The Power of an Innovation Network - From Incubator to Investment

The Power of the Network: How One Program and a 30-minute Meeting Led to a $1.5Million Investment

“I feel naked.”

That’s how Carter Wigell, CEO of Ideator, describes how he feels after graduating from the Salesforce Incubator’s first cohort and moving to his own San Francisco office space with co-founder Charlie Smith. Connecting with his 22-person team, more than half of whom are remote, via video conferencing and messaging apps is a stark contrast to the literal and figurative in-person elbow rubbing the incubator provided.

“The Salesforce incubator was vibrant and exciting. There were valuable resources right at your fingertips. To interact with other CEOs and CTOs all you had to do was turn your chair around.  It felt as though we were only one or two connections away from anything we needed.”

That couldn’t have been more true for the young technology company who was approached by Salesforce in 2016 to join their incubator program. Salesforce was looking for innovative companies leveraging their technology. Built on the Heroku platform with a mission to be the leading innovation network made Ideator a perfect fit.

For Ideator, being a part of the incubator afforded Carter and Charlie several unique perspective. First, not only were they a part of a dynamic startup program, but they were also tied to the incubator’s $2 billion parent company, Salesforce – a company that excels at fostering and engaging with global innovators. Secondly, the Ideator CEO and CTO were able to tap into multiple entrepreneurial communities, see how they work, and gain valuable feedback that helped shape the evolution of their product.

It felt as though we were only one or two connections away from anything we needed.

Believing that the Incubator was a prime arena to forge connections as well as help and receive help from other startups, Carter immediately scheduled lunches with all of the CEOs in the program. One of those lunches was with CEO Will Dinkel of Nova, a sales platform using AI to make sales teams more effective. The two entrepreneurs were discussing their respective startups and where they were in their journey. Carter explained he was in the process of raising capital for Ideator, to which Will introduced Carter to one of his investors. A meeting was arranged shortly thereafter.

“I walked over to the Olympic Club and met with Will’s investor. The investor wrote me a $250,000 check from one 30-minute meeting, then ended up coming in for another $150,000,” Carter said. But that wasn’t the end of it.

“That one investor introduced us to three or four other investors, which helped us raise our first $1.5 million.”

Being a part of the Salesforce Incubator provided Carter and his company with many other benefits, including introductions by Salesforce Incubator leaders Mike Kreaden and Ludo Ulrich, two mentors who helped the company meet goals and overcome challenges. They were also able to secure new customers, even large enterprise deals, with companies who felt confident working with Ideator due to the Salesforce Incubator’s involvement during their early stage.

The investor wrote me a $250,000 check from one 30-minute meeting,

Carter strongly believes in the power of the network. According to him, the connections, technology, and the Salesforce Incubator badge of trust have all been instrumental in helping to position Ideator as one of the top innovation network platforms.

Access to resources, technology, people, mentors, and investors is what Carter refers to as “the network effect”. It’s also the heart and soul of what Carter and Charlie are creating with Ideator. The nascent startup is already being used by top universities, organizations, and companies alike. Their customer base includes education and tech behemoths like UCLA, UNSW, UCSD, Blackstone Launchpad, and the Salesforce Incubator.

To learn more about how Ideator is helping organizations innovate faster, smarter, and easier, visit or connect with Carter or Charlie on LinkedIn.

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