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InnoVenture’s mission is growing our regional innovation ecosystem through a coalition of industry, entrepreneurial, and academic leaders, and elected, public, and economic development officials. To build this coalition, InnoVenture is seeking sponsors for an Ideas Festival in September 2023. Beyond merely putting a logo on conference materials, InnoVenture is seeking to execute customized business development projects to help clients/sponsors identify qualified leads from the innovation ecosystem. 

John Warner, InnoVenture’s founder, has met with over 300 leaders since early 2022. Over a decade, John produced 13 InnoVenture and InnoMobiltiy conferences averaging about 600 attendees each as well as numerous smaller Forums. Collectively they attracted thousands of participants globally. He has found that event based business development is an effective way of narrowing down a large number of business development prospects into a manageable list of highly qualified leads. This process is illustrated by events that have been produced to help develop the innovation ecosystem. 

Since its founding in 2007, the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research, has produced about 1,000 masters and PhD graduates, most of whom have left the state. To explore how they might stay connected in our ecosystem, John identified 125 CU-ICAR graduates and current students through LinkedIn and invited them to a video call which had three key takeaways we can use to develop followup actions:

  • graduates want closer connections back to CU-ICAR faculty and the next generation of students,

  • current students want connection with potential employers, especially those in the Upstate, and

  • some graduate students are seeking resources to start entrepreneurial companies. 


To validate the Ideas Festival concept, through LinkedIn John invited about 500 industry, entrepreneurial, and academic leaders to an “InnoVenture Ideas Festival Introduction“ video call. 96, about 20%, RSVP’d that they were interested, qualifying themselves as potential customers who would pay to attend or perhaps sponsor the Ideas Festival. 33, about 33% of the RSVPs, participated in a very robust conversation on the call. The biggest takeaway is that to successfully grow our regional innovation ecosystem, we need to authentically and unapologetically be us. As a result, InnoVenture will focus on innovation in our three largest industry sectors, connecting innovators and entrepreneurs in advanced manufacturing and healthcare with faculty and students in higher education. While our local capabilities define our focus, we will reach out globally for connections to develop our innovation ecosystem. The call resulted in strong buy into this approach from some significant leaders.

InnoVenture can execute a similar event driven business development process for clients. Recently, we subscribed to top end professional LinkedIn tools that provide us access to its 900 million professional profiles.


For example, a company interested in identifying individuals with skills related to wearable medical devices or an academic department interested in attracting funding from industry partners might want to connect with bioengineers with graduate degrees working in industry. LinkedIn reports the following:


(Charlantaville is an diamond from Charlotte to Columbia, Atlanta, and Asheville, center on Greenville.)

Our LinkedIn tool allows us to be as granular as a client desires, down to profiles of individual professionals. 

The challenge is how to identify qualified prospects from a large number of leads. The Event Driven Business Development process puts the bread on the pond and lets the ducks come to the bread. We work with clients to produce events on topics interesting to prospects who self-identify as qualified leads by attending. 

InnoVenture can work with clients to clearly define their qualified leads and use LinkedIn to identify a large number of prospects. Clients may be able to supplement these with invitations to other contacts they have. Those interested register to attend, creating a list of highly qualified prospects to follow up with. Once identified, the client can follow up directly or InnoVenture can assist with the follow up. John’s InnoVenture conference experience is that unless the client has a dedicated business development professional, assistance with followup is generally a wise investment. The most effective process is a series of events produced over time, supplemented by email newsletters, which helps build top-of-mind-awareness with prospects over time.  

For smaller Ideas Festival sponsors, InnoVenture will incorporate their interests into the marketing to individuals we target to attend the Festival. For larger clients, in addition to sponsoring the Ideas Festival we will also execute customized events in addition to the Festival to identify highly qualified leads for clients.

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