Author Archives: David J. Miller

Competition Myth @PeterThiel @ISI | #Conformity Kills | #students #highered

Was fortunate to have one of our GMU School of Business supporters send us a really strong piece by Peter Thiel at The Intercollegiate Review on being true to oneself and your own vision of truth/value rather than that of those around you.

The article is a strong indictment of conformity and mediocrity across a whole host of areas — both micro and societal — and the dangers it presents. Good read for students and others trying recharge and find a truer, self-defined path. (Hint of Earl Nightingale in the article — wonder if Thiel is familiar with The Strangest Secret)

A few strong excerpts,

This is, I think, the big problem with competition: it focuses us on the people around us, and while we get better at the things we’re competing on, we lose sight of anything that’s important, or transcendent, or truly meaningful in our world.

later,

The problem is not one of brainpower: we are talking about fiercely intelligent people with degrees from the nation’s most prestigious institutions. No, the real problem is conformity, a fear of stepping outside the bounds. This is the issue I had to confront in myself when, after years of competing, I achieved my goal of working at a major law firm—and realized it was the last thing I wanted.

This problem of conformity runs deep. Already in the time of Shakespeare the word ape meant both a primate and to imitate. The Aristotelian concept of biology held that man differed from the other animals in his greater aptitude for imitation. This is how we learn language as children: we imitate. This is how culture gets transmitted. But imitation can also go badly wrong. It leads to crazed peer pressure; it leads to the various insane bubbles our society has experienced. If there’s going to be progress, if there’s going to be new thinking in any direction, it requires something very different.

WSJ On What College Can Teach Aspiring Entrepreneurs #highered

A nice, thorough piece by Anna Prior of the Wall Street Journal on what aspiring entrepreneurs can gain through their choice and management of their college experience. From the WSJ:

Going to college and starting a business can be expensive propositions. Business owners loaded with student debt may end up in a big financial hole—their families may have tapped out their resources helping to pay for school, leaving them unable to contribute to the business, and the entrepreneurs themselves may face a tough time qualifying for traditional business loans or other types of financing.

That’s why experts say it’s critical that potential business owners need to think about how much debt to take on and how to pay back student loans, right from the get-go.

There are many great topics, including what to study and where to go, in this article. Many of the topics similar to what I uncover in my forthcoming research.

Glad to see this article and I hope more students, families, and schools leaders and taking this issues into consideration as they consider higher education options and entrepreneurship.

Does the Campus Play a Role in the Creation of High Growth Student Startups? #Hackedu #Dissertation @GeorgeMasonU

I am in the final weeks of finishing my dissertation. My research question investigates the role the campus plays in the opportunity recognition and startup processes of high growth ventures created by students at US universities and colleges.

From Microsoft, Nike, and Dell to WordPress, Groupon, and Under Armour, many innovative and world changing firms have been conceived in the minds of students on the campuses of US universities and colleges.

My data suggests that the campus does play an important role and that in recent years entrepreneurship infrastructure on campus have had an increased impact. The challenge is that there is a wide range of campus assets available and as with all assets, the value extracted is dependent on the person in possession of said asset. My data also suggests that certain campuses produce high growth firms/entrepreneurs with regularity and that the numbers are increasing.

Looking forward to sharing more. I may post some chapter drafts in the coming days for people to take a look at. Thanks.

@TechCrunch Highlights Growth of Midwest Innovation Economy (And Case’s Rise of the Rest)

Beyond being born and raised in Chicago and spending many years on campuses in the Midwest (BA, MBA), I worked in the tech community during the Internet Bubble and love the Midwest’s continued growth. That said, the optimistic story in TechCrunch by Jonathan Shieber, seems to be a throwback to 15 years ago with the added focus on Case’s idea of the ‘rise of the rest.’ (BTW, we were the Silicon Prairie back then — Divine Interventures, May Report, Halo – Starbelly, etc)

As the most populous city in the region, it’s no surprise that Chicago is the fastest growing hub in “Silicorn Alley” in the development of its investment ecosystem. In the first eight months of 2014 Chicago saw $6 billion in exits through public offerings and sales, including the recent sales of TrunkClub to Nordstrom, and Apartments.com to CoStar Group.But beyond the windy city, startups are cropping up across the Midwest’s silicon plains.

There is some interesting data in the article and mentions of institutions such as 1871 and Lightbank which have helped build strong infrastructure. The article does not mention the rise of the U of C Entrepreneurship infrastructure and the companies that have gone through the campus (the topic of my dissertation) and relies on quotes from power brokers such as the Pritzker clan and abstract ideas from Andreessen (a product of the University of Illinois) to strengthen the rise of the Midwest argument before returning to the Case Rise of the Rest pitch.

The article is worth reading on a number of levels, but it is worth remembering that Chicago and the Midwest were working on this long before the coasts acknowledged the ‘rise of the rest.’

Thiel’s 7 Keys to Market Creating Innovation (Blue Ocean Anyone?)

Peter Thiel, one of the ‘great’ wizards of Silicon Valley has some mortal elements

Peter Thiel back in the days of PayPal

Peter Thiel back in the days of PayPal

as he too has written a book and gone on a speaking and interview tour. Zero to One, by Thiel (with Blake Masters), has many interesting insights and thoughts and Steve Denning of Forbes does a nice job covering the book. From Denning:

In his book, Zero to One, serial entrepreneur Peter Thiel offers seven—sometimes surprising– tools for doing just that. They are what he calls, “the seven questions that every market-creating business must answer.”

The Engineering Question: Do you have a breakthrough technology?
The Timing Question: Is your timing right?
The Monopoly Question: Do you have something no-one else has?
The People Question: Do you have the right people?
The Distribution Question: Can you sell and market your stuff?
The Durability Question: Will you be still around in 10 years?
The Secret Question: Do you know something nobody else does?

Continue reading

Zuckerberg Backed Org Launches Contest to Help Grow Internet in India

A massive 69% of India’s population does not have access to the Internet. A non-profit back by Mark Zuckerberg — probably the most successful student entrepreneur of the past 10 years — has put up $1 million in prizes for creative solutions to this problem.

From TechCrunch:

The contest from Facebook-backed Internet accessibility partnership Internet.org could help millions of people recognize the value of the Internet, pursue access, and gain knowledge and opportunities that can help them get better jobs and improve their lives. That could in turn help Internet.org’s flagship sponsor Facebook gain new users that it can connect to the world.

While Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg have a clear interest in getting all those folks online, its seems there is more going on. This is philanthropy in action, making funds available to people, but demanding that they produce something that continues to provide returns to society – in this case apps that connect more people to the internet.

@PositivDeviancy Featured on @GeorgeMasonU Homepage

Awesome to see coverage of young Mason entrepreneur Jade Garrett, founder of Positive Patriot Demo DayDeviancy, a firm building assistive technology out of stuffed animals for children on the #Autism spectrum. I’ve been lucky enough to work with Jade and she is a dynamic student, leader, and a fine example of today’s super innovative, productive and entrepreneurial students that take advantage of their campus. From George Mason University:

Garrett, who is pursuing an applied information technology degree from the Volgenau School of Engineering, spent the summer working on a toy bear that is also a computer game controller. Designed for children with autism, the plush bear answers several needs across the autism spectrum. For instance, a plush animal is easier for some to hold for longer periods of time than a controller, and those with motor-control issues find the buttons easier to use than a track ball or keyboard.

The bear is named Computer Assisted Device Input Bear, CADI for short, and pronounced “Caddy.” It’s still in the prototype stage, but with the help of the School of Business’ Mason Innovation Lab and the Lab for IT Entrepreneurship, the bear is coming out of hibernation and making the rounds as Garrett meets those in the business of creating businesses for those with special needs.