We talked to Nikola Tosic, founder of Open Innovation, about the importance of innovation in digital marketing, and this is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Nikola Tosic: We are fine. The only issue was that our son has chronic medical issues, and medical services have been a bit delayed, but it worked out well. Thank you.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Open Innovation.
Nikola Tosic: I have always been a designer, and I love designing digital products because they are almost limitless. My goal was always to build businesses around the products I design, and my approach is to fully dedicate my team to one product at a time. open innovation is the 4th product & business we are building. I am not a fan of solving small binary technical problems, and I love tackling more general issues with my products. In the case of open innovation we are trying to improve customer participation in company growth, to reduce the barriers between customers and companies. I believe open innovation is an amazing concept, the next step in business, but it
has been done very poorly so far through very limited competitions. My aim is to revolutionize open innovation, making it much more open and therefore efficient.
How does Open Innovation innovate?
Nikola Tosic: We use open innovation. We work closely with our customers, partners, suppliers, team members. We talk and listen as much as possible, and we openly experiment together with them. We try to eliminate the border between them and us, making all of us one big team. Innovation is improved whenever limits are removed. In this case, we are not removing technological limits but limits in how a company can behave.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Nikola Tosic: Not at all. We are in the product design phase, most of our clients have been stable, and we have not been affected.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Nikola Tosic: We adopted remote work very early, as soon as we saw what was going on in Italy in spring 2020. And early on, our team voted yes to remain in remote work. Remote work is easy for us because we invested a lot in communication training, and our team was well prepared to work with less physical contact. We have clear rules on how emails, chats, documents are made, and we have used Zoom and other tools well before the pandemic.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Nikola Tosic: Our customers pay an annual subscription to open innovation SaaS and related services. Therefore our relationship with customers is remote and did not change much. However, our customers are more interested in open innovation than before. Coronavirus epidemic accelerated the need to innovate, and open innovation is a perfect innovation tool for most small and medium businesses (our clients).
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Nikola Tosic: We are self-funded, but as an experiment, we hired a fundraising manager who applied for an innovation grant in 2019, which we won. It was a surprise. It was a small grant which accelerated our development a bit.
Your final thoughts?
Nikola Tosic: My advice to all startup managers is to try to open innovation, to open up to customers and partners as much as possible, and ask them which problems need to be solved, which trends should be followed. It is a natural reaction to close up when confronted with challenges like Coronavirus, but everyone should fight this instinct and try to be more open, innovative, and creative. The harder it is, the more open and innovative we should be.
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