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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.

There’s nothing like a tough economy – and unemployment – to encourage people to take the plunge and open their own businesses. Some have more business experience than others. Some have more education than others. When I started my company, I went through a series of surprises and shocks and the occasional nightmare. With all of the recent interest in entrepreneurship, I thought I would highlight six warning signs that you are about to be broadsided by one of the classic and inevitable struggles of business ownership. If you hear yourself saying these words, take a step back and think about what you’re doing. My hope is that by being more aware you will be better prepared.

1. “Where’s all the business from our marketing launch?” Marketing can be very expensive, and it is difficult to know what will work. It can propel your company, or it can have minimal or no impact. There will be no shortage of people looking to take your money to help you with your advertising and marketing. The people who sell advertising are usually not marketing experts — they’re salespeople. It is their job to sell. It is your job to be discerning. If you can, test before you invest.

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The entrepreneur members of this year's Crain's "40 Under 40" class started companies in a variety of businesses, from low-income housing to restaurants to design. However, they share some common qualities.

Contrary to entrepreneurial myth, their résumés are not those of profound risk-takers. Most of them started their businesses in areas in which they had years of experience and plenty of expertise.

Kimberly Peeler-Allen became a political fundraiser after paying her dues with other companies. Michael White arrived fast on New York's culinary scene—but only after he spent eight years cooking in Italy.

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Skoll Foundation has announced five new recipients of its 2010 Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship.

Each award comes with a $765,000, three-year grant.

Three of the winning organizations — Forest Trends, Imazon and Telapak —are addressing climate change and working to preserve tropical forests around the world.

One Acre Fund works with farmers in Kenya and Rwanda to help them build capacity and access markets.

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boardroom tableAre investors and startup founders on the same side of the table, or the opposite side?

A: Depends.

When things are going well, everyone feels like they’re on the same side of the table. When things are going not so well, it’s a different story. This is the reality of the startup-investor relationship. It’s not an easy relationship by any means. The relationship is made more challenging by the fact that it goes through an early honeymoon period shortly after an investment is made. Everyone is happy and excited. But then the real work begins. And the real difficulties.

I’d like to think that startup founders and investors are more often on the same side of the table than the opposite side, but if you believe that your relationship with investors will go smoothly from start to finish, you’re in for a big, big surprise.

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A New York judge's opinion to toss out the patents on two breast cancer genes paves the way for high-tech gene sequencing to begin having a real impact on medicine.

imageThe ruling by federal judge Robert Sweet earlier this week invalidated long-standing patents on two breast cancer genes held by Myriad Genetics ( MYGN - news - people ). His basic argument is one that many researchers have been making for years: You can’t patent genes because genes are natural. But thousands of patents on human genes have been granted anyway.

"This is the moment when a lot of issues are crystallizing in the public's mind in a way they have not before," says Daniel Vorhaus, a patent lawyer at Robinson, Bradshaw & Hinson who also blogs at The Genomics Law Report. He says he has been fielding phone calls from people who would normally not be interested in genomics at all, many reflecting a general sentiment that companies that would restrict people's access to their own genes "needs to be put in their place."

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New York and its Environs, 1928


Urban Omnibus: First, can you sketch a brief history of the Regional Plan Association?

Tom Wright: In the 1920s, about 25 years after the creation of greater New York City, a group of civic leaders got together to create a single comprehensive metropolitan plan. Today, RPA is still dedicated to pushing those regional ideas that transcend political boundaries and might be too controversial for elected leaders to take on. RPA produces one of these plans each generation and then goes about advocating for its implementation.

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It should come as no surprise to anyone following the global economy that when it comes to innovation and competition, America has lost that loving feeling. Numbers in key areas of innovation—percentage of patents issued, government funded research and venture capitalists’ investments—are all down. While some point a finger at a weaker economy, others look to poor domestic policy and increased global competition. Either way, American innovation is slowly fading on the global stage.

In the Huffington Post this week, Arianna Huffington examined where the United States ranks in terms of global innovation and competition—dead last, according to the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. The percentage of patents issued to Americans dropped (down 2.3% in 2009), government funded research is down (now 27% from 50% in 1979), and venture capitalists aren’t investing as much in the U.S. (down $12 billion in 2009 from $22 billion in 2008). Why? According to a report by the Boston Consulting Group, America is falling behind in several areas key to supporting innovation—work force quality and economic, immigration and infrastructure policies. The recent economic recession and the loss of our educational edge are also cited as reasons for America’s innovative decline.

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Wikipedia, the online user-created encyclopedia and the number six website on the Internet today, is about to get a makeover. And it's a big one. According to a blog post from the Wikimedia Foundation User Experience team detailing the changes, the upcoming Wikipedia redesign, due to launch April 5th, aims to make the site easier to navigate, easier to search and, perhaps most importantly, easier to edit.

Easier is Better

The upcoming design, code-named "Vector," has been in use over the past six months by a group of 500,000 beta testers. Included in the update are changes like simplified navigation, a relocated search box, clutter reduction and even an updated Wikipedia logo. Also, all English Wikipedia users will soon be able to create PDFs and printed books from Wikipedia articles, a service previously available only to logged-in users.

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Deerfield, IL — The Alliance of Technology Transfer Professionals (ATTP) was formally established March 17, 2010, at the Annual Meeting of the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM). ATTP’s objective is to lead the development of the technology transfer profession and its practitioners by promoting recognition, progress and knowledge sharing among the global technology transfer community. ATTP is a not-for-profit corporation registered in the UK.

Participating organizations include the Association of European Science and Technology Transfer Professionals (ASTP), the Association of Technology Managers in Taiwan (ATMT), AUTM, Knowledge Commercialisation Australasia (KCA), and PraxisUnico.

“The creation of ATTP represents the next major step in the development of the academic technology transfer profession,” said Ashley J. Stevens, D.Phil. (Oxon), CLP, AUTM president.

“Academic technology transfer is now recognized around the world as a vitally important profession that transfers innovations resulting from public sector research to the private sector for commercialization and economic development, and ATTP is the international professional body set up to lead the development of that profession and its practitioners,” said Kevin Edward Cullen, Ph.D., Director of Research & Enterprise, University of Glasgow. Cullen, who has been a member of the Boards of ASTP, AUTM and PraxisUnico, and who was instrumental in the founding of ATTP, added, “ATTP was created by the leading international, practitioner-led associations in order to establish professional recognition processes, standards and mechanisms. We look forward to other, like-minded associations joining the Alliance to advance technology transfer globally.”

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Listening to Customer Feedback for InnovationCustomers have always been core to companies' existence. An obvious statement for sure. Customers are the source of cash flow, and have historically been thought of in marketing and transactional contexts.

But in recent years, we've seen the rise of a new way to consider customers. As vital influencers of company activities and strategies. Two popular ways this is taking form are the social CRM movement, and the emergence of open innovation.

If you follow discussions in these developing strategies, you see that there are differing views as to the value of customer feedback. Understanding the different use cases of customer feedback helps organizations to set objectives and expectations appropriately, and to create effective frameworks for engaging customers.

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The rise of venture leasing and lending has created an opportunity for sophisticated entrepreneurs to gain a competitive advantage. Savvy entrepreneurs are using venture leases and loans to generate millions of dollars for shareholders by leveraging existing venture capital. They have discovered ways to use this flexible financing as a tool to build enterprise value between equity rounds and to leapfrog less sophisticated competitors.

Venture leases and loans are usually asset-based, financing arrangements. These financings are available to qualified pre-profit, early-stage companies funded by venture capital investors. Start-ups need equipment and working capital to help them execute their business plans and to reach profitability. Venture lenders and lessors provide financing to these firms to help them acquire computers, lab and test equipment, production equipment, phone systems and other needed business equipment.

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As the former chairman of the Illinois Venture Capital Association, private equity investor Robert Finkel fondly recalls a popular series of panels he helped arrange called “VC Confidential” in which seasoned pros candidly described the lessons they’ve learned.

“They weren’t afraid to criticize themselves or their actions,” said Finkel, the president and founder of Chicago private equity firm Prism Capital.

But while the panels were invaluable to the junior VCs in the audience, Finkel realized that none of the remarks were ever recorded. So he decided to invite several big-name investors to see if they’d be willing to share their wisdom in print for all to see.

The result is “The Masters of Private Equity and Venture Capital,” a book that profiles 10 pioneering investors – five in private equity and five in venture capital – who discuss their favorite accomplishments, biggest mistakes and key lessons. Finkel and co-author David Greising, chief business correspondent of the Chicago Tribune, spent several hours with each investor in videotaped interviews to capture their innermost thoughts.

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