From the Editor – Insight launches THINC! Innovation Awards

Posted on Feb 3, 2014 :: Editor
Margaret LeBrun
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Do you know an innovative company? Could it be yours?

… You do? Great! I encourage you to nominate or apply for the first annual THINC! Innovation Awards, sponsored by Insight Publications LLC.

We are launching this contest to shine the spotlight on New North businesses that are proven leaders in breakthrough technologies, processes and cultures. They make an important, positive impact on their companies, employees, customers, vendors, industries and communities.

Whether it involves people, process, product or our planet, our goal is to celebrate innovative ideas in our region. We’ll present the awards at our third annual THINC! event in May.

Click here for more information on the awards application. The nomination deadline is Feb. 28.

Of course, we know that inspirational ideas are all around us in Northeast Wisconsin. One example is this month’s cover story.

It was yoga day when we spent the morning at SparkNET. At 11 a.m. several employees stopped what they were doing, went into the company locker rooms to change into their yoga duds and join an instructor leading them in downward-facing dog, warrior pose and more.

When the class wrapped up at noon, they gathered with the rest of the company’s 40 employees in the company cafeteria, where SparkNET’s full-time chef had prepared a healthy meal – as he does every day. And, yes, it was a free lunch. Some skipped the stairs and slid down one of the company’s slides from upper floors of the new four-story building in De Pere. CEO Christopher Knight padded in barefoot.

In her cover story, Sharon Verbeten says Knight epitomizes the company’s corporate culture of working hard while still having fun. Taking a cue from tech giants Google, YouTube and others that incorporate a playful working environment, Knight believes offering creative outlets not only makes for more productive employees but is a perk to attract new hires. This year, he expects to nearly double the size of his workforce in his quest to grow the company.

“It’s one of my favorite businesses because I love ‘out of the box,’” De Pere Area Chamber of Commerce President Cheryl Detrick says. “Chris Knight and SparkNET is so far ‘out of the box;’ they’re in their own sphere.”

SparkNET is adjusting to big changes in its industry, particularly in the face of recent changes by Google in how it monetizes content and advertising. Knight is confident he’s in a good position to eventually fill his building, designed for up to 300. Check out the story for a little insight into what’s cooking (outside of lunch) at the app development company.


Still time to register for InDevelopment

If thinking outside the box works for a small and growing technology company, that’s precisely what needs to be done in community development, according to Fred Kent, founder and president of the Project for Public Spaces. An authority on revitalizing city spaces, livability and smart growth, Kent will keynote the fifth annual InDevelopment conference in Appleton. He’s been involved in transforming city centers throughout the United States and worldwide. Closing off traffic in most of Times Square in New York City and creating a space that caters to the enormous numbers of tourists that flock there year-round is among the feathers in his cap. Kent also once studied with renowned anthropologist Margaret Mead.

His talk, sponsored by First National Bank Fox Valley, is designed to appeal to commercial real estate developers, economic development professionals and community leaders but we at Insight know it will appeal to a broad audience of forward-thinking people.

Indeed, Kent believes the best development ideas need “zealous nuts” to spearhead them. If you feel passionate about the future of your community here in the New North, you won’t want to miss his talk.

Tickets are $70 and include lunch and a cocktail networking reception. Check out the great lineup of other speakers and make it a point to be there!

Margaret LeBrun

About Margaret LeBrun

Co-Publisher, Executive Editor View all posts by Margaret LeBrun →