Innovation is the bedrock of our industry. But who do the leaders of innovation, holding roles such as Director of Innovation, look up to? Who do they believe are the real drivers of innovation? Our new series, My Innovation Hero, discovers the answer.
Sarah Salter is Director of Innovation at Wavemaker.
Who is your innovation hero?
Most recently my innovation hero is Arlan Hamilton founder of Backstage Capital.
What has she done to win hero status in your eyes?
Arlan is an incredible formerly-homeless black gay woman venture capitalist who has fought hard to break into the exclusive Silicon Valley club. Her own frustrations in convincing VC’s to invest in underrepresented founders drove her to start her own fund, Backstage Capital.
She is quite simply brilliant and driving a much-needed blueprint for inclusive innovation.
How has their heroism helped drive innovation as a discipline?
Diverse backgrounds and experiences quite simply drive innovation helping to solve bigger challenges and reach more people. Less than 10% of all venture capital deals go to women, multi-cultural, and LGBTQ founders.
Arlan has taken her own challenges and used it as an opportunity to drive much needed change in innovation.
Focussing on these underrepresented groups and seeing inclusive innovation as the biggest opportunity for growth.
Already investing in over 120 companies, Arlan is demonstrating the significant returns diversity delivers.
What the biggest challenges in innovation in your sector we need another hero to solve?
There are huge challenges in corporate innovation today from the rate of change, lack of diversity to a focus on profit over belief. We have gone from the average life-span of companies being at 61 years in 1958 to today being at less that 18 years.
The greatest innovators and next hero will create a cultural step change in corporate innovation to drive truly radical innovation.
What is your most heroic personal achievement so far in innovation?
The work I am most proud of is my work with the Public Health England team – where I have been able to see the difference it has made to people’s lives.
England has among the lowest levels of breastfeeding in the world which is a serious public health issue. But many mums struggle, I struggled.
However, evidence shows that getting the right support, when it’s most needed, helps mums to breastfeed for longer. But there was a problem – the moment when support is most needed is often when it’s least available – 2am to 6am, when breastfeeding health services.
We needed a solution that could deliver breastfeeding advice whenever mum needed it, whatever the hour, instantly, and, crucially, with a baby in her arms, hands-free.
So we created the ‘Start4Life Breastfeeding Friend’, the UK’s first bespoke breastfeeding voice assistant to run on Alexa.