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Visionaries & Ventures

A 200-year-old tools company and a $500M Gen AI startup walk into a bar…recently I spoke with Marty Guay of Stanley Black & Decker and Michael Ermolenko, Co-Founder of Inworld AI. Voted on by their peers, Marty was recognized as our Visionary of the Year and Inworld AI our Venture of the Year.


3 highlights from the conversation:


Legacy, Synchronization and Speed

The hardest thing with new innovations and new technologies is to overcome legacy. Multiple, inter-dependent workstreams must be synchronized and most new ideas are disruptive. Your solution must improve and expand, and you must find champions who know how to influence and navigate within the larger organization to get stuff done. Founders must “clearly demonstrate the opportunity for impact” while enterprises must “compete against yourself in certain ring-fenced areas of the company.” 

The Last Mile of Innovation: Commercialization

Creativity is ideas, ideas are easy. Innovation is execution, and that is hard. "The hardest mile of innovation is the last mile, which is commercialization." How do you avoid “pilot purgatory” where you are testing, without scale, commercialization, or impact? Even legacy companies ready to innovate must sell into legacy markets that might not be ready. A beautiful success story, demonstrating the value of executing on this last mile, is Dynamic Green Products (check out the story ½ way down this page) on how their bio-degradable chainsaw oil is now being sold under the DeWalt brand of Stanley Black & Decker.   

AI Optimists or Pessimists

Every emerging technology presents a duality of opportunities and risks. Innovation means we have extended lives, but are they filled with more loneliness and illness. Inworld AI could provide companionship and friendship (as they do when they bring games to life). But might it also remove the need for human interaction? Optimize the good things, ringfence the bad. Human invention means we will always strive to solve problems and challenges.


Inworld AI now valued at over $500M here. Their cohort in the Gen AI Accelerator we ran with Comcast here. Stanley Black and Decker here. Stanley Ventures here.  Original podcast with Marty here.

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