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Sandra Bradley, Class of 2001

IB is celebrating 20 years of the 40 Under 40 in 2020, and will be catching up with past recipients to see what they’ve been up to since they were honored. This week features Sandra Bradley, CEO, Hyper Innovation.

What have you accomplished in your professional life/career since your 40 Under 40 selection?

I had co-founded and was running Aesention, a web services firm, when I was a 40 Under 40. In 2004, I negotiated a successful merger of the firm with Hiebing, a large brand agency, and we became their first interactive services division.

While at Hiebing, I was approached by the University of Wisconsin to lead a digital strategy practice that served leading Midwestern companies to bring learning and collaboration to advance e-commerce and digital strategy best practices. During the 10 years there, I also co-founded the UW–Madison Internet of Things Lab to explore applications for internet of things technology. The lab provided incubator space for student ideas, shared learning for corporations, and I also launched a series of Girls in STEM challenges. I was featured in The Internet of Women, a book published in 2017, for this work.

With the growing need to accelerate innovation, especially around disruptive technologies, I left the university in 2017 to found Hyper Innovation. Hyper Innovation is an innovation agency that brings strategic insights and systematic methods to global brands that are seeking new competitive advantage and ways to harness disruptive strategies. We work with brands such as Cigna, Express Scripts, Omron, Lands’ End, Foxconn, and others to accelerate innovation in new ways. Hyper Innovation was a Wisconsin Inno “50 on Fire” company in 2018 for our work with autonomous vehicles and innovation in transportation and has seen a five-fold revenue growth in the past year with double that projected for 2020.

I am also the founder of the annual Innovation and Emerging Technology Leadership Summit, which is a thought-leadership and networking opportunity for decision-makers from leading companies. Hyper Innovation brings this event in partnership with the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery.

Hyper Innovation also partners with the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery and drives programming and strategic partnerships for the new Emerging Tech Hub, which is an opportunity for exploration and experimentation with new technologies for universities, startups, and corporations.

I have become an angel investor this year as part of a program offered through my undergraduate alma mater, Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, California. I have been very fortunate to be part of a collaborative group of investors who see the value in supporting their local ecosystem through investing in innovative and disruptive startups and am enjoying the mentorship and involvement with the Cal Poly Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center.

What accomplishments, milestones, or endeavors have you attained in your personal life since your 40 Under 40 selection?

In the past 20 years, the big things have been raising my two daughters who are now 17 and 19. Most of my time has been spent balancing work and family life! I did become a master gardener, which is an accomplishment I am proud of, and am on the committee for the Eagle Heights Gardens. My daughter and I also have volunteered for the Dane County Humane Society and Three Gaits over the years.

If you were to “do it all over again,” what (if anything) would you do differently throughout your career?

The main thing I would do differently is to bring on partners in more significant ways. I have tended to take the lead but likely could have moved faster and better if I had been more open to sharing leadership responsibilities.

How did your 40 Under 40 selection help your career?

I remember that the 40 Under 40 selection felt very personally validating. Recognition like this is incredibly important in that it builds confidence in the direction one is going and that it demonstrates the ecosystem’s support.

What is something that you have a new passion for since the time of your induction — either professionally or personally?

I am not sure my passions are new. They are very much the same: opportunities for technology to improve lives, support for collaborations, and family. I would say that I am more aware of the importance for providing mentorship to younger people, which is something I am doing regularly in the Emerging Tech Hub at WID.

Based on your experience, do you have any advice for today’s young professionals (under 40)?

Can I say something about women here? Especially those in innovation or technology: Don’t let anyone tell you to not step out of your box and don’t believe someone if they try to make you feel that you are less than you are. Follow your passions, even if you are uncomfortable or unsure. It is OK not to see the whole path or to not know exactly where you are going — take things one step at a time. And never ever, ever, ever, ever, give up (that is Winston Churchill).

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