Archive for the ‘Kauffman Foundation’ Category

2007 Kauffman Fellows Video

A 7 minute video synopsis of the 2007 Global Scholars program:


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”

Viva kansas City!

Day 2, Tuesday 22nd Jan: After settling into the penthouse (Map) and acclimatising to the Baltic Missouri weather (highs 2C, lows -15C) week one got underway. The Global Scholars’ first introduction to the Kauffman Foundation (KF) (Map) and its leadership team was over lunch on Tuesday 22nd. Straight away we were all put at ease by the charisma, friendliness and humour of everyone from VPs to PAs. Karl Schramm, CEO of the KF, led the introductions which included all present (VPs, Team leaders, Global Scholars/KF Fellows) giving personal background information on themselves. The slagging contest soon ensued between the head honchos. One thing I noticed was that a lot of them reckon they have the best job in the Foundation – they definitely appear to love working for the KF! Levels of hierarchy seem pretty much transparent also, and everyone in the Foundation is accessible no matter what their role, CEO, VP, Advisor, PA. Impressive already!

paul_magelli.jpgIn the afternoon one of the other Scholars, Angelo, and I had time to meet with our mentor Paul Magelli. Paul is a seasoned entrepreneur, with over 50 years of experience. Paul is an absolute mind of contacts – Karl Schramm said himself that while the rest of us experience the usual ‘6 degrees of separation’, Paul’s rolodex affords him no more than ‘1 degree of separation’!! Not long into our meeting Angelo and I soon discovered this to be accurate as within minutes he was making plans to contact the CEO of an Aerospace MNC and a computing blue-chip VP for Angelo and I respectively!! Since then we have both received emails and/or phone calls from the contacts! This meeting gave me the chance to describe REHEAT in detail with Paul and to identify key areas where he could assist. On a side note, his son Paul Magelli Jnr. just sold his business, Apertio, to Nokia Seimens for €140M!

Day 3, Wednesday 23rd Jan:

carl_schramm.jpgWednesday morning kicked off with a seminar on entrepreneurship by Carl Schramm. He emphasised a number of points:
The Kauffman Foundation teaches entrepreneurship in a practical way
– Not orientated around business plans by default
      – The business plans follows later at the appropriate/necessary time (but the process does not circulate around the plan)
– Ultimately the only person truly thinking about/responsible for a project is ME
– I’m the one who should ALWAYS maintain control of the project
– If at all possible don’t use venture capital
      – Don’t let my project becomes someone else’s hobby!
      – Why are they interested in the first place?
      – Input/advice/analysis is much more affective when administered in an objective way
US business schools’ approaches circulate around:
      – Students hardwired to focus on writing business plans
      – Surrounding yourself with entrepreneurs & bios/stories of them/their successes
      – Find the right VC and let them do the thinking for/with you

Carl quoted Adam Smith, an English theorist, who once said that the great thing about capitalism is that in the pursuit of self-interest or an intention to obtain personal wealth one CANNOT avoid doing a social good. With this in mind one can say that entrepreneurs contribute in various ways that perhaps an NGO or not-for-profit organisation may not, including:
      – Job & wealth creation – 50% of US jobs created by companies 5 years/younger
      – Drive innovation – economies/GDPs become wealthier upon innovation
Carl’s talk was very insightful and altered/informed my perspectives of new ventures and entrepreneurs in a number of ways. In particular I think in future I’ll use my intuition/initiative more when considering potential ventures and investigate a projects potential in a bespoke pragmatic way before thinking about business plans.

john_tyler.jpgIn the afternoon we had a very practical discussion on Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) with John Tyler who is general counsel for the Kauffman Foundation. He is responsible for all legal aspects of the Foundation’s operations, including intellectual property, employment, investments, and compliance with IRS regulations for private foundations. A couple of major points I took away from this seminar include:
– NDAs are only worth the paper and ink used to write them UNLESS you have the ability and resources to enfource it
– One should use good judgement/discretion to avoid breaking NDAs
– Its important to include mutual obligations when composing NDA contracts, as this makes it seem more give & take, and they’re likely to look more favourably on the contract and any potential relationship.