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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.


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26 Webinar Tools for Small Business OwnersWhen combined with great resources, useful downloads, and soft sell approaches, webinars offer a way to engage prospects and customers at a higher level.

Here are 26 webinar services for you to consider. Most of these define meetings differently from webinars, in both number of participants and pricing, so if you simply want to run an internal meeting with remote users there are affordable options within this set of providers.

Most of these offer the ability for you to present from a video camera (web cam) or just from your computer microphone via VOIP or via a regular phone. Most do not recommend calling in from a cell phone if you’re the presenter/moderator. All of these allow you to share your screen, which is usually at the core of any webinar presentation.

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DONUT DEFEAT: This year U.S. dietary guidelines may target refined carbohydrates, which increase the risk for cardiovascular disease. istockphotoEat less saturated fat: that has been the take-home message from the U.S. government for the past 30 years. But while Americans have dutifully reduced the percentage of daily calories from saturated fat since 1970, the obesity rate during that time has more than doubled, diabetes has tripled, and heart disease is still the country’s biggest killer. Now a spate of new research, including a meta-analysis of nearly two dozen studies, suggests a reason why: investigators may have picked the wrong culprit. Processed carbohydrates, which many Americans eat today in place of fat, may increase the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease more than fat does—a finding that has serious implications for new dietary guidelines expected this year.

In March the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a meta-analysis—which combines data from several studies—that compared the reported daily food intake of nearly 350,000 people against their risk of developing cardiovascular disease over a period of five to 23 years. The analysis, overseen by Ronald M. Krauss, director of atherosclerosis research at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, found no association between the amount of saturated fat consumed and the risk of heart disease.

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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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Apple CEO Steve Jobs is among the greatest innovators of our time. And yet his genius for understanding business is rarely explained in any public way. Rarer still is to hear the advice he would give to the CEO of another hugely successful company: Nike. But that's exactly what you'll learn from this video, in which Nike president and CEO Mark Parker tells about the advice that Jobs gave him shortly after the release of the Nike+ product line. It's a simple bit of wisdom that any entrepreneur can relate to: "Get rid of the crappy stuff."

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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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Last year, our list of the Most Influential Women in Technology raised plenty of eyebrows, ire, and fist pumps of joy — depending on the reader. And we’ve no doubt this list will follow suit. But the overwhelming number of nominees and fresh names proved that, while women in tech may remain at a distinct disadvantage by almost any metric (average salary, top-management representation, etc), there is also plenty to celebrate and be inspired by.

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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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We want to let you know about a recent activity and contribution NASVF has made in supporting amendments to the Financial Stability Act of 2010 proposed by Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT).

There were two elements of the bill that would have been detrimental to entrepreneurs, public and private investors as well as organizations that support emerging innovation enterprises:

  • Section 412 and 413, Adjusting the Accredited Investor Standard for Inflation. As currently written, this section could result in the elimination of as many as two-thirds of all accredited investors who invest directly in start-up and early-stage small businesses.
  • Section 926, Authority of State Regulators Over Regulation D Offerings. This section could make it more difficult to raise angel capital from investors in different states, make it unclear what entities regulate angel investments, and introduce potential lengthy waiting periods for businesses to receive their capital, possibly resulting in the death of those businesses.

NASVF along with nine national associations supporting small business and innovation joined together in a letter to Senator Dodd to voice their concerns on the Senate Reform Bill (view the letter).

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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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Billionaire philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has started looking at energy innovation through politics. Gates, who has started speaking more frequently on the importance of developing the next generation of energy technology from a technologist and an investor’s perspective, co-wrote a column in the Washington Post on Friday that calls for the U.S. government to invest significantly more money into energy innovation.

Specifically Gates used the column (co-written with former CEO and Chairman of DuPont’s Chad Holliday) to announce a new group that he’s joined called the American Energy Innovation Council, which is a group of business leaders that support energy innovation. The group will announce specific recommendations to enhance energy innovation in the coming months, according to the column, but for now Gates and Holliday gave these three reasons why developing energy technology is different than creating electronics innovation, and why energy technology needs much more federal funding. (We put Gates on our list of 25 Who Ditched Information Technology for Greentech).

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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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