Archives For startups


Last week I presented The Herd of Cats to a great audience at the World Conference on Disaster Management in Toronto. Although I’d floated the premise out there before at CPRS Ascend in Banff last spring, this was the first real public unveiling of many of the ideas and cases that will be featured in the book.

This was the session’s synopsis in the program:

The Herd of Cats: Startups, Improv, and Disasters

The strange, fringe worlds of tech startups and improv comedy may offer some powerful insights for disaster managers (and vice versa). As cliche as it has become to say that the world is faster-paced and more unpredictable than ever before, many of us – individuals and groups alike – are still overwhelmed and ill-equipped to deal with this new normal. Whether it’s the massive disruption created by new technologies, the turbulent shifts in how interconnected politics and markets behave, or the severe impact of Black Swan events like “one-in-100-year” super-storms, it’s evident that our systems, enterprises, governments, organizations, and ourselves must find better ways to adapt. We are more sensitive to the volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity that surrounds us. And we’re more vulnerable to the predictions, plans, tools, and hierarchies that remain entrenched in all facets of our lives. Much of what worked before simply doesn’t anymore, and we need to learn how to approach this new age with ingenuity, versatility, and resiliency. Fortunately, there’s a vanguard – a herd of cats – who have not only figured out how to endure uncertainty but how to thrive in it. Lean, Agile, Holacracy, APIs, Jobs-to-be-Done, Blue Ocean… “Yes, and”, Follow-Your-Foot, active listening, fluid leadership, play… In The Herd of Cats, Steve Hardy sheds light on the dynamic yet disparate worlds inhabited by entrepreneurs, improvisers, and disaster managers. Blend together the maxims of startup culture, the principles of an improv mindset, and the hard realities of disaster resilience, and what you’ll find is the very best approach to navigating the rapidly changing world around us. Hardy enthusiastically explores this fascinating inter-sectional space, profiling each area’s unique stories, philosophies, and best practices, while also illustrating their remarkable similarities and valuable cross-learning.

And here is a narrated video of the deck I presented:

It was an honour to be invited to speak at such a great event, and I am grateful for all of the positive feedback I received from delegates who attended it.

FIT Boot Camp 3.0

March 14, 2015 — Leave a comment


Last week I ventured to the gorgeous Wasatch Mountains an hour or so east of Salt Lake City in Utah where I had the pleasure to partake in Field Innovation Team (FIT) Boot Camp 3.0, an exciting gathering of 30 or so eclectic folks to discuss disaster innovation. (Yes, this is a real thing.)

I wrote about the experience over at the RallyEngine blog. Check it out.

Teasing The Herd of Cats

November 22, 2014 — Leave a comment

Time to let the cat out of the bag. I’m writing a book. It’s going to be awesome. I’ve tentatively titled it The Herd of Cats: How Entrepreneurs, Improvisers, and Disaster Managers Approach an Uncertain World and it’s inspired by the three very different worlds I’ve been exposed to over the past year or so with RallyEngine.

Herd of Cats book cover

Here’s the draft jacket copy…

Continue Reading…

How Warms Went Cold

October 25, 2014 — 2 Comments


It was around two years ago that I shut down Warm Ventures, the startup I co-founded to pursue what I thought then might be a ripe opportunity in the gift marketing space. It failed, unfortunately, and this post aims to share some of my post-mortem thoughts on the experience – including some aspects that aren’t typical in more prominent startup stories.

Our main product originally was Warms, a platform that bridged the surprise and substance delivered by physical gift products with the emotion and versatility offered by digital videos and e-gifts. It consisted of a 4″x4″x4″ gift box with an elaborate unboxing experience revealing an audible heart-holding plush character and a unique code with instructions to view a video message (and, optionally, an e-gift) from the sender. “Cheaper than flowers and more substantial than e-cards, Warms have a sense of humor and are way more fun to give.” Here was the explainer video we made for them…

The physical item consisted of several custom pieces: a hinge-top wooden box with an interior elastic lever, a button-cell sound module (think audio greeting card), different versions of a small plush doll, a transparent under-lid label with a message and code (alphanumeric and QR), two brass tacks and a hemp string lid clasp with a “Be kind, please rewind” tag on the end, a card stock wrap to seal the box closed and tease to what’s inside, and all of this was mailed in a cubic cardboard box with a wax seal like sticker on top.

This is what one looked like…

Continue Reading…

Building Bridges

October 4, 2014 — Leave a comment

This post was originally published at the now-defunct NextMontreal blog on July 21, 2011, to indirectly promote my also now-defunct Warms venture: “Warms Bridges Offline and Online with a New Twist on Gifts”.


Since 2002 I’ve maintained a blog called Creative Generalist which, among other things, espouses some long held beliefs that broad thinking leads to big ideas. A common thread throughout many of the posts and many of the articles that are linked to is the notion that some of the most fertile and relatively undeveloped ground for new ideas is located between disciplines, cultures, technologies, generations, perspectives, and so on. Obviously there’s innovation in specializing but there’s loads of potential too by spanning silos.

I think bridging is highly underrated.

In 2004 strategy+business then contributing editor Nicholas G. Carr put forward a fascinating case for conservative innovation over disruption, arguing that bridging the breakthrough gap is a better third way — the other two are being the first mover or being the copycat — to profit from an innovation. By finding the space between where the big idea will be and where the market already is one can both profit immediately from the innovation while also moving into a better position for the future. Carr uses a couple great examples: Netflix beating webcasters that had out-innovated a market not yet serviced with broadband connections, and Toyota showing patience on the hyrdrogen fuel cell front by first producing a car (the Prius) that still uses existing technology even while moving away from it.

There’s an important lesson in this story: When a disruptive new technology arrives, the greatest business opportunities often lie not in creating the disruption but in mending it — in figuring out…a way to use an older, established technology as a bridge to carry customers to the benefits of the emerging technology.

When we talk about business innovation today, we tend to use terms like breakthrough and pioneering and revolutionary. But some of the greatest and most lucrative innovations are essentially conservative. They are brought to market by companies that are as adept at looking backward as looking forward, and that have the skill and patience to achieve the most commercially attractive balance between the old and the new. “Conservative innovation” may sound like an oxymoron, but it’s an idea that deserves to be a part of every company’s thinking…

Continue Reading…

Herding Cats – Ascend

September 9, 2014 — Leave a comment


Last fall, for RallyEngine, I commissioned market research company Ipsos to survey large (100+ people) downtown Calgary organizations to find out how prepared for and communicated during the massive flooding in May 2013. One of the insights we gleaned from that study’s report was that many companies relied more on ad hoc reactions than on their prepared Emergency Response Plans. This was interesting and it got me curious about an arena of comedy that I’ve always enjoyed but never looked at seriously: improv.

Continue Reading…

Startup of the Week

January 19, 2014 — Leave a comment

In addition to winning a couple awards last November (for Most Innovative Business Model and Best Go-to-Market Strategy), RallyEngine was highlighted as Startup of the Week this week. Here’s the pic and post to prove it.


I’m on the right, pictured with three of my four partners: Tom Muir, Russ Bugera, and Aaron Salus. Missing: Chris McPhail.