(Raleigh, NC) The Innovators Program Inc. is excited to announce the addition of BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company) to the Innovators Program as a corporate sponsor. As part of this relationship, BD will introduce a team to this year’s Raleigh program. BD’s internal team will participate in a rigorous 12-week accelerator program alongside internal teams from Citrix and 3 external teams, Civic Rise, AllStacks, and VitalFlo, Inc. The program lays the foundation for talented and motivated startup founders and internal innovators to develop the skill set and mindset to build high-growth technology businesses.

This unique blend of internal and external teams leverages the strengths of their respective backgrounds by introducing entrepreneurial thinking to large-scale enterprises and the expertise of successful corporations to early-stage startups, innovation is fostered across the board. The program also enables organizations to rapidly innovate a few high-potential business ideas for three months, and decide whether to further fund based on market traction and opportunity.

The Innovators Program provides teams with bi-weekly workshops, mentorship and one-on-one sessions giving concrete, tactical strategy through action-based items to generate real growth. The program focuses on the best practices of design thinking and lean startup methods to validate each teams’ ideas with the goal of leaving the program with their first customers. At the end of the 12 weeks, teams present their pitch at Demo Day to a network of investors, innovation leaders, and the thriving startup community of Raleigh.

“We expect the experience will be eye-opening for members of our corporate technology R&D team based in Research Triangle Park, as they will get to experience marketing, advertising, and a laser focus on customer needs and motivations,” says Al Lauritano, director of External Innovation and Partnerships for BD.

We are thrilled to introduce BD’s team to the alumni network of past participants and give them the opportunity to learn alongside local startups and other internal teams. This year’s program marks the 4th cohort in Raleigh, producing many startups that have been acquired or are still driving innovation in their respective markets. BD joins the program’s long-term sponsors Citrix and Red Hat.

For more information, please contact Magdalyn Duffie at or contact us via our website:

Q&A with Tim of CivicRise!

As we finish off Week 4 of the Innovators Program, I had the pleasure of chatting with Tim from CivicRise, one of this year’s Raleigh participants. Tim Scales and Toby McNulty are working on a solution that will make civic engagement easier and more effective for advocacy organizers, their supporters and the public at large.

Recently, Tim was feeling like he wanted to be more involved civically. He couldn’t find a trusted resource that gave him good guidelines for what to do and when to do it especially since timing is so crucial for making impactful change. The recent election and current political landscape got him thinking that he really wanted to move from sharing articles on Facebook to taking action that is meaningful and effective in the real world and feel like a part of the movement.

Toby and Tim have been friends for over 5 years, and Tim had been knockin’ around the idea for some time when he approached Toby, someone who’s worked in the technical field for years to ask him if what he wanted to build is even technically feasible. Over dinner, Toby asked him a ton of really tough questions, so immediately Tim thought CivicRise was sunk, thought he hated the idea – but by the end of the conversation, Toby said, “I really can’t find any problems with this, can I build it with you?”

“Uh Yes? Of course?”, Tim responded.

Enter CivicRise.

CivicRise is a smartphone app where users can subscribe to the groups who’s mission they support like the Sierra Club or the ACLU and receive calls to actions from these organizations to help progress the

ir cause – like “we need 100 people to call this senator about this bill!” , or “we need volunteers for this event!”, or “send an email regarding this issue you’re passionate about!” You can share your engagement, track the progress of the organizations you support, and provide assistance that is effective and rewarding. For the advocacy organizing groups and their customers, CivicRise is much more – it allows them to design, launch and measure efficacy of each supporter and overall campaigns like never before, enabling them to continually improve and learn from each campaign. CivicRise is a for-profit company with a SaaS business model with a large opportunity for growth, currently serving seven trial customers and 350+ users.

Check out my interview below with Tim to learn more about CivicRise, the process of entrepreneurship, and how to get in some extra cardio on phone calls! Visit their website to learn more!

Magdalyn: Why did you decide to apply for the Innovators Program?

Tim: I am very passionate about this idea and excited to work on it, but I am new to entrepreneurship and lack some of the structure around how to build a company. If I tried to do this on my own, I would just be making all the mistakes. The Innovators Program provides structure and expert guidance, and can greatly accelerate what we’re working on to build something exciting.

M: Awesome! What are you most looking forward to in this program?

T: So if you’re working along and you run into a problem, instead of going to Google and trying to just figure it out, I can have a conversation with someone who is way smarter than me on these things, someone who has worked extensively in these areas. They can just point me in the right direction, and this saves me so much time and effort and vastly increases our chances of success.

M: What skills or backgrounds do you each bring to your team?

T: My cofounder Toby is a software developer with a successful web app development shop, and so he has all this great technical ability. I talk to customers and say yes to them, and then go to Toby and say, “Can we do this?” and he says “Ooookay!”

M: Thank goodness for tech-y cofounders! What was the “ah-ha” moment that led to starting your company?

Short answer, the 2016 election.

M: Same. What problem are you trying to solve?

T: Civic engagement feels intimidating. It can feel like it’s something other people do but not me because I don’t really know enough. With CivicRise, we try to help you past that feeling of “maybe not me” by telling our users, “here is how you can do it, and look how easy we have made it.”

M:  When you are not working tirelessly to launch a company, how do you spend your time?

I’m currently training for a triathlon, so lots of swimming and biking and running and jumping.

M: I’m tired just hearing about it! Any big takeaways from the first few weeks of the Innovators Program?

T: What has been most useful to me is providing some structure around how to talk to customers about CivicRise. I’ve stopped taking random notes on sheets of paper that I lose – instead I’m creating a more scientific process with the help of the Innovators Program to really understand the customer’s need and address it more directly in a way that is going to build a foundation for growth moving forward.

I went from doing interview that were like, “Here’s this cool thing! Don’t you think it’s cool too?” And everyone would say, “Yes!” And I would think, “This is amazing!”  But now, I ask hard, real questions where people can disagree, which is so much more valuable. Yes, it’s way harder and feels more awkward, but it’s a much better investment of time.

M: Totally helps you get to a more effective product. So how do you stay energized for the long workdays of entrepreneurship? Fun rituals?

T: I try to switch off 100% when I’m not working and spend quality time with my wife and friends and family so when I get back to work, I feel refreshed and ready to take on a new challenge. I also like to do jumping jacks while I’m on the phone sometimes. If I feel like someone is going to talk a while, that’s when I fit my jumping jacks in. It makes me sound really excited and energized.

If you’re interested in getting your cause on the CivicRise platform or want to become more involved in your community using the app, sign up here! Thanks Tim for sharing your thoughts and progress with us, looking forward to using CivicRise in the future and seeing you at the next march!

Check back soon for more interviews with this year’s participants!

Cheers! -Magdalyn


Busting Design Thinking Myths

Hello dear readers!

As we wrap up our second week of the Innovators Program, our participants are entrenched in the world of design thinking. For those new to the concept, design thinking is defined as: 

A methodology used by designers to solve complex problems, and find desirable solutions for clients. A design mindset is not problem-focused, it’s solution focused and action oriented towards creating a preferred future.

A lot of people hear “design thinking” and run for the hills. They cry:

“I’m not a designer!”  |   “This stuff doesn’t apply to me or my industry!”  |  “My brain isn’t wired that way!” |  “Shouldn’t it be ‘business’ thinking?!”

I hear ya! It’s a foreign concept to many to approach business problems and industry pain points from a “design” standpoint, but let’s address these one by one.

“I’m not a designer!”

NBD! You don’t have to be a professional designer to implement design thinking – all that means is that you’re approaching the problem the way designers do, starting from the bottom up and developing creative solutions to ideate and test for the best possible outcome. 

 “This stuff doesn’t apply to me or my industry!”

Uh, yes it does. Do you want to have innovative solutions to your industry-specific problems? Approaching them from a design thinking mindset takes you outside of your norms and develops new, different, and innovative ideas that are novel to a situation. In the same way that no two companies are exactly alike, businesses can’t operate on the same principles and expect to differentiate themselves from the competition.

“My brain isn’t wired that way!”

Yes, design thinking requires fast pivots and moves quickly from idea to idea. It can feel defeating after a few iterations of imperfect solutions, but that just means you are one step closer to an truly innovation idea. Entrenched businesses are resistant to risk and change, but by exploring many different avenues and solutions, you can lead innovation in your industry. Same way no two businesses are alike, you can’t expect to do the same thing the same way your competitors are and offer a unique solution to your customers.

 “Shouldn’t it be ‘business’ thinking?!”

Design thinking is fundamentally different from other ways of meeting challenges in that it is human-centered. This human-centered nature means that you should try to understand how the product will effect a range of people, but Of COURSE always have your best business practices in mind. It is not an abandonment of good business standards and ignoring data, analysis, and rationality. It was created to foster innovation and keep your businesses moving forward.

No excuses! Go forth and innovate!

Cheers, Magdalyn

Meet the corporate innovators shaking things up at Red Hat

We’re officially halfway through the 2016 Innovators Program Raleigh! The three-month accelerator program, sponsored by Red Hat, Citrix, and HQ Raleigh, helps early-stage tech startups develop a go-to-market strategy, find customers, and prepare for their first round of funding.

In this week’s Q&A feature, we’re taking a closer look at two internal innovation teams from Red Hat. Both teams are focused on creating next-generation people programs for internal use.

The Red Hat Performance Management and Development team is working on a performance management process that focuses on associate development and is scalable for Red Hat’s future. The team includes Arrie Brown, Jorge Herrera, Beverly Heustess, and Kim Jokisch, and is supported by Geri Duncan.

The Red Hat Ambassadors team is creating a transparent, efficient, and scalable referral program that can enhance both the associate and candidate experience. This team includes Jonathan Edwards, Jorge Herrera, and Jenna Slawson, and is supported by Rob Trout.

We asked both teams about their experience in the program so far.

Tell us about a typical “day in the life” for your team during the Innovators Program.

Beverly Heustess (BH): The pace of the project is so fast and our schedule so dynamic that nothing is routine. We regularly discuss what we need to accomplish daily and for that week, but we plan for the plan to change.

Jorge Herrera (JH): I don’t think there’s such thing as a “typical” day in this project!

Arrie Brown (AB): Even our workspaces change from day to day. We split our time between Red Hat Tower, Citrix, and HQ Raleigh, which is a cool co-working space in downtown Raleigh.

What’s it like to be on a team with fellow Red Hat associates from different departments within the company?

BH: Partnering with Red Hatters from completely different departments has been neat. We each bring unique experiences, knowledge, and specialties to the table that together cover the breadth of this project. I’ve been learning a lot about how to leverage our individual personalities and work styles as we navigate through challenges.

Kim Jokisch (KJ): It has been a great experience to work with smart, hard working people from other teams that I otherwise wouldn’t get to work with. We all have different skill sets and it’s rewarding to see how our diverse talents come together to tackle the same problem.

Jonathan Edwards (JE): This is one of the biggest benefits of the program. As a company that prides itself on meritocracy and collaboration, you don’t always get the chance to work with everyone. This has given me an opportunity to work with people like Jenna and Jorge, and it reminds me how much hard work is happening in every department at every level.

Jenna Slawson (JS): It’s been a great change of pace. I’ve learned so much from Jonathan and Rob about Talent Acquisition around organizational structure, process, and associate referrals. Jorge has taught me how our systems are setup and supported, as well as how vendors fit into that process.

It’s a unique opportunity for a full-time, corporate employee to participate in a startup accelerator. What has the experience been like?

JS: One of the great opportunities has been working and researching in an area that I’m interested in but wouldn’t normally get to experience. As a sociology minor in college and a current member of a diversity and inclusion group here at Red Hat, it’s been great to research, interview, and learn more about diversity and inclusion best practices across top companies in the industry.

KJ: It has been interesting to figure out how to take the best of the startup approach and apply it to Red Hat. Yes, we are a large company, and we have an open culture that demands transparency and agility. It has been fun to see what works and what we need to supplement to make the start-up approach work within an open culture with 10,000+ associates.

BH: It’s awesome to jump into a totally different space on a project like this. I am learning about trends in the HR field, which is completely different than my regular work in IT. What’s really cool is how using Red Hat’s Open Decision Framework comes naturally, even though the subject area is new to me. That’s our transparent culture at work!

What’s one thing you’ve learned from the program that you’d like to take back to your day job?

AB: I’ve become more comfortable with asking for help!

Geri Duncan (GD): As the portfolio manager for talent management, and as a relatively new Red Hatter, I have learned the immense value of the Open Decision Framework [Red Hat’s process for making inclusive decisions]. It is so powerful to understand what people across the company and globe think about performance management, and every voice has been factored into how we’re shaping our team recommendations.

JE: Taking four days to conduct a “sprint” is an amazingly productive use of time. Within a high-growth company like Red Hat, we are often just trying to keep up with all that we do. Taking time to reflect on a problem and work intensely to propose solutions to it is extremely valuable.

JH: From the IT developer perspective, it’s the insights that collaborating with our customers brings. From the designing phase to implementation, collaboration is key.

What do you like to do when you’re not working on the program?

KJ: I’m a new mom so I love playing with my son and making him laugh. I also love to decorate, eat, cook, and read.

AB: I’m on a kick of making terrariums right now. Bring me your weird, your old, your interesting glass vessels, and I’ll put a clump of pretty moss in it.

JE: All things Bruce Springsteen, Cape Cod, and running.

JS: I’m currently working on slowly renovating our house which is a few miles from Red Hat.

Stay tuned for more updates from the other Innovators Program participants in the coming weeks.