Category Archives: General Thoughts

Entrepreneurial Nuggets | Adirondack Jack | Wave Extinguisher at Ripley’s | Cheap Lego Drones | Warby Parker Makes Public School Hip

Alibaba founder Jack Ma bought 28,000 acres of forestland in the Adirondacks for conservation purposes… While billionaire founders and CEOs conserving land in NY is not new, the fact that a Chinese innovators is there too is interesting. Read the story about Jack and his $23 million dollar buy.

Warby Parker, the hip, social impact oriented eye glass firm founded by Wharton

Ripley's Believe It or Not! Cartoon of the day 6/26/15.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Cartoon of the day 6/26/15.

students has partnered with New York City Public Schools and will provide up to 20,000 pairs of glasses to kids in need.

GMU’s Seth Robertson and Viet Tran were feature in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Cartoon of the Day for their Wave Extinguisher — it puts out fire with sound waves!

We love Parrot drones at Mason — they are fun for students to learn on. The company announced 13 new drones this week for less than $189! One with a Lego attachment!

Commonbond, an innovative student loan company started at Wharton in 2012, sold its first bonds to Wall Street investors. By targeting specific students and graduates (originally Wharton grads), the firm offers lower rates to lender and loan products with specific attributes to investors.

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.

@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.’

Watching My Students Grow

David J. Miller:

Nice post that highlights the shift in thinking that #customer development / #lean startup demands. Also need Jason Force of EcowMowtech to read this story.

Originally posted on Steve Blank:

“You cannot teach a man anything, you can only help him find it within himself.”
Galileo Galilei

One of the great things about teaching is that while some students pass by like mist in the night others remain connected forever. I get to watch them grow into their careers and cheer them on.

Its been three and a half years since I first designed and taught the Lean LaunchPad class and lots of water has gone under the bridge since then. I’ve taught hundreds of teams, the National Science Foundation Innovation Corps has taught close to 400 teams led by our nations top scientists, and the class is being taught around the world.

But I still remember a team from the first class, one which wanted to build a robotic lawnmower. It’s now been over 3 years since the team has left my classroom and I thought I’d share with you…

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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’.