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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.

imgThere are numerous programs and indexes launched each year to assess a country’s innovation capabilities (several are listed below). Among the most comprehensive and credible is the Global Innovation Index prepared by INSEAD, which last week released its 2009-2010 report, revealing some unexpected outcomes.

Firstly, the USA lost its number one spot, tumbling to 11th place. Secondly, the country to take its numero uno position is the troubled nordic economy of Iceland. Soumitra Dutta, an INSEAD professor of business and technology, who oversaw the survey, explains that, this year, size did indeed matter. But, in this case, it’s the smaller that have done better.

The most populous land in the Top 10 is Sweden, with 9.2 million people. It finishes second. Several of the biggest nations in the developed world cluster just below the US — Japan is 13, with Britain at 14 and Germany at 16. Of the so-called BRIC giants in emerging markets, China comes out best, at 43. Trailing are India (56), Russia (64), and Brazil (68).

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Guy KawasakiHighly recognized Silicon Valley venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki is not only the author of the inspiringly titled blog How to Change the World, but he has also penned nine books on various business and marketing topics. After attending college at Stanford and receiving his MBA from UCLA, Kawasaki cut his business teeth at a jewelry manufacturer called Nova before eventually being bitten by the "computer bug."

After a brief stint at an educational software company, Kawasaki was hired by Apple where he was responsible for marketing the original Macintosh computer in 1984. After the success seen at Apple in the mid-80s, Kawasaki left and started his own software and database development companies, Fog City Software and ACIUS.

Following a short return to Apple in 1995 "to maintain and rejuvenate the Macintosh cult," Kawasaki started Garage Technology Ventures, an early-stage seed fund, with Craig Johnson and Rich Karlgaard in 1997. Today, Kawaski is the Managing Director at Garage, and the co-founder of Alltop, which he describes as "an online magazine rack".

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zipcarDispenserMaking human knowledge and intentions tangible in a market place opens up the possibility of a whole new class of business plans.  We call this Social Power by the Hour.

A Social Trifecta

1. Obviously, Social Media is powerful.

2. Fractional ownership or rental of assets is an emerging trend in our environmentally, geographically, and monetarily constrained economy.

3.Vendor Relationship Management (Doc Searles) promises to change the shape of traditional advertising in the future.

What if we combined all three?

ZipCar is an excellent example of the fractional membership for automobile transportation. There are many advantages but also huge drawbacks. $7.00 per hour is a lot to add to a casual lunch at a sidewalk café or any social experience. Then there are all the lost options like the one-way-trip, guaranteed availability, all those rules and regulations. So, it’s pay now or pay later.

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PorschePorsche has come up with a nifty little marketing campaign for its Cayenne models, using a couple of Google APIs. It's basically a virtual test-drive where you can plot yourself a nice little route--I plumped for the Golden Gate Bridge, followed by a spin in the Cumbrian Pennines, in the North of England--and sit back and enjoy the German carmaker's spiel about how its torque is second to none while dramatic music is piped through your speakers.

The two minute-or-so flash movie segues seamlessly (no doubt like the car's transmission) between Google Maps and pictures taken from Google's geolocation photo-sharing Web site, Panoramio. Porsche nerd will, I'm sure, appreciate that the video window measures 911 pixels across. It's fun, although, speaking as a cyclist, I'm waiting for the mash-up between this and the cycle routes that will soon be appearing on Google Maps. Billed as "the most requested addition to Google Maps," the routes will be available in 150 cities across the U.S. (I'm hoping they come to the U.K. more quickly than it might take me to cycle from NY to London.) The mash-up could be the goriest game ever invented.

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Venture capital firms have invested almost $20 billion into hundreds of greentech startups since 2005. All of these firms are looking to launch a disruptive force into their target markets, scale rapidly and grow quickly.

Very few of these firms will actually make it.

We put our energy analysts, reporters and editors to the task of picking fifty VC startups in greentech that have at least a fighting chance of succeeding as VC-funded start-ups and making an impact on our energy-intensive lives.

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The key qualities that separate great leaders from not-so-great ones can be developed...

That is according to researchers from BYU and Harvard Business School, who surveyed 500 innovative company founders (including Pierre Omidyar, Michael Dell, and Jeff Bezos) as well as 3,000 execs who had not launched a business or invented a product. There are many interesting findings, but one stands out:

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(KANSAS CITY, Mo.), March 9, 2010 – As the American economy continues to send out mixed signals about recovery, job creation has emerged as the country's most pressing economic issue. Not only important for employment itself, job growth also drives recovery in other sectors, including housing. But, while hope for spurring the U.S. economy toward recovery focuses squarely on job creation, policy discussions center primarily on measures that would expand job growth in existing companies.

According to a new study released today by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the current national conversation would be more productively focused on creating a favorable environment for entrepreneurship—and particularly high-growth entrepreneurship—because top-performing companies are the most fertile source of new jobs.

High-Growth Firms and the Future of the American Economy, the third in the Kauffman Foundation Research Series on Firm Formation and Economic Growth, draws on a special tabulation conducted by the Census Bureau at the Kauffman Foundation's request, calculated from the Business Dynamics Statistics (BDS) database. Author Dane Stangler, a senior analyst with the Kauffman Foundation, found that in any given year, the top-performing 1 percent of firms generate roughly 40 percent of all new jobs.

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PARIS, March 9, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- For years, ESA has been bringing space technologies down to Earth through its Technology Transfer Programme and Business Incubation initiatives. Now, the Agency will strengthen these initiatives by supporting new businesses using space innovations through a dedicated venture capital fund.

The Open Sky Technologies Fund (OSTF) is an early-stage venture capital fund aimed at nurturing the most promising business opportunities arising from space technologies and satellite applications for terrestrial industries. The OSTF will be managed by Triangle Venture Capital Group on ESA's behalf.

Michel Courtois, ESA Director of Technical and Quality Management, formally signed an agreement with Bernd Geiger, Managing General Partner and founder of Triangle, at ESA Headquarters on 4 March.

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Wired claims that this is the tenth anniversary of the dotcom boom, and in honor of that auspicious overheated bubble, they've put together a long, Web 0.96b layout depicting the most hubristicly hubristic predictions and hype of that golden age.

I moved to San Francisco in 1999, and remember the feverish absurdity of it all -- and how hard it was not to feel like all these people must know something if they were pouring all this money and energy into all the odd and improbable ideas (a recurring theme I remember was people explaining how they were going to build shopping malls for the web, which, I guess, is basically what Amazon's Z-shops are).

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SBIR GatewayDear SBIR Insider, 

I just learned that a good number of our >8,000 subscribers work for, own, or partner with "marginal companies" that are recipients of SBIR "corporate welfare".  If you think I'm shocked, wait till you read on!

Of all the SBIR Insider issues I have addressed over the years, this may well be the most outrageous.  It brings to light the true feelings of Nydia Velazquez, the House Small Business Committee Chair, and her disdain for the thousands of small businesses participating in the SBIR program. 


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By Dr. Janice Presser, CEO, The Gabriel Institute

Here Today, Team TomorrowI overheard a CEO who prides himself on being an innovator interviewing a candidate the other day.  Maybe it was just the 10 minutes or so that I listened in, or maybe it was like this for an hour or more: the CEO did all the talking.  I don't mean the majority.  I mean ALL the talking.  So here, as a public service, are the rules.  They won't guarantee that you'll get the right person, but at least you won't scare them off.

1- Shut up and listen:  Every moment you speak is a moment your interviewee is silent.  Unless you are interviewing someone who will be working for you as a mime, you aren't learning anything while you're talking.

2- Ask SPIN questions: Help your interviewee learn more about the position and company – while you're learning more about them – by asking value-centric questions.  Try using what sales guru Neil Rackham, author of SPIN Selling and many other books on business communication, calls 'Implication' and 'Need-payoff' questions.  "What if you got this position and could do anything within reason to make it a success?"  "Here's a recurring problem (describe it); how many kinds of adverse impact on our business can you identify?" This gives the candidate an opportunity to 'dig in' and actually sell themselves on the job opportunity, while giving you a view into their thinking and problem solving processes.

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It 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 eight in our series.

 New Orleans

What do entrepreneurs do? They find an itch that needs to be scratched and go at it. After the devastating hurricane of 2005, New Orleans definitely had a lot of itches.

Years of effort to attract entrepreneurs and encourage locals to start something as an alternative to the corporate jobs that were lost are paying off. The city now boasts entrepreneurial enclaves like Entrepreneur's Row, Idea Village and Entergy Innovation Center, all of which is basically real estate housing startup efforts. And the Big Easy also counts several groups and events that have sparked a vibrant community, such as Net2NO, BarCamp, Social Media Club, Startup School, WordCamp, and TribeCon. Though New Orleans lacks an abundance of local capital, the state helps out with a 25% tax break for digital media companies, plus 10% on human capital costs.

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