Innovation isn't an accident: Here's how 3 Colorado companies drive their tech forward

by April Bohnert
July 11, 2018

Innovation isn’t an accident. Rather, it’s the product of formal and informal processes that encourage great minds to challenge the status quo and think outside the box. Only when companies make innovation a priority are they able to create faster, smarter and simpler solutions to their industries’ problems.

We talked to three local tech leaders about the processes they use to drive innovation — and the industry-changing products they’ve developed as a result.

 

Red Canary tech innovation process Colorado
Photo courtesy of Red Canary.

As a fast-growing cybersecurity startup, Red Canary seeks to innovate continuously. Cyberthreats are constantly evolving and, in order to stay relevant in its industry, so too must Red Canary’s tech. Chief Product Officer and Co-Founder Chris Rothe shared how he and his team work to stay one step ahead of cyberattacks.

 

What processes do you use for discovering and testing new ways to drive your technology — and your industry — forward?

For us, innovation isn't a process as much as it is the reason we exist. The information security industry is plagued with bad products and services that do little to help companies defend themselves against motivated adversaries. From the start we had a simple goal of making security better. While the goal was simple, the steps to achieve it have been anything but. We had to create a whole new market (managed detection and response) and use products and data in ways that no one ever has. The adversaries we fight innovate fast, so we have to be faster.

For us, innovation isn’t a process as much as it is the reason we exist.” 

How did these processes come about?

For us, to innovate means constant challenging of the status quo and questioning of long-held beliefs. Our culture of doing this comes directly from our CEO Brian Beyer. Brian flatly rejects anytime someone says “That is just how it is done.” This attitude of never accepting the way things are and always striving to make them better is what drives our innovation and culture.

 

What’s a recent example of a tech development that came from this innovation process?

One of the biggest problems in information security is a lack of quality tools for testing a company's security program. We saw it over and over when people tried to evaluate Red Canary's product and were unable to do it any kind of measurable way.

Out of that problem came a project that is now called Atomic Red Team, which is a collection of small tests that security teams can perform to evaluate their ability to detect and respond to various attacker behaviors. It uses the excellent MITRE ATT&CK framework as its catalog of attacker techniques. This product is a direct result of our culture of innovation and commitment to our goals.

 

LogRhythm tech innovation process Colorado
Photo courtesy of LogRhythm.

Boulder-based LogRhythm develops global security intelligence software. Its analytics platform allows businesses of all stripes to detect, respond to and neutralize cyberthreats in real time. As Senior Technical Product Manager Rob McGovern puts it, he and his team “live with innovation every day” as they strike a balance between moving fast and ensuring consistent, reliable protection for LogRhythm’s customers.

 

What processes do you use for discovering and testing new ways to drive your technology — and your industry — forward?

At LogRhythm, our R&D teams drive innovation through a mix of formal and informal processes. We have regular hackathon events to encourage out-of-the-box innovation. We also set aside time within regular development cycles for continuous improvement and refactoring. Our teams continuously engage in research “spikes” to evaluate new technologies and approaches to create customer value and improve our development efficiency.  

 

We define our core value of innovation as ‘arising when smart people consistently think bigger, ask the difficult questions and embrace conflict.’”

How did these processes come about?

As a startup, innovation was as simple as “Yes, we can go after that feature!” Now, innovation goals cover a much wider range of scale, including “Yes, we can change core components of a multi-tier system operating at extreme scale for a Fortune 500 customer who can’t afford downtime.”

We define our core value of innovation as “arising when smart people consistently think bigger, ask the difficult questions and embrace conflict.” Our focus on innovation started with LogRhythm’s co-founders, Chris Petersen and Phil Villella. Their foundation of innovation was built upon by hiring the right people and is constantly reinforced through a cultural willingness to take risks. Built on this foundation, our engineering processes have evolved over time to support our current size, customer scale and industry-leading approach to detecting and containing cyberthreats.

 

What’s a recent example of a tech development that came from this innovation process?

We routinely take ideas from our hackathons and put them into production. One such hackathon project led to the creation of our Phishing Intelligence Engine (PIE), which combines our Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) platform with Office 365 APIs to enhance our Security Orchestration, Automation and Response (SOAR) solution capabilities.

Using PIE, security analysts can detect, quarantine and pull back a phishing email with one touch. An analyst can simultaneously create a case to monitor the issue, track the spread of the email, identify impacted individuals and initiate remediation actions. This one hackathon project led to an entirely new application for us and is a definite favorite of our customers.

 

Fanatics tech innovation process Colorado
Photo  courtesy of Fanatics.

Fanatics is one of the world’s largest distributors of licensed sports merchandise, taking a tech-driven approach that enables the company to deliver both fan favorites and timely new products on demand. Nate Lyman, VP of engineering, explained how his team innovates by delivering fans the products they want, faster than ever before.

 

What processes do you use for discovering and testing new ways to drive your technology — and your industry — forward?

Innovation really is the outcome of company culture, an impossible problem to solve and necessity. One of Fanatics’ core values is “execution and agility over talk.” We prove things by doing them and understand that mistakes are part of the process.

 

Innovation really is the outcome of company culture, an impossible problem to solve and necessity.”

How did these processes come about?

Our culture really started forming in 2015 after Doug Mack became CEO of Fanatics. Since then, we have innovated in a number of areas, including our new platform that services our e-commerce business, being able to manufacture and sell our own apparel at scale, and new innovations in our stadium retail store business.

 

What’s a recent example of a tech development that came from this innovation process?

One that still gets me excited to this day was building our new custom product experience that allows fans to design a truly custom shirt or hoodie. The team wanted to launch before our busy holiday season and delivered a world-class customer experience that was unlike anything we had done to that point, while building on top of an existing platform and pulling in new platforms such as Serverless to get it live in time.

 

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