Tag Archives: startups

News from the World of High Growth Student Startups | GrubHub | Packback Books | #Entrepreneurship #Dissertation

Been awhile lots of research and busy with new opportunities at George Mason Universities. The Campus is indeed the frontier. Three items from the frontier…

University of Chicago Booth School high growth startup GrubHub has filed for an IPO. From winning the Edward L. Kaplan New Venture Challenge to raising millions in venture capital, Matt Maloney‘s startup has been on the move.

Big celebrations in Chicago and at 1871 as a student startup from Illinois State, Packback Books, appeared on Shark Tank last week. They closed a deal with Mark Cuban. The company, founded Kasey Gandham, Mike Shannon and Nick Currier offers short term, pay per use digital textbook rentals. Kind of like renting a movie from itunes etc. Big changes in #highered #textbook market!

My dissertation, The Campus as Frontier for Entrepreneurship: High Growth Student Startups at U.S. Universities, will be completed in April 2014. The dissertation will include a case study, a database of high growth student entrepreneurs, their firms, and universities. Additionally, the work will propose 5 archetypes of high growth student entrepreneurs and will suggest a frontier framework for evaluating U.S. higher education and its value. I look forward to sharing this work as I complete by PhD from GMU’s SPP.

 

 

 

 

U of MD Birthed Legal River Launches New Products, Covered by NY Times

Great news continuing to come out of Legal River, a firm launched by MBA students at the University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business. This past week in partnership with General Counsel, P.C., Legal River released two new products for entrepreneurs: a Terms of Service Generator and a Privacy Policy Generator. From the entry by NY Times and Venture Beat contributor Nadia Majid:

Legal River’s tools are meant to keep costs low for entrepreneurs as they set up a business; typical terms of service documents can otherwise cost thousands of dollars. An entrepreneur only needs to fill in some basic information, such as the name of the company, information the company receives from a customer (for the privacy policy), and business structure (for the terms of service). The appropriate document is returned to the user online almost immediately, along with a version in HTML code, and the relevant policy is also emailed to the email address provided. Both tools are hosted on Legal River’s site and were developed by General Counsel, P.C.

Does Entrepreneurship Education Lead to More Start-ups?

NO, according to a new study from the Kauffman Foundation (did you expect someone else to publish an entrepreneurship study? — yes, there is a monopoly in entrepreneurship research, but that is a discussion for another day).

The Venture Capital Blog at the WSJ highlights the research by Dane Stanler and Paul Kedrosky. They find that recessions, taxes, venture capital levels, and entrepreneurship education do little to affect new firm foundation. In fact, they found that during the period 1977-2005, start-up levels remained nearly constant (fluctuating between 3-6% a year). Here is a snippet from the WSJ: Continue reading

Entrepreneurial Intensity at George Mason University

As the fall semester winds down, there has been a flurry of activity for me on the entrepreneurial front. As my course, New Venture Creation, came to a close, we held an in class business plan competition. Our 8 teams (5 members each) wrote business plans, and over the final two sessions presented 15-20 minutes pitches.

A variety of ideas were represented: from a premium day-care center offering unique, enriching after class programs (Tae Kwon Do / Piano Lessons / Languages) to an enhancement beverage startup targeting students, there were some great plans and strong pitches.

Two of the top teams were offered a spot in George Mason Universities School of Management’s 3rd Annual Dean’s Business Plan Competition on Friday December 11. In this competition, teams from various school’s and classes, compete for best business plan and best sustainable business idea.

The two teams representing my class did very well — earning 1st place, 3rd place, and the sustainability prize (the 1st place team). The top prize/sustainability prize winner was Breathe, the aforementioned enhancement beverage firm, and Rent-83, a graphing calculator rental startup targeting college students.

Finally, yesterday, I attended a great planning session for the Young Entrepreneur’s Academy that GMU holds each February. The academy is offered to aspiring entrepreneurs at GMU, other local colleges and schools, and local high schools.  Practical learnings and creative exercises are offered throughout the program and there are opportunities to network and ask specific questions about an idea or a startup.

It is exciting to be a small part of a growing, aggressive community of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship educators.

Great Advice for Entrepreneurs from Tim Berry

Some much of our time educating entrepreneurs and thinking about business opportunities is spent on trying to develop the next big thing. Trying to find a revolutionary concept to sell.

In his post Startups: Unique and Revolutionary, Or Forget it?, Tim answers a readers email on this topic and writes the following:

You don’t have to be first to be a success. You don’t have to be unique. You don’t have to be revolutionary.

What you do have to do, however, is give people value. Give them a reason to buy from you instead of from somebody else. You have to show up, open the doors, answer the phone calls, solve the problems and do whatever marketing you need so that people know it. How’s that for unique and revolutionary?

What I love here is Tim’s direct statement that you have to ‘give people value.’ This is a basic key to any successful venture. You must provide value.

While my business, Family Fantasy Sports, is the first to offer fantasy sports games designed for family play, we still work every day to provide value directly to our customers, knowing that simply just being here is not enough. It is why we host a radio show for our listeners online each week, why we give kids an opportunity to write about sports for our blogs, provide motivational quotes with our fantasy football results each week, and why we discuss and award college savings prizes each week.

We continue to try to add value through new services and products knowing that each time we do, the bar has been raised. I believe all great entrepreneurs are looking to add more value to their offerings that will have meaning to current and future customers.

Top 50 Social Entrepreneurship Blogs

Evan Carmichael has a list of the top 50 social entrepreneurship blogs. Broad range here: from TreeHugger.com and Guy Kawasaki to  The Grameen Foundation and TriplePundit. The list is organized in categories such as new blogs, big ideas, organizations, and such. Check em out. Lots to learn here.

More on the Reality of Venture Capital

A recent piece on WSJ.com by Timothy Hay asks whether it is good news that web and software startups no longer need venture capital funds. Obviously it depends on the particular firm and market, but I have long believed this. As we recently discussed, the role of VC is often overrated by policy makers, the public, and would be entrepreneurs.

The venture capital model is likely appropriate for few campus ventures, as it is appropriate for only a small percentage of all new firms. Our capital system is broad and our markets are very welcoming to innovative products and services (especially in recessionary times).

The posting also includes some good links to others who have covered this topic from various perspectives. From the piece:

At the same time, global financial troubles have made it harder than ever for new companies to get funding from venture capitalists – who are, in turn, having trouble raising money from their limited partners.

This good-news-bad-news scenario for entrepreneurs has prompted some to ask the question: Do these start-up companies still need venture capitalists?

“VCs and founders are like two components that used to be bolted together. Around 2000, the bolt was removed,” wrote Paul Graham, a partner at start-up incubator Y Combinator in a December 2008 blog post.

“A sharp impact would make them fly apart. And the present recession could be that impact,” Graham wrote.

Indeed, strains are beginning to show in the relationship between founders and VCs as money problems loom.

VC Continues to be Overrated; Policy Makers Beware!

For years I have been reminding people that less than 5% of firms ever take any kind of venture investment — that is one of the reasons I find the growth of business plan competitions so odd. Why prepare students for pitching to Venture Capitalists when most of them will never do it? (We’ll answer that in another post).

Well, there is a growing chorus of entrepreneurship bloggers sounding the alarm that policy makers are focusing too much on the VC model when talking about economic recovery.

Growthology (a blog out of Kauffman) and The Entrepeneurial Mind (Jeff Cornwall) have both pointed to a study by Paul Kedrosky of Kauffman: Right-Sizing the US Venture Capital Industry. From the study (p.5):

External capital is sometimes required by some private companies in their early stages, and it is good that there is a class of professional investors with enough financial resources to provide that assistance when it is needed. However, venture capital and entrepreneurship are separate phenomena, even among growth companies, and conflating the two, let alone implying that the former causes the latter, is untrue and unhelpful.

This is a short paper and well worth reading. Thanks to Kauffman and Kedrosky for putting this out there.

Bootstrapping: Weapon of Mass Reconstruction

Forbes columnist Sramana Mitra has a new book out on bootstrapping. She interviews 13 entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley. The review at the Sustainable Work Blog offers a nice snippet from Mitra’s opening (especially in light of the $30.4 billion that Obama is giving to GM today):

“So, what next? Where to from here? From my perspective it is clear that small business must be a top policy priority. There are approximately 5 million small businesses in the United Sates with fewer than 20 employees. Another 20 million mom-and-pops endeavor day in and day out without employees. Let us hope that in the coming decade, those numbers will double, then triple and quadruple. For here is the most powerful engine of economic growth and sustenance. Here is our way back”

“If the next Google is to emerge and bring with it thousands of new jobs, it must first start over some kitchen table where not only hope but opportunity is readily available. Where entrepreneurs not only start businesses at a higher rate, but also survive and thrive at a higher rate.”

“Through much discussion, writing, and brainstorming on each topic, I arrived at one core thesis: Not just entrepreneurship, but bootstrapped entrepreneurship is the true weapon of mass reconstruction.”

“Businesses often fail to take flight because they cannot raise funding. Well, start with the assumption that funding will not be available until the business is substantially further along, if ever, and that bottleneck is removed.” Continue reading

U of C MBA Students Launch App Firm

According to a tech blog at the still standing Chicago Tribune, 2 university of Chicago Booth School of Business 1st year students have launched a iPhone/iTouch app firm called Bump Technologies. Their first app allows iPhones/Touch users to ‘bump’ each other in order to share information (like a fist bump). From the piece by Eric Benderoff:

The new iPhone app, called “Bump,” transfers data from one iPhone to another (or an iPod Touch) simply by bumping each other. While one person holds an iPhone, he “bumps” hands with another user holding her iPhone. Then detailed contact information or just select data, such as a phone number, is shared.

The company says information is exchanged in less than 10 seconds.