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VOL. 132 | NO. 120 | Friday, June 16, 2017

The Case for Ground Floor Innovation

By Andy Meek

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ServiceMaster wanted to open an innovation center partly for “self-serving” reasons, the company’s chief information officer said during a panel discussion Thursday, June 15, that marked the inaugural event in ServiceMaster’s new innovation space the “Ground Floor.”

The company, CIO Jamie Smith said, had actually looked at launching such a space even before the company knew it would be bringing its corporate headquarters Downtown.

SoftMatch managing partner Jackson Giles, ServiceMaster CIO Jamie Smith, Dispatch CEO Avi Goldberg and Start Co. president Andre Fowlkes speak in a panel discussion on technology and innovation on the "Ground Floor" of ServiceMaster's new Innovation Center in Downtown Memphis. (Daily News/Houston Cofield)

Ground Floor will serve as a startup accelerator, co-working space and small events center.

“We know we need to innovate, as ServiceMaster, to really stay relevant – we don’t want to be captive to the Innovator’s Dilemma,” he said. “But, also, we knew there was someone somewhere up at night with that next great idea, and we wanted to facilitate that coming into the world.

“From that kind of seed is where the idea for the Ground Floor started.”

That means, Smith continued, the space isn’t just going to be for ServiceMaster’s internal use. He said the plan is for functions on behalf of outside groups to also take place there – things like hackathons and coding bootcamps. He said the company also got inspired, as it began thinking about the new space, by looking around the country at other corporate innovation centers.

During ServiceMaster’s panel discussion, Jackson Giles, co-founder and managing partner of Austin, Texas-based startup SoftMatch, added some of his own perspective about why the opening of ServiceMaster’s Ground Floor is significant.

The company, Giles said, is “placing a lot of really small, important bets.” Those include bets on the innovation that can happen inside this company “by providing entrepreneurs who come to the Ground Floor space with resources to innovate and experiment.”

It also has to do with proximity.

The company, Giles said, is also “placing bets with entrepreneurs in this local community by inviting them into these doors and helping them bump into each other and collaborate and collide.

“And then (Smith and ServiceMaster) are investing in entrepreneurs in other markets. And that’s really what it takes to drive innovation in this kind of business.”

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