Archive for the ‘Entrep’ship Links’ Category

A Chat with John Chambers

jchambers4I wrapped things up in Cisco at the end of May and moved onto Kansas for the last week of the Kauffman Global Scholars Program ’08. Before moving on however I completed my project on the Connected Technologies for the IBSG team at Cisco. Before I left I also had the privilege to talk with John Chambers (wiki, Bio, Time, Forbes) of Cisco Systems. Since January 1995, when he assumed the role of CEO, John has grown the company from $1.2 billion in annual revenues to its current run-rate of approximately $40 billion. In November 2006, he was named Chairman of the Board, in addition to his CEO role. I managed to get some of his time and attention thanks to a common friend of ours. The main question I had for him was simply what advice he would give to aspiring entrepreneurs, and what motivates him now that he is CEO of one of the biggest companies in the world. His advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is below, some of which is reiterating what I had heard throughout my time as a Kauffman Global Scholar, but coming from a MNC hi-tech titan such as John really pushes the statements home:
1. Markets
– Try to catch a market in transition
– Come with the capability to differentiate yourself from your peers in a market
– Be realistic – have you got a market in transition
– Be realistic – does your business actually differentiate you from your peers
2. Team
– Its all about the quality of your team
– If you have a great team that you can motivate well – its hard not to be successful
– If you have just very average players – then its very difficult to win

When I asked him about what motivates him:
3. Motivates him now:
– Building a company that has the chance to be the best for the world, and best in the world
– Cisco’s role in the hi-tech industry has the chance to really dramatically be different from any other hi-tech company in history, and also to be dramatically different in terms of how they’re viewed in the world, and not only how they give back, but how they’re able to partner with countries, companies and citizens in a unique way to really make a difference in their lives and the standard of living of their organisations
– He considers Cisco a family; one that works together towards common opportunities and common challenges, and its one that really cares about each other and one that is probably one of the best places to work. They watch out for each other like a family. Its making that difference that motivates him, and realising that it is a once in a life opportunity for everyone
4. Motivated him initially:
– Loves competition
– Loves building organisation
– Loves teamwork
– Loves to win
– Loves to sell (admitted candidly!)


Guy Kawasaki

In my last few weeks in California I used as many of my contacts as possible to meet with impressive business folk around the notoriously entrepreneurial bay area. One of these meetings was with Guy Kawasaki (About, Stanford, wiki, .com, blog, VC, LinkedIn, truemor, allTop, twitter). OK, so as is evident from the endless URL list this “guy” is all over the web. Guy is an evangelist, an entrepreneur, an investment banker, and a venture capitalist. He is better known for a couple of specific things: one of his books (‘The Art of the Start‘, Video), and also for being a software evangelist (i.e. Apple). So one would assume having the privilege to meet Mr Kawasaki would inspire and motivate.

Before I proceed, a very large thank you to Kathy, “Empress of the Universe”, for introducing me and arranging the meeting. If my narrative of the meeting seems a little concise this reflects the brevity of the answers and entrepreneurial insights offered by Guy – who I only can assume was having a particularly bad day.

He is a major evangelist for pursuing meaning in all aspects of business. In other words to follow ideas/concepts/businesses/plans with a fidelity that accurately reflects the meaning you see in them. His mantra both personally & professionally is to “empower people”. Its fair to say his startups are in line with this given that they include two news aggregators and a VC firm (20 Million fund). Mr Kawasaki may be an evangelist but he certainly is not a futurologist, nor is he interested in projecting technologies for that matter, something I found to be very strange for a VC immersed in technology. When I asked him about conservative IP strategies versus getting to market fast he wholly encouraged me to take option 2. Build the prototype fast and get to market faster. There’s isn’t a lot more to recount as Guy wasn’t playing ball at all! Given the disappointment from this encounter I probably also learned an important lesson – to remember to share and disseminate any acquired knowledge and experiences freely at all times with aspiring individuals who show interest. Despite this disappointment I wholly recommend his book, ‘The Art of the Start’ , as a must-read to anyone interested in starting a business of any kind.

Mike Milken

During the 2nd week in May the Global Scholars were hosted by the famous Mike Milken (wiki) at his lake side estate at Lake Tahoe. One’s preconceptions of such an event are obviously going to be well above par given this man’s reputation and illustrious path to infamy. The purpose of the trip was to expose us to one of the most successful investors/entrepreneurs the US has to offer. Mr Milken has been acclaimed with creating the market for junk bonds in the 70s & 80s. The “Junk Bond King”, who according to Forbes is one of the world’s top 500 richest men (estimated at 3-8 Billion), has been called the epitome of Wall Street greed. Oliver Stone has stated that his 1980s film Wall Street was based on Mike – although in my opinion the ultra-cool Gordon Gecko character over-glorifies most aspects of the man’s Wall Street activities. Regardless of this, having the opportunity to meet and talk with the Junk Bond King was a unique and once off event – to be embraced and not wasted.

Mr Gecko’s, sorry I mean Mr Milken’s hospitality was next to none in Lake Tahoe. He put us up in his lakeside home at Incline Village and basically gave us free rein of the place. He had a personal trainer on hand to bring us for a scenic hike around tahoe. Its fair to say we were all impressed with his mansion and its impressive décor, which included thee first print of Encyclopaedia Britannica and apparently 2 of the oldest books in the world (religious illustrations)! Over the 3 days he co-hosted various entrepreneurs and investors with the Sierra Nevada College (SNC), in order to provide us with exposure to thought-leading business minds. Some of these included Bob Preger (7th Oracle employee), Roger Wittenberg (Founder of Trex), Bob Goff (Sierra Angels), Rob Loughan (Chairman of Dexterra, profile), John Osborne (CEO of Tarsin), T.J. Matthews (CEO of IGT), Andrew Hargadon (Prof at SNC), Ian Finnimore (Bally Technologies).

Mike spoke about a number of key topics over the 3 days including:
– America’s changing face – Hispanic & Asian
– A new global perspective – competition for human capital
– Democratization of capital
– Capital Markets
– The most powerful face in the world
– Role of future innovation
– Human capital – the most precious asset
– Accelerating medial solutions

Milken proposed the following top 10 problems facing the world: democracy, disease, education, energy, environment, food, population, poverty, terrorism & war, water.

A couple of interesting remarks Mike made over the few days:
– A bid he put in to buy a 99 year lease of Baja California (wiki) for 40 Billion USD!! He explained that the purpose behind this was to give his organisation exclusivity in developing Baja’s public services, utilities, services, schools, hospitals, infrastructure etc.
– Asian nations will make up 60% of the world’s economy by 2040
– Countries with excess liquidity: Norway, Qatar, Singapore, Kuwait, Taiwan, UAE

Mike asked some of the entrepreneurs/investors in attendance to state pieces of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. Here’s some of their words of wisdom:
Rob Loughan: It’s the journey that counts, not the destination; Timing is everything; Surround yourself with the right people; Take advantage of chaos in the market; Start at the top end of the market (e.g. telco’s, utilities) and dive down to consumer
John Osborne: Regards first mover advantage- most ideas are too early; Support networks are key- its still all about who you know!; Hang on by your fingertips!; Do something different tomorrow; Have fun; Its how you come at problems that important.
Ian Finnimore: Stay wide enough with technology offering so that business can adapt; In relation to the entrepreneurial attitude in the States Ian proposed that this was inherent in the original Pioneers that travelled across the continent creating and occupying American States.
Mike Milken: Make time to think; Your talent pool is the “flat” world; Decide when you’ve enough information to make a decision – when you actually have enough you’re army is usually dead (General Schwarzkopf (Quotes)); One must make mistakes and have problems; Various parameters are important when discussing capital finance- markets, industry, economy, regulation, your company, but most important is society (a company’s benefits to society; values; problems being solved/caused); The best time to borrow is when you don’t need it; Don’t rely on one customer; Opportunity is what you love; “There’s more to life than increasing its speed” (Ghandi).
Sierra Angel #1: focus- small team & resources; team work; persistence
Sierra Archangel: collaboration
Sierra Angel #3: results are key; keep your ears/heart open; persist
Sierra Angel #4: listen to what the customer wants; 4 levels of interest from prospective customers (1) they’ll pay you to build it (2) they’ll buy it from you (3) they’ll consider looking at it (4) they don’t care.
Sierra Angel #5: do your due diligence/home work; build your bets “mouse trap” before seeking investment (prototype & bus => best possible investment deal); Succeed now, contribute in your 30/40s!
Sierra Angel #6: you need a superior product – keep working on it if not; exposure; easy to buy; network is critical – people & team
Sierra Angel #7: Go to market fast; Its the journey that matters


Dilemma: Rich vs King

One topic which has come up time and again during the Global Scholars program has been the issue of Rich vs King. Noam Wasserman from Harvard HBS wrote an article on “The Founder’s Dilemma“. It describes how most entrepreneurs want to make a fortune and run the business singlehanded. But as Wasserman reveals, it’s tough to do both. If you don’t figure out which matters most to you as the entrepreneur/founder, you could end up being neither rich nor in control. Consider that:
– in order to make substantial money from a new venture, you need financial resources to capitalise on the potential opportunity. That means attracting investors— which requires relinquishing control as you give away equity and as investors alter your board’s membership.
– to remain in charge of your business, you have to keep more equity. But that means fewer financial resources to fuel your venture. So, you must choose between money and power. Wasserman suggests that one begins a new venture by articulating their primary motivation for starting the business. Then to understand the trade-offs associated with that goal. As your venture unfolds you must be monogamous with that goal, and make choices that support, rather than jeopardise it.

Cisco FoundersAs an example, Cisco was founded by Stanford graduates Sandy Lerner and LenBosack in 1984. John Morgridge, the first CEO managed to push out the 2 founders in 1990, following difficulty between him and Lerner. Lerner has been described as a “powder keg of passion and emotion who couldn’t conform to the discipline and methods of business management”. Morgridge couldn’t make her fit in, so she was asked to leave and Bosack soon quit thereafter. This is a good example of a Founder struggling to deal with removal from the “King” role and ultimately being forced out of the venture.

The CEO of startup XYZ who I have met in Silicon Valley, and who is at Series C VC funding, approaches his position as Founder CEO pragmatically, or at least this is what he communicates. I found his attitude very interesting – that he goes to work everyday knowing that it could be his last as CEO of the company he founded. When we met him he acknowledged that any day the VCs involved with his company could decide to replace him as CEO, and that he was willing to accept this decision. I was unsure whether I believed him but was willing to give me the benefit of the doubt. Noam Wasserman suggested that CEOs will often tell VCs that they’re willing to stand aside at any time, but whether they mean this is a completely different matter!

My View: Through my training as a Global Scholar I have learned that the Founder does not encapsulate the company. One should always separate themselves from the business entity from the start. It’s important to consider what’s best for the business as a sole entity, separate from the interests of the founder(s). This is the approach adopted by the Stanford Enterprise Center regarding University spinouts – they actually make founders apply to the Enterprise Center in order to obtain the license for technology they themselves created – thus competing with any other company for rights to develop the technology/concept/business! This is basically the Rich approach, as apposed to King, as it necessitates relinquishing equity to foster rapid development.

This is a hard lesson to take on board in my opinion. To generate new business concepts or technologies with the altruistic view that they are separate encapsulated business entities, and to always act agnostically in the best interest of that technology or business (i.e. solving the real world pain most efficiently) is a difficult position to take. But again the decision to take this position comes back to why you’re creating the business in the first place. If you’re creating the business to resolve some real-world pain/problem then this should be the focus regardless of whether you’re CEO or not. Letting one’s ego/emotions get in the way (the King approach) of the rapid progress and development of a business (e.g. seeking VC) which solves this “pain” should perhaps be considered selfish/self-centered/egotistical? I’m not sure there’s a right or wrong answer to this issue, but if you surrounding yourself with an ‘A’ team (including management, investors & advisory board) then I think you should certainly be able to find appropriate resolutions. Some more thoughts…

It seems ridiculous that a founder should have right of passage to the CEO position when a company is functioning and operating 100%, and is significantly funded by external entities. If one doesn’t have experience in such a role, why would it make sense? Founders’ passion is an essential ingredient to the persistence required at the startup phase. It can assist a founding CEO in evolving and learning rapidly on the fly. OR this emotional attachment could hinder their ability to function effectively as a MNC’s CEO, and make logical decisions about the company’s future.

However this is my view on the theory behind the rich vs king (Founders as CEOs) dilemma. In practice I would deal this issue dynamically, by having a candid/open/honest conversation with potential investors to discuss my intentions/desires to (not) maintain the CEO position. I would establish clear grounds under which I would maintain or relinquish the position, and the consequences of each:
– Maintain it: if milestones and targets are met. Subsequently increased job (CEO) security (and other incentives) could be provided to allow the CEO to function more effectively and under less unnecessary pressure.
– Relinquish it: a worse case scenario could be established to allow the founder to take another position in the company, perhaps as CTO or as right-hand-man to the CEO? This could take the form of the Founder “Co-CEO” using their extensive knowledge of the business and intimate understanding of it to compliment the new CEO’s superior management and economic knowledge.

There may be various possible solutions to the ‘Rich vs King’ dilemma but I still think that having the right type of management, investment, advice team is key. This has been reiterated by alot of the thought-leaders I have encountered in the Global Scholars program. But most recently this was advice given to me by the Cisco kingpin himself – John Chambers!


Baltic Boston

rickhutley.jpgWeek 6: 25-29 Feb: After the eventful weekend with Peter Davies it was time to head for Boston. But before departing on Tuesday morning I organised a lunch meeting with my internship supervisor at Cisco’s IBSG group, Rick Hutley, who is Global Head of the Innovations Team. Atfer lunch Rick brought me to Cisco City in San Jose. I couldn’t believe how immense their campus is – there’s something like 60 large building along one stretch of road! I got to meet David Evans and some other members of IBSG. I also got some insight into one of the groups projects – The Connected Bus. Dave recommended a few books for me to read:
– “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking”, by Malcolm Gladwell
– “The Wisdom of Cowds“, by James Surowiecki
– “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference”, by Malcolm Gladwell

mit.jpgOn Tuesday we arrived in Boston and acclimatised quickly before a busy week commenced at Harvard and MIT. On Thursday 28th we went to MIT’s Entrepreneurship Center. Bill Aulet who presented to the global scholars in Kansas City during week 3 hosted us at MIT. Bill gave us a presentation on Business Planning which addressed every angle from writing an initial plan to various types of pitching them. Regards altruistic business approaches Bill suggested harvard.jpgthat “if you want to do good, do well first!” He also gave us a template for examining the value of a business proposition – which coincidentally was quite similar to that described to me previously by David Perry. Basically this consisted of analysing 5+ aspects of the business based on the opportunities and risks associated with each, including: Market (e.g. size), Execution (e.g. team, plan), Sustainable Competitive Advantage (value-add, gross margin %), Financials (e.g. ROI), Others/Misc (e.g. ethicaly, political). One very interesting statistic Bill quoted was that startups are increasingly likely to be successful for each member added to the team up to a total of 5, when the chance of success decreases again! regards business plans, he advised us to ask ourselves the following insightful questions before dedicating ourselves to a startup:
– Does it convince you?
– Am you happy spending the next 5-7 years working on the project?
– Does it convince your potential co-founders, family, customers?
– Can you explain it to your mother?!

ideo_logo.gif Bill introduced to IDEO, a design consultancy based in Palo Alto, California, that helps design products, services, environments, and digital experiences. In addition IDEO is reknown for its unique approach to innovation. In 2000, the firm was the subject of the “Deep Dive” episode of ABC’s Nightline; they redesigned a shopping cart in five days. Bill showed us a recording of this show and based a very interesting discussion on innovation around it. A couple of points to come from the discussion: 1) that IDEO’s appraoch is fine for design but not as a management technique; 2) heterogeneity is key in a team to facilitate innovation.

robinchase.jpggoloco.gifOn Thursday afternoon we were hosted at Harvard by the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. They gave us a brief summary of their plans for us over the coming week. Following this we had a seminar with Robin Chase from GoLoCo, Zipcar and Meadow Networks. I’ve been a huge fan of Robin’s concepts ever since I saw a video of her presenting at the infamous TED conference series. We had a fascinating conversation about her startups, her business approaches, her views on congestion charging and green tech, as well as her concepts on mesh networks which I am particularly intrigued by!!

johnakula.jpgOn Friday 29th we spent the day at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences again. In the morning we had a talk with John Akula, a Senior Lecturer of Law at the Sloan School of Management at MIT. John framed an interactive seminar around the general issues of changing jobs, with particular focus on associated legal constraints including: 1) At-will employment; 2) Trade Secrets; 3) Duty of Loyalty; 4) Non-competition agreements. We analysed two case studies with these legal issues in mind.

rickharriman.jpgFriday afternoon was spent studying creativity with Rick Harriman from Synectics. He gave a seminar on an approach to creativity which uses random objects and trains of thought to come at problem areas from completely unique angles. This approach is something I’ve come across a few times previously during training with the Cambridge MIT Institute, and also with NICENT. The phrase I usually use to describe this method is “Reverse Invocation”. Rick highly recommended the TRIZ journal.


Rubbing Shoulders in $ilicon Valley

nickmckeown.jpgWeek5end 23-24 Feb: Over the weekend Stuart and I spent some time with Peter Davies, one of the most seasoned entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. We got on very well with Peter and as a result we ended up at his house having dinner with his family on Saturday evening. Nick McKeown who was also there gave Stuart and I some great advice on new ventures and startups. Nick is highly regarded within Silicon Valley for spinning many companies from Stanford, where he is a Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (bio).

davidperry.jpgOn Sunday morning we also met Peter for breakfast in Palo Alto’s University Ave Café. On this occasion Peter brought David Perry along to chat with us. David is first and foremost a friendly and fun guy to chat with. Business-wise he is a titan, as is evident from his first startup – ( Chemdex still holds the record for reaching a $10B valuation in the shortest time, which was at the end of 1999. Following the realisation that here was no air left in the Internet Bubble, in early 2000 the company fell to a valuation of just over $100M, and from 500 to 100 employees! It was interesting to listen to David describe how he took the company to this amazing valuation and how he coped following the crash in 2000. Read the full Chemdex story here. Not content with this he has started two companies since then and is currently in the process of making an IPO. David has impressively raised over $½Billion in VC funding since the early 90s!!!

David had a few insights into how to be a successful entrepreneur:
1.) The first is to not worry so much about what it is you are doing as long as you fulfill 2 criteria. They are that you are always learning and you are enjoying what you are doing. This mantra is true whether or not you are perusing entrepreneurial activities, or working for a company.

2.) Secondly he outlined a perspective for pitching and raising capital. The idea is to basically spell out the opportunities of the project first. No opportunity comes without risk, and if you pretend it does, any VC will laugh you out of the room. Then you focus on describing how you are going to eliminate these risks, one by one. Present risks based on their severity and potential to prevent progress. This approach tells the investor that you’re not naïve about the presence of risk, and that you’re aware that they’re investing in your ability to mitigate these risks, one by one.

The ingenious part is once you have outlined the fantastic opportunity, prep’ed them with the risks, then instead of asking for money to pursue the opportunity, you ask for the money to eliminate the risks. So if you identify the risks in order of priority and necessity, and ask for X amount to overcome the top Y risks, you can show how strong the company will be at that stage. Inherent with this approach is transparency of preempted risks & your control of them, as well as knowledge of how much investment will be required at stages to continue to eliminate further risks. If done properly, you will organise the risks into stages (e.g. milestones within an Implementation Plan as outlined in Zoller’s last seminar), and at each stage it will become easier to raise the capital required to overcome associated risks.

Finally David also warned about a situation that currently seems a long way off, and that is raising too much money! Apparently he has encountered the situation, and Peter also, where VC’s wish to invest a much larger amount of capital than is required. This usually occurs when investor groups work together and all want a piece of the pie. In this situation, to support the higher valuation this causes, it is too easy to spread the company too thinly and work on products that aren’t core to your business, and therefore you can lose focus on the key areas. Not something that is immediately relevant perhaps, but something to think about nonetheless.


Next Stop…..Governator Central

copy-of-img_4803.jpgWeek 5: 18-22 Feb: We moved onto San Jose, California, on Sunday 17th after a 6hr delay at Kansas City airport which was closed due to severe snow storms. During the delay some of us slept and some worked!! It was warmer in CA to say the least, about 20C! Monday was spent in San Fran touring about seeing most of the sites around Fisherman’s Wharf. Owen and I also cycled across the Golden Gate bridge to what I think is one of the best viewing points in the city.

On Tuesday 19th we went to ‘Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati’, the premier legal advisor to technology and growth enterprises worldwide, as well as the investment banks and venture capital firms that finance them. Two representatives from WSGR discussed IP issues in technology ventures.

2ndlife.pngIn the afternoon we visited Linden Labs, which was founded in 1999 by Philip Rosedale to create a revolutionary new form of shared experience known as Second Life. Second Life is a 3D virtual world entirely created by its Residents that’s bursting with entertainment, experiences, and opportunity. The Second Life Grid provides the platform where Second Life resides and offers the tools for business, educators, nonprofits, and entrepreneurs to develop a virtual presence. Headquartered in San Francisco, Linden Lab has over 200 employees spread across the U.S., Europe, and Asia. Although our visit to Linden Labs was brief we had a change to get some insight into where Linden Labs is going with Second Life in the future. They were more than willing to answer all our questions. Second Life generated some interesting debate among the group. Some of the group had difficulty seeing its practical usefulness, whereas the rest of us saw endless opportunities for the platform in the future.

sbiodesign.jpgWednesday 20th saw us at Biodesign, a Stanford University initiative encouraging multidisciplinary approaches to biology and medicine. Biodesign are refining a method that produces both world-class innovators and state-of-the-art medical devices. We were introduced to the biodesign leadership (incl Sandy Miller) and fellows from both the US and India. We had a chance to tour the Stanford campus during lunch before continuing with a seminar by a biodesign spinout company – Simpirica Spine. The CEO gave us some practical insight in the startup process based on his own experiences. He shared his experience of equity dilution through various rounds of investment as well as many other

msstartupzone.jpgOn Thursday we visited Microsoft’s campus in Silicon Valley where we met Dan’l Lewin, corporate vice president of Strategic and Emerging Business Development, Don Dodge from Microsoft’s Emerging Business Team (& ex-Napster VP), Roy Levin Distinguished Engineer and Director, Microsoft Research Silicon Valley, as well as the general manager of the Microsoft Startup Zone. I had the privilege to chat with Roy after the formal presentations about pervasive computing and how he envisions its realisation in the future. I have my own specific thoughts on the matter but it was insightful to have a conversation with such a seasoned computing researcher and visionary.

Following the slightly rushed MS visit we went to the British consulate in San Fran. They offered us the opportunity to utilise their extensive network in Silicon Valley. Also they detailed some grant support which is available for us to attend conferences and companies in the US. In the afternoon we visited iRhythm, a biodesign startup in the medical devices area. The CMO at iRhythm, Uday, detailed some of trials and tribulations of starting a business. Uday’s talk was very impressive, he provided practical and insightful advice for us going forward and starting our businesses.

otl.gifOn Friday we attended Stanford’s Office of Technology Licensing. Linda Chao brought us through Stanford’s approach to technology licensing and related equity issues. This proved a very interesting talk as probed Linda for information on how University spin-offs are handled by one of the world’s leading research and teaching institutions. Basically Stanford claims IP on everything developed through the use of their resources. Not only do they pay for IP protection, such as patenting, but they are also willing to enforce IP – this being the main reason why anyone would want to license IP they generated from an institution such as Stanford.

johnhennessy.jpgOn Friday afternoon, after a long tour of Stanford’s campus we all attended the launch of Stanford’s Entrepreneurship Week and their annual Innovation Tournament – which this year requires entrants to add as much value as possible to a rubber band(s) within 1 week. Prof. John Hennessy, President of Stanford, gave the introductory speech for the launch in which he talked about Karl Schramm, the Kauffman Foundation and its global role in entrepreneurship education.


Building Teams & Social Networks – Howard Aldrich

copy-of-img_4650.jpgDay 16, Monday 11th Feb: Week 4 was preceded by some quality R&R in Ponca City, Oklahoma, over the weekend. Owen and I visited my girlfriendsfamily down there for a couple of days. Without detailing too much and shaming the Kauffman Global Scholars program for all of eternity we went to a shooting-range, were in awe at some buffalo up close, laughed at stupid prairie-dogs, felt intimidated by real cowboys at a calf roping competition, had quality BBQ, and last but certainly not least swallowed a beer or three!

aldrich.jpgWeek 4 kicked off with our last seminar at the Kauffman Foundation by Prof Howard E. Aldrich titled “Building Teams and Social Networks”. Howard is professor and department chair of sociology, and adjunct professor of management in the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina. Prof Aldrich researches entrepreneurship, the origins of new organizational populations, gender differences in business management, organizational evolution, and the process by which entrepreneurial teams are founded. He alluded to many of these areas during his seminar with us, but focused primarily on the use of in forming strong professional networks. Howard emphasised a few points including:
– Why aren’t individuals more connected?
– Overlapping ties, social barriers, uncertainty, trust
– Need a broker to make connection between you and target contacts
– Direct vs. indirect & strong vs. weak contacts
– Strong ties -> homogeneity -> easier comms -> consensus -> ignoring incumbent truths
– Weak ties ->heterogeneity -> diversity
– Contact list = weak ties -> couldn’t vouch for if asked
– LinkedIn (in Howard’s opinion) = strong ties -> could vouch for them
– He worked through one scenario with us of who we’d make one critical phone call to in an emergency-type situation where we could be sure that person would help


Lesa Mitchell – University $pinout$

lesa_mitchell_200.jpgDay 14, Thursday 6th Feb: Lesa Mitchell is VP for Advancing Innovation with the Kauffman Foundation. She has been responsible for the Foundation’s frontier work in understanding the policy levers that influence the advancement of innovation from universities into the commercial market. Lesa presented various issues related to University spin-outs, but in particular she emphasised the limitations inherent in University Tech Transfer departments. She analogised that VCs specialise in niche markets and realise significant returns in this way due to comprehensive knowledge and understanding. Using this analogy she continued to emphasise that tech-transfers departments are unable to best meet the requirements of University spin-outs as they are forced to stretch themselves thin and deal with spin-outs from all departments e.g. IT, life sciences, physical sciences etc. In this structure University startups are at an immediate disadvantage.

In the past VCs played a very interactive role by directly networking (not virtual!) with academia and thus maintaining an awareness of projects relevant to their investment interests. Lesa proceeded by describing a project called iBridge Network. iBridge is recreating this approach of directly connecting VC/Fund sources to academics. “iBridge provides the transparency and access to university developed innovations that will lead to further advances and next-generation products. The Network aggregates research materials, technologies, and discoveries in an online, easy-to-search forum—the iBridge Web Site”


Entrepreneurial marketing & Sales – Bill Aulet

bill_aulet.jpgDay 13, Wednesday 6th Feb: Bill Aulet is a senior lecturer at MIT’s Sloan School of Management and Entrepreneur in Residence at the MIT Entrepreneurship Center. He has 25 years of experience in technology business operations and financing. He started his career at IBM and then ran two private companies, Cambridge Decision Dynamics and SensAble Technologies. Most recently he helped engineer a dramatic turnaround at Viisage Technology as its Chief Financial Officer. He has created hundreds of millions of dollars of shareholder value by building focused, fundamentally sound businesses. He has raised $100 million in institutional financing via private placements and public offerings. Mr. Aulet now works with students and start-up companies to build strategies and operating plans that will create sustainable value. He has an undergraduate degree from Harvard University and a graduate degree from the MIT Sloan School of Management, where he was a Sloan Fellow. 

Bill’s seminar titled “Entrepreneurial Marketing & Sales”was most definitely my favourite seminar so far as a Global Scholar. His unique combination of commercial “successes” and “failures”, academic excellence, and charisma makes him intriguing to listen to. When Bill started talking about this experiences my brain clicked into auto-pilot as he shared such practical and interesting knowledge with us. I felt privileged to have the opportunity to meet with him in a small seminar. Talks like Bill’s are what make the Kauffman Fellowship so unique – you simply wouldn’t hear it in ANY business school! His presentation was in 2 parts, with the following specific outcomes related to each part:
Part 1
1. Increase understanding of the definition of entrepreneurial marketing
      – How entrepreneurial marketing differs from traditional marketing
      – The different elements of marketing and what is most important to an entrepreneur
2. Increase understanding of the role of entrepreneurial marketing
      – Unique and crucial role
      – How integrates with other functions
3. Increase understanding of how to effectively implement this function in a new enterprise
      – Framework
      – Practical considerations and tradeoffs
Part 2
1. Increase understanding of the different types of customers when starting a business
2. Become comfortable with steps and elements of Entrepreneurial Marketing Implementation Framework
3. Real world case studies – SensAble Technologies & Brontes Technologies

Some of the main points Bill emphasised included the following:
Team goals
– Co-founders MUST be aware of what each member of the team wants out of the project, what their vision is, when/how they want to exit.
– There MUST be synchronicity among the team in this regard to be successful
– Being aware of this makes the journey and decision encountered easier, or at least oriented in a direction.
Market selection – need to be able to do disciplined market selection, and have the ability to deselect markets (in order to focus the business)
– Get extremely efficient at one market
– Don’t sell your soul (diversify unnecessarily) for money, or payroll (easier said than done)
Raison d’Etre
      – Product Innovation
      – Low Price
      – Customer Intimacy
– 3 question to bare in mind when selecting a market
      – What do we want?
      – What are our competitors doing?
      – What do our customers want?
– Get to know and understand the customer intimately – entrepreneurial marketing is a not a spectator sport!
      – What’s their real pain?
      – Is it common among customers?
      – Can I address it effectively in a unique way?
      – Keep asking them questions….
      – Customer does not imply Market!
– Technology push versus market pull
– * Book: Geoffrey A Moore – ‘Inside the Tornado’ (Google books)
– * Book: Richard C. Dorf, Thomas H. Byers – Technology Ventures: From Idea to Enterprise (Google books)
– Categories of technology adopters – same as Melissa Schilling’s description
– Bill discussed how one crosses the charm between some sales to innovators & early adopters to determining the beachhead market.
– A key thing is doing this is
      – (as mentioned above) becoming “intimate” with your initial innovator customers – leverage the first pin/beachead
      – Carrying out a comprehensive and tedious market analysis
– When obtaining first VC funding:
      – Better to obtain too much $ than too little
      – Need to be 100% confident that you can meet objectives within time with available money
      – Get continuous advice from mentors as VC will abuse their dominant position dealing with a novice
      – “The most important thing during funding cycles is that the team doesn’t cut corners on culture
– When crossing the chasm:
      – Revenue may be reasonably high but profit will most likely be non-existent – which will be part of the plan
– Bill’s marketing mantra – “Keep the main thing the main thing”
– Take the business very seriously, but not yourself
– “An entrepreneur is the person who solves the right problem at the right time
– Reoccurring revenue is king
– Innovate on the business model – be disruptive here, not just on technology (e.g. Google)
– Bill advised us to try and maintain the attitude that “I am always open to rational business discussions”