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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.

We all like to think of startups as “non hierarchic” organizations and to some extent that should be true. I’m not a big believer in too much hierarchy. A good early-stage CEO needs to be accessible, to be accountable for producing results and should be establishing the cultural norms of the company through direct leadership at all levels.

But issues do arise as your company grows. I never built a Google-sized business but I did build an organization from scratch that grew to 120 employees in 5 countries before we sold it. And having sold two companies I worked inside much larger companies that acquired us and observed even bigger company structures.

As your organization grows and you hire senior staff where you are no longer managing every employee directly the issue of how to manage people that are not your “direct” reports arises. This applies to both founders and to VC’s that work with them.

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Strong government policies to stimulate renewable energy have been put in place throughout Europe recently. For instance, in Madrid competitive subsidies are available for installing solar power modules. Similar subsidy programs have been offered for solar in Germany and for wind energy in Denmark. The core objective of government policies is to make renewable energy competitive with fossil fuels.

Thanks to this push toward green energy and a green economy, Spain, too, is becoming a hub for expanding renewable energy. The Spanish economy was severely affected by the recession, especially in the field of construction, but it’s beginning to recover with recent investments in renewable energy.

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Boardroom DancingSo, you can burn the dance floor, but can you tango in the Corporate Board room? I have had the pleasure of attending many board meetings and am happy to share some experiences and tips in the lessons on how to dance in the Board Room:

Always Maintain Direct Eye Contact


One of the biggest learning is to maintain direct eye contact with your fellow board members – at all times. The eyes speak a thousand sentences. In VC funded companies, you can quickly understand what your investors like to hear and what they don’t find palatable – just by looking into their eyes.

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So you say you want a revolution? Let a thousand flowers bloom (Chairman Mao)? Reduce Russia's dependence on oil (like King Abdullah and KAUST)? Instead of hobnobbing for the cameras with Steve Jobs and Eric Schmidt, you should be talking -- and listening -- to Natalya Kasperskaya (Kaspersky Lab), Arkhady Volozh (Yandex), Victoria Livschitz (Grid Systems), Sasha Galitsky (serial entrepreneur), and Serguie Beloussov (Parallels). These great Russian entrepreneurs are right under your nose. With brains, determination, leadership, and a little je ne sais quoi, they are navigating the maze of the Russian environment. If you want to build a healthy entrepreneurship ecosystem for sustained economic prosperity, you should learn from those who know how to make it work now, and how to make it work better in the future.

Back in the USSR. President Medvedev, your Skolkovo Valley smacks like a repackaging of top-down industrial and economic planning. If it is entrepreneurship you are after, you cannot dictate it top down. Moscow can't emulate Silicon Valley. Kigali can't emulate Silicon Valley. Cali can't emulate Silicon Valley. Guess what: Silicon Valley can't emulate Silicon Valley.

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The chart we've dubbed "The Scariest Job Chart Ever" continues to be, well, scary, following today's June Non-Farm Payrolls Report.

As you can see from the low line of the chart, put together by Calculated Risk, we're clearly not enjoying a v-shaped ascent like we've seen during other jobs recoveries. And what's more, if you look just at the dotted line, which is based on private payrolls, it really looks like we've stalled out.

CHART OF THE DAY: The Scariest Job Chart Ever Gets Uglier
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http://cdn.venturebeat.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/diving-board.jpgIf you took the time to sit down and sift through the US Census Bureau data, you’d see that over the past few years, entrepreneurs are starting new businesses at an unprecedented rate. Consistently, the number of existing businesses at the end of the year has increased by between 500,000 and 1million.

That means that before subtracting out the number of startups that fail, the gross number of new businesses started is actually much higher than 1 million per year. And that’s in the U.S. alone.

Why are entrepreneurs starting new businesses in record numbers? The first chapter of my new book, Conquer the Chaos, makes the case we’re in an “Entrepreneurial Revolution” and it’s happening due to five big reasons.

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Here's a simple assertion — today's sustainability innovations may be easily attainable tomorrow. Which begs two questions: Where can green supply chain best practices take industry, and vice versa? And how will businesses sustain this momentum?

Every logistics metric needs a means for documenting progress and addressing areas for improvement. From freight auditing to Lean Six Sigma, continuous improvement requires a methodology that assesses change, raises standards, and creates new goals. Then the cycle begins anew.

Supply chain sustainability is no different. Companies have to balance corporate requirements — what makes prudent business sense in terms of process improvement and return on investment — with changing market variables.

Measurability is especially important because progress rarely happens within a vacuum. Performance needs to be calculated and processes calibrated. Internal and external economics, government legislation, innovation, competition, and customer demand dictate corporate behavior to varying degrees.

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Can the role of science and technology parks as engines of economic prosperity be overstated?
Perhaps, but it’s hard to do so in the current economy. For every large new project — like Samsung’s recently announced, US$3.6-billion chip plant expansion in Austin, Texas, adding 500 jobs — hundreds of new startups take wing every year that when mature will employ many times that. For years, areas and savvy universities have understood the importance of providing the nests from which the fledglings would emerge. But today, an area’s failure to provide the latest in research and commercialization tools puts that area at a distinct disadvantage. It might as well tell Samsung to expand a facility in some other location.

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With billions in federal grant money to fund research at its universities and a reputation for being the financial cap 5a8 ital of the world, New York would seem to have what it takes to build an innovation-based economy, save one critical factor: New York venture capitalists prefer investing in out-of-state companies, according to a study conducted by Excell Partners, a seed stage venture capital fund with ties to the University of Rochester.

The study compiled data on federally funded research versus venture capital investment for six of the leading states in the country. The results show NY scores well in the amount of federally funded research awarded to its universities, but falls short of other states in providing the seed capital necessary to turn emerging startups into revenue generating companies.

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bike bicycle flying jumpMany entrepreneurs think that risk is just an “occupational hazard” that can be minimized or eliminated by a smart businessman. That way of thinking is simplistic and wrong. In reality, some risks are good and should be embraced for growth and a competitive edge, while others are bad and should be avoided completely.

Traditional risk management focuses only on bad risks, and seeks to contain losses. But if you want growth and sustainability, you need to embrace strategic risk, which means intentionally taking a risk to grow your business or gain competitive advantage.

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imageA new study identifies the key personality traits of successful small-business owners

At last count, there were 29.6 million businesses in the U.S.--and 99.9% of them can be filed under "small." But small is significant. Small businesses (with 500 or fewer employees) have generated 64% of new jobs in the past 15 years and are responsible for 50% of the GDP and 44% of the country's private payroll.

Now a study by the Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute, comparing key traits of small-business owners, provides an insider's view of what qualities set the success-oriented ones apart from their less ambitious peers.

"The Guardian Life Index: What Matters Most to America's Small Business Owners," surveyed more than 1,100 small businesses. Those that projected an annual growth of 10% between 2008 and 2009 and/or intended to expand their business between 2009 and 2010 were identified as "success-oriented." Nearly half the businesses fell into this study group.

Rich Bendis would like to thanks Patti Greene at Babson for submitting the article.
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