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Innovation 1-on-1: Timothy Schigel, ShareThis

Timothy Schigel is the founder and CEO of ShareThis, which "lets people easily share the things they find online, in the most convenient way possible."

Timothy Schigel is the founder and CEO of ShareThis, which "lets people easily share the things they find online, in the most convenient way possible." ShareThis consolidates address books and friend lists, so that anything can be shared immediately, without even leaving a Web page. Since its launch, the ShareThis button has been installed by thousands of publishers, generating 100 million plus views from more than 26 million unique users every month.

Timothy has led technology investing for the past 10 years at Blue Chip Venture Company, an early stage venture firm with $600 million under management, investing in leading companies such as Advertising.com, Nielsen Buzzmetrics, and Third Screen Media. Prior to Blue Chip, he was a technology entrepreneur and international consultant leading innovative projects for Apple Computer, Hitachi, Hallmark Cards, Motorola, and Procter & Gamble. Tim received his bachelor of science in electrical engineering from Case Western Reserve University.

How do you define "innovation?"

There are degrees of innovation, but at its core I would submit that innovation is the result of applying a non-obvious modification to a system resulting in improvements to quality, performance or cost that exceed current expectations. Breakthrough innovations seem to change our definition of a system or product itself.

What are the most important areas of innovation in your organization (product, process, IP, marketing, etc.)?

In our case I would say that "perspective" is the most important area for innovation. Once you have redefined the problem, opportunities for innovation seem to be everywhere. In addition, applying state-of-the-art science to new problems creates real proprietary advantage.

What would you consider your most successful innovation? How did you "find" it?

Disconnecting the process of sharing from specific content and communities, which was found through conversations and observations with stakeholders which exposed limitations and challenges of current systems.

Which innovation "failure" did you learn the most from, and why?

Pushing a technically elegant solution into a market that was not prepared to embrace it. This experience demonstrated the need for several factors to be true for market success, most importantly timing. Good ideas should be tested as early as possible and pursued if the demand is compelling and urgent.

What lessons can you pass on to others from how your organization has changed to make itself more innovation driven?

It's still early for us, but I would suggest that continuously asking the question "what problem does this solve?" keeps the organization focused on what's important. In turn, focus drives opportunities for innovation.

In your opinion, what are the biggest barriers and challenges that stand in the way of organizations becoming more innovative?

Losing focus. It's easy to be distracted by things that really don't matter at the end of the day.

Beyond your organization, who do you admire for risk-taking innovation, and what do you think makes them successful?

Steve Jobs. He's willing to take big risks. I admire someone who knows his customers, but is also willing to lead and follow his or her intuition. It's very similar to the creative process in art or music. Most of the best-known music was created because the author liked it and thought it was good. Polls and opinions can only take you so far.

What innovation are you still waiting for?