Why the next great idea can come from anywhere at any time

I have the luxury of being smack dab in the middle of Silicon Valley — an area ripe with opportunity, ideas and innovation.

Innovation is a word we hear often, but what does it really mean? Looking at the definition we see that innovation is a new method, idea or product. If measured by nothing else but the sheer number of new companies sprouting up in Silicon Valley and around the world, we are, without a doubt, living in an era of innovation.

But what takes one of these many ideas from being a well-timed swing to a walk-off home run?

I’d dare to say the answer is: disruption. Think of some of the most successful companies in recent years. Chances are the one thing they all have in common is that they entered a traditional sector and turned it on its head — thermostats, gas-powered automobiles and movie rentals, to name a few.

A true disruptor’s power is in its ability to affect multiple industries and to disrupt public giants.

Don’t sell yourself short

I founded Streetline because I saw the opportunity for a new technology (low-power sensing systems) to disrupt the parking industry. I may not have grown up dreaming of 10-by-20-foot pieces of real estate, but what we are doing at this parking startup is truly transformative.

Parking is an industry that has remained stagnant for decades and with time, the problem was only exacerbated by growing populations and the decrease in the cost to own a vehicle.

By harnessing the power of mesh networking, sensing, big data and machine learning to drive key applications, we have a hand in reshaping the industry to be data-rich, efficient and extensible. As one of the first applications of the “Internet of Things” and “smart cities,” smart parking embodies the characteristics of industry disruption and the “ripple effect.”

But like any successful company, it can’t all be done alone. Streetline relies on others to bring area expertise, connections and advice. AT&T, for example, provides the cellular connection required to bring the data home from the field, which in turn is processed into meaningful data to serve a wide range of constituents.

Additionally, AT&T’s integration of our parking data into the AT&T Drive platform is paving the way for smart parking as a vital function of the “connected cars” of the future.

Similarly, we partner with a variety of other blue-chip companies on co-development efforts. We understand our strengths as well as our weaknesses and are always asking ourselves the question of whether to produce or to partner.

New isn’t always better

As you contemplate your own journey, whether it’s starting your own company or bringing new thinking to your current position, remember that some of the best ideas aren’t new ideas at all, but rather better ideas.

Better in terms of execution, more closely meeting a need and better design. Additionally, think carefully about internal effort vs. partnership. Building up a partner network in anticipation of new opportunities allows you to play up your strengths and harness the strengths of others. ●