Chicago Ideas Week and the Power of Intellectual Capital

Last week I attended a few of the events put on by Chicago Ideas Week, Brad Keywell’s weeklong series of over 100 presentations by world-renowned speakers with the goal of creating “an ecosystem of innovation, exploration, and intellectual recreation.”

At a time when businesses are increasingly recognizing intellectual property (IP) as an asset class, it is refreshing to witness IP in its raw form – as ideas. It is inspiring to hear from these entrepreneurs, first hand, exactly how they are shaping the knowledge economy. This speaks to me both personally and professionally.

Here are three powerful examples I heard at Chicago Ideas Week:

1. Bo Fishback, founder and CEO of Zaarly, talked about the evolution of the market. He pointed out that thousands of years ago, one might have ridden a camel across the desert to find what he needed to buy. Eventually, someone came up with the idea of bringing merchants and buyers together – a market. This evolved into the shopping mall and then to e-commerce, and finally, mobile, location-based e-commerce (the space where his new company operates). Each level of evolution minimized the transaction costs and grew the economy.

2. Travis Kalanick, co-founder and CEO of Uber, illustrated the power of data in his talk about his firm. Uber provides a novel transportation service: download the app, press a button and a car appears to take you where you need to go. They use data and inferential models to predict the demand at a given time for its car service, allowing them to deliver the service to their clients in a profitable way.

3. Wilson To and Cy Khormaee demonstrated the power of ideas at the highest level: to save lives. They developed a test for malaria using only a Windows smart phone and a special lens, addressing the problem of child mortality due to undiagnosed malaria.

It is indeed inspiring to listen to these stories, and Chicago Ideas Week is a perfect forum for listening and interacting with other professionals who value innovation, ideas, and intellectual capital.

Tim Binney  is a business development associate at Ocean Tomo. Mr. Binney has extensive experience in the energy industry connecting businesses and alternate electricity retail suppliers in deregulated energy markets. Additionally he worked as a sales representative in the professional audio product manufacturing space, providing complex technical audio solutions from industry leaders such as Harman International and Tascam to systems integrators and consultants. Mr. Binney worked for 10 years as an audio engineer in live sound and studio applications and started his career as a programmer on Unix-based operating systems writing code in a number of different languages.