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The Foundation of Innovation

Updated: Feb 24

My experience has taught me that successful innovation is built upon a deep understanding of the customer and their problem worth solving.


Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, and Alexander Graham Bell were all legendary inventors whom I admired and aspired to become. The thrill of scientific discovery, the excitement of obtaining patent rights, and the ability to create incredible inventions that fascinate and delight people are all things that inspire me.


After numerous unsuccessful attempts at inventing, I finally filed my first patent application, granted three years later. Proud to be an inventor, I continue to find scientific discoveries and file more patents in cybersecurity, energy optimisation and thermal modelling.


When invention meets market needs

Although I continued to invent, I learned that only a small percentage of patents (5% to 7%) become products. An invention is only valuable if it meets market needs and is commercialised. When invention meets market needs, innovation is created. I then joined a technology commercialization organization to understand what makes an invention valuable.


I was responsible for commercialising inventions from renowned research institutes and universities by matching them with the industry. However, the initial few months were challenging as there was minimal interest in untested technology. It seemed that new technology was not receptive among the business community. Therefore, I had to develop a new approach to promote co-innovation.


Problem worth solving

I empathized with the companies I aimed to assist by analyzing their products and exploring emerging technologies that could potentially enhance them. This approach has helped close 45 successful tech transfer deals within four years. Through my experience, I observed that the market-pull approach generates three times more success in co-innovation than the technology-push approach. It was apparent that new technology alone does not create a new market - solving a problem does. And the size of the market opportunity is proportional to the size of the problem.


Studying the products of successful businesses can offer valuable insights into the issues they address for their customers. However, when it comes to novel startups and innovative new ventures, it can be challenging to determine whether they will become successful unicorns like Grab, Razer or Facebook. I'm looking for a systematic approach that can create successful startups repeatedly, enabling them to thrive.


My work involves advising and guiding startup founders to identify a repeatable strategy for identifying opportunities to build successful startups and new ventures.


Understanding the customer and their problem worth solving

Having evaluated pitches and business models of startups and listening to the questions and responses that investors were concerned with leads to several trends:

  1. Startups that were clear about their customer segments were better able to connect and articulate their value proposition to their customers. Often, the more specific the segment, the more believable their pitch became.

  2. These startups were also able to explain and quantify the impact of their solutions on their customers. The impact was significant, making their solutions worth solving for.

  3. Because the target customer segment differed from those to which existing solutions appealed, established businesses did not see them as a threat. Therefore, these startups could avoid competing directly with existing businesses that had established barriers to entry to new entrants.

Consistently, ventures that understand their customers have been more successful in designing fitting solutions to their problems. By collaborating closely with the early adopters of their products, they could grow quickly and expand their customer base to meet the exact needs of their target audience. As a result, they were able to scale up their operations faster.


The foundation of successful ventures is built on a deep understanding of the customer and the problem worth solving.



The Foundation of Innovation

The fundamentals of a successful new venture or product creation lie in the deep understanding of the customer and their problem worth solving. This is a consistent trend from market disrupters that offered a better solution, from ride-hailing versus flagging down a ride, the variety of goods offered by eCommerce versus offline stores, and mobile payment versus cash or physical cards.


Customer-centricity is the approach of understanding the problem that a customer wants to solve, the deep-rooted motivation behind it, and if many others have the same problem. Once the problem is clearly defined, finding a better solution becomes easier.


Solving customers' problems can help you develop effective go-to-market strategies, promote your product, expand your business, stay ahead of your competitors, and achieve your vision and purpose.

Today, I advise and inspire the next generation of founders to create exciting ventures that impact people's lives. I share my knowledge with startup ecosystems in universities and corporate innovation hubs.

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