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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.

New Equity Hot Tips Series — Who needs Venture Capital when there’s Community Capital?Most entrepreneurs dream of being able to raise Venture Capital financing (VC financing). It has become a measure of a business’s potential for growth and success. To some, getting tapped for VC financing is like winning the lottery. In its most basic form, VC financing is an investment of capital (typically cash) in an early-stage business with significant growth potential. In other words, VCs place bets on companies that they believe will generate big returns in the future, either when sold to another company or when they are catapulted into the stock market by way of an initial public offering (IPO).

However, the bitter reality is that VC financing is as alluring as it is unattainable for 99.99% of small businesses. According to a study conducted by the National Venture Capital Association and Price Waterhouse Coopers, venture capitalists invested $17.7 billion in 2,795 deals in 2009. So out of 23 million businesses in the United States, 0.01% received VC financing in 2009. Granted these numbers don’t necessarily include all of the businesses that have received VC financing in the past.  But, the fact remains, the lion’s share of entrepreneurs will never be in a position to secure venture capital investments.

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Today, I would like to discuss the education-related recommendations outlined at the Kauffman Foundation’s State of Entrepreneurship address. We have long been aware that American education is struggling to stay competitive. We also know that the development of entrepreneurial skills, such as opportunity recognition and prudent risk taking, are not prioritized in most U.S. educational institutions. Developing tomorrow’s talented, capable innovators is a challenge that will require entrepreneurially-driven improvements in education at all levels.

Programs that introduce students to the possibilities of business creation are few, but they have proven that they can open up new horizons for talented kids and unleash an entrepreneurial drive would otherwise lay dormant. The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, or NFTE, does great work in this area, primarily in urban cores. NFTE has been helping high school students from low-income communities improve their business, academic and life skills.Through entrepreneurship education and business competition programs, NFTE gives students opportunities to interact with seasoned entrepreneurs, inspiring them to channel their energy toward transforming their ideals into real-life ventures.

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1269285038.jpgThe VSS Enterprise was unveiled last December, and today flew for the first time out of Mojave Spaceport in California, as captured in the image above. "VSS Enterprise remained attached to its unique WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft, VMS Eve, for the duration of the 2 hours 54 minutes flight, achieving an altitude of 45,000ft (13716 metres)." Both crafts are developed for Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic by Burt Rutan and team at Mojave-based Scaled Composites.

The VSS Enterprise test flights will continue through 2011, progressing from "captive carry"(that's what today's experiment was), to "independent glide," and then fully powered flight, before commercial operations begin.

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Industry WeekMore investment in public-private partnerships and prioritizing key technologies are crucial if America is to avoid losing its competitive edge in manufacturing, industry and policy leaders warned Congress in recent testimony.

With a heavy focus on manufacturing innovation and government’s role in stimulating new technologies, experts from private, public and academic backgrounds said rival economies have already mobilized their resources in more efficient, targeted areas.

“In order to be relevant, we need to ensure that government R&D programs are focused on ways to provide high-quality assembly, non-destructive evaluation, and high rates of repeatability at large volumes,” said Susan Smyth, director of General Motors’ manufacturing systems research lab, in testimony to the House Committee on Science and Technology on March 17.

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I [Will Corrente] recently received an email from a young entrepreneur requesting the criteria I would use in selecting a business partner. How to choose the right business partner is not an uncommon concern among aspiring entrepreneurs and is definitely one that should be considered very carefully before moving forward. Your choice of business partner could be the difference between success and failure.

Selecting the right business partner is a two step process: 

  • First, you the entrepreneur needs to complete a candid self-evaluation and skills inventory.  Based on the results, you will have a clear vision of your capabilities and shortfalls, which in turn will give you the selection criteria for the appropriate partner. 
  • Second, you the entrepreneur will need to candidly evaluate your potential partner’s skills, capabilities and personality. Successful partner selection should be objectively based on the needs of the business and not on friendship, emotion, or exhaustion of the entrepreneur.  The most successful partnerships are found on synergies and skills that meet both the current and future demands of the business.

The best partner will have skills complementary to your own, not the same skills as you.  Several years ago a friend opened a deli and chose a close friend for his partner, both loved to cook and create in the kitchen.  But neither enjoyed the front of the house, customer service, marketing or staff management responsibilities necessary to the business’s successful operation.  They both quickly realized that the business did not need two chefs, no pun intended, and one of them would need to step beyond his comfort zone and take on a different role.  Neither was willing nor effective in these critical areas, and because finances were tight and someone could not be hired to assume these duties, the business soon closed.

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PiMobility, maker of the electric-hybrid bike called the PiCycle, is officially launching its newest creation at the DEMO conference in Palm Springs, Calif.: a two-wheel drive light electric motorcycle it calls the PiMoto. One of two green companies debuting at the event, PiMobility seeks to prove that greening transportation can be incredibly simple.

First, the stats. The PiMoto can reach speeds up to 30 miles per hour, and has a 25-mile range per charge, making it a suitable commuter vehicle for people who have always wanted to bike to work without showing up sweaty. After all, both modes of transport produce zero emissions. Though the PiMoto is a bit pricier, at $2,999 a pop.

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home office desk computer black and whiteIn a recent post for ReadWriteWeb, Tim Trefren, founder of Mixpanel analytics service, writes that focusing on pageviews is no longer an effective business strategy.

If your business sells a product online, there are other customer metrics that are vastly more valuable than mere number of visitors coming to your site.

Trefren advises paying more attention the following alternatives; these metrics should give you more useful information about your users' behavior, which you can use to develop strategies for improving your conversion rates.

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Digital communications may have changed the way we communicate on a day-to-day basis, but business leaders know there is no substitute for face-to-face dialogue to discuss ideas, develop partnerships and build networks. 

This reality was in full effect at “Innovate in Canada: Green Tech –Lowering the Cost of Discovery through Cross-Border Opportunities,” a conference held on March 3rd, at the Reuters Conference Center in New York by the Canadian Consulate and their partners Invest Quebec, Ontario, Vale Columbia Center, and Fasken Martineau DuMoulin.

More than 75 people attended the one-hour session, which featured speakers including Ross Garland from General Electric, Jean Trewhella from IBM, Walter Lowes of Trilliant, and Claude Jodoin of Fasken Martineau DuMoulin. 

The moderator was Richard Bendis, President of Innovation America whose global daily innovation newsletter can be found at

Karl Sauvant from Vale Columbia Center offered opening remarks on foreign direct investment (fdi) and how the financial crisis has affected cross-border investment.  In the midst of the clean technology boom, or ‘bubble’ as some may see it, he discussed the impact clean technologies will have on fdi in the coming years and the growth of cross-border collaborations.
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Jim Greenwood, BIO President & CEOLate last night the United States House of Representatives passed the Senate Health Care Bill that has been debated for nearly a year.  Like the clear majority of Americans who oppose the bill, I think this was the wrong thing to do and will ultimately be a disaster.  I realize there are 30 million Americans without health insurance, but they will remain without health insurance for the next 4 years, so it is hard to believe that anything will change for the better for the uninsured in the near term.  The debate also seems to completely ignore the 270 million Americans who have health insurance.  Yes, costs are rising and need to be reigned in, but creating another entitlement is the wrong thing to do, particularly when Social Security and Medicare alone are collectively going to already be in the red to the tune of $50 trillion in coming years. See Statement of Judd Gregg (R-NH).  But at least BIO was able to get provisions into the bill that will truly spur biotech innovation.

Buying insurance across state lines, opening government funded clinics for the uninsured, elimination of third party payers and giving tax credits to individuals to purchase insurance and health care all would have worked to lower costs and drive market forces so people would demand quality for a fair price. It would also have assisted the uninsured. I fear we have put our foot on the accelerator and are heading for a cliff. This spending is simply not sustainable. A jobs plan and stimulating economic activity by lowering taxes would have created jobs, increased tax revenue and provided more health care. But elections have consequences.

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“The built city is the most complicated cultural artefact humankind has invented,” wrote Phil Wood and Charles Landry in “The Intercultural City.” And as such, cities cannot be understood from any one vantage point or through any one academic lens. A small but significant conference in Munich, Germany, in late February 2010 brought a dozen of these lenses into one room and raised a number of timely questions relevant to all of us concerned with cities, culture and social equity.

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Born Entrepreneurs, Born Leaders: How Your Genes Affect Your Work LifeWe like to think of ourselves as in charge of our own destinies. The American Dream is all about being able to achieve what you are capable of — regardless of who your parents are or what they do for a living.

But a new book by Professor Scott Shane argues and establishes that our genes do indeed affect our work lives.  In Born Entrepreneurs, Born Leaders, he posits that genes have an impact on the occupations we choose, our success in those occupations, and whether we start a business.

The most obvious way genes affect us is our physical abilities.  Scott Shane starts the book off by noting that:

“At the most basic level, you probably believe that being tall is important to becoming a professional basketball player, and you might even blame your height for the fact that you don’t currently play for the New York Knicks.  …[Y]ou probably have a gut sense that your DNA is at least partially responsible for your failure to get drafted into the NBA.”

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