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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.

Valley of Death ImageThe valley of death refers to the severe financial risks that startups face as they struggle to grow from small teams to viable ventures. The dip of the valley refers to the debt -- i.e., the negative balance sheets -- that companies experience as they invest money now in hopes of making it back upon success (the accompanying figure provides a general description).

Nowhere is this valley of death more evident than in clean technology, where startups face a difficult combination of challenges. On the one hand, there is the challenge of teams seeking $50k to $5M or more in funding to begin translating their advanced science into industrial processes (moving thin-film solar or fuels from algae out of the lab and into commercial production) and, on the other hand, there's the challenge of funded startups trying to raise investments for the industrial-sized plants and equipment needed to utilize those emerging processes.

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legos buildSerial entrepreneur Steve Blank has an excellent post on his blog today about the value of business models vs. business plans.

He points out the ultimate benefit of making a dynamic business model: being able test your assumptions before you waste time crafting a plan that might not actually work.

Blank compares two early-stage startups: one that had spent the last 3 months researching and writing up their business plan -- while the other spent their 3 months building and testing their business model.

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Organizations within the nonprofit sector are, for the most part, in a constant state of struggle. Between trying to keep funding coming in and keeping all the constituents happy, it can be easy to lose sight of what they are trying to get done. Some of this is just the inherent nature of nonprofits, but much can be remedied by taking a different approach to how nonprofits are run, and therefore perceived. Applying entrepreneurship skills and perspectives to nonprofit organizations will open the doors for a better public reputation and a better opportunity to make a real difference.

Nonprofits, by their very nature, are difficult to manage. Because they are legally owned by the public and exist for the benefit of the public, they are run by a group of usually unpaid individuals. The board is made up of people with a variety of motives for being there -- some have a passion for the cause, some enjoy the role of leadership, some are just trying to beef up their resumes. Between the board and the people who contribute their time and money to work in the organization, there is a sense that everyone has to agree before any move can be made.

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Last Friday, I had the opportunity to join an extraordinary group of women entrepreneurs mostly from Saudi Arabia for a lunch at the home of the Honorable Esther Coopersmith.  All were both proud of their higher education in Saudi Arabia and had started companies in a wide range of businesses from construction to IT.  I should not have been surprised.  Starting a business in Saudi Arabia is relatively easy. Its “ease of starting a business” rank is 13 out of 183 economies, according the World Bank’s Doing Business 2010 data. This is not surprising. Saudi Arabia is widely recognized as a leader in promoting and enabling entrepreneurship and innovation.

Entrepreneurship enjoys high level support in this country. Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, the advisor to the King of Saudi Arabia, chairs the Saudi Arabian National Entrepreneurship Center (NEC), an institution created to empower the young to be successful entrepreneurs by creating the needed supportive environment through specialized education, training, knowledge, mentoring, and finance.

Moreover, Saudi Arabia is home to the one of the most influential Middle Eastern educational institutions, the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). The university is an international, graduate-level research university dedicated to inspiring a new age of scientific achievement in the Kingdom, across the region and around the globe. KAUST recruited top education leaders from around the world to ensure high-impact education, and engages in academic relationships and research collaborations with various global academic institutions.

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Maybe you’ve seen a PowerPoint presentation that looks something like this [visual: heinous PPT template]. Maybe you were the author of a PowerPoint like that. This is a little unfair—usually people will throw in some clip art to jazz it up a little [visual: ridiculous smiley-face clip art]. How do you avoid the dreaded bullet-drenched PPT? Here are 3 tips.

1. Be simple. I know, you’ve heard it before. But it’s worth hearing again. There’s a trial lawyer who holds a focus group with the jury after every major case. His one overriding conclusion: If you make 10 arguments to the jury, no matter how good each argument is, by the time they get back to the jury room, they’ll remember nothing. If you say 10 things, you say nothing. Well, your colleagues are your jury. I know it hurts to cut but if your main points are going to shine through, you’ve got to be ruthless.

2. Show something. To be clear, that’s not the same thing as using clip art. You don’t need to decorate, you need to communicate. What you show doesn’t even need to be on the screen. I got an email from the president of a power tools company who was on the way to a sales meeting. He’d prepped a long presentation about how great his tools were. At the last minute, he decided to toss it out and instead, he put two drills on the table in front of the customer—his and his competitor’s. He disassembled both of them side-by-side to show the durability of his drills. The customer loved it. The best presentations are like this—they bring a little reality into the room.



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TDr. Robert Cooperhe goal is true innovation – breakthrough new products, services and solutions – that create tomorrow’s growth engines. But most companies are stuck in traditional development: line extensions, modifications and improvements, which won’t generate the desired sales and profits. InnovationManagement asked Dr Robert Cooper about the importance of innovation.

Everybody is talking about innovation and how important it is. Do you agree – is it really that important, and why is that?

– Most companies have ambitious growth goals. The trouble is there are only so many sources of growth. Four of these – market growth, market share increases, new markets, and acquisitions – are proving difficult or expensive. Markets in many countries and industries are flat and increasingly commoditized; gains in market shares are expensive; and acquisitions often don’t work. New markets – India and China, for example – pose special problems. Even traditional product development – for most companies, this means line extensions, improvements and product modifications – seems depleted, and only serves to maintain market share.

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Most technology-based economic development (TBED) practitioners want to know the same thing: What approaches to TBED are being taken in other states and regions, and how are they succeeding?
 
While it may seem like a simple question with an easily attainable answer, distinguishing those initiatives with proven impact and a high degree of excellence is a complicated process. SSTI’s Excellence in TBED Awards program was created to help answer these questions and share best practices among policymakers and practitioners working toward the common goal of improving the nation’s competitiveness.
 
SSTI is now accepting applications for the 2010 Excellence in TBED Awards. Winners of this award are provided a national platform to showcase their achievement. Awards are presented in the following six categories:

  • Expanding the Research Capacity
  • Commercializing Research
  • Building Entrepreneurial Capacity
  • Increasing Access to Capital
  • Enhancing the Science & Technology Workforce
  • Improving Competitiveness of Existing Industries

The deadline to apply is June 1. More information is available at: http://www.ssti.org/Awards.

By Dr. Janice Presser

Let's say you're a VC or an Angel, and you need to figure out which of many companies will survive, succeed, and become a profit-making 'star'. So, you follow a generally accepted set of guidelines.  You evaluate the market, examine barriers to entry, rank the competition, and predict the outlook for product sales.  You place a value on IP and examine cost projections for everything from the technology infrastructure to the coffee vendor.  You often know the 'ballpark', and if you don't, you know someone who does, so you can easily make adjustments and allowances to refine the company's projections.  

But there is one thing you can't do - or at least, you haven't been able to do 'til now - and that is to predict how well management will perform as a team.

What's Human Infrastructure?
For the past 100 years, business has viewed people as individual units of productivity and/or cost, a bias that is reflected in the terms 'Personnel,' Human Resources,' and 'Human Capital'.  In a business plan, this bias shows up as "plug in two for R&D, one for Finance, five for Operations", etc.  But has it occurred to you that this concept is way out of date?  We live in a world where one person, sitting on a beach in the Bahamas with a laptop and a wireless connection, can execute work that - just 20 years ago - might have required the coordinated efforts of fifty people.

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For information contact David Hochman,This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 518-689-0553

More than two dozen clean-energy companies receiving commercialization support from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NSYERDA) will present their results and status at a day-long Program Review produced for NYSERDA by the Business Incubator Association of NYS (BIA/NYS), on Thursday, June 10th, at the Brooklyn campus of NYU-Poly.

Companies presenting at the Program Review will span sectors including solar photovoltaic, wind, biomass, geothermal, energy conversion and storage, smart-grid and transportation. All participants have received support from NYSERDA’s Clean Energy Business Growth and Development Program, or its Manufacturing Incentive Program, or from one of six clean-energy business incubators supported statewide by NYSERDA.

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10 easy ways to fail as an entrepreneurMany people dream of starting their own businesses and becoming financially independent, but while the idea of organising and operating your own business venture may be thrilling, there’s a good chance that your fledgling company won’t survive unless you identify potential pitfalls and plan to circumnavigate them.

Here are 10 ways that you could fail as an entrepreneur:

1. Poor market research
Make sure there’s a need for your product or service. Ideally, your offering should be unique and fill a gap in the market, but if there’s already competition in your intended sector, research ways to position yourself uniquely to improve your chances of success.

2. Inadequate planning
Every new business needs a roadmap to follow, a solid business plan. Unless you’re looking for outside funding, this doesn’t have to be a long, formal document, but it must at least outline the operational and financial directions that your business will take. On the flip-side, be flexible. Don’t allow a business plan to stifle your business if circumstances change.

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Focus is key in landing a tech jobI [Scott Kirsner] occasionally get e-mails from soon-to-graduate students asking how they can find a tech job. Last week, I received one from a Babson College senior.

I usually feel ill-equipped to provide good advice; while I have a job covering the tech community, it has been a long while since I’ve interviewed for jobs. So what recommendations would you share with students, many of whom are trying to make plans for June and beyond?

Here are five bits of advice I’d toss out, to get things started:

  • Show that you understand how to use social media — and that means something other than a personal Facebook page. Start a blog about a topic that interests you, create a Twitter account to share links about an industry sector you’d like to work in, or shoot videos of events you attend and upload them to your own YouTube channel. For many entry-level employees, being a “power user’’ of social media will be one of the things that gets you hired.
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Gov Monitor logoThere is a long-running dispute over who constitute ‘real’ entrepreneurs. It is important we understand their importance.

At the University of Miami a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend an entrepreneurship class with roughly 40 students.

Most of them were juniors and seniors, joined by a small number of law students.

The course had so far covered the theoretical literature on entrepreneurship, but on this particular day all the students wanted to talk about was their own futures.

Studying entrepreneurship in the midst of a severe recession and stumbling recovery, and in the months leading up to graduation, has made these students acutely aware that their own economic futures may not be entirely secure. Make no mistake: jobs are front and center in students’ minds. Both the Obama administration and the Federal Reserve expect the unemployment rate to remain at relatively high levels for the next few years, falling from the present 9.7 percent to around 8 percent by the end of 2012.

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