Appearance on Let’s Talk Live : Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Lucky enough to do a fun interview on entrepreneurship and innovation with Julie Wright on Let’s Talk Live (News Channel and WJLA-ABC7)

John Mackey: The conscious capitalist

David J. Miller:

Really interesting article from Fortune on John Mackey, Founder and CEO of Whole Foods. Great depth to his approach to business and impact. Will have to order his book and see what kind of material we should be sharing with our students, alumni and broader community around @georgemasonu and the #DMV. Let us know what you think.

Originally posted on Fortune:

A few years ago Whole Foods Market decided that organic food didn’t go far enough. Never mind that organic is the upscale supermarket’s largest product category, accounting for 25,000 items on its shelves. Never mind that co-CEO and co-founder John Mackey is almost surely the individual most associated with today’s organic movement and most responsible for taking it mainstream.

In Mackey’s view, organic had grown stale. Its guidelines prohibit the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, which is a good thing, he says. But they don’t address all the burgeoning issues—from excessive water usage to the treatment of migrant laborers—facing agriculture today. And once farmers are certified as organic, Mackey believes they have little incentive to improve their practices. “Organic is a great system, but it’s not a complete solution,” he says. “We feel like Whole Foods should take a leadership role in this. Who else is going to do…

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Local CEO Questions UC San Diego’s Approach to Entrepreneurship Education #highered #bizschool

Today’s WSJ features a blistering critique of the recently shuttered Moxie Center for Student Entrepreneurship at UC San Diego’s School of Engineering. The tagline for the center was dream, design, develop and Ken Kuang’s WSJ piece, Teaching Entrepreneurs to Dream, mocks the center, its results, and higher education’s approach to entrepreneurship.

While Kuang presents his personal experiences and opinions on entrepreneurship education at “prestigious universities,” his anger appears misdirected as he seems to be more upset that UCSD spent all of the money in 2.5 years (money donated by private philanthropists not out of tuition or state funds). Kuang does not explain what the arrangement/agreement was between the school and its supporter and therefore is in murky water when trying to determine success or failure of the last experience.

Moreover, from my 3 minute visit to the Moxie Center page, its clear the center was part of the engineering school. Nowhere in Kuang’s piece does he mention this.

He does however use anecdotal examples of MBA students to suggest that business schools are failing when it comes to entrepreneurship education. You can see how this plays out in the comments section on the bottom of the article (eg — “A civilization in decline? You be the judge. A ‘business school’ that doesn’t teach about profits and losses is a dead loss.”). He offers his own solutions (a Chinese model of new venture creation) in the article.

I am not familiar with the Moxie Center, its funding, goals, activities, etc, nor do I know much about UCSD, so I will refrain from commenting on the particular case that Kuang presents, but I do know that many colleges and universities have seen incredible success with student entrepreneurs, many of which emerged through classes, entrepreneurship programs and events, and interactions with faculty, alumni and regional economies. We do have actual data on this.

Moreover, centers, programs, degrees, sports teams, hotels, and many other institutions come and go in modern research universities — at least responsive ones. The closing of a center is in many ways business as usual. Its possible that the center was replicating (not a 3D printing joke!) other work on campus (there are multiple entrepreneurship centers/classes/programs around UCSD — see here) and the decision was made to work within those offerings. Who knows?

What we do know is that many schools educate and support students interested in creating firms and many of those firms will fail, especially if they are truly attempting to innovate — this is after all entrepreneurship.

We also know that its great when entrepreneurship programs are integrated with regional ecosystems and engage innovators locally and am happy to see that Mr. Kuang and his colleagues in San Diego are looking for ways to support students interested in innovation and entrepreneurship.

Its also nice to see that Mr. Kuang has a book. I had not heard of it before, but here is the Amazon page for From Start-up to Start: 20 Secrets to Start-Up Success. If anyone’s read it, let us know what you think.

GE, Carnegie Mellon Announce Robotics Fund

News from last week highlights that more big innovators (and funders) know the value of the campus.  GE has partnered with Carnegie Mellon University and announced a $20 million robotics venture accelerator fund for campus. robotFrom the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

A new accelerator program and a $20 million venture fund started by Carnegie Mellon University and GE Ventures could brand Pittsburgh as the official home of the globe’s growing robotics industry.

CMU’s National Robotics Engineering Center and GE Ventures, the investment arm of Fairfield, Conn.-based General Electric, have teamed up to create The Robotics Hub, an independent, early-stage startup accelerator program designed to draw the nation’s best advanced robotics firms to Pittsburgh and to keep those started here firmly in place.

The for-profit Robotics Hub will provide funding through newly created Coal Hill Ventures and access to equipment at CMU and the NREC to chosen companies by 2016, in addition to putting their creations on a fast track toward commercialization.

Venture Fund Targets Campus Startups | @PejmanMar Partners w @BerkelyHaas

Further evidence that the campus is the frontier — early stage venture fund Pejman Mar Ventures, which has history in investing in and supporting student startups from Stanford, has taken its show around the bay area to UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.

The firm has announced a new challenge — The Pejman Mar Ventures $250K Berkeley Startup Challenge. It follows on their The Garage program that offers space for Stanford entrepreneurs to ‘hang’ out in Pejman Mar offices in Palo Alto.

I am defending my dissertation next Monday July 13th and am glad to see that the value of the campus for entrepreneurs is continually being recognized and people and firms are supporting on student entrepreneurs.

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.

Do College Drop Outs Thrive?

The WSJ ran the headline, College Dropouts Thrive in Tech, a couple of weeks ago (sub required). The article highlights well known dropouts (Jobs, Zuckerberg) and Thiel Fellowship winners, even referring to one as a wunderkind (a concept I reference in my forthcoming research on student entrepreneurs at US colleges and universities).

From the piece ,

Messrs. Weinstein and Kramer live at Mission Control with 10 others, including two women; half are under 21 years old. Three, including Messrs. Weinstein and Kramer, are Thiel Fellows. The house was originally leased by fellowship organizers for grant winners; other young entrepreneurs moved in as some initial residents left.

More dormitory than frat house, there is more working than partying at Mission Control. Residents come from varied backgrounds with diverse interests, but share some common traits: a brush with early success, disillusionment with the education system, an irreverent world view and healthy self-confidence.

The housemates share their schedules through a Google calendar and conduct group chats on Facebook Messenger, alerting each other to events like Wine-and-Cheese Wednesdays, Freestyle Fridays, and house dinners. There are impromptu all-night sessions of role-playing games such as Werewolf, but the most popular activity is tinkering with technology

I pulled the above quote because my research investigates whether the campus offers frontier like attributes that support innovation and entrepreneurship. The picture painted above provides some insight, but the data set — 2 Thiel fellows — is too small and not sure how representative these folks are of ‘dropouts.’

My data, which includes many students in the information industries — ranging from software and saas to e-commerce and search engines, includes notable dropouts, but most of the students that created high growth ventures while in school do in fact graduate.

Interesting commentary on the article over at Y Combinator Hacker News.

More to come. I will be defending my PhD in mid-July.