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innovation DAILY

Here we highlight selected innovation related articles from around the world on a daily basis.  These articles related to innovation and funding for innovative companies, and best practices for innovation based economic development.

Dropbox CEO and cofounder Drew HoustonDropbox is a "hard drive in the clouds," says the hot Silicon Valley startup's very humble founder and CEO, an MIT grad named Drew Houston.

Drew came up with the idea upon having forgotten his USB drive on a trip from New York to Boston. Like a typical MIT student, he sat with his laptop at that magical train station and began writing the first code to solve this problem for himself (as he had forgotten his USB port) and then learned he could solve this problem not only for himself, but, for the world!

Seed funding from Y Combinator soon followed with more funding from Sequoia and Accel. And then Drew said it was “off to the races”. They have raised a total of 7.2 million, won a Crunchy Award in ’09 for best Internet application and were recently nominated for a Webby.

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Take a quick look at this picture:


http://59seconds.files.wordpress.com/2010/04/duck-rabbit_illusion.jpg

New research suggests that the ease with which you are able to flip between the picture of a rabbit and a duck is related to whether you are a creative thinker.

In the first of two studies, I asked over 600 people to rate how easy they found it to flip between the two animals and then they were asked to rate their creativity. 79% of people who said that they were creative reported being able to easily flip between the two animals, compared to just 3% of those who struggled to see the two animals. A second study examined people’s actual creative thinking. A hundred people were asked to rate how easily they found it to flip between the two animals, and were then given a standard creativity test in which they had to come up with as many unusual uses as possible for a brick and a paperclip. Those who could easily see both the rabbit and duck produced double the number of ideas compared to those who said they found such flipping problematic.

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Cash is king. Cash flow* keeps you king.  Kings own their business; creditors need not apply. Kings choose their journeys and who can join them. It’s good to be king.

With that in mind, here are some principles that can serve to either keep you king or help you be a king in your business, king of cash flow.

Education.

Start with yourself. Are positive cash flows meaningful to you as the organization’s leader? Why? Do you measure it? Would you be able to answer, if asked, how much cash-flow do you generate each month? How long would it take for you to find that answer?

Can you explain what it may mean to everyone in your organization? (survival, ownership, control, freedom, growth, new equipment, new hires, no layoffs, incentives, R&D…)

Are you not sure you want feedback from others? Read on.

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Hardly a day goes by when I [Vivek Wadhwa] don’t have a rookie entrepreneur ask for advice on raising money from VCs. They usually have a fancy-looking business plan with detailed spreadsheets showing how their company will be worth billions by capturing just 1% of a market. All they need is some financing, and they’ll take the world by storm. My advice is always the same: ditch the business plan, and buy a lottery ticket. Your odds are better, and you’ll suffer less stress.

Most of the young entrepreneurs I meet have grown up reading stories about how, during the dot-com days, all you needed was a PowerPoint and a geeky smile to get a venture capitalist to throw millions your way. True, some really dumb companies were funded during those days, but nearly all of these companies (and their investors) went down in flames. It was just the few, random, successes that reaped the fortunes. Investors have grown much wiser since then (and will probably stay this way until the next bubble).

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Zhou Libo's show at the cavernous Shanghai International Gymnastics Center has been sold out for days, and after I finally get a ticket, I understand why. Sporting a tuxedo and a white bow tie, Zhou, 43, a stand-up comedian, delivers rapid-fire jokes, mostly about life in Shanghai. The theme is "I'm crazy about money," and Zhou riffs on soaring property prices, how much it costs to raise kids, even how much the U.S. owes China. The audience of some 3,700 roars its approval. People are clapping, slapping their thighs, stomping the floor. I manage a smile, but even though I am a Mandarin speaker, I don't really get the humor, and many of my Chinese friends would be almost as lost. While Zhou sets up his jokes in Mandarin, the punch lines are nearly always in the local Shanghai dialect. This much I do get, however: the performance is an unabashed celebration of all things Shanghai and Shanghainese.

For China's most dynamic, most cosmopolitan and sassiest city, this is a time to celebrate. After decades of hibernation following the founding of Mao Zedong's People's Republic in 1949, Shanghai is returning to its roost as a global center of commerce and culture. This year Shanghai, as host of Expo 2010, is squarely in the international spotlight. The fair opens May 1, and organizers expect more than 70 million visitors over six months.

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Regular, petroleum-based plastic doesn't biodegrade. But this year's crop of Earth Day — inspired ads shows plant-based plastics doing just that: an empty SunChips bag fading into the soil, a Paper Mate pen dissolving underground. Although the visuals suggest that these items simply disintegrate (Goodbye, landfill!), the reality is more complicated. Take the SunChips bag. It needs to go in a compost bin; the packaging is clear about that. Likewise, Paper Mate notes that the pen's outer casing will break down if buried in a backyard but that its innards should go in the garbage. Forget to separate them, and the outer part won't biodegrade in a landfill.

Bioplastics could be really good for the environment — the manufacturing process produces fewer greenhouse-gas emissions than that for petroleum-based plastics, and these biomaterials don't contain an allegedly hormone-disrupting chemical, bisphenol A (BPA), that some regular plastics do. But is society green enough to use bioplastics? Many of us still don't recycle all our bottles and cans, and now companies are expecting us to start composting?

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EurActiv LogoInvestors are opening their wallets again but their tolerance of risk has been dampened by the crisis, Jean-Bernard Guérrée, CEO of the World Investment Conference, told EurActiv in an interview.

Guérrée sees hope in the US, where Silicon Valley innovations are once again attracting investment as companies like Apple continue to post huge profits thanks to high-tech products.

"California has had a record high in the first quarter of 2010 – it's the highest ever level of private investment. It feels like 1999," said Guérrée, who has spent 20 years working as an entrepreneur in the US technology sector.

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Adapted from his book Engage, Brian Solis presents his list of suggestions to help businesses learn how to engage customers on Twitter through the examples of those companies, from Dell to Zappos, already successfully building online communities.

twitter tips

Number 1. Special Offers

We live in a society that is as distracted as it is informed. People are making decisions on what to read, view, purchase, visit, and sample based on the information that filters through their attention dashboards. At best, even the most qualified information sourced from the most trusted contacts will receive only a cursory overview. The trick is to concisely introduce the value up front. If the offer is compelling and affiliated with their interests, the consumer will make the connection to personal value and benefits and click-through to redeem the special or coupon when ready or so inclined.

For example, @delloutlet uses Twitter and Facebook to send coupons to customers. In just one year, Dell recorded upward of $3 million in sales directly sourced from Twitter.

California Tortilla (@caltort), a chain of 39 casual Mexican restaurants based in Rockville, MD, sends coupon passwords via Twitter, which customers must say at checkout to redeem the offer.

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IBM is ramping up its investment in Africa dramatically, with plans to open offices in six new markets, extending its presence across the continent to eight countries.

It is establishing three regional hubs — one in Kenya to serve the East African market, another in Nigeria, which will serve West Africa, and the third in Angola, to serve the Southern African Development Community countries.

The expansion, which is being spearheaded by IBM sub-Saharan Africa GM Oliver Fortuin (pictured) and his colleague, long-time IBMer Gary Carroll, forms part of a renewed focus on emerging markets by the US-headquartered technology and services company.

IBM has spent US$120m in expanding in the region in the past two years, with more investment to come, Fortuin says.

The markets where IBM is setting up or expanding its presence are Kenya, Nigeria, Angola, Senegal, Ghana and Tanzania. Senegal will serve as the base from which to serve French-speaking African markets; Angola will be used as a springboard into Portuguese Africa.

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On occasion I get the hard word from the high school brass that my desk is a mess – it is never as bad as the math teacher who loves trains a little too much, but messy nonetheless. This picture places me in good company.

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SBA Homepage

WASHINGTON – The United States Senate unanimously agreed to extend the Small Business Administration (SBA) and vital programs that fall under the Small Business Administration Act and the Small Business Investment Act, such as the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. The programs, which have been operating under a temporary extender and were set to expire on April 30, 2010, will continue with a three-month extension through July 31, 2010. The bill now heads to the House for approval. United States Senator

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Last June in Cairo President Obama promised to host a Summit on Entrepreneurship “to identify how we can deepen ties between business leaders, foundations and social entrepreneurs in the United States and Muslim communities around the world.”

Next week in Washington, DC, President Obama will make good on that promise.

Bringing together 250 participants from 60 countries, the administration will host the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship at the Ronald Reagan Building on Monday and Tuesday. Mr. Obama will address the summit on Monday evening and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will close the summit on Tuesday evening.

“This was a direct commitment the president made in his Cairo speech last June,” White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said briefing reporters on conference call to preview the summit, “He made the point that as we work to address issues, the US wants to deepen a set of partnerships with Muslim communities, related to education, and economic opportunity, science and technology.”

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