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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.

Nine Tips for Open InnovationLast week, I [Stefan Lindegaard] attended an open innovation session led by General Mills. Among the distributed materials, I found nine tips for open innovation by Peter Erickson, their Sr. VP of Innovation, Technology and Quality.

The tips are based on General Mills’ successful collaborations with external innovators. I like them and since I believe they are universal, I want to share them with the open innovation community. Here they are:

• Create a differentiated opportunity. Be prepared to articulate how your product, idea or technology is unique and better than anything on the market.

• Test your innovation. You’ll be able to speak to market interest and consumer or retailer reaction if you’ve previously placed your innovation before these audiences.

• Be selective. Avoid courting multiple corporate partners. Companies want to know you are as dedicated to them as they are to you.

• Find a contact to be your champion. Within a large company it’s essential to have a “tour guide” which is why all of General Mills’  external partners are matched with specific employees.

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Researchers at Stanford University have just made a major breakthrough that may impact the technology industry for years to come: they've built a better battery. The project, an attempt to use lithium-sulfur in place of the lithium-ion technology that is used in batteries today, has been in development since 2007. Recently, the scientists' efforts were rewarded when they created a battery that lasts four times as long as its lithium-ion counterparts while also having the benefit of being "significantly safer" than today's batteries which occasionally explode after short-circuiting.

Although still a ways off from commercial viability (and availability), the lithium-sulfur batteries promise advances like 80% more capacity, 10 times the power density and, theoretically, the ability to last four times as long as modern batteries.

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PhiladelphiaIt used to be, if you were serious about starting a tech company, you went to Silicon Valley. But emerging entrepreneurial hubs around the country are giving startup aspirants options. In this series, we talk to leading figures in those communities about what makes them tick. Here, part nine in our series.

When you look around the country, you see that second-generation entrepreneurs play a big role in thriving communities. They serve as mentors, cheerleaders and early capital sources. Philadelphia is an exception to the rule. Because despite a Web 1.0 legacy of hits like CDNow (acquired by Bertelsmann in 2000 for $117 million), (acquired by eBay in 2000), e-commerce company GSI ($1.55 billion market cap) and VerticalNet (valued at $12 billion in 1999), the city is mainly driven by first-generation entrepreneurs and few of them have hit a serious scale or impact yet.

But what Philadelphia's current startup scene lacks in experience it makes up for in enthusiasm. Blake Jennelle, a self-appointed leader of the community, founder of Philly Startup Leaders and a serial entrepreneur (Anthillz, TicketLeap), calls it a "self-help ethos." That sounds about right for a place known as the City of Brotherly Love.

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Photo By maubrowncowThe other day, I came across a heated forum discussion that went back and forth debating over the definition of a “true” entrepreneur versus just a regular small business owner. The thread was over 5 pages long and participating in this discussion were a wide variety of different business owners. Some of them ran brick and mortar retail stores. Some of them ran small-medium sized internet consulting or software companies. And some of them were freelancers looking to eventually start their own firms.

The main crux of the debate was whether a person opening a brick and mortar business like an ice cream store or a freelancer with no employees could be considered a true entrepreneur. Where do you draw the line between true entrepreneurship and just running a small business?

As the two sides argued back and forth, I couldn’t help but think…who the heck cares? Why are you guys wasting your time on such a stupid topic and who are you to define what a “true” entrepreneur is? As the discussion progressed, the small brick and mortar business owners as well as the freelancers were clearly getting miffed because they were being excluded from the entrepreneurship category. Since when did entrepreneurship become a club?

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US veteran "angel" investor Bill Payne has put US$1.5 million (NZ$2m) into about 50 technology start-ups during the past 30 years and reckons he has achieved an average annualised return of 20 per cent to 25 per cent, thanks mainly to "four really nice exits".

Now he is spending five months in New Zealand as "entrepreneur in residence" at Auckland University, sponsored by BNZ and other businesses, trying to pass on what he learnt along the way to entrepreneurs and other angels. Last year he won the US Angel Capital Association's highest honour, the Hans Severiens Award.

Funding options for entrepreneurs include using their own savings or mortgaging their homes, borrowing or accepting investments from friends and family, "organically" growing their businesses by reinvesting profits from early sales, and seeking out angel investment or venture capital.

Mr Payne says no-one knows how much money entrepreneurs invest in their own companies. "We do know that in the United States about 500,000 companies are formed each year, and what we have found out recently - which shocked me - is that friends and family invest about three times as much annually as angels and venture capital funds."

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“We’re in a crisis, and there is an opportunity to reinvent our energy infrastructure; it would be a folly to waste it.”

I [Eric Wesoff] wrote a mildly antagonistic profile of star investor Vinod Khosla last week as part of our "Green Kingpins" series.  Mr. Khosla responded with a well-thought-out and reasonable rebuttal, which we print here in its entirety.

To review the issues you raised:

Khosla is somewhat of a contrarian and can always be counted on to say
something that doesn't agree with the conventional wisdom. Actually
sometimes he says things that don't agree with things he's said.

Absolutely -- especially the latter line. I've always maintained that all  forecasts are wrong -- including mine, as I stated at the ARPA-E conference last week. The ability to learn from mistakes is an importantone. That being said, I think the examples you cite do not meet the threshold of disagreeing with myself.

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Here is a late draft of a Federal Communications Commission summary of its "National Broadband Plan," due for delivery to Congress by Wednesday:


Broadband is the great infrastructure challenge of the early 21st century.

Like electricity a century ago, broadband is a foundation for economic growth, job creation, global competitiveness and a better way of life. It is enabling entire new industries and unlocking vast new possibilities for existing ones. It is changing how we educate children, deliver health care, manage energy, ensure public safety, engage government, and access, organize and disseminate knowledge.

Fueled primarily by private sector investment and innovation, the American broadband ecosystem has evolved rapidly. The number of Americans who subscribe to broadband has grown from eight million in 2000 to nearly 200 million last year. Increasingly capable fixed and mobile networks allow Americans to access a growing number of valuable applications through innovative devices.

But broadband in America is not all it needs to be. Approximately 100 million Americans do not have broadband at home. Broadband-enabled health information technology (IT) can improve care and lower costs by hundreds of billions of dollars in the coming decades, yet the United States is behind many advanced countries in the adoption of such technology. Broadband can provide teachers with tools that allow students to learn the same course material in half the time, but there is a dearth of easily accessible digital educational content required for such opportunities. A broadband-enabled Smart Grid could increase energy independence and efficiency, but much of the data required to capture these benefits are inaccessible to consumers, businesses and entrepreneurs. And nearly a decade after 9/11, our first responders still lack a nationwide public safety mobile broadband communications network, even though such a network could improve emergency response and homeland security.

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In the advertising world, it’s commonly agreed that the headline is responsible for about 90% of an ad’s effectiveness. Same thing in the book world. The title does nearly all the heavy lifting. And, it’s no different in newspapers and social media, especially places like twitter where all you’ve to sell the click is the headline. Or, where a brief glance at the headline makes or breaks your shot at hitting the front page.

Your headlines can either launch you…or bury you.

Which makes you wonder. Why do so many bloggers spend so much time on the body of a post, then punt when it comes time to create the headline?

So, how do you write headlines that rock?

Here are 7 things that’ll help make your headlines sing, pull, lure and lull. One big picture and 6 a bit more under the radar…

First, SEO Optimize Your Headlines.

Let’s talk about SEO first, because that’s the, how do I say this, suckier part of writing headlines at least for me. In fact, it’s the part I bailed on for most of my blogging career, until I realized how critical it was in driving search engine traffic to my blog.

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As MIT political scientist and China expert Ed Steinfeld says, "China [is] one of the most entrepreneurial places on earth."

Perhaps this observation doesn't surprise you, given what's been happening to the Chinese economy in recent years. But you might not recognize how widespread entrepreneurship is in China, or why the country is so full of entrepreneurs.

What the Data Show

The latest numbers from the Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD) show that China's rate of self-employment far exceeds that in the U.S.—51.2% versus 7.2%—a gap that hasn't changed much since 2001, when the data first became readily available.

Lest you think that self-employment represents something other than entrepreneurship, consider some other statistics. According to the 2009 GEM report, China exceeds the U.S. in its rate of nascent entrepreneurship (a measure of people in the process of starting a business), rate of ownership of new businesses, and rate of ownership of more established businesses. And, as the figure to the right shows , the differences aren't trivial.

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Earlier today Dale Halling, of Halling IP and State of Innovation Blog, brought to my attention an article on the IAM Magazine Blog from a few weeks ago. Joff Wild of IAM blogged about a study conducted by IPVision, Inc., which focused on analyzing the intellectual property positions of over 9,000 US venture capital backed technology companies. The study was conducted with the assistance of faculty at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and not surprisingly determined that there is a strong correlation between intellectual property assets, particularly strong patent portfolios, and success. In fact, the IPVision study shows that VC-backed technology “[w]inners are many times more likely to hold intellectual property than losers.” Further proof that those who due to ideological reasons forgo pursuing a patent portfolio are dooming themselves, and their investors, to an unnecessary uphill struggle right from the start.

According to the IPVision study:

Analysis shows that across all sectors a significantly higher percentage of venture capital backed winners (companies that have been acquired or have gone public) have patent portfolios as opposed to losers (companies that are out of business
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A discussion group at last year's Entrepreneurial Summit. Photo / Martin SykesA high-powered panel says we need to change our Kiwi mindset and put ideas to the market test sooner rather than keep pouring money into doomed projects.

New Zealand needs to stop hero-worshipping the Kiwi battler and start encouraging "fast failure" so that only the best ideas survive.

This is one of the key recommendations of a group that's emerged from last year's Entrepreneurial Summit.

The high-powered panel, including former 3M boss Maurice Boland and New Zealand Venture Investment Fund chief executive Franceska Banga, has presented a white paper to R&D Minister Wayne Mapp.

It is one of the more solid initiatives to come out of last winter's summit, at which 100 entrepreneurs gathered at Ellerslie Convention Centre to brainstorm five top ideas for propelling New Zealand up the OECD rankings.

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