Ideas sometimes take a long, winding path from the brain to reality.
As a teen, Aaron Stanton imagined finding and comparing books with structure and language similar to each other. He created Novel Projects Inc. in 2003 as a college student at the University of Idaho to develop the concept. In 2011, Novel Projects launched BookLamp.org, which allows readers to compare books through computer-based analysis. Along the way he garnered national attention for CanGoogleHearMe.com, his five-year blog about the ideas development.
In 2008, Stanton became the first tenant of the WaterCooler business incubator at 1405 W. Idaho St., Boise, where his office remains for the moment.
We have 10 employees, now, but I expect well grow more in the next few months, Stanton says.
Q: How does your company innovate? How does it stay innovative?
A: White boards. And letting people explore what interests them. This works for us because weve been fairly lucky in hiring people who have sought us out because theyre interested in one aspect or another of what the company does as its core mission. They see the technology, what were trying to do, and contact us in hopes of being involved. When you end up hiring those people, their interests are already well enough aligned with the companys that you have a lot of latitude to say, If you have an interesting idea, explore it, and then well try to fit it into our map as it turns into something real. Its not a perfect balance, because theres much that we have to do that is just plain work, and as we grow this has become more difficult. But Id say thats a part of it. Hire well, encourage discovery.
Q: Do you believe in creative destruction, the concept that new things are constantly overtaking the old? If so, how do you practice it?
A: New things are always overtaking the old, but I dont consider it a destructive process. Thats too simplified of a model thats easy to write about but gets muddled in practice, since true disruption tends to be much more graceful of a transition when its actually looked at on a case-by-case basis. Im a tremendous believer in understanding what forces support and kill new ideas, and the adoption of new ideas. The Innovators Dilemma by Clayton Christensen is a fantastic book for understanding some of the forces in large companies and markets that influence how new ideas grow, get adopted, and are killed off. It paints a picture of why companies at different points in their existence are really better suited to the innovative, market-changing tasks than companies in other phases of their existence.
Q: What services or products might we see in the next five years from your company? From the Boise tech community?
A: Many of the products that were working on are under wraps at the moment, but I can say that I believe there are at least three projects under way that Im aware of in the Boise tech community that have the potential to have substantial national and international impact. I also think that efforts like the B-Launched program which doesnt aim to foster existing ideas, but instead to train and certify entrepreneurs on how to execute on their ideas once they have them are potential frameworks for how business incubation might work in the future.
Q: How is the Boise tech community evolving?
A: The community is maturing, and the programs intended to support entrepreneurs in the area are starting to attract leaders and elements of the community that reach far beyond the traditional physical area of Boise, Idaho. Probably the best way to visualize that is with the concept of the Entrepreneurial Road. The concept of the road is a fantastic thing. Roads are built to allow easier passage for you and the others that follow you to get from the point you started at to the point you are trying to go. A community can help entrepreneurs by the type of Entrepreneurial Roads it builds for them, not only connecting up-and-comers to local resources, (but) also to resources and connections in other communities. And today, I believe there are people in Boise who are trying to build longer, broader, and more durable roads than Ive seen before.