Really solid radio interview with University of Maryland student entrepreneur Kevin Plank (CEO and founder of Under Armour). Some funny stuff because its ESPN, including “We really hate the guys out West.” But, Plank talks a lot competition and has some important messages about focus in the early days of a company’s existence. He stresses the focus in the original niche and not expanding too quickly. This is a very crucial point we make in working with young entrepreneurs who often think about mass markets before really achieving strong product market fit. I refer to this as the Amazon principle — early amazon made their name and earned customers through book sales and proved their platform for e-commerce. This early work and focus laid a strong base and value proposition that the complex corporation we see today exploits. Plank speaks about spending 5 years working on a shirt (the first five years of Under Armour’s existence) as crucial to the companies long term strength (well before women’s, shoes, uniforms, hunting, etc). Again, great interview for consumers and entrepreneurs alike.
About 8 months ago I began training for the Marine Corps Marathon and while surfing fitness websites came across a Mustache Man Tough Mudder Training Video (watch below). I was intrigued by Tough Mudder, a special forces inspired adventure race and learned that it had been created by an HBS student (whose HBS professors questioned the viability of the adventure marketplace – NYT). No matter, entrepreneur Will Dean launched with an iteration of his Tough Mudder race and found customers quickly.
Bloomberg’s Matt Miller checks out one of the 12-mile obstacle courses of fast-growing adventure sports company Tough Mudder and interviews co-founder Will Dean about how he turned a Harvard Business School project into a national brand with over $20 million in revenue and global expansion on the horizon.
The video gets great at 1:30 ish.
I am hoping to do a Tough Mudder event in 2012. Looks like a fun day. Anyone out there complete a race?
I am not sure how I have missed David Lerner, Director of the Columbia University Venture Lab, but I have. Just found him. Here is a snippet from a post in December 2009 on the coming tidal wave of University Entrepreneurship:
According to AUTM statistics, American universities are now spinning-off companies based on university intellectual property at a clip approaching 600 per year. In addition, as demonstrated in a recent white-paper authored by a team led by MIT’s legendary Ed Roberts, this number of 600 per year is actually dwarfed by the thousands of other companies being launched each year by university entrepreneurs forming companies of their own that are not based on their university’s intellectual property. Another important development is the well-known fact that as the costs of launching a company continue to decrease due to the advent of cloud computing and the like- so has it steadily become much easier for university-age students to try their hand at entrepreneurship.
Over these past four years I have also observed more and more universities rising to the challenge of empowering and enabling their populations of fledgling entrepreneurs. More and more schools are offering entrepreneurship education and lectures, more and more tech transfer offices are setting up New Ventures divisions run by experienced entrepreneurs/investors and as a result we are seeing new programs bubbling up everywhere. It is now increasingly common to hear about various university programs offering entrepreneur office hours, seed-funding competitions and new entrepreneur-in-residence and/or venture mentorship services. Amazingly, such programs were the exception and not the rule when I first arrived on campus some four short years ago.
Yes, basically, the Good Humour Man on water. The story by Ray Routhier highlights the creativity of students and the role that family members can play in supporting entrepreneurs.
Viola, 19, of South Portland, has been selling ice cream from a pontoon boat on Little Sebago all summer long, calling his business Jake’s on the Lake. His family has a one-bedroom camp on Lyons Point, so he decided it would be a great launching point for an ice cream boat business.
His parents let him sell the family speedboat, and he used the money to buy a $3,500 pontoon boat, plus a freezer. He also printed business cards, which he hands out so people can call for special deliveries or party appearances. A family once asked him to come to their lobster bake, with more than 60 guests, and sell his ice cream.
He painted a big “ice cream” sign on the side of his boat, and now cruises the lake daily while blaring music from his sound system, including the ice cream truck standard “The Entertainer,” but with a hip-hop beat.
It didn’t take him long to develop a slew of regular customers along the shores of Little Sebago, which is densely populated with camps and homes. Viola had been to Lefebvre’s often enough that as soon as we landed, the family’s black Labrador retriever hopped aboard, apparently knowing full well that Viola had Frosty Paws, a frozen dog treat made by Purina.
The article notes that Jake does not want to major in business. (We have highlighted Yale entrepreneurs in the past).
Also interesting in this article are the comments. Many people support Jake, but there are a rare few, filled with spite that offer misdirected and blistering criticism towards Jake, his customers, Walmart, and any one else near Jake’s wake. Strange.
Either way, enjoy the article by Ray Routhier from the Portland Press Herald.
Incoming National Governors Association president Gov Joe Manchin III of West Virginia has made higher education productivity his administration’s agenda for the next year according to Doug Lederman of Inside Higher Education.
While this follows on Obama’s pronouncement and continued efforts by countless think tanks, trade groups, and philanthropists, this group is a welcome addition.
As Lederman’s post points out — 4 of 5 students engaged in higher education attend a public institution — only a handful (service academies, etc) of which are federally controlled. This unique, dispersed control of higher education supports the American Exceptionalism thesis.
From Inside Higher Education:
In a presentation at the association’s annual meeting and a news conference with reporters, Manchin outlined the steps the governors’ group will take to encourage its members, and the states they oversee, to try to increase the number of college- and career-ready residents despite what is virtually certain to be a time of continued fiscal austerity.
“As states face the worst economic crisis in modern history, we must collaborate to develop common performance measurements and take concrete steps to increase completion rates within our available resources,” he said in unveiling “Complete to Compete.” “From transforming first-year coursework to implementing performance funding, it is up to states and institutions to create policies that can improve degree attainment and more efficiently use the dollars invested by states and students.”
States do need to do more (both b/c of past transgressions and inability of federal policy makers to offer successful policies) to grow their way out of this recession. Higher education is crucial both as a driver and as a tool for other stakeholders. Whether Manchin and the National Governors Association see entrepreneurship policy on campus as the key mechanism the increased productivity remains to be seen. We will watch this one closely.
My regular readers know that I have been research student entrepreneurs and various other elements of entrepreneurship on campus for a number of years. Often times looking at cases of students and their firms.
I am pleased to let you all know that I have a new blog focused on one particular case of a student launching a high impact, high growth venture from the campus. The case is Kevin Plank, his company is
Under Armour, and he conceived of, launched, and initially funded the firm while he was a student-athlete at the University of Maryland. I sometimes like to refer to Under Armour as Plank’s House.
The new blog is called Under Armour Files and it is dedicated to exploring and understanding the story of Kevin Plank, the University of Maryland and Under Armour Inc. Hope you all check it out and let me know what you think. All feedback will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
Entrepreneurship by necessity has always accounted for much startup activity. Toddi Gutner has a piece in the Dec 23rd Wall Street Journal highlighting recent grads launching firms and also some of the structures and assets that the campus presents to entrepreneurs. Kauffman, Babson, Y Combinator, business plan classes, etc. The article is worth reading, here is a snippet:
Andrew Levine knew he wouldn’t find a job in investment banking when he graduated with an M.B.A. from the University of Miami in 2008. Wall Street was in the midst of a financial collapse. So instead the 24-year-old focused his efforts on launching a start-up. “I figured that starting my own company was the best use of my time while I waited for the market to thaw,” says Mr. Levine.
Faced with an unemployment rate of 16% for 20- to 24-year-olds, a growing number of recent college and grad-school graduates are launching their own companies, according to anecdotal evidence from colleges, universities and entrepreneurship programs around the U.S.
For his part, Mr. Levine built upon a business plan for a niche social-networking company he had created for an entrepreneurship class the prior year.