for the cause.

What these both have in common is that donations occur at the point of thought, removing the consumer’s barriers of inconvenience.  No need to sit down to write (and mail) a check or enter in a bunch of credit card information.

And today, local WFAE reporter Julie Rose told us how those donations actually make it to relief teams on the ground, disputing the myth that the money is taking 90 days to be useful.

Copenhagen winds of change blow through Charlotte by Nheeda Enriquez

flickr photo cred: andjohan

I was lucky to catch up with Tracy Russ, a Charlotte-based marketing consultant, just before he took off for the global climate change negotiations this week in Copenhagen.  He talked about his most current project, The Copenhagen Story, which is a storytelling initiative in collaboration with former Sierra Club president, Lisa Renstrom.

Russ sees a big hole in the issue:  positive inspiration for change.  His innovative solution: get away from “scare tactics and gloom-and-doom scenarios” and give people a platform to see and hear about the future that carbon reduction efforts will ultimately provide.  And not merely from an environmental standpoint, but he hopes to collect stories about the economic and societal benefits as well.

After the conference, I believe the team is rebranding the project under the name “Convergence.”  Follow his progress here.

Agastha continues to improve the health care experience for all by Nheeda Enriquez

screenshot via Agastha

Last month, I connected with Mohan Korrapati of Charlotte-based Agastha to learn more about his quest to lead the field of electronic medical records.  The health care debate brought renewed focus on the category, but Agastha’s been improving their product for over 7 years, implementing their software in Charlotte practices and elsewhere.

5 minutes into a conversation with him, you realize that Korrapati has experienced the pains that patients face.  He just wants to simplify the complexities that make existing record systems annoying and inefficient.  At practices who use an Agastha solution, you probably don’t have to fill out forms over and over, or maybe you’ll get a message to let you know that an appointment is coming up.  And for the staff, the system might alert them if a patient has missed a critical appointment or has been prescribed a dangerous combination of medicines.

Where other major companies like Microsoft or Cisco have just been talking about electronic health records for years, Agastha credits their fast progress to its agility and a feedback loop from providers.  They seem to have built a culture of frequent prototyping and learning often found in truly innovative teams.

3 assumptions I had about BarCamp that were totally wrong by Nheeda Enriquez


What fun!  Not knowing what to expect, I attended the first half of BarCamp Charlotte today over at Area 15.  Reflecting on my newbie experience, I realized I arrived with a few assumptions, all of which were handily proven wrong.

1. I thought the informal nature of the setup would be frustrating. I’ve been working in a corporate setting where meetings and agendas are arranged months in advance.  But in this format, participants pitch whatever topics they want to talk about, either as an expert presenter or as a discussion leader.   Then the rest of us vote on which ones we want to see.  Despite a few logistic glitches, I found this free-wheeling format to be invigorating and liberating.  And wonderfully innovative.

2.  I assumed the topics would only be about SEO and/or social media. Not so. Though there were plenty of extremely relevant sessions about those things, the floor is open to many others.  Like the kid who taught folks how to make balloon animals.  Or setting up photo-voltaics in your home.

3.  I figured the average age of the participants would skew young. Boy, was I wrong on that one.  Of the 200(?) or so folks at the event, there was a wide range represented.  The mix in the room was impressive: small business owners, enthusiasts, and random interested friends (like me) of all levels of expertise and backgrounds.

The Center for Design Innovation’s Idea Exchange by Nheeda Enriquez

cdiI recently learned about the Center for Design Innovation, a collection of inter-institutional research based in the Winston-Salem area that is dedicated to economic development for the design industry.

Apparently they host a Tuesday night series called the “Idea Exchange,” where different presenters share their thoughts on “design processes, digital media, business strategies, and other interests related to the growth of creative enterprises in North Carolina’s Piedmont Triad.”

CDI’s website is kind of light, but the schedule for the upcoming Idea Exchanges can be found in a PDF here.  The first one is on 9/22, and is about digital imaging used to study the biomechanics and swarming behaviors of bats!

Imagining life in 2059: Call for entries deadline extended by Nheeda Enriquez
photo via

photo via

In addition to partnering with individuals and companies to bring new product ideas to life, publishing Inventor’s Digest is one of many innovation activities that Charlotte entrepreneur Louis Foreman and his team tackle over at Enventys.

If you can get your hands on the printed edition of the magazine, do it.  The editors have done a bang-up job of reinventing the look and feel of the layout and the articles.  (They’re still working on getting the web presence is waiting to match.)

In honor of National Inventors Month, the magazine is sponsoring a contest inviting young readers to submit 500-word essays on what technology, tool, product or service will be an important part of our lives in 50 years.  The new deadline is September 30th.

I feel like the world has changed quite a bit in the lifespan of the kids that are eligible (ages 12-17,) so it will be fun to see how they envision the future.

Dissecting the health care debate for the rest of us by Nheeda Enriquez

photo via the back of the napkin blog

photo via the back of the napkin blog

If there’s anything everyone can agree on, it’s that the issues surrounding health care reform are complex.  I personally find this topic fascinating with all its history, the players, and the fact that Obama is in a long line of presidents who have tried to tackle this monstrosity, at the end of the day, all most people want to know is “what’s in it for me?”

I came across two wonderful resources today that attempt to put the health care debate in perspective in a simpler, consumer-centric way.

  • On its own, Dan Roam’s book, The Back of the Napkin, is a great read for anyone who wants to learn to communicate ideas using compelling, yet ridiculously simple, sketches.   He takes on the complexity of health care in a “series” of 4 napkins.  Sure, it doesn’t capture everything, but he introduces it a viewpoint from which most can easily relate to.
  • I’m clearly a huge fan of NPR’s Planet Money podcast (it helped me survive the banking collapse last fall,) and they’re amazing at finding everyday analogies to present difficult economics material to non-economists.  With health care in so much focus, they’ve dedicated recent episodes to explain the different players in a digestible format.