AlchemistX: Innovator Inside

E.04 - Corbett Gilliam: Advancing Technology

Published on

February 23, 2021

Corbett Gilliam is the corporate development manager for the world-renowned Advanced Technology Development Center. The ATDC is a science and business incubator that's part of the Enterprise Innovation Institute at Georgia Tech. We're so glad to share Corbett's story with you all.

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Show Notes & References

Links:
Corbett Gilliam on LinkedIn
Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC): A science and business incubator that's part of the Enterprise Innovation Institute at Georgia Tech
Rotary International - an international service organization whose purpose is to bring together business and professional leaders 
LendingTree - online lending marketplace
Engage, is a venture capital fund that was started by Georgia Tech
Kingdom, is on Netflix. It's about MMA fighting and is a show Corbett enjoys
Cobra Kai - a perfect, good kind of bad show which Rachel enjoys. It is the 30 years later sequel to Karate Kid
Intelligent Investor is a book Corbett is reading for a second time. The book’s author is Benjamin Graham.
Iain M. Banks, the author of the Culture novels, is the inspiration for the names of the satellites being added to the Earth’s atmosphere by Elon Musk. 
Intro and Outro music composed by: www.PatrickSimpsonmusic.com




Rachel Chalmers:

My guest today is Corbett Gilliam, the corporate development manager for the world-renowned Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC). The ATDC is a science and business incubator that's part of the Enterprise Innovation Institute at Georgia Tech. Corbett, you've been part of the Atlanta Science and Tech scene since your undergraduate degree. Can you tell us a little bit about your early career in this startup scene in Georgia?

Corbett Gilliam:

Yes, I can. And again Rachel, thank you for having me.

Rachel Chalmers:

It's a pleasure. 

Corbett Gilliam:

I'm excited to spend some time with you today. Going back to the hey-day of the dot-com boom, that's when I started. I graduated from my undergrad in 1997 and I had been reading about eBay and Amazon. All these companies are just coming out of nowhere and going public. All this excitement was going on around technology at that time, along with the internet. I started reading about venture capital. 
I never had really heard about Venture Capital and how you get it and what it is used for. So, from reading that I decided I'm going to start a company and that I want to take advantage of this time. I naively, just coming out of college, came up with an idea which was an executive website for executive travel goods. Such as briefcases and Palm Pilot cases. It was really popular at the time. I created an e-commerce site and then found out early on - that's not going to work. E-commerce was popular, but it just wasn't what I wanted it to be at that time. 
So I moved more into social media before social media and created a site for attorneys and CPAs to develop their own personal website. At that time nobody really had a website and this gave you the opportunity, without the knowledge of code or anything like that, to be able to have a website. I had strategic relationships with the Washington Post, NPR, and different groups like that to pipe in content. Because people really didn't have anything for their personal website. There was nothing to go on except your blog, which wasn't really popular yet. I got the MVP ready and then just really went out and started trying to raise money. The way I did that was I went to the one area in Atlanta where there was a lot of money. Which was the financial district -  down in Buckhead. All I did was go around and knock on doors. I would go to an office building, look at the kiosk, see the financial institutions in there and then go in and pitch to the front desk to try to get into somebody that would listen. 

Rachel Chalmers:

Yeah, the naivete is really key in your early career isn’t it? It's just like not having a clue.

Corbett Gilliam:

Exactly but what was interesting - and it had to do just with the times, where it was easy to really raise money - I had a one-pager that I had written. I went to this institution that was an investment bank - a small boutique Investment Bank. I did the pitch to the front desk, the individual at the front desk looked down, they were doing something - not paying attention to me. I looked down on a planner and I saw a name and I mentioned that name, then all of a sudden I was like “you know, I'm on so and so's calendar for this day.” They look down, they're like “you're not on the calendar.” Well, they ended up putting me a few days later on the calendar for one of the partners in the firm. I got in a few days later and he asked “why are you here?” I pitched him my idea and he ended up giving me a half a million dollars. So, that was an interesting learning opportunity to see how that worked out. To be able to get Venture Capital money or into the beginning and see Capital, but how to begin to execute that to build a business around that.

Rachel Chalmers:

So millennials, if you've ever wondered why Gen-X gets so misty-eyed about the 90s - this is why.

Corbett Gilliam:

It was a different time - the music was great. It was a just a great time period to be able to go through this and learn about the internet and all the great things. Really just go out in a naive way and not think about “this is not going to work” or “this is not the right approach”. I learned a lot from scaling that business. I learned a lot in two-thousand when that came around and everything sort of crashed. Seeing how utilizing the money that was invested, how you can do that the right way and then the wrong ways to do it. In Atlanta there was a lot going on in this city back in the late 90s. Because Investment Banks were popping up, Venture Capital funds from the West Coast were coming out, setting up shop. There was a lot of interesting activity that, traditionally, Atlanta was a real conservative Market - where it's real estate based and a lot of Technology was popping up. 

Rachel Chalmers:

What do you think that upwelling of creativity came from? I was an analyst in the zeros and I ended up covering a ton of Atlanta-based firms. 

Corbett Gilliam:

You know, there were a lot of companies, like WebMD, that were popping up. There was a lot of money from CNN in those types of groups that were here - seeing what was happening on the west coast. They decided “Hey, there's an opportunity here, let's begin to invest heavily in these and try to make them a marquee name.” I think that might have been some of the things that we're going on. I just know that every person you'd speak with was in that startup community. Everybody had a start-up, everybody had something they were trying to do. One of the great things with where I am now, working with Georgia Tech is that I have been here all along. There's so much innovation. From the many incubators besides just ATDC and accelerators that they have within their students to even professors. That’s where a lot of innovation comes from. That is what was happening back in the 90s as well. 

Rachel Chalmers:

Yeah, you do see a school like that in every startup hub. There's a big technical education tradition. 

Corbett Gilliam:

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. It was interesting to see how this was happening. It was a great ride. Then when the 2000’s hit, everything sort of fell apart and I was able to sell off some of the assets of the company.

Rachel Chalmers:

Oh well done. 

Corbett Gilliam:

I then jumped over and began to work with the boutique investment bank that invested in me originally. 

Rachel Chalmers:

So, then you were working on the finance side for the rest of the aughts. Is that right? 

Corbett Gilliam:

Yeah. When I moved over to that investment bank I had a whole portfolio of companies that they had invested in. One of them being realestate.com, which was a really big company that took a big fall in the early 2000s. But I was on the team that helped to foreclose on the assets of realestate.com and we ultimately sold that to Barry Diller and he made that a part of LendingTree. That whole group and I got to advise other companies that we invested in, so that really set me in the course of working more as an advisor within private equity and working with underperforming assets within portfolios. 

Rachel Chalmers:

This will become important later.

Corbett Gilliam:

Exactly. I spent most of the early to mid-2000s doing that. Along the way I've started other companies working within private equity and seeing, from the outside, opportunities that would make me jump in every few years to start another company. I’d try to spin it off and do different things like that.

Rachel Chalmers:

A glutton for punishment. 

Corbett Gilliam:

I know, my wife always says “Why do you want to keep starting these companies?” Now working with ATDC and the hundred and fifty companies we have in the portfolio, it is interesting to see how all these different entrepreneurs, at different stages, deal with things. You really get to reflecting on some of the things that they are going through and how hard it really is to start a company.
You have to be able to break through all the different barriers that come up during the startup stage. From raising money, to customer-based, to constantly building the platform, tweaking the technology, strategic relationships, not to mention all the talent that you have to hire and then retain them as you're trying to scale the business. 

Rachel Chalmers:

You spent a couple of years in the United Kingdom. How did that come about and what did you take away from it?

Corbett Gilliam:

I was coming off of starting a company, eRollover. From there, I raised venture capital for eRollover and really ran the company for three years. Then they wanted to step back and the idea there was to bring a management team in. And from that management team, let them take the whole entire business and run it while I jumped to something else. Well, that something else was this group based in Geneva, Switzerland. Which was a private equity group that had a portfolio of seven companies. We had an office in London as well and I was tapped to take over one of them to really pivot the model. It was a company called Connectic, it was a collaboration based SAS product mainly for Rotary International and they wanted to connect all the rotarians around the world with their service projects. I had gotten into that model and had seen where I didn't think that would work. Mainly the way that the structure was set up. So, we went after more of the Chambers of Commerce and business associations, 

Rachel Chalmers:

Where there is a financial incentive to collaborate. 

Corbett Gilliam:

Financial incentive and it also helped with retention of membership. Also building their membership because it's all about how many members they can keep in, bring in, and then keep.

Rachel Chalmers:

The network effect. 

Corbett Gilliam:

Exactly. Exactly. So when I came in, that was one of the first things that I did. We rebuilt the product and then I basically launched it in North America and throughout Europe. I had an office, also here in Atlanta, and was able to bounce back and forth. I did that for years and it was great because I ran two of their companies. One was, like I mentioned, Connectic, the other was a live streaming platform. 
One of the biggest problems was the travel. It was anywhere from two to three times a month. I was going either to Geneva or to London and it was just very difficult to be able to keep my sanity and keep my mind straight. Because I would get there, jump off a plane and go straight into meetings. But what was interesting was the reach in working in international business. I had teams not only in Geneva and London but also Bulgaria. A bunch of different countries around the world and we would come in and have our weekly strategy meetings and staff meetings. It was just interesting to see the different perspectives and different skill sets that different individuals had. It was a great environment to collaborate and instead of just thinking on a one-track way of Innovation, but to really understand other areas and how they look at Innovation. Meaning, what was needed for Innovation and how to approach it in a different country. 

Rachel Chalmers:

Did you run into any experiences of culture clashes when you tried to negotiate? For example, the differences between American and European business culture. 

Corbett Gilliam:

We worked with each other so much that we learned each other's personalities. I know if I'm working with our team in Germany, there's things that I would do here just from my business background that don't necessarily work or translate well over there. We all just learned how we operate and you just have to be willing to work with the needs of others  and understand where they're coming from. 
Early on we would clash and hit heads and then we all figured out that it was getting us nowhere. After all, the whole plan is to get whatever product it was out and executed. There was a lot of learning but I learned so much from working with the different groups and we still communicate on Skype and LinkedIn. We just talk back and forth to see how the other is doing.

Rachel Chalmers:

That's great. Was it the travel that eventually wore on you so much that you looked for a position located back in Atlanta?

Corbett Gilliam:

It was. In this day and time, it is a little bit easier to do Zoom calls. A few years ago, everybody wanted you to be there in person and Zoom just wasn't good enough. So, that ultimately was one of the reasons that I decided to step back and luckily with ATDC, that it opened up as a corporate development opportunity for me. 
One, to work with the country's oldest technology incubator, but also to work with Georgia Tech and be able to really build a network within their organization. That organization was Engage, which is a venture capital fund that was started by Georgia Tech. It was just launched and they are housed within ATDC. I had the opportunity to work with them. So those two things are really what attracted me to want to work with ATDC.  I came in and was really given this opportunity to take over this corporate development program and do it how I want it to do it. 
One of the things I wanted to do instead of the traditional way of having a company come in where you do a pitch, do a dog and pony show, and then that's it. I wanted some real real business being done. Similar to when I worked with private equity and I was doing strategic relationships and partnerships. One of the things I started was called a Deep Dive. Everybody, including all of my colleagues, laugh at the term Deep dive, but that's what I do with these enterprises. Where we really get in and understand areas of focus, their corporate culture internally on Innovation, budgets, the number of pilots they've launched, decision-makers that may need to be in the meetings, etc. 
Then together once we gather and harvest all that data with the enterprise, we curate a list of ATDC companies. We take all hundred fifty and then narrow them down to anywhere from the three to five companies. With that it makes it easier. You're not seeing ten or twelve companies and then you've already forgotten what the first two were. There you have a small bite sized number of companies and each company has a 30 minute time slot. It usually breaks down to a 20-minute pitch, 10-minute Q&A. The idea is for them to really break the ice and be able to understand and see the synergy and then go on to a second and third meeting beyond that. 
Since I was given the opportunity, that was one of the reasons that I really wanted to move over to be able to incorporate that, to get some real movement in pilots. Not a lot of incubators were doing that at the time. We should focus on launching pilots with these enterprises. 

Rachel Chalmers:

Based on these Deep Dives that you're having with the enterprise's, what are some of the commonalities in the things that they struggle with right now? 

Corbett Gilliam:

It's a whole variety of different things. Before COVID and the pandemic it was one thing, where it may be one case of computer vision in the consistency of a product that they're manufacturing. Today, It has a lot to do with team collaboration - how to do things in a touchless way. If you're dealing with a sales force or even specific types of manufacturing. I work with food companies which have to incorporate various procedures to be able to manufacture food with sanitation stations and those types of things. 
I think a big piece of working with enterprises is, everybody knows they need some type of Innovation.  And a lot of them think that they are innovating when they're really not. One of the trends that I've seen, really over the past year, is that these large enterprises bring in entire teams. We've had one group that had a hundred fifty senior executives from around the world. They came in and the idea of that session was to break them out of their four walls when it comes to what they've been taught internally about Innovation. To show them where Innovation is happening and how to rethink, and take their mind out of what they're used to it being. To begin to think about how to incorporate Innovation into their day-to-day. 
Some of the things that I've learned is you have GE or a company like that, somebody's not going to put their neck out to really push an early stage company. Even if it's a great technology because there's too much risk at their job in being promoted etc. If that early stage company can't add a hundred million to the bottom line for that specific business unit, it's a very far reach. It is teaching in and really building some exposure to Innovation to these early stage companies and showing them how to work with an early stage company and how to incorporate that in different stages.

Rachel Chalmers:

Because every big corporation is an exercise in hedging risk for everyone who works for it. That's what corporations exist to do. But in the same way every enterprise becomes a success disaster because they have a set of survival strategies that they eventually outgrow and it's very very difficult to change those survival strategies mid-flight.

Corbett Gilliam:

It is. With ATDC we had a number of verticals. We had a retail tech vertical, a fintech vertical, healthcare, and advanced manufacturing. I bounced between all of those. One day, I'm working with Macy's, the next day I am working with Johnson & Johnson, and then Honeywell. We were all over the board, but it's interesting to see and understand where these companies are thinking, how they're thinking, and where they're trying to move to. The steps that are trying to take that movement and how they do it - everybody does it differently. There's not a real cookie cutter way to deliver a pilot. It's just as you go, understanding who to speak with, how to pitch it, and then how to move it to the next level. Then also how to keep pushing it once the meeting happens and things start to die down. Along with how to keep moving it forward to be able to get it to that point so we can light a pilot. 

Rachel Chalmers:

To your point about cookie cutters - I think that's one of the things I find so compelling about corporate Innovation. Its that, it's really hard to imagine a way you could automate this. There's so many human factors involved. It's so much about consensus building and aligning interests and it's very hands-on. 

Corbett Gilliam:

There's a lot of what I call, background stuff, that I do to really keep the ball rolling. If it's from the enterprise side or even the early stage company, where they may have two or three meetings and be like this is not going to happen. I have to keep them energized in being able to see the big picture of where this could lead them. If they could just keep along with the different phases needed to get to that point of a pilot. 

Rachel Chalmers:

This is why so many startups like doing consumer tech rather than enterprise tech. Because enterprise tech is slow, and it's difficult - it takes a long time. But I like enterprise tech because that's where the money is.

Corbett Gilliam:

That's where it is, and one of the other areas that I've found as interesting is the government. Working with the Department of Defense and some of these other groups. Where now they're very aggressive when it comes to Innovation. They have money to spend on autonomous driving, AI, and so many different technologies. I've done a lot and we've launched, I think it was last year, maybe four pilots with the Department of Defense. I'm trying to increase that this year with some of the exposure we're getting, but it's a long journey. It's rewarding if you can build that up and have a good number of enterprises you're working with. It helps with raising money and also strategic relationships as you scale the business.

Rachel Chalmers:

When you look back on your work in corporate innovation in particular, what are you proudest of?

Corbett Gilliam:

I think at ATDC, for starters, I'm proud of just all the pilots we've launched. I always say it's not because of me, a big part of it is ATDC and the network of ATDC with all the different talent that is there. Also, being able to harness the power of Georgia Tech and what’s coming out of it. The technologies that are developed there and then that opens doors to these enterprises. I think that the first piece is being able to launch these pilots and not have to take anything. Because usually if you're starting a company and you're doing a pilot with an enterprise, you're trying to take money, trying to get a payment, you're trying to do something like that. 
With us, we're an economic development play. So, I'm getting the highest number I can get for our companies and our portfolio and they keep it. It just makes it so clean to be able to jump back and forth and just really focus on our companies in the portfolio and getting them paid. Then helping to grow that. Also, another answer to that would be I enjoy matching companies up with enterprises and understanding what an enterprise wants and needs and then finding companies that can fit within that need.

Rachel Chalmers:

You’re a yenta, you're arranging these marriages. Right? 

Corbett Gilliam:

Right, and that's what makes it interesting where I don't have one thing I'm selling. I can jump like I said earlier, from FinTech to RetailTech. Retail iss one thing that's just very very interesting now. With what's happening in the whole digital transformation with brands and traditional retail brick-and-mortar,  that's just fascinating. I enjoy just being able to go through and hear opportunities and it’s a great recruiting tool for ATDC too.

Rachel Chalmers:

Corbett, you find a magic lamp on one of your walks and you rub it and a genie comes out and says “I'm going to give you one do-over.” What are you going to do differently? 

Corbett Gilliam:

That's a great question by the way. One of my do-overs would be when I was starting companies. One of the companies, I don't want to say the name of it because some of the people may be listening. I had raised money for the company. I had a co-founder and we had brought in some management and we had a little argument internally. One of the things I would have done differently was stay the path and not leave the company. I ended up where I positioned myself for the board and others to want to be able to move and they gave me an ultimatum. Then I didn't know what would happen, but I ended up taking the ultimatum. But just being positioned in that was uncomfortable and the do-over would be - I would have more faith in myself. 
In that, what could I have done with my vision for the company, instead of thinking I needed to bring in more senior people to be able to help build the vision for me. Because my whole idea was to bring in some senior management and they can help raise money. They can do this, they can do that. Instead of really relying on me and my co-founder to be able to do that and really scale it up. Just that little instance of time, if I could go back, that would be one thing I would change. Because of the idea we were onto something and there was a lot of opportunity to really grow this and then today there's three or four companies that are in that space.

Rachel Chalmers:

That's always so frustrating when you have a startup and somebody else goes and cleans up on it. 

Corbett Gilliam:

Yeah, and they're doing billions and billions of dollars. If I just would have been able to feel confident and move forward, I think we could have been in an interesting position. So that would be one of my do-overs. Another one would be just to really embrace technology and really just go for it. Learn as much as you can and not be so calculated when it comes to starting companies in my early days. Because as you get a little older and you have a family and all of that, it makes it more difficult to take that risk to go out and start a company from scratch - just with all the blood, sweat, and tears that go into doing it. 

Rachel Chalmers:

What do you think makes corporate Innovation so especially difficult?

Corbett Gilliam:

I think with Corporate Innovation it's on the corporate side. You're in a box and the way the data flows and the way that the org charts are sometimes, it could be stacked against Innovation. Some of the most Innovative companies that are out there today, brand names, I've done Deep Dives on them. I have found out that they're just really not Innovative. They seem Innovative from the outside but Innovation is bottlenecked internally where lots of great things happen and that just stops once it reaches a certain level. I think some of the problem is being able to see the structure internally and to be able to work around that and to be able to look outside of the four walls. Instead of trying to create your own Innovation and see what else is being built outside. It could be a team of two or three entrepreneurs that had developed a cutting-edge platform instead of trying to do it and replicate something like that internally. 

Rachel Chalmers:

Yeah, it can be really hard though. I mean, you talked about the hundred million dollar barrier, that's at the point at which startups seem meaningful to an enterprise, but that's an incredibly high bar for a start-up. You know that used to be a rule of thumb for starting to think about an IPO. That's almost an enterprise from the point of view of an early stage investor. That just makes it very difficult for folks who are thinking “Oh, we can build it here” to take a company that wasn’t invented here seriously.

Corbett Gilliam:

A lot of times with an early stage company they may be developing a great platform. But they may be real green and when they get in front of that enterprise, they just really can't pitch and get across what they're trying to do and how they want to do it. Now they want to scale it. It is sort of something that I work with our portfolio on is their pitch. How all that works and you know even down to the elevator pitch and how that would work. I mentioned in one of our first conversations about the elevator pitch, how important that is. Tim Draper is one of your mentors. 

Rachel Chalmers:

Yes. 

Corbett Gilliam:

He is one that I did my elevator pitch on, in the lobby of a hotel with one of my companies. It's very important to be able to have that 60 second pitch to be able to get across what you're doing. Even if you don't have the platform in front of you, when you do have the platform, you can show what you said it could do, that speaks volumes and that can move you forward. 

Rachel Chalmers:

It's a really fine balance because startup folks absolutely have to take the opportunity of being in an elevator with Tim Draper. But at the same time too much cockiness and too much over-promising and under-delivering is really off-putting to a Corporate Innovation team, it can kill a CorpDev deal. 

Corbett Gilliam:

That's one of the biggest things that I talked to my groups about is the technology they’re pitching. That if it is a once-over and they've had an offshore group put a vote together and it really does a fraction of what they're saying it does - they're going to have issues when they're out presenting and raising money. Perfect what you're trying to do and focus on one small area instead of making a robust multi-faceted platform and get good at that one little piece. Be laser-focused and if you can do that, it's going to be so much easier. In my case, coming into the industry-connect sessions and pitching to these companies that will really poke holes through what you're doing - in person. But once you're able to launch a pilot with them, then they'll really poke holes if it's not what you've sold it on being 

Rachel Chalmers:

You kind of anticipated my next question, which is to ask you to distill all of your long experience into a few lessons for our listeners. For the Corporate Innovation folks who are subscribing to our podcast.

Corbett Gilliam:

At this stage on the entrepreneur side it is really being able to identify the problem that you're trying to solve. Really being laser-focused on that problem and trying to develop the best piece of software whatever your model is that you can. On the enterprise side, the CorpDev side, I think it's being open-minded and really being aware of what is out there and how the streets are changing. From the standpoint of technology and crowdsourcing and just all of these different platforms that are happening in hatching new technologies. Some of the area's I'm interested in or like are autonomous driving. I've worked with BMW and Mercedes-Benz trying to find companies. It could be two or three people sitting in a garage that have developed cutting-edge pieces of software that could be incorporated into a car for autonomous driving. 
What's interesting with car manufacturers traditionally, they've done the same thing for a hundred plus years, but over the past two or three years. I've really seen them break out of their corporate four walls and go out and really look for Innovation that they can incorporate into what they're already building. It could be two or three companies that they bring in and they're able to incorporate that technology into their core platform. 

Rachel Chalmers:

How do you measure success of those kinds of integrations? You've talked about how many Pilots you run, what does success look like when the Innovation is sourced externally and is incorporated into an enterprise?

Corbett Gilliam:

From my standpoint, my success is that we launch the pilot and it goes well. Then when it goes onto a contract, the company is able to incorporate that in some way shape or form. That's the one piece, the other piece is on the corporate side. 
Them coming back to me saying “Company A was amazing. We want to buy them. Do you have others that are similar to this that fit these areas?” With this whole corporate Innovation piece of ATDC is to create a rich experience. We could continue to have an Innovative conversation beyond the first meeting. Where Black & Decker, for example, would regularly touch base with me. Meetings talking about strategy, how they would incorporate a mobile app into their retail side or whatever the case would be. That really would instill a lasting relationship where we can move into other topics. Maybe IT in one case but move over into AI and continually have conversations that are productive where they want to come back for more. 
Because they knew we weren't just selling them something just to make them happy. This was because our model was set up as an Economic Development play. It works well. Our enterprise doesn't pay anything. It is an ecosystem that they want to keep coming back to because we are always adding new companies. Companies that we have in the portfolio are continuing moving up in their level within ATDC. It's a continuous conversation instead of just one and done type event. 

Rachel Chalmers:

Which Innovation has to be.

Corbett Gilliam:

Right, because it's changing. You can see the trends like in 2017 we talked a lot about VR and AR and it's not so much now. Now there's a lot of AI in the supply chain, which is interesting to see how that trend happens as well.

Rachel Chalmers:

Speaking of big changes, how do you think the pandemic is going to affect enterprises long-term?

Corbett Gilliam:

I've gone back and have had a number of Deep Dives with these enterprises that we were already working with,  just to see what has changed coming out of this pandemic. Some of the biggest things that I've seen are office spaces. These groups had entire sales teams that filled up an entire office building trying to rethink the whole having everybody in a 30-story high-rise. How to repurpose that, how to have a big number of the team working remotely. Companies that have employees that meet customers regularly and how to do that in a way where it's a non-touch environment. 
There's ways to do that - talk to pharmaceutical companies, they're mainly known for sending salespeople into doctors offices - how to redo that and rethink that going forward. Collaboration software is another one that we're seeing. I believe we're just on the tip of Innovation within that. You see how that moves forward as these teams are remote and not altogether. Zoom and these types of conferencing tools we've been using since March they're going to get better and it's going to be more collaborative. Everybody has a different approach and a different thought. 
I've even seen companies that had one focus that have expanded to more COVID focused on how to bring team members back and had to do that in a way that is safe and keeping the social distance. Companies are still trying to figure out how this is going to look and when they're coming back. So it's interesting to see how this is going to play out. 

Rachel Chalmers:

We talked about this a little in the context of your trans-atlantic commute but how do you personally avoid burning out? 

Corbett Gilliam:

One of the things that I do, is I love working out. I have a regimen at 5:00 a.m. I do a workout and it consists of kettlebells and boxing. I love kettlebells - there's so many versatile exercises you can do. Then boxing is just another great way that really helps to blow off steam. It helps to really get my mind set and feel good and feel positive, that's one thing I do. The other other thing is trying to spend as much time with family as I can. I’ve got four kids. They go from ages 4 to 10. So I got a ten-year-old, two eight-year-olds, and a four-year-old. At home we're trying to keep everybody moving and not bored, so that's a big problem. You know spending time with family is one of the most important things. But I think truly if you enjoy what you're doing, then it's easy to get burned out. It's easy to try to unplug and refocus and then come back out again. This is something I really enjoy. The off times that I have, like weekends, I try to turn it off. Try to do a lot of reading, try to stay away from social media, which is one that I found over the years that if you’re constantly glued to that - it can just make you go in different directions. 

Rachel Chalmers:

Dude, you started a social media company.

Corbett Gilliam:

I know that was so long ago. You see how social media, with all the different platforms is effective. There's a lot of cases where it can waste a lot of time.

Rachel Chalmers:

Doom scrolling is not good for your mental health.

Corbett Gilliam:

Right, it can pull you down into a hole. There's a lot of other more productive things you can do to really get your mind reset. I'm a big believer in that and trying to spend as much time outside as I can. Enjoying nature and what's around you - people say stop and smell the roses. Doing that sort of coming down and seeing what you've done and what your day today is, but try to put it in perspective and not worry about it after the fact and just roll with the punches. 

Rachel Chalmers:

Now that we've established that social media is the devil. What is the best way for our listeners to connect or follow your work? 

Corbett Gilliam:

One of the best ways is LinkedIn or email - old school email. But the easiest way even though I was talking bad about social media would be LinkedIn. LinkedIn is great because it's not like the others, where it’s more professional and you read good articles and different things like that. But find me on LinkedIn or my email, which is Corbett.gilliam@atdc.org 

Rachel Chalmers:

What does the future look like for you personally and as you look at our industry? 

Corbett Gilliam:

One of the things I'm interested in looking forward to is private equity and going back to that. Actually raising my own fund and having a fund that focuses on underperforming brands or technologies. Where I can take a brand that needs to have a digital transformation. Being able to buy that or invest in that and then really put what is needed to pivot the model and then really scale it up. 

Rachel Chalmers:

Okay, that is literally the most difficult job in our industry. 

Corbett Gilliam:

I feel with the background I have and private equity - which is interesting to say the least. Identifying interesting undervalued assets, pairs those two together, it is hard but I think there's some interesting things that could be done to be able to scale these companies up. I've done it on the scaling side, but one of the biggest things I've always didn't have behind me was a bunch of money that I could use to help fuel it. 

Rachel Chalmers:

You’re building the network now where you should be able to get those Investments. 

Corbett Gilliam:

Hopefully! I see lots of offices and other groups like that, that have money they want to invest in alternative investments. I look at that as sort of in that category where there's a need and there's not a lot going on. Yeah, you have big private equity and hedge funds and those types of groups. But really I see an opportunity to come in and take some of the relationships that I have on the money side and then on the corporate side and really bring them together to be able to make a great team.

Rachel Chalmers:

That really puts the Kettlebells into context though, you are not afraid of the heavy lifting. That's for sure. 

Corbett Gilliam:

Right, exactly. 

Rachel Chalmers:

This has been so great Corbett, lovely catching up. Is there anything else I should have asked you; do you have any books that you'd like to recommend, what are you watching on TV?

Corbett Gilliam:

Right now, we're just binging on Netflix. One show I'm watching that you shouldn't watch with your kids, is Kingdom, which is on Netflix. It's about MMA fighting. 

Rachel Chalmers:

We had a lot of fun with Cobra Kai, which is the 30 years later sequel to Karate Kid

Corbett Gilliam:

That's on my list. I still haven't watched that. 

Rachel Chalmers:

It's utter schlock. It's perfect pandemic viewing. 

Corbett Gilliam:

I'll have to try that. There's several books I'm reading right now. Intelligent Investor is one that I'm rereading which is a good book, but it's very thick by  Benjamin Graham. I try to stick to Innovation investing, just that whole scope when it comes to reading. Obviously all the Publications I try to stay in touch with The Financial Times and really see what's happening with Innovation. Elon Musk is fascinating to me how he continually innovates with SpaceX and Tesla. Some of the things that he's doing are interesting from a big thinking aspect of things. 

Rachel Chalmers:

I like that his drone ships are named after the spaceships from Iain M. Banks Culture novels.

Corbett Gilliam:

I saw something on Bloomberg today with him. Some of the satellites that he's launching, where traditionally satellites are so high up. He's going to bring them down so they’re only 300 feet or 300 miles above Earth or something like that. 

Rachel Chalmers:

And astronomers are really mad. It’s really messing up space observations.

Corbett Gilliam:

That's innovative. When you think of 5G, some of the other technologies that we're talking about incorporating over the next five to ten years.

Rachel Chalmers:

It is a wild time to be alive. That's for sure. 

Corbett Gilliam:

I would also love to pitch you to come on to my podcast which is Deep Dive. Deep Dive is all about corporate Innovation really getting into the nitty-gritty on how that works and how Innovation is done. 

Rachel Chalmers:

I'll be right there with my snorkel and flippers. 

Corbett Gilliam:

Thank you. I look forward to it.

Rachel Chalmers:

Corbett Gilliam, what a joy to have you on the show. I hope we get to have you on again sometime. Thank you so much. 

Corbett Gilliam:

Thank you so much. 

Rachel Chalmers:

Take care. 

Corbett Gilliam:

You too. Bye. Bye.

All Podcasts

E.04 - Corbett Gilliam: Advancing Technology

February 23, 2021

"I think a big piece of working with enterprises is, everybody knows they need some type of Innovation. And a lot of them think that they are innovating when they're really not." - Corbett Gilliam

Play Episode

E.03 - Louis Stewart: Mr. Innovation City

February 23, 2021

"Everybody has different needs in order to be successful. So trust your gut. If a door opens, give it a shot. Go ahead and take a look inside the door and see if there's something in there that you can learn from." - Louis Stewart

Play Episode

E.02 - Jeanne Morain: Transformation Pioneer

February 23, 2021

"It's important that you find those change agents. Because they exist. In every pocket, in every group. There's always those that aspire for a little bit more." - Jeanne Morain

Play Episode

E.01 - Mike Dolbec: Venture Industrialist

February 23, 2021

"You can't believe everything you read, see, or hear at first glance. Just because we're pattern-matching animals doesn't mean that your conclusion is accurate. It just means you matched some pattern. That pattern may or may not be useful at all." - Mike Dolbec

Play Episode