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Scott Wilson says someone should create an app to make proposal-writing easier.
Wilson tells the back story of his iPod Nano watchband that hit a Kickstarter record when it raised $1 million.
You can't lead if you can't learn. And not all adults learn that well. How to change that.
Here’s a puzzle: Even though people talk about leadership all the time, and roughly eight kajillion leadership books have been published, we’re still plagued with fair to poor leaders in many, perhaps most, organizations.
Why is this? Part of the problem is that most of us, deep down, don’t really think it’s possible for an okay leader to become a great leader. We believe leadership ability is inborn. Either you have it or you don’t. Unfortunately, thinking something is impossible makes it very difficult to accomplish.
The other difficulty is that most adults aren’t very good learners. In order to become the best leader (or, actually, the best anything) you’re capable of being, you have to become a great learner. Here are the three things most required to be that kind of powerful learner:
To get better at something, you have to be clear about your current knowledge or capability. For example, I met someone a few months ago who thinks he’s a truly great leader, while nearly everyone around him sees him as a poor leader.
I call this kind of deeply inaccurate self-assessment The American Idol Syndrome, in honor of all those contestants who are convinced they’re going to be the next pop sensation but who can’t actually sing. Their lack of accurate self-awareness makes it nearly impossible for them to be open to feedback or learning.
In order to master anything, you have to start by being able to objectively assess your own current capability.
True curiosity is a very powerful thing, and it’s built into all of us. Anyone who’s ever been around a little kid can attest to that. Their endless asking of “why?” and “how come?” and “what’s that?” all arise from that impulse to investigate: curiosity. For children, curiosity is a powerful, instinctive survival mechanism. The more they understand about their environment, and the more quickly they understand it, the more likely they are to succeed as human beings. Kids’ insatiable curiosity drives them to learn to speak, eat, walk, and interact with other people remarkably quickly. It leads them to know what is dangerous and what is safe, what is delicious and what is disgusting, what is useful and what is pointless.
Unfortunately, many of us lose touch with that inborn curiosity as we become adults. We assume we understand things well enough, thank you very much. Also, our curiosity is often stifled by others. We’re taught, “mind your own business,” “don’t read ahead,” and “do what you’re told.” These are all clear societal messages to stop investigating the environment.
In order to learn to be a great leader, you have to re-connect with your innate curiosity. The best learners and the most successful leaders are continually asking curiosity-based questions such as, “How does that work?” and “Why is that happening?” and “How can I….?” and “What if…?”
Be willing to be not-good
This may be the toughest aspect of true learning. The path to being great at anything includes many, many points of being not great. Or even not good. That’s frustrating and embarrassing.
This is especially difficult for people who are smart and quick learners in general. The first time they run into something that requires real time and effort to master, where their initial efforts are clunky or incorrect, their impulse is to give up and go back to stuff they’re already good at.
Being able to keep going, and to work through incompetence, is essential to real learning of any kind. Real learning requires both being OK with our own initial ineptness and faith in our ability to get through it.
So if you want to get good at anything, you need to be realistic about where you’re starting from; unleash your innate curiosity; and be willing to be not-great before you get great. And the results are powerful: as a master learner, you have the key to becoming the best leader--or anything else--you can be.
Every success formula ever written or published boils down to these seven steps.
If you boil down every "success formula" that's ever been devised or published, you pretty much end up with the following:1. Know where you're starting from. (A).
Every journey has a starting place. With the journey towards success, it's an understanding of yourself, the resources you have available, and the realities of the world around you. Without this, any action you take will be meaningless.2. Know where you want to be (B).
Every journey has a goal, too. Nobody defines success in exactly the same way, so your destination must be specific to you. The more specific the goal, the easier it will be to get there, which is why goal-setting is so essential.3. Build a plan to get from A to B.
Everyone needs a plan, so spend the time to create one. However, the trick with success plans is to remember that they're always tentative and subject to change. Use whatever role models and methods you like, but don't cast anything in concrete.4. Take massive action based on that plan.
Most people with a plan don't take enough action. A few tentative steps aren't going to let you discover whether your plan is working or not. Do 10 things when most people would be satisfied with one or two. You've got to totally blitz this sucker.5. Observe whether you're closer to B.
This is difficult for most people because once they've put some effort into a plan, they desperately want to see the results they hope for. They even see such results when they're not actually there. So take a hard, objective look. Get outside help if you need it.6. If the plan is working, double down on Step 4.
If you can prove to yourself (and to an objective observer) that the actions based upon your plan are truly getting you from A to B, then you should redouble your efforts. Take even more massive action. Don't forget, though, to do Step five afterwards.7. If the plan isn't working, go back to step 3.
The reason you took massive action is that you can't fool yourself into thinking that the problem was that you didn't really try. You can now go back and build another plan, armed with the valuable knowledge of what didn't work.
I called this the 99 percent success formula because it raises the question: what's the other 1 percent?
The whole point of every success formula (including this one) is to reduce the influence of "luck" so that you don't have to think about it when you're either planning or taking action based on your plans.
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Gen-Y employees have gained a reputation for being spoiled and demanding constant praise. But it's not really as bad as all that.
When it comes to Gen Y employees, you've probably heard the stereotypes: flaky, lazy, and in need of constant praise.
According to a new workforce survey conducted by the online freelance network oDesk and consulting firm Millennial Branding, the things that supposedly make millennials so stereotypically unappealing might actually belie their entrepreneurial strengths.
Here are four things that define the millennial mindset--and how you might just be able to use them to your advantage.
They've got attitude.
The entrepreneurial attitude, that is. Ninety percent of millennials surveyed said that a person's status as an entrepreneur depends more on their mindset than any tangible accomplishments, such as starting a company.
Instead, respondents defined entrepreneur as "a creative person with a successful drive to create something new," "a person committed to pursuing innovation within a business, industry, or social sphere," or "a person who does not follow the typical business patterns and makes his or her own way."
In other words, they view entrepreneurs as innovators--whether or not they are self-employed.
They're searching for a cause.
The number one thing that millennials want more than independence is a reason to care about their work, says Millennial Branding founder Dan Schawbel.
"Their hearts and minds aren't really in their work," he says, citing one finding from the survey that indicated 72 percent of workers want to quit their jobs--and 62 percent plan to within the next two years.
But there's a way to prevent these employees from jumping ship. Consider this: 69 percent of those surveyed said they enjoy having more freedom to work on projects that interest them. So it stands to reason that if you encourage them to follow their passions--they might just be passionate about working for you.
They leap in head first.
Millennials aren't lazy--they're eager to get to work. And they want to cut quickly through the red tape. More than one-third said they would advise peers to join a start-up and get hands-on experience over finishing college, or pursuing higher level education.
Twenty-one percent of those surveyed said they were currently enrolled in college and getting a jump on their portfolios by freelancing.
"There is no stability in life now," says Schawbel, "The economy has changed everything." He says that millennials have learned that the only thing they can rely on is themselves. So they've gotten really good at wearing mulitple hats. By diversifying their skill sets, millennials are better prepared to fill a variety of roles, he says.
They're flexible--and think you should be, too.
Perhaps not surprisingly, millennials like the idea of calling the shots. Especially when it comes to their schedules. And they're not alone. Ninety-two percent of all freelancers surveyed--Gen X and Baby Boomers included--would rather work from wherever they want than opt for a traditional desk job. Eighty-seven percent also appreciate the flexibility to choose their hours.
So, be prepared to compromise.
"If you don't have a flexible work program, millennials won't work for you," says Schawbel. But he acknowledges that business owners have to put their feet down, too.
He says, "[Millennials] want all of these things but they have to produce, too. Employers need to set expectations for results, but flexibility on scheduling."
And there's more good news: Employees of all ages are more willing to sacrifice time off in lieu of more on-the-job travel. Sixty-eight percent said that they prefer traveling while working to taking a set number of vacation days off per year. So you might be able to eke more hours out of an empassioned millennial over time--if you're willing to compromise a bit on their day-to-day schedule.
The founder of Pakistan's first hackathon boldly goes where few women have gone before.
Sabeen Mahmud could easily fall into the Silicon Valley stereotype. But the entrepreneur lives and works in Karachi, Pakistan, a region more commonly associated with violence and a struggle for women's rights.
The hackathon Mahmud launched in her Second Floor Café in 2006 was Pakistan's first, though bringing something new to this ancient city wasn't easy. Mahmud had no money, no experience, and zero market research. She was also disollusioned with "mainstream politics," and was living with her mother and grandmother. However, that didn't deter her.
“Fear is just a line in your head," she told Wired this week. "You can choose what side of that line you want to be on."
For Mahmud, who fell "passionately in love" with the first Mac she saw in 1992, the decision was simple.
Using word-of-mouth, the hackathon drew over 120 applicants and welcomed a government representative--an especially bold move considering two of apps proposed to address government inefficiencies.
“I felt we needed to not create a competitive environment,” Mahmud said, “and as a result the collaboration was incredible.”
Innovative entrepreneurs are likely to keep inventing, says Daniel Spulber, a professor of management and strategy at the Kellogg School.
According to an early and frequently quoted aerodynamic model, bumblebees cannot possibly fly. Of course, any entomologist or gardener knows that the fuzzy insects make it into the air with great success; the model simply had it wrong.
As with bees, so it is with business. Researchers have long held the conceit that innovative entrepreneurship is impossible. “They assert that ‘entrepreneurs can’t do anything new in the economy,’” says Daniel Spulber, a professor of management and strategy at the Kellogg School.
This is because established firms have several advantages when it comes to taking inventions to the market. “They have all kinds of assets that are complementary to innovation,” Spulber says, including established corporate structures, marketing channels, an existing customer base, and access to capital. To go it alone, on the other hand, the inventor must undertake the cumbersome effort of setting up a new firm and dealing with the uncertainty that any new invention faces in the market. Even Joseph Schumpeter, perhaps the greatest advocate of entrepreneurs, suggested in his classic book Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy that only large companies have the resources and market power necessary for innovation.
“Yet we see innovative entrepreneurs all the tim -- Larry Page and Sergey Brin at Google, Pierre Omidyar at eBay, Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook, and Jeff Bezos setting up Amazon.com,” Spulber points out. Plainly, then, the negative view of entrepreneurship’s contributions to the economy has as little credibility as early bumblebee aerodynamics. “So if you have a great idea that would result in an innovation in the marketplace -- why not just transfer it to an existing firm?” Spulber asks rhetorically. One reason may be tacit knowledge: the fundamental understanding that inventors possess about their own creations.
The Entrepreneurial Advantage
As part of a broad project to discover why we need innovative entrepreneurs, Spulber applied game theory to model the economic importance of tacit knowledge. Such know-how “is difficult to transfer to others,” he says. “I conclude that tacit knowledge can be an explanation for why inventors become entrepreneurs.”
Just as composers can often conduct their own works with more authority than professional conductors, entrepreneurial inventors can translate their own findings into marketable products more effectively than established organizations that buy or license the rights to the findings.
“The main idea is that the inventor and the existing firm have to choose to compete or cooperate,” Spulber explains of his model. In the first of three stages, “inventors invest in R&D and produce an invention. Existing firms may themselves invest in invention, but they also invest in capacity to absorb the inventions of others.” In the second stage, he continues, “inventors decide whether they want to share that invention through licensing or sale of patents. Existing firms have to decide whether they want to stick with what they’ve got or buy ideas from others.” In the third stage, collaboration or competition commences. The model attempts to specify how much inventors will invest in developing their tacit knowledge and how much existing firms will invest in absorbing the knowledge of others.
“The inventor’s tacit knowledge is important because it can overcome the competitive advantages in technology implementation that existing firms derive from complementary assets,” Spulber writes. That is, the difficulty of transferring tacit knowledge puts the existing firm at a disadvantage, and however effective the transfer, existing firms cannot possibly know as much as the inventors about their inventions.
And there are other benefits to an innovative entrepreneur. Says Spulber, “having entrepreneurship available means that inventors will invest more in developing inventions, because they may be able to develop them themselves.” He continues, “This persuades them to invest more in the entire effort of inventing. It is the payoff from more original invention.”
In addition, innovative entrepreneurship tends to result in greater returns on increasing R&D investments. This is because the innovative entrepreneur must cut prices to compete with existing firms, thus driving up sales. Greater sales then lead to greater returns from improved products and more efficient production processes.
Finally, Spulber’s research indicates that the character of any particular invention determines the route it takes to the market. “If you have a very high-quality invention” -- that is, one with great market potential -- “and the associated tacit knowledge is very difficult to transfer, you’re more likely to become an entrepreneur,” he explains. “Lower-quality inventions are more likely to be transferred for a given amount of tacit knowledge.” The development of online book sales, for instance, exemplifies a high-quality invention. “Jeff Bezos must have contemplated the possibility of working with traditional booksellers Barnes & Noble or Borders,” Spulber speculates. “But he struck out on his own and created Amazon.com.”
Implications for Public Policy and Management
Spulber, who is completing The Innovative Entrepreneur, a book slated for publication next year, notes that his work has public policy implications. “The important purpose of patent systems is to provide inventors with the right to exclude access to their invention in return for asking the inventor to disclose details to others,” he says. “Recognizing the tacit knowledge of the inventor indicates that patents don’t contain everything. That fact makes patents even more important. By protecting inventors’ intellectual property, we want to encourage them not only to disclose their knowledge in the patent but also to commercialize their invention and hence share their tacit knowledge, or apply it through entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs benefit from patent protection.”
Corporate executives should also take note. Spulber refers to Shuji Nakamura, the engineer who invented blue, green, and white light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and the blue laser. Nichia Corporation, the small Japanese company that employed him, gave him very little help.
“Nakamura purchased the machine needed to manufacture the LEDs, took it apart, and reconfigured it until he made it do what he wanted it to do,” Spulber points out. “He achieved what many others with more funding and personnel were unable to do. The information he published - even though his company did not want him to -- had a lot of value. But his effort must have involved a lot of tacit knowledge known to him alone.”
Then, after Nichia gave him a bonus of just $180 for his invention, Nakamura not only sued the firm, eventually settling on a $9 million payment; he also decamped to the University of California, Santa Barbara. “Tacit knowledge can be quite important to corporations,” Spulber observes, “as this ‘asset’ has legs.”
That example carries a message for companies that encourage ‘intrapreneurship’ -- entrepreneurial behavior within the corporate environment. “Companies need to understand that just having access to products invented by their employees is not the whole story,” he says. “Talented employees have plenty of knowledge in addition to the inventions they make available to their employers. Employers should consider involving those employees in the process of developing their inventions rather than just taking the inventions and running with them.”
Related reading on Kellogg Insight:
Peter Gwynne is a freelance writer and editor who covers science, technology, and business from his base in Sandwich, Massachusetts.
To motivate your workers, don't just manage. Be an advisor, says Coursera co-CEO Daphne Koller.
In a taped interview with the Wall Street Journal, Daphne Koller, co-CEO and co-founder of Coursera, an online education provider, explains how she divvies up responsibilities with Andrew NG, the other CEO. Apparently, it's not all that hard.
"There are certain areas where I take primary responsibilities, and there are certain areas where Andrew takes responsibility," she said. "And then there are areas where we both have to get involved in because there is just so much work to be done."
Specifically, Koller takes the reins on university relations, while Andrew takes deals with "a lot of the products and engineering and hiring, and a lot of the discussions with stakeholders, governments, and so on."
But when it comes to employee management, she takes a different tact. Rather than separate herself from their work, she tries to get deeply involved.
"I think one of the things that you do as an academic is that you learn to manage with the person, who is supposed to be reporting to you, rather than just manage them," she said. "So when you have a PhD student, they come to you, and you work together to identify the research topic that is interesting to the student and yet is well-aligned with my interest as an advisor."
In doing so, Koller has found she's kept her employees excited about the goals they were working toward. "They can come to work feeling really motivated about the work that they do because that keeps them more productive and it makes for a much better product," she said.
Another valuable lesson she's learned as an entrepreneur: It's OK to say "no" once in awhile. In fact, it can even be necessary.
"I try to be very selective with the opportunities that are presented to me to identify the ones that could have the biggest impact on our endeavor," Koller said. "I end up saying 'no' a lot."
Recently I told you about the 10 worst states for new business in America. Now here's where entrepreneurship is thriving.
Recently, I told you about the 10 worst states in America for new businesses--at least, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Today, it's time for the best of the bunch.
First, the background. In its Enterprising States report, the Chamber took "an in-depth look at the priorities, policies and programs of the 50 states that are vital for job growth and economic prosperity," including "entrepreneurship and innovation."
While states like Arkansas, Maine, and West Virginia didn't fare very well according to that report, other states shone in a more positive light. Some of them might surprise you.
What brought the Sunshine State into the top 10? In a phrase, "business creation."
Florida ranked first overall among the states in "business birthrate," and third in the increase in self-employed workers.
You might be excused for asking whether that's always a great statistic, especially since people often start their own businesses in response to not being able to find a job elsewhere. And the state wasn't a leader for high-tech industries.
Instead, the Chamber reported, Florida's "fastest-growing self-employed occupations since 2002 include personal financial advisers (59,000 new jobs), managers (40,000), property managers (39,000), and securities and financial services salespeople (38,000)."
The Chamber isn't alone in ranking Georgia pretty high on its list of entrepreneurial states. The National Venture Capital Association called Atlanta the No. 12 American city for tech start-ups last year.
Georgia's high rank was driven by its concentration of high-tech establishments, "with particularly high employment concentrations in computer facilities management," and software, according to the Chamber.
The report also cited the efforts of a state program called Entrepreneur-Friendly Communities that tries to teach communities to create an entrepreneurial environment.
"Go west," young men (and women). Arizona had a "solid all-around performance," according to the report, and ranked "at least 15th in five of the six entrepreneurship and innovation metrics."
Top 5 in business creation rate, the state has a number of interesting government-funded projects. These include the yearly Arizona Innovation Challenge, which awards $3 million to its winners, an Angel Investment Program offering tax credits to investors in Arizona small businesses, and a Fast Grant Program helping companies with promising technologies.
With more than 57,000 Microsoft employees alone, it's probably not surprising to learn that Washington's STEM workforce was a big factor in placing it high on the list.
"The state is already home to the 3rd-highest concentration of STEM workers and is adding STEM workers at the 4th-fastest rate in the nation," according to the report.
The Chamber also cited Impact Washington, a nonprofit that supports manufacturing and also consults with very small businesses, and state financial support for manufacturers.
Its fifth-in-the-nation STEM job growth pushed Texas near the top of the list, along with being ranked No. 2 in growth of the number of self-employed workers. Since 2009, Texas has created 34,000 STEM jobs, "many of them in computer and IT-related occupations," according to the report.
The state has more than 2.2 million small businesses--meaning Texas has more small businesses than 13 other states have people.
More than 390,000 are direct employers, the report said, "and they account for over 45 percent of private sector jobs in the state. Small firms make up more than 98 percent of the state's employers."
Massachusetts is a middling performer when it comes to many of the Chamber's criteria, but its status as a center for STEM jobs--combined with research and development at colleges like Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and other institutions--were enough to bring it into the top five.
Among the non-academic efforts that the study cited was a 2012 law that creates a matching grant fund to "invest in two or three technology areas that hold high potential to create a competitive global advantage."
Did you know that Utah adds STEM jobs at the 3rd-fastest rate in the country, and that it's No. 7 in high tech business concentration?
"The state scores well in business creation. It ranks 3rd in business birthrate and 7th in growth of self-employed workers," the Chamber said.
The report also cited a state program through Weber State University that "offers technology and business skills training to residents and to start-up businesses in the community," and another mentorship and education program for companies considering moving to Ogden, Utah.
It might not be surprising that Virginia is near the top of this list, especially given the growth of the defense and broader government sectors over the last several years.
Virginia may just be "the best state in the nation for STEM jobs," according to the report, ranking No. 1 in STEM job concentration, and No. 2 in STEM job growth.
Virginia also has "the highest share of business establishments in high-tech industries," the Chamber said.
It's not just beautiful scenery and fresh mountain air. Colorado ranked in the top 20 in every metric that the Chamber used to rank the states, which led to its No. 2 ranking for entrepreneurship and innovation.
Colorado clocked second place in the concentration of high-tech businesses, along with 4th place in business birthrate, and 5th place in STEM job concentration, with lots of new jobs in software development, engineering services, and physical and life sciences research.
Maryland topped the list on the basis of three things: its No. 1 overall ranking for "academic R&D intensity," combined with its huge share of STEM jobs and high-tech businesses (enough to rank No. 2 and 3 in the country respectively).
"Recognizing the value of connecting tech start-ups with experienced entrepreneurs, Maryland launched the Maryland Entrepreneurs Resource List," the Chamber report said. "By connecting nascent firms with people who have been through the process, the list offers a chance to increase the survival rate of promising start-ups, ultimately creating jobs and increasing economic activity."
Interestingly, Maryland was middle-of-the-pack in two of the six categories: business birthrate and growth in self-employed workers. Maybe that demonstrates one of the truths of entrepreneurship: Just because you start a business doesn't necessarily mean you're an entrepreneur.
A new music service, a Google+ facelift, updates to search. Check out the major highlights from Google's annual developer conference in San Francisco.
In case you weren't in San Francisco to catch the annual Google I/O developer's conference, we've got the highlights for you.
After a song by Empire of the Sun, a slick Australian techno band, Google opened with a jaw-dropping video montage and music video. Face-mapping? 3-D visualizations? Customized maps? Sure. And, how about drag-and-drop, touch-enabled Web interfaces that snap into action? The video prepped the crowd for what I'd call the new face of Google: well-designed, usable, colorful, and speedy.
The big headliners: a new single-button Google Checkout system, a way to play a game where multiple tablets and phones connect to form one big touchscreen, the "All Access" music service that will rival Spotify, an app store for education, brand new Google+ features, and some big improvements to search.
One Google to Rule Them All
The big theme behind this year's conference is unification. Google has started connect disparate services like maps, search, mobile apps, and social networking with a consistent look and feel and better cross-pollination. Each device will match up better with your business life. Dismiss an alert on your phone, and you won't see it on a tablet. Leave for work, and your phone will know you are driving.
Keynote speaker Sundar Pichai, the senior vice president of Google Chrome and Apps, started things off by explaining how the proliferation of mobile devices is now taking over the world. "It is a multi-screen world with a lot of computing power," he said.
He mentioned how phone sensors now can see, hear, and compute in real-time and in the moment. (Small businesses, take note here: If you do not have a mobile strategy now, you have probably been living under a rock since 2005 when this revolution started.)
One of the most critical shifts, he argued, is that Chrome is now essentially the operating system of the Web. "Android and Chrome are designed to build amazing experiences," he said. And he's right--one of the best examples is Google Now, a speech-enabled assistant.
Pichai announced that Android, the mobile OS, expects 900 million Android "activations" this year--e.g., the total of registered users. That's a wake-up call for any app developer. There have been 48 billion app installs so far and 2.5 billion installs just in the last month.
Because mobile is so pervasive to people's lives, Google is working on making activity monitoring even more sophisticated. Android apps will know when you are biking, driving, or walking. This is a good step forward in "thinking machines" that predict what you need--say, a walking map that automatically avoids dangerous intersections and health monitors that track your movements.
A New Music Service
News leaked yesterday that Google was planning a "Spotify killer" and the keynote confirmed it: The company announced the Google All Access music service. It will let you stream any album for $9.99 per month on any Android device. Rdio, you might want to pay attention to this, too.
Google+, starting today, is going to look a bit different. The design resembles Google Now, which is a good thing. You can change the columns around (say, one row for your phone and three for a tablet) and use pop-out menus.
Importantly, they added an auto hashtag feature. Google examines your posts and shows related content--say, other posts about a new CRM tool. It will analyze the images you post as well. The idea is to add rocket-fuel to search optimization. As any SEO expert knows, good metatags lead to better pageviews. Google intends to automate this process.
Hangouts is getting a boost. The Web conferencing tool, which many small businesses use because it is integrated into Gmail, now keeps a better archive of your video conversations--saving videos, text chats, and photos. Essentially, it's like Facebook Timeline but with more of a focus on archiving your collaborations. The archive can detect images and group them for you automatically--say, picking photos of smiling people.
Google then saved the best for last. They call it "answer, converse, and anticipate" search and I'm a big fan of the concept. Search today is a bit archaic: Type a phrase, see results. It's a question-and-answer approach we've used for decades. New improvement like "no interface" search mean you can have a two-way conversation by voice. You can say "show me popular places to visit in New York" and see suggestions. You can also ask to see photos you took last year, and Google will show them to you.
Google search will know where you are, the time of day, and your life plans. You can say "when does my flight leave today" and get the answer. You can set up a business meeting by saying the name of your contact, speaking the message, and stating the date and time. Then, you can set a reminder for yourself to leave for the meeting in time for the commute.
Google will also update their maps app on tablets and phones. Ratings and info from Zagat, reviews from other users, a crisper display, and customized landmarks based on places you've visited are coming this summer and later this year. Maps will also change based on your clicks--say, revealing important routes and street names.
Let Technology Do the Work
Larry Page, co-founder and CEO of Google, who announced earlier this week he has dealt with a health issue related to his vocal chords, then took the stage. His voice a whisper, he explained how mobile advances will continue this year. Speaking, as he suggested, does seem to strain him and taps his energy. "Technology should do the hard work so that people can get on with doing the things that make them happiest in life," he said. Automated cars, by the way, will be one of the great tech advances.
What was missing? There may have been a number of Google Glass wearers in the audience, but the company had very little to say about the much-hyped device.
The National Venture Capital Association hosts World's Largest Office Hours, its first-ever matchmaking event
It’s not easy for entrepreneurs to get the introductions they need to venture backers. So on May 14th in San Francisco, the National Venture Capital Association lent a helping hand, in the form of a speed dating event for entrepreneurs.
“We were thinking, ‘How can we reboot the NVCA conference?’” says Venky Ganesan, a managing director at Menlo Ventures. “It was becoming a little insular and a little low-energy.”
NVCA invited entrepreneurs representing 170 companies, from 20 states and five countries, to pitch 100 venture capitalists from 64 firms. (Full disclosure: I participated in the event as an entrepreneur.) American Airlines provided free plane tickets to 85 out-of-town entrepreneurs. “With such a large list of venture capitalists attending, it was a great opportunity,” says Maider Apraiz, chief sales officer of Gamelearn, which makes video games for mastering life-long skills.
Ganesan expects that out of the 170 companies attending, 10 to 15 will be funded as a direct outcome of the matchmaking event. “That would be amazing impact,” he says.
As you might expect, “It was a bit of a madhouse,” said Christine Sommers, co-founder of ePact, which she described as a “LinkedIn for emergencies.” Some venture firms, such as Scale Ventures, sent a team of partners to take turns speaking with entrepreneurs.
While the speed-dating format isn’t for everyone, Jacqueline Thong, co-founder of mobile health app Ubiqi Health, says it eliminated some of the awkwardness of traditional networking events. “Entrepreneurs could focus on having a good conversation with investors rather than on figuring out how to initiate the conversation,” she said.
Sommers was similarly positive. “I got to meet with funds whose domains are very much aligned with what we’re doing and have some good follow-ups booked. I also got some great advice and insights, all within 20 minutes.”
It’s probably impossible to satisfy nearly 200 entrepreneurs, all of whom are vying to meet their favorite venture capitalist. But attendees said it would be great if, instead of being matched to a particular firm by the NVCA, they were able to indicate which firms or individuals they’d most like to meet with. “Jockeying to try to get time in a room of more than 100 start-ups can be painful,” says Sommers. “I hate feeling like we have to swoop in on VCs, even though I know they are used to it.”
Ganesan’s on it, saying that next year he’d like to have a mobile app for remote matchmaking to make the networking part of the event easier.
He also had a few tips for entrepreneurs who want to partiipate in next year’s event. One part of the application asks for a 100-word description of your company, and in some cases, said Ganesan, he wasn’t able to figure out exactly what the company did. “You need a clear thoughtful idea,” he says. “Keep it simple.” Also: Apply early.
General Services Administration, Joint Working Group on Improving Cybersecurity and Resilience through Acquisition
On February 12th, 2013, the President issued the Executive Order for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity (Executive Order 13636). In accordance with Section 8(e) of Executive Order 13636, within 120 days, the General Services Administration and the Department of Defense, in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Acquisition Regulation Council, are required to make recommendations on the feasibility, security benefits, and relative merits of incorporating security standards into acquisition planning and contract administration and address what steps can be taken to harmonize, and make consistent, existing procurement requirements related to cybersecurity.
Action: Request for information. Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 92 / Monday, May 13, 2013
Internet television streaming service Aero isn't the first startup to wage a high-profile lawsuit. Here's what you can learn from the past.
The founder of Willa, which makes a line of skin care products aimed at preteenage girls, was surprised to receive a letter from Procter & Gamble demanding her company's name be changed because it sounded too much like Wella, a P&G brand of hair care products. That's because while founder Christy Prunier named the company after her own daughter, P&G claimed it was a trademark violation.
Rather than back down, Willa stood up to P&G and garnered so much media attention for her David versus Golliath story that the larger company backed down, opting to settle out of court. While the exact figures of the settlement remain in the dark, one only need visit Willa's website to see they are still operating under the same name.
Machiavelli might as well have been talking about the modern entrepreneur when he said, "There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things."
Internet TV startup Aereo, has fought several legal battles in New York and is now suing CBS Corp. in Boston over its right to take free signals from the airwaves and send them over the web to paying subscribers.
Aereo has so far successfully argued that its practice of capturing signals using thousands of tiny antennas is comparable to individuals buying digital antennas for themselves, which is perfectly legal. So far, the federal courts have agreed.
Change does not come easy even in the best of circumstances, much less when the establishment leverages the law to keep innovations at bay. When Rollin King and attorney Herb Kelleher co-founded Southwest Airlines on the concept that air travel could be democratized with no-frills service and low prices, incumbent airlines including Brainiff, United and Continental responded with legal action that began a years-long legal battle to keep the discount flyer grounded.
Southwest fought back, winning legal battles all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and paving the way for the airline deregulation. Today, the company is one of the most successful and profitable airlines in the world.
In a 2008 interview, Kelleher said, "If Southwest had not been successful, you might not have the Ryanairs and the Easyjets and all of the low-fare carriers around the world, whether it's Australia, Asia, Europe, Central and South America, you name it."
Startups exist to introduce a "new order of things" and the establishment will almost always fight to preserve the status quo. These examples show that being prepared to fight back or even go on the offensive against a competitor that tries to compete with litigation, instead of innovation, can be the difference between consumers getting access to new and better solutions or not.
Uber, the smartphone app that provides easy access to taxis and car services, has battled regulators in cities around the world. Most recently, the service won legal skirmishes in New York City.
Entrepreneurs like these, who wage successful David versus Golliath legal campaigns, plan for potential legal issues and respond to them pragmatically. They often use the media to get their side of the story out. In fact, a competitor's lawsuit can often bring more favorable attention to a startup than they could have afforded by advertising themselves. The key to success is a realistic understanding of your own legal position, separating emotion from facts, keeping good legal counsel and ensuring that you have the budget available for the fight. If so, the law really can be a powerful ally to the innovator.
The ContextMedia CSO explains why formal education will only get you so far.
The jury is out on whether higher education is valuable for entrepreneurs. During a Young Entrepreneur Council StartupLab live chat held Tuesday, Shradha Agarwal, co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer of ContextMedia, threw in her two cents.
Agarwal, who launched her first business when she was 9 and now works as an angel investor, acknowledged there are skills to learned during college. But the most valuable lesson of all comes from taking on risk and accepting a challenge.
"To be a true entrepreneur, you have to drown a few times. You have to feel your stomach churn when you're faced with a problem you don't know the answer to."
Learning how to take calculated risks cannot be understated, she continued. Getting out in the field, testing products, talking to customers, and getting feedback all enabled her to adapt and move on when things weren't working.
Since 2006, ContextMedia has provided patient education solutions to healthcare professionals in chronic disease care. The company was started with no investors and in a market that didn't exist.
The two owners of Amy's Baking Company Boutique & Bistro clearly need some training in social media. Here's what they got wrong.
The Internet knows all, and when it comes to engaging your customers, you can't afford to screw up.
Apparently, the owners of Amy's Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bakery in Scottsdale, Arizona missed the memo. As if it wasn't bad enough chef Gordan Ramsay dropped them from his show Kitchen Nightmares for being too difficult to work with, the married couple, Samy and Amy Bouzaglo, blasted angry customers on Facebook Monday evening.
As BuzzFeed illustrates in a series of cringe-worthy screengrabs, things spiralled out of control pretty quickly. All caps, profanity, and insults were hurtled, with the Bouzaglos calling out Reddit and Yelp, not to mention everyone else.
Barring losing their tempers, here are three things the bakery owners should have done differently, per The Guardian's Corrine Sklar:
Let someone else handle it.
If you're overwhelmed and ready to snap, let some more objective experts take care of the problem. There's value in having social-media savvy employees, especially ones who might know how to address online flare-ups better than you, says Sklar. The way you want to handle it might not be appropriate.
Get personal--but not too much.
Sometimes companies take the whole "engagement" thing too far. It's good to be yourself online, but not when you're feeling emotional. If you're this close to snapping, remind yourself that it's not about you--just the business you happen to operate. Focus on the customer instead.
Listen to your customers.
No one likes to hear hurtful things, but if a customer's upset, you would do well to listen. "By taking the time to listen to your customers across social channels, your organization can become empowered to turn a customer's negative experience into a positive one," says Sklar. And if their expectations are met, chances are they'll move on more quickly--and even become advocates for your company.
In this research study, Martin Kenney and Donald Patton explore the network of support for gazelles that take their companies public through initial public offerings (IPOs). This entrepreneurial support network, or ESN, is comprised of law firms, venture capitalists, and lead investment bankers, the core of the team needed to launch an IPO. The authors examine the overall impact of these actors on gazelles’ employment growth.
A new survey shows that small business owners are curtailing hiring and spending in anticipation of the new rules.
Even after months of aggressive outreach, a new survey shows just how far the Obama administration has to go to convince small business owners that the health care law will benefit them.
A new Gallup survey found that about half of small business owners still believe that Affordable Care Act will be "bad for business." Some are holding off on hiring or scaling back workers' hours in anticipation.
The survey of 600 owners of small businesses with revenues of $20 million or less, revealed that only nine percent of them believe that the legislation will be good for their business. Just five percent of respondents expect health care costs to decrease as a result of the law's implentation. Many of the law's requirements go into effect in 2014.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, almost half, at 48 percent, believe that ACA will be bad for their business and the majority, at 55 percent, expect their businesses' health care costs to increase. At the same time, 52 percent said they believe that the law will actually reduce the quality of health care.
According to Gallup, "this overall impression of the ACA is consistent with owners' tendency to be more Republican than Democratic, higher income, more against big government, more conservative, and less optimistic than Americans overall."
Four in 10 survey respondents said they've already curtailed hiring or spending. While a quarter of small business owners contemplate dropping health insurance coverage for their employees, about one in five have cut jobs or workers' hours.
President Obama has repeatedly come out swinging and did so again after the survey was released, accusing his political adversaries of mounting a misinformation campaign to sway public opinion.
It's a battle he's been fighting for several years, amid the complexity of the law and the uncertainty swirling around it. The White House has previously attempted to shape the public's perception of ACA and commissioned a report by the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) on how small businesses suffer economically under the current health care system versus the ACA legislation. Specifically, the administration attempted to dispel the perception that the legislation would increase coverage prices and gain support of small businesses by drawing their attention to the small business health care tax credit included in the legislation and demonstrating how different types of Main Street businesses would benefit.
Crowdfunding critics take note: A recent study by Wharton professor Ethan Mollick proves that crowdfunders are better than you might think at finding quality entrepreneurs--and even seem to act with less bias than venture capitalists.
The typical crowdfunding-project backer is more sophisticated than you might think.
In a recent study, Wharton professor Ethan Mollick analyzed 2,101 Kickstarter projects--all of which were based in the United States, were seeking more than $5,000 in funding, and fell within particular start-up verticals including hardware, software, video games, and product design. He had a simple question: Compared to a skilled venture capitalist, how good is the crowd at assessing the quality of entrepreneurs?
There's been plenty of research about how venture capitalists seek out investments; but in this study, Mollick's goal was to understand how and why typical backers make their decisions--and determine whether those decisions were in line with how a VC might make a decision. The results were surprising--and encouraging for proponents of crowdfunding.
"Although the amateurs and the experts differ in many key ways, they are ultimately assessing whether early stage entrepreneurial ventures have the ability to succeed at their goals by looking for signals of quality," writes Mollick. The findings suggest "that the signals of quality that are used by VCs to assess the viability of new ventures are also used by crowdfunders."
Obviously, venture capital and crowdfunding have completely different models for raising capital. First, there are relatively few VC firms, compared to millions of potential crowdfunders. Second, VCs are in the middle of start-up networks, while the average crowdfunder might live 1,000 miles from the nearest start-up. And third, the most obvious difference (at least for now) is that VCs get equity--the typical crowdfunder does not. But Mollick's study is an important advance in the study of crowdfunding, because it lends credibility to the argument that crowdfunding has the potential to find--and fund--the next generation of high-growth start-ups.
In the study, Mollick lays out his fives hypoethesis that show that crowdfunded-backed and venture-backed start-ups are actually not all that different. They are:
Hypothesis 1: Entrepreneurs who demonstrate a history of successful projects are more likely to be crowdfunded.
Looking at the backgrounds of crowdfunding-project creators, Mollick found that "explicit past evidence of success is predictive of successful funding...I examined whether projects that listed relevant past projects or employers by name are more likely to be selected than those that don't clearly indicate a relevant background."
Hypothesis 2: Entrepreneurs who demonstrate third-party endorsements are more likely to be crowdfunded.
"Endorsements were explicit hyperlinks or quotes from outside organizations or new media providing support or legitimacy to projects," Mollick writes. "Most commonly, this was a quote from a journalist or prominent blog...outside endorsements significantly increase the chance of selection in crowdfunding."
Hypothesis 3: Entrepreneurs who demonstrate preparedness are more likely to be crowdfunded.
Verdict: Sort of.
To examine this hypothesis, Mollick looked at two measures: whether or not there was a prototype listed, and whether there was a video that existed. While having a prototype and video helped entrepreneurs raised funds, it was tough to prove causality: "A key question about these findings is whether signals are important given other potential sources of information on entrepreneurs, such as social networks," Mollick writes.
Hypothesis 4: Selected projects are less geographically concentrated in crowdfunding than in venture capital.
VC-funded typically happens in start-up clusers--the average distance between a start-up and its venture backer, for instance, is 70 miles. One of the benefits of crowdfunding is that it's potentially immune to the "cluster" effect. Mollick writes that "crowdfunding does seem less concentrated than VC funding, though the difference is not great in magnitude."
Hypothesis 5: Gender is less predictive of selection in crowdfunding than in venture capital.
One of the key insights of Mollick's study is this: The number of successfully-funded Kickstarter projects founded by women was fifteen times higher than among those backed by VCs tracked by VentureSource. "Further," Mollick writes, "gender was not predictive of selection under any specification...These findings offer strong support for [Hypothesis 5], that crowdfunding has less gender bias than VC selection."
The Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) is currently reviewing its regulations governing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Veteran-Owned Small Business (VOSB) Verification Program. OSDBU intends to improve the regulations to provide greater clarity, to streamline the program, and to encourage more VOSBs to apply for verification. OSDBU seeks comments on how best to approach this undertaking. Although OSDBU identified specific issues, it encourages commenters to discuss any issue related to improving these specific regulations and the program.
Action: Advanced Notice of Proposed Rule-making, May 13, 2013, 78 FR 27882, VA-2013-VACO-0004
Docket NameAO63 - Advanced Notice
A strong culture isn't something you wish into place, or even will into place. It's something you build. Here's how.
“We train for war and fight to win.” -- Navy SEAL Creed
I’ve never met a business owner who didn’t say he or she wanted to create a winning company culture. But I’ve met plenty whose actions exhibited something different.
That's because building a winning culture isn't easy.
The most focused, most well-defined winning culture I’ve seen is the Navy SEALS culture, and at our company we try hard every day to replicate that personality. This is how we go about building a winning culture.