Category Archives: General Thoughts

Are Universities Teaching the Wrong Entrepreneurship Process?

I’ve long wondered why so many schools support a business plan/VC model through contests and course work when most of their students will never be in the running for venture capital. Over the past few years through Startup Mason and other activities, we’ve moved to a more experiential model/process for entrepreneurship education. We’ve supported action, iteration and experimentation in lieu of planning. (Though many contests demand plans and/or executive summaries).

Dileep Rao at Forbes.com has an interesting piece arguing against teaching business plans and competitions and for a more hands on approach to learning entrepreneurship. There is much good in this piece for those who care about entrepreneurship education.  From Rao,

 As I am constantly repeating, the capital intensive VC model has worked in Silicon Valley, but seldom outside. While 88 percent of Silicon Valley’s billion-dollar entrepreneurs used venture capital, 91 percent outside Silicon Valley did not.

This means that universities may want to consider the following:

  • Teach students how to build businesses using capital efficiency, not just capital intensity. Most areas do not have successful VC funds. Even if they did, most VC funds do not build home runs. The top four percent of VC funds earn about 65% of industry IPO profits. Getting money from the other 96 percent may not do much to build a great company or to make you wealthy. With capital efficiency, students learn to grow without wasting both time and their opportunity in order to seek VC, only to be rejected by VCs. VCs reject about 98-99 percent of entrepreneurs who seek funds from them

  • Encourage students to build their business with smarts, not money. Less than five percent of VC funding goes to startups. This means that students need to learn how to build their business, and actually get some traction, before anyone will take them seriously. Universities should teach them how to do this.

  • Teach sales. Selling is the oxygen of a new business. To sell is to succeed. Unfortunately, many business schools believe that teaching sales has no academic value. Without sales, there is no business.

  • Encourage business startups rather than business plans. Universities organize business plan competitions with the hope that wise judges can pick winners. VCs, who are the foremost ‘wise judges’ in the business, fail to reach their target 80 percent of the time. If the VCs, who are full-time professionals, fail 80 percent of the time, why do universities think that their own ‘wise’ judges can do better?

  • Teach all students, rather than just entrepreneurship students or business-school students, how to build a business. I have found that many business-school students do not have a new-business opportunity to pursue. I would suggest casting a wider net in the hope that students in other schools have ideas for a new business that they want to develop and grow.

If you are involved in entrepreneurship education or considering studying entrepreneurship, read this entire article by Rao as it will give you many things to consider as your approach university entrepreneurship offerings.

An MVP is not a Cheaper Product, It’s about Smart Learning

David J. Miller:

Excited to share this with @startupmason @basllstonbid @venturecamparl #SIP2013 and others that have been experimenting with #lean, customer development and #bmgen.

Originally posted on Steve Blank:

A minimum viable product (MVP) is not always a smaller/cheaper version of your final product. Defining the goal for a MVP can save you tons of time, money and grief.

Drones over the Heartland
I ran into a small startup at Stanford who wants to fly Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (drones) with a Hyper-spectral camera over farm fields to collect hyper-spectral images. These images would be able to tell farmers how healthy their plants were, whether there were diseases or bugs, whether there was enough fertilizer, and enough water. (The camera has enough resolution to see individual plants.) Knowing this means farms can make better forecasts of how much their fields will produce, whether they should treat specific areas for pests, and put fertilizer and water only where it was needed.drone over farm

(Drones were better than satellites because of higher resolution and the potential for making more passes over the fields…

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‘Why I 3D printed an iPhone shoe’ | Video

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BBC News – ‘Why I 3D printed an iPhone shoe’.

On the Road to My PhD in Entrepreneurship… Do We Dare Write for Readers?

As I begin to see the light at the end of my dissertation on student entrepreneurs (which to date has no hypothesis being tested!) I found some great hope and inspiration in a long essay by William Germano, Dean of humanities and social sciences at Cooper Union. Germano’s article, “Do We Dare Write for Readers” is some important questions about higher education today and publications. I appreciate many of his sentiments and most especially for us to write about things that people care about and to provide work that can be used as a tool. Germano offers a ‘machine’ model of the book. From the Chronicle of Higher Education:

The book-as-machine requires that the scholarly writer imagine a problem or concern that will engage the reader, making the investment of reading time worthwhile.

This is not the same as having a thesis or an argument. Those are author-centered positions. They’re about what the writer thinks. The book-as-machine turns the spotlight onto a problem to be solved, and the reader for whom the problem is genuine, and genuinely interesting.

Later,

Yet implicit in the machine model is that the writer openly acknowledges that the book enables collective action. Reader, can you apply my theory to your own field? Can you take this book’s idea and go further? Can you take what the writer provides and build what the writer could never have imagined? This is imagining one’s writing as activism­—not necessarily political, but activism in the sense that it causes action in others.

So how can writing be, in a good sense, a mechanical contrivance? To consider writing as a machine for changing readers is to acknowledge that the power to persuade isn’t restricted to the political stump or the pulpit or the agora. Something more needs to be at stake than a new adjustment to a theory or a sequence of facts.

I’m advocating for a riskier, less tidy mode of scholarly production, but not for sloppiness. I’m convinced, though, that the scholarly book that keeps you awake at night thinking through ideas and possibilities unarticulated in the text itself is the book worth reading. It may be that the best form a book can take—even an academic book—is as a never-ending story, a kind of radically unfinished scholarly inquiry for which the reader’s own intelligence can alone provide the unwritten chapters.

via Do We Dare Write for Readers? – The Chronicle Review – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Rise of the Sharing Economy | The Economist

The Economist has an article on the rise of the sharing economy. There is no doubt this is unleashing new business models and on campus as well. One of GMU’s young entrepreneurs is currently running a hookah delivery service that is based on shared use of the pipes rather than individuals owning their own.  What other items/services can be shared across campus?

Rachel Botsman, the author of a book on the subject, says the consumer peer-to-peer rental market alone is worth $26 billion. Broader definitions of the sharing economy include peer-to-peer lending though cash is hardly a spare fixed asset or putting a solar panel on your roof and selling power back to the grid though that looks a bit like becoming a utility. And it is not just individuals: the web makes it easier for companies to rent out spare offices and idle machines, too. But the core of the sharing economy is people renting things from each other.

Such “collaborative consumption” is a good thing for several reasons. Owners make money from underused assets. Airbnb says hosts in San Francisco who rent out their homes do so for an average of 58 nights a year, making $9,300. Car owners who rent their vehicles to others using RelayRides make an average of $250 a month; some make more than $1,000. Renters, meanwhile, pay less than they would if they bought the item themselves, or turned to a traditional provider such as a hotel or car-hire firm. It is not surprising that many sharing firms got going during the financial crisis. And there are environmental benefits, too: renting a car when you need it, rather than owning one, means fewer cars are required and fewer resources must be devoted to making them.

via Peer-to-peer rental: The rise of the sharing economy | The Economist.

Shark Tank Campus Entrepreneurs, Ball Players Create Coffee Pouches

Just catching up on last nights Shark Tank and glad to see another campus entrepreneur doing well. College baseball players Pat and Matt hit hard with their coffee based chewing tobacco replacement. From the blog Shark Tank Success.

The two invented the Get Grinds Coffee Pouches while in college and playing baseball out in San Francisco, California as an alternative to regular chewing tobacco. By making their pouches using flavored coffee grounds and then adding the same ingredients found in energy drinks like Red Bull or the 5 Hour energy, they have essentially married two unrelated product’s in a rather unique form. The Get Grinds Coffee pouches is a perfect alternative to chewing tobacco and gives you an added boost at the same time.

Another unique advantage to the get Grinds Coffee Pouches especially if you already chew tobacco, is you do not need to continually spit. In Fact, it is encouraged not to spit because you gain more of the energy boosting ingredients by swallowing your saliva. No Kidding! You are essentially brewing the flavored coffee in your mouth. The only thing you need to spit out is the pouch when your done.

Love the flavors that these guys are offering. Also wondering if this could become a product that coffee consumers go for whether they trying to stop chewing tobacco or have never tried it. Here is a story on the ball players from Entrepreneur.

In 2008, after wrapping up their amateur season to return to California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, to finish their degrees, the two men took the saying a step further.

One too-hot night while working on an economics project, they decided to skip out on brewing a pot of coffee in favor of doing what comes naturally to baseball players: They stuffed wads of grinds in their mouths.

“The buzz kicked in and we said, ‘Shoot, we might be on to something,'” Canepa says.

That something was Grinds, tiny chewable pouches of flavored coffee grinds. Each pouch contains about as much caffeine as a quarter cup of coffee, as well as a smattering of taurine and B vitamins.

Soon after their discovery, the duo dashed off a business plan that snagged $3,000 in a competition at their school’s business department. Later that year, they won $15,000 in a similar schoolwide contest, and a handful of judges signed on as investors. In June 2009, less than a year after the idea was born, Canepa and Pezet officially launched their company, also named Grinds.

 

via Shark Tank Success Stories : Get Grinds Coffee Pouch.

Every Young Person is Screwed | How to Survive | #students

Interesting piece by Bryan Goldberg, founder of Bleacher Report on how young people are screwed and how to fight it. Some interesting thoughts in this piece at Pando Daily.

Every young person is an entrepreneur now, in one way or another — they must forge their own unique career path, and they need to think five or 10 years ahead. There is no rulebook anymore for how to build a career. Certainly not the one your parents read in 1981.

In summary, the “conventional path” has become so narrow, that it hardly even exists. You can’t just go to grad school and “become” anything: a lawyer, a banker, a doctor, a journalist, a manager. Some of these jobs are on hiring freezes, and some of them are so fraught with frustration that they are best avoided. I don’t know a single doctor who thinks that Medicine is the best career path for their kids. And the same logic is applying to more and more professions. The well has been poisoned.

via Young people are screwed… Here’s how to survive.

Elon Musk Plans to Colonize Mars at 500K per Pioneer | How Big is Your Vision?

Amazing article about Elon Musk’s plans for colonizing Mars! This guys think HUGE! Are you viewing the world like Musk? I hope so. From Rob Coppinger of Space.com via Yahoo News:

“At Mars, you can start a self-sustaining civilization and grow it into something really big,” Musk told an audience at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London on Friday (Nov. 16). Musk was there to talk about his business plans, and to receive the Society’s gold medal for his contribution to the commercialization of space.

Mars pioneers

Accompanying the founders of the new Mars colony would be large amounts of equipment, including machines to produce fertilizer, methane and oxygen from Mars’ atmospheric nitrogen and carbon dioxide and the planet’s subsurface water ice.

The Red Planet pioneers would also take construction materials to build transparent domes, which when pressurized with Mars’ atmospheric CO2 could grow Earth crops in Martian soil. As the Mars colony became more self sufficient, the big rocket would start to transport more people and fewer supplies and equipment. [Future Visions of Human Spaceflight]

Musk’s architecture for this human Mars exploration effort does not employ cyclers, reusable spacecraft that would travel back and forth constantly between the Red Planet and Earth — at least not at first

“Probably not a Mars cycler; the thing with the cyclers is, you need a lot of them,” Musk told SPACE.com. “You have to have propellant to keep things aligned as [Mars and Earth’s] orbits aren’t [always] in the same plane. In the beginning you won’t have cyclers.”

Musk also ruled out SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, which the company is developing to ferry astronauts to and from low-Earth orbit, as the spacecraft that would land colonists on the Red Planet. When asked by SPACE.com what vehicle would be used, he said, “I think you just land the entire thing.”

Asked if the “entire thing” is the huge new reusable rocket — which is rumored to bear the acronymic name MCT, short for Mass Cargo Transport or Mars Colony Transport — Musk said, “Maybe.”

Musk has been thinking about what his colonist-carrying spacecraft would need, whatever it ends up being. He reckons the oxygen concentration inside should be 30 to 40 percent, and he envisions using the spacecraft’s liquid water store as a barrier between the Mars pioneers and the sun.

A $500,000 ticket

Musk’s $500,000 ticket price for a Mars trip was derived from what he thinks is affordable.

“The ticket price needs to be low enough that most people in advanced countries, in their mid-forties or something like that, could put together enough money to make the trip,” he said, comparing the purchase to buying a house in California. [Photos: The First Space Tourists]

He also estimated that of the eight billion humans that will be living on Earth by the time the colony is possible, perhaps one in 100,000 would be prepared to go. That equates to potentially 80,000 migrants.

WOW!! Please start thinking big….

10 Greatest Steve Jobs Magazine Covers | SPD.ORG | Grids

Looking for some cool Steve Jobs images for the upcoming semester of Startup Mason when I came across a post with the 10 best Steve Jobs magazine covers of all time.

 

The 10 Greatest Steve Jobs Magazine Covers of All Time – Grids – SPD.ORG – Grids.

Is Jobless Generation Putting Brakes on US Economy | FT.com

Could the US end up with a stuck, perpetually jobless generation slowing the economy? Those that came to adulthood since 2008 and are either unemployed or underemployed and saddled with student debt. Of course entrepreneurs need to and are emerging from this group as well and its one of the reasons we see more interest in entrepreneurship. FT.com has some interesting article looking at this jobless generation in America:

The share of American 18- to 24-year-olds who were employed fell to 54 per cent last year, the lowest since the labour department began tracking data in 1948, according to the Pew Research Center. The share who are in college has risen, but the researchers say this only partly explains the drop. The jobless rate for Americans age 16 to 24 is above 16 per cent, more than twice the national rate.

Youth unemployment has reached crisis levels around the world, with almost 13 per cent of the global youth labour force out of work this year, according to the International Labour Organisation.

But the problem has a unique flavour in the US, where the weak job market has collided with record levels of educational debt – about $25,000 for the average graduate. Together, they pose a threat to the future earning power of young Americans such as Mr Grzywacz – and could have long-lasting effects on US growth.

This no/low income + high debt lifestyle has slowed household formation as students live with their parents and also delayed other major spending (cars, rent, etc.).

via Jobless generation puts brakes on US – FT.com.