David Kraft is downright giddy for innovation.
“I’m often naive enough to think there is no problem that can’t be solved,” Kraft said.
And admittedly it would be a problem if someone with the title of “head of Innovation Services” at Seattle-based Xinova wasn’t pretty pumped about the potential for invention.
“We live in a beautiful time,” Kraft said. “Ten, five or even three years ago, it would be difficult — or impossible — to have my job. It didn’t exist anywhere.”
Xinova’s aim is to take great ideas and bring them to life. Their customers pose the challenges they want solved, and Xinova taps its network of 12,000 innovators to offer solutions. When someone runs with one of the inventor’s ideas, Xinova pays the inventor and works out a profit-sharing arrangement.
“Working with inventors and researchers, you start to see some of the same problems over and over, where they have great ideas for how to change the world, but don’t have the tools to do it,” Kraft said.
In 2016, Xinova spun out of Intellectual Ventures, an enterprise created by technology pioneer Nathan Myhrvold. The company has offices in 10 countries.
Last month, Xinova announced a contest in collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to generate ideas for managing data around malaria infections in Nigeria. Experts say that better information is key to improving the response to the disease. Another project that Kraft is excited about is developing tools to help commercial kitchens efficiently manage their ingredients and labor. The project partners include PepsiCo and Innit and will be tested with food carts in Mexico.
Given his love of discoveries, does Kraft consider himself an inventor?
“I’m much better at helping define the problems to be solved,” he said, then reconsidered. “But I guess in a way I’m inventing a new economy with my company here, so I’m an inventor in that sense.”
We caught up with Kraft for this Working Geek, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire.
Current location: 31,999 feet, two hours outside of SFO (San Francisco International Airport), heading to Singapore.
Computer types: Work: ThinkPad X1Yoga. Home: MacBook Air 13 inch.
Mobile devices: iPhone 7; iOS 12.2 128 GB (available 32.8 GB)
Favorite apps, cloud services and software tools: Mavenlink for project management; Dropbox for documents and shared collaboration authoring; Slack for listening to our company and team members; and Sociabble for sharing with our community.
Describe your workspace. Why does it work for you? My desk is the land of well-intentioned, yet often mutated chain of Post-It Notes. An archipelago of scratch papers, threatening to evolve to form new species if left uncontained. In Xinova’s open office format, my desk is the blight of someone rarely seen working behind a desk. Most often, I’m found huddled in a borrowed client conference room, on conference calls pacing our two floors in Pioneer Square, or hunkered down in a coffee shop savoring the few moments of focused output.
Your best advice for managing everyday work and life? There are far more qualified people advising on how to navigate the complexities of work and life. Admittedly, I’m a work in progress. My partner ensures we have social activities outside of work. I also try to set a few personal and professional goals each quarter and that helps me to prioritize my time.
Your preferred social network? How do you use it for business/work? I’m a social network lurker, reading and observing but rarely posting or commenting. Using Sociabble lets me aggregate Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for simplified sharing and engagement.
Current number of unanswered emails in your inbox? This week was rough. I’m not ready to declare email bankruptcy, but I have a few hundred messages that need attention. Fortunately, there’s a flight back from Singapore with WiFi.
Number of appointments/meetings on your calendar this week? 20-plus meetings with really tough time zones. It will be calendar jiu-jitsu to pull it all off. Or just a few late nights!
How do you run meetings? With so many personalities, talents and diverse cultures attending my project meetings, I find setting expectations is critical to help everyone participate. A few hygiene tips for meetings:
- Roll-up links to documents/background materials
- Set intention, provide context and describe end-state (possible decisions, actions, of follow-ups)
- Give time for discussion (sometimes you need to get lost to find new paths to a solution)
- Clarify outcomes and decisions
Everyday work uniform? Jeans, collared shirt, R.M. Williams boots or a pair of Converse.
How do you make time for family? As a father of a 4-year old, our family is learning how to pull it all together. One small success has been dedicating 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. each evening for dinner, play and story time before bed. Weekends are spent in ski lessons or swimming.
Best stress reliever? How do you unplug? Cycling in the mornings, learning a little guitar in the evenings. Often doing a little email at night or sending myself reminders to be ready for the next day.
What are you listening to? My colleagues in the office ensure we have great music running every day. If I’m running the Sonos, we’re apt to spin Blue Scholars, Anderson .Paak, The Clash or the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Daily reads? Favorite sites and newsletters? Flipboard, MIT Tech Review and New York Times. My podcast hit recently is HBR (Harvard Business Review) for commuting.
Book on your nightstand (or e-reader)? “The People Centered Economy” by Vint Cerf and David Nordfors.
Night owl or early riser? What are your sleep patterns? Early riser. Creative and complex work in the morning, quick responses to email/administration in the evenings.
Where do you get your best ideas? Listening to many good problems, defined by smart people, helps me to ask questions and become smarter. The best ideas help clarify the challenge while presenting a useful solution. I find an iterative approach helps me sort through the challenge set and explore ideas quickly to focus on a limited subset of ideas to pursue. I like an agile approach to problem solving.
Whose work style would you want to learn more about or emulate? Hmmm…..great question. I admire people who have successfully exited companies (i.e. IPO, buy-out, merger, etc.) and go straight into building their next company. As investors, we say look for people with a good track record because they have demonstrated success and lived the life cycle of entrepreneurship. But that’s only part of the story. I admire so-called serial entrepreneurs who are passionate about their next project. When that same person who, instead of working, could be spending their days on a beach or retired is instead seeking to solve the next challenge. That inspiration and drive to create is a work style I find motivating.