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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.

Entrepreneurs aren't the only ones struggling to find capital in these choppy economic times. The venture capitalists who write the checks are encountering their own hard realities on the fundraising trail. A report out today from Thomson Reutuers and the National Venture Capital Association indicates that dollar commitments to VC funds dropped by 49 percent during the first quarter as just 38 funds raised $1.9 billion.

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electric car, hybridVery few people really know much today about the experience of owning an electric vehicle of course, given that EVs are not widely available. Nissan hopes to change this by the end of the year when its fully electric Leaf debuts. However, owning an electric vehicle promises to be a lot different than owning any other type of car, different even from plug-in hybrids such as the Chevy Volt set to arrive later this year as well.

The main difference is, obviously, that an electric car has no backup power (such as the plug-in Volt's gasoline combustion engine). If, for example, you find yourself in your Leaf with an empty battery miles from home, it'll be a bit like running out of gas, except that in an old-fashioned car you could walk to the nearest gas station or call AAA or a tow truck for help. Re-charging an electric battery requires a power source and, although there may very well be roving re-charge trucks deployed from service stations in the future, this won't be a great backup plan in the near term.

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Dear Evil HR Lady,

I recently accepted a brand new position as regional director. There was a previous director who provided management for a portion of my current region. I have now been tasked with finding a new title and job duties for the previous director. HR is really pushing for this person to retire as he has been employed for many years and one of the reasons they created the new position was to remove him from management. There was a very lucrative retirement package offered, but he declined.

I created a new position based on the organization’s needs. The previous director will assume this new position including a rather large pay cut. My dilemma is that I know this person is not going to be able to meet the new job requirements (I based the job on department needs, not on the current skill level of the previous director). I have tried everything but to directly ask for retirement. Do I have any other options? I am afraid I am going to end up going down the disciplinary action road with ultimate termination since the company has a very quick disciplinary process of three strikes and you’re out.

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Spain’s victory yesterday in the World Cup in Johannesburg marks the conclusion to an exciting competition. However, with the media pointing to some of the dashed economic expectations among South Africans these past few weeks, I decided to inquire a little more into the entrepreneurial part of South Africa’s economic development equation which led me to uncover some important trends and opportunities suggesting that the country might be well on its way to achieving the goal set forth by the country’s new president, Jacob Zuma, to create 4 million new jobs by 2014.

According the Gallup World Poll, 29% of South Africans are planning to start a business in the next 12 months. This is below the median of 41% for Africa, but on the positive side, we know from local witnesses that many of those plans are increasingly materializing. Nontokozo Hlangweni from Endeavor South Africa explained to us that the scarcity of jobs has helped push a sort of entrepreneurial energy that drives young people to become their own employers. Not surprisingly, Small and Medium enterprises (SMEs) are recognized as vital in the development of the South African economy. According to South African reserve bank findings, the total economic output of SMEs is more or less 50% of the country’s GDP. The SME sector also employs more than60% of the total labor force. The task at hand is to continue building an environment that supports new business creation and to foster, through policies and programs, businesses with high-growth potential. The key to a true entrepreneurial-growth strategy is to enable young firms to grow.

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I believe there is a lot of confusion regarding the difference between invention and innovation. This confusion is the result of erroneous definitions and the purposeful intent of some to increase their importance by belittling the contributions of others.

I believe that most of this mischief started with the great economist Joseph Schumpter. According to Wikipedia:

Following Schumpeter (1934), contributors to the scholarly literature on innovation typically distinguish between invention, an idea made manifest, and innovation, ideas applied successfully in practice

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[sbcash1]For an entrepreneurial start-up, landing that first check from an investor is a milestone.

What many start-ups don't realize is that the seed capital they raise – often from friends and family – is just the first step in a fundraising journey that can drag on for months or even years.

My client, John White, is more than two years into the process of securing $14 million in funding for his company, Joy Berry Enterprises Inc., which plans to republish the works of popular children's author Joy Berry across multiple media platforms. In June 2008, he and partner John Bellaud won their first $600,000 from angels to jumpstart the company—and expected smooth sailing from that point on.

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There’s a famous line about consultants that clients love to repeat, “consultants take your watch and then tell you the time.”

I suppose there’s some truth to that but of course it’s an over simplification. I used to work for Andersen Consulting (for > 8 years) – mostly building computer systems for large companies in the fixed telecoms, mobile and Internet sectors. On every project in which we worked it was clear that there was corporate knowledge built up around the organization. It occurred to me that it was my job to find the data, synthesize it, summarize my conclusions, provide options for better decision-making and lead the decision-making process. Such is leadership. And VC. And I learned the skills in my days as a consultant.

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Becky McCrayRecently, we were speaking with Becky McCray, an entrepreneur from Alva, OK, who is writing a book on how small town entrepreneurship relates to entrepreneurship in the global economy.

Recently, we were speaking with Becky McCray, an entrepreneur from Alva who is writing a book on how small town entrepreneurship relates to entrepreneurship in the global economy.

"Every kind of business exists in rural and small town Oklahoma," McCray says. "Ponca City has an attitude and openness to entrepreneurship and is known for recruiting entrepreneurs. Woodward, a town in cowboy country with a long history with energy production, has a major cluster of wind farms. Ditch Witch in Perry makes trenchers and earth moving equipment that are used all over the world."

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EcoMotorsThe Bill Gates and Khosla Ventures dream team are swooping in once again to provide much-needed cash to a worthy sustainable startup. The pair recently injected millions into nuclear power startup TerraPower, and now they're back again to invest $23.5 million in EcoMotors's series B funding round.

EcoMotors builds a lightweight, high-efficiency, low-cost combustion engine that supposedly offers 50% greater fuel efficiency than similar conventional engines. The company's Opposed Piston Opposed Cylinder (OPOC) engine can be used in everything from passenger vehicles to auxiliary power supplies--anywhere traditional gas and diesel-powered engines can be found.

The Troy, Michigan-based company has an impressive history. CEO Don Runkle led GM's EV1 electric vehicle project in the mid-1990's, and CTO Peter Hofbauer designed VW's high-speed diesel engine, which ultimately developed into the Jetta Clean Diesel's engine.

Read more ... is widely believed to be the standard route for academics starting their own business: disclose an invention to the university, get it patented and venture forth into the spin-out world. But an extensive survey has found that this is not how the majority of companies are started by US academics, suggesting that government and universities are missing an opportunity in their quest to boost entrepreneurial activity.

In what the authors say is the largest study of its kind, experts on entrepreneurship surveyed 11,572 professors at institutions across the United States (R. Fini, N. Lacetera and S. Shane Res. Pol. doi:10.1016/j.respol.2010.05.014; 2010). Of the 1,948 respondents who had started a business, only 682, or about one-third, had set them up to exploit patents obtained through formal university intellectual-property systems. The remaining 1,266 respondents had started businesses — including consultancies and manufacturing and service-based firms — based on non-patentable knowledge.

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Cilia are a must-have appendage, and they do much more than swat bodily currents—indeed, new research is suggesting they play an important role in development and disease.

When Antonie van Leeuwenhoek looked down at a prokaryote through his simple microscope made of a single mounted lens back in the 1660s, he discovered the first organelle. Captivated by the fluttering “legs” that would later be called the cell’s eyelashes, or cilia in Latin, he might have wondered about the origin of their movement.

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watering can flowers plants growI often run across early stage companies in a real quandary about how much money to take in their first round of funding.

That is, the round just beyond the Ramen noodle eating, avoid starvation round that is usually funded out of your own pocket. The round that really gets things going once you’ve established a team and product viability.

The advice they often get – build a spreadsheet outlining fixed and variable costs over the next year or more. Estimate headcount, salaries, rent, capital equipment needs, etc. and, voila, you’ll have your number.

That’s fine, of course, but the spreadsheet should be the end result of the planning process, not the process itself. In my experience, there are certain high-level guidelines that should be used to determine how much money should be taken.

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