Karen Holst is an entrepreneur turned intrepreneur. She co-founded educational technology startup MyEdu, formerly Pick-A-Prof (acquired by Blackboard), and transitioned to intrepreneurial roles within the California Department of Education, IDEO, Autodesk, and LinkedIn Learning.

From government agencies and non-profits to startups and Fortune 500 companies, Karen has worked with organizations of varying sizes and across industries to help their leadership unlock creative potential and empower their employees to innovate. Her expertise on innovation has been featured in TechCrunch, The New York Times, NPR, The Chicago Tribute, CNN, and more.

Karen currently teaches courses through LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda.com), serves on the board of Thrive Education, and mentors entrepreneurs through TechStars and Stanford Latino Entrepreneur Leaders Program.

Douglas Ferguson is the author of “Beyond the Prototype” and a Design Sprint facilitator who has worked with teams from U.S. SOCOM, the Air Force, Adobe, Dropbox, Fidelity, Vrbo, Liberty Mutual, Humana, and SAIC. He’s an author, entrepreneur, and human-centered technologist with over 20 years of experience.

Douglas is president of Voltage Control, an Austin-based workshop agency that specializes in Design Sprints and innovation workshops. Before Voltage Control, Douglas held CTO positions at numerous Austin startups, where he led product and engineering teams using Agile, Lean, and human-centered design principles. 

Douglas is active in the Austin startup community, where he serves on the board of several non-profits, mentors startups, and advises early-stage ventures.

A Guide to Launching Your Idea in a Big Company

Start Within provides the framework to push your idea forward without getting rejected by corporate antibodies.

Start Within – by Karen Holst & Douglas Ferguson

Globally, every company and organization is trying to adjust and react to the monumental shifts we see in the marketplace and workforce. To survive the impact, companies need to innovate. Fortunately, they have the right people working in their organizations to meet the challenge. Unlike any other time in history, the workforce is made up of entrepreneurial-minded employees brimming with big ideas that could transform markets and lead their companies into the future.

Yet time and again, we see barriers blocking ideas and innovation coming from employees within companies. To date, most books and resources have a focus on building a culture that can create change and other top-down innovation systems that leave the “doer” wondering where they fit. Experts say it’s time to equip the doers with the tools and resources to empower them to push their ideas forward. Karen Holst and Douglas Ferguson provide this path in their new book, Start Within.

Start Within is the playbook guiding through the process of launching an idea within a company and helping to get around the corporate obstacles that will come along the way. Each chapter is packed with a one-two punch t starts with stories from the trenches (from Amazon to the Department of Education, inspirational stories of what does, and doesn’t work)- and finishes with activities for the reader to roll up their sleeves and apply the lessons to their work.

To launch an idea from within a larger company will be challenging, which is why the book outlines the steps and process to:

  • Knowing when an idea is worth pursuing
  • Aligning to company business strategies and objectives
  • Turning a “no” into a “yes”
  • Prototyping the idea in stages

Start Within is the essential guide for anyone who wants to innovate within their company, develop their ideas, take ownership of their work, and find real purpose in their work.


  • Amid the coronavirus pandemic, employees are working from home, finding more time to reflect and take on additional responsibilities – a chance to experiment and innovate on new ideas within their company
  • Most people will not launch their idea or innovate within their companies for two reasons:
    • They believe “permission” to launch ideas lie in a formal title or mandate from leadership.
    • There is no clear way to start or process to move forward.
  • The key to fulfilling work is spending time on what brings you purpose, unlocks the excitement of learning something new, gives you ownership of the project, and allows you to build something you care about.


    • Coronavirus lockdown book recommendation
    • May – Get Caught Reading Month
    • July 5 – Workaholics Day
    • July 30 – Paperback Book Day
    • September 6 – Read a Book Day
    • September 7 – Labor Day
    • October 4-8 – Austin Startup Week