Tuesday, February 11, 2014

We’re #49! We’re #49! :)

We’re #49! We’re #49! :)

The formation of new businesses since the end of the recession has been lackluster at best. Job creation by new firms has lagged as well.  In the latest data from the good folks at EMSI (Moscow, Idaho!) where does Idaho rank among the states for net new business formation?



Add in the average number of jobs per startup has declined nationally since before the recession. And gross job creation peaked in 2005… pretty much globally. Then look at the self-employed: Those numbers are declining too (also still at least 25% of the Idaho workforce).

What the bloody hell is going on??
Job creation by startups in Idaho is better than the new business formation rate would suggest but - just as before the recession* – the overwhelming percentage of net new jobs comes from the growth of existing businesses. (Jobs from in-migrating firms remain very low.)
Cities are important, too. By the way, the best correlate of job growth is population growth. That means we also need to look at within/across states. Example: Indiana’s data looks pretty good but it’s pretty much all in the Indianapolis area. Rural areas are seeing a significant move in jobs from rural to urban. Idaho has the same issues but my SWAG is that we’re at least better (less bad) than the Hoosiers. Still, we eventually want to decentralize our DEFRAG of Idaho’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

What the bloody hell can we DO?
The states (and countries and cities) that ARE seeing strong net business formation are doing things very differently. The top 1% of those cities look and act in ways that we can learn from. Some quick examples plus how Idaho can follow suit. (for example)

1.       Listen to the entrepreneurs: The bully pulpit
How many people in high places are singing the praises of entrepreneurial activity? Is the media? Has this filtered down to the local level? More important, are they listening to the entrepreneurial community? (And actually hearing what they say?) Too often, cities and states end up listening to the power players and institutions who with the absolute best of intentions end up focusing on giving entrepreneurs what they think we need (not what we actually want).

2.       Few of us are truly ambidextrous: Execution/Implementation versus Ideas
A “great” idea is not a great idea unless you can make it work. (“Better a Grade A entrepreneur and a Grade B idea than vice-versa!”) Whether the idea is home-grown or a “shiny pebble” we see elsewhere, there’s a natural tendency to want to do it ourselves (see #3 below) but our communities deserve the best, yes?
“Ambidextrous” in the management world is being good at identifying what to do AND being good at implementing, a rarer skill than we’d like to think. It’s easy to get this backward – ask great implementers to come up with great ideas. (The ambidextrous few are invaluable, of course.)

3.       Listen to the experts: No more amateur night
Why would you give creative input to those who’ve been awful for literally decades, especially when A+ expertise is readily available? (And why would you give them creative control? Sigh… ) Communities have this maddening tendency to want to do things themselves. Yes, we need deep, broad local buy-in and effort. But there is so much expertise at Idaho’s fingertips that is outside the borders (and willing to help us! And they will listen to Idaho’ entrepreneurs – how do you think they got to be experts?)

4.       Everyone needs a Secret Evil Plan?
Bottom-up and inclusive but have a plan. The most successful communities have an overarching framework that marshals institutions in support of the bottom-up wants of the entrepreneurial community. Resources get aligned to maximize the delivery of value to the entrepreneurial community. This characterizes every great entrepreneurial ecosystem I have ever seen. It can happen organically but it can be nudged along (even shoved!)

5.       Google Maps?
What are the first two things you do when you open up Google Maps? The start point and the end point, eh? So how many communities really understand their starting point – how many have a great map of their ecosystem? (VERY few… though some communities have multiple competing maps that basically suck.) Even fewer have any sense of the ‘end point’- how many actually have asked the entrepreneurial community about their vision of where we could be? Almost none.
Any city or state who will do these two things brilliantly will jumpstart their entrepreneurial ecosystem. (And aligning resources becomes a lot easier.) But you have to do it brilliantly. Bring in the experts (example)

6.       You Win With People (or... “Ecosystems are Soylent Green?”)
                Entrepreneurial ecosystems aren’t lists of participants – the best maps (and visions and strategies) capture the dynamics and especially the interconnections in the system.  Great ecosystems reward proactive connectors. But that makes them intolerant of the turf-grabbers, narcissists and other pathogens in the system.
                Jim Collins’ great maxim that we need to get the right people on the bus and the wrong people off the bus has never been truer.  But who are the “right” people? Who are the “wrong” people? And how do we get the wrong people off the bus when they’ve duct-taped themselves to the steering wheel? (Part of being “wrong” is feeling entitled to drive despite any actual expertise. Cue the Dunning-Krueger effect?) Google Bob Sutton’s “No Asshole Rule”. You will thank me.
                Markers of the “right” people/organizations? Think the 3 C’s: Competent, Connected, Collegial. When you start the ecosystem re-build, find the people who:
a)      bring a particular A-grade expertise at something mission-critical. Are they the best in the state at something important?
b)      are connected both locally AND at the regional/national/global level. Do the best people in the world on a topic think highly of them?
c)       are trustworthy. Have they ever grabbed turf that wasn’t theirs or claimed expertise they didn’t have? The heart of a great ecosystem is trust. Awfully hard to get started using people that have been untrustworthy…visibly.

7.       Bold, public commitment – not just to growing the ecosystem but also to embracing disruption
                We can be the squirrel or the truck. We can no longer choose to be neither. Disrupt or be disrupted. Or, more likely, disrupt AND be disrupted.  We are back to the bully pulpit: the economy is going to be very different in 10 years, even 5 years. More important, it is already more important.
                Adapting is not going to be incremental – it is going to be very discontinuous and most likely where you least want things disrupted. Assume your business model is toast in 3-5 years… if you’re lucky. But remember that business models are about serving customers and others… who wouldn’t be enthused about getting better at serving customers??

8.       ENJOY the ride (“Move that bus!”)
                Idaho may be #49 in creating new businesses...  but we have every reason to believe that we can change that. Radically. Now.
                We have it within our grasp to jumpstart our entrepreneurial ecosystem.  Think of it as an Extreme Makeover… an Extreme Entrepreneurial Makeover. (Apologies if you haven’t seen the tv show.)

First steps for Idaho (more ideas at DEFRAG, tactics, metrics)

1. Bully Pulpit: Celebrate. Educate. Initiate. Never miss an opportunity to celebrate what we have. Never miss an opportunity to educate all of Idaho’s citizens on all this. Never miss an opportunity to initiate things like this Extreme Entrepreneurial Makeover or to support other’s initiatives.
2. Listen to the Experts/Ambidexterity: Take advantage of all those who have already said they’d help us. Be ruthless about great implementation. Quit playing amateur night.
3. Evil Plan: Use the cutting edge of what we know to create a strategy to engage institutions in helping. Comprehensive entrepreneurship development strategies (e.g., FIRE) pull together the no-brainer proven practices that will support bottom-up, entrepreneur-led efforts. Job #1
4. “Google Maps”:  Do a first-class mapping of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. We know how to do it well. Job #2. And do a first-class assessment of the entrepreneurial community’s vision for where we want to go. We also know how to do this well. Job #3.
5. Win With People: Identify an “A Team” who pass both the 3 C’s and Bob Sutton’s test. Use the bully pulpit to empower them.
                6. Bold, Public Commitment: Make the need to embrace disruption a recurring theme – emphasize that embracing disruption is the only way to help mold our future. And support that with training and resources to help Idahoans to do exactly that. Once again, we know how to do that.
                7. Have Fun! In the tv show “Extreme Makeover” they did things in a week or less. It will take us longer, maybe a lot longer. But doesn’t that mean all the more reason to get started?
                I can’t wait till Idaho can yell “Move that bus!” and unveil a stronger, more resilient (and job creating!) economy, fueled by a stronger entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Somebody try to tell me this won’t be ridiculously fun….  And won’t create jobs!

Friday, December 27, 2013



Well, not if you spell it correctly.

As in ADVancing ENTrepreneurship! (You know I’m relentless on this… LOL)

We are coming up fast on 2014 and my New Years wish is for all of us to tap into our inner entrepreneur and figure out something magnificent to do in 2014. Are you with me?
Looking back at 2013, I am amazed at two things:
1. How many adventures I have had [http://goo.gl/v4uR4m] and
2.  How poorly I’ve been paid (LOL but…)

2014 is shaping up to be just as adventurous… maybe more [I have been invited to give a keynote address at a major new entrepreneurship conference in…. Tehran! Gulp.] but it is time for me to ask your advice about getting paid.
To paraphrase that eminent philosopher and businessman Calvin Broadus, “Business isn’t in the telling, business is in the selling.” [A cup of coffee or a beer to those of you who know Mr. Broadus’s nom de plume… without google.]

Especially fun stuff from 2013…
I got mentioned in Business Week right under a photo of Sir Richard Branson and a few of my friends thought it was a really crappy picture of me. http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-11-04/to-teach-entrepreneurship-get-out-of-the-classroom
This was from the World Entrepreneurship Forum where I got to do my ecosystem-building workshop with an all-star cast. [You really should have me do this in your community – powerful stuff and great fun!]
Got to help launch the ICSB’s cool new Online Learning Excellence workshops – how do you pull off deeply experiential entrepreneurial learning… online? (Got to lob a few more hand grenades on that too… )
I won’t bore you with more (for now…. Ha!) Instead I’ll close with some advice I got to share with high school programs in Texas who want to “go big” entrepreneurially but they are at Square One right now. Here’s what I shared. What would you add/change?

Great Things That High School Students Can Do!

Ice House: World class introduction to entrepreneurship
short video (3 min): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qsmsxzuu2PI 
if you click on only one link, click on the one above! Are you in???

"Entrepreneurial Heroes"
Have your students identify and vet a local "Entrepreneurial Hero" and shoot a short video with a phone on what makes them a true Entrepreneurial Hero. What is their special sauce to create vlaue? How did that business model evolve? Focus on substance not style. Good opportunity to introduce them to business models!)

Speaking of business models, look up Steve Blank's Lean Launchpad class on Udacity (free!) If you go to www.steveblank.com (his blog) you'll see where they tried the Udacity class in a Cleveland-area HS... and it worked without dumbing it down [except maybe for the teachers? ;) ] Next, they tried it in a junior high. Still worked.  
HUGE opportunity to reach out to the entrepreneurial community - as speakers and especially mentors! 

Ecosystem mapping - SAOSW (Students Are Our Secret Weapon!)
Students can help connect your school with the entrepreneurial community - one thing that every entrep ecosystem needs is good mapping. From NACCE: http://www.slideshare.net/norriskrueger/nacce-2013-ecosystem-workshop 

Other ecosystem-building tactics that students can help with: http://goo.gl/WLQZrH

Sunday, November 24, 2013

World Entrepreneurship Forum - Day 4 plus Reflections!

WEF Round 4 plus Reflections

Sorry for the delay on this but I wanted to process the Saturday “master class” workshop on how we – as individuals – can help defrag and grow our own local entrepreneurial ecosystems. (OK, I still needed to type up all the flip charts that the breakout teams developed… They are well worth the wait!)

We kicked off with a short pep talk from ecosystem-maestro Brad Feld [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NlFqc8gSm18]*

                Quick icebreaker: “Are We There Yet?” How would you know if your local ecosystem was getting more entrepreneurial?
                A little background on the science / what we know about ecosystems, leading to first breakout:
                If the GEM and GEDI tell us that the two keys to a more entrepreneurial economy are mindset and ecosystem (or more formally, entrepreneurial human capital and entrepreneurial social capital)… so what can we do as individuals on each front?
                The initial round of team ideas was both energetic and highly plausible. (At this point, I think the WEF leaders there realized that we were starting to build a lengthy list of action items for WEF… ha!)
                Amazing how inclusive the teams were – without anyone having to work to get people to talk… or argue ;)
                The teams each presented and… funny, but you could categorize almost all of their ideas and all of their key themes under one of the four strategic directions proposed by Brad Feld in his recent book, Startup Communities:
1.       Needs to be led bottom-up, led by the entrepreneurial community itself
2.       Inclusive – need to support all the participants if possible
3.       Rallying points for community
4.       Long term perspective
So… we revamped the breakout groups and I tasked them to each tackle one of the “Feld Four”. Results? Unfrellingbelievable! J See the photos (I will transcribe them) for yourself.
                Finally, we tried a rapid fire round robin, asking each participant to tell us how “we” could help them… “we” defined as the WEF organization AND as each other.
                My favorite idea: Each of us do a short video.. teaching each other something. Can you imagine the library of short videos if every WEF member/delegate did this? (The JWEF team too… it is entirely possible that we will need them to teach us how to do youtube-style videos?)

Ecosystem = “flavor of the month”?
Since WEF, I attended the OECD’s big conclave on policy regarding entrepreneurial ecosystems. Some good stuff from policy makers [everyone's slides here; I especially recommend those by Peter Vogel]. By the time I spoke, I shifted gears from slides to talking about tactics. What the WEF confirmed for me is that if you’re going to be truly bottom-up and inclusive, then somebody better talk about things we can do... as citizens. Please read this [Ecosystem Tactics] and let me know what you think. It represents the convergence of what I’ve learned over the years (including Feld’s ideas), what I learned from the WEF delegates and what I learned that very day from my colleagues at the OECD event. I hope they will see their handiwork in my list of A+ tactics for ecosystem defragging!

Here’s one great ecosystem defragging tool from Kauffman – 1 Million Cups! http://new.livestream.com/kauffmanfoundation/1MC102313

p.s. the OECD event made it clear that we need to separate enabling/supportive conditions from the processes/activities (Glenda Napier did a great job of showing this). again all the OECD slides are here

I also had the opportunity to plug the idea of doing first-rate ecosystem mapping (BIG shout out to my NACCE friends, Sheena Lindahl and Sarah Green of Empact and NACCE Fellows Tim Putnam & Gary Muller –they did the heavy lifting on this one!) [NACCE workshop slides]

I miss you all!
I wish I could personally thank everyone who attended the WEF master class workshop on ecosystem building- did not get your names. But let me thank especially Sassan and Essam from Dubai, Matt Symonds, entrepreneur/journalist  par excellence, Eythor Jonsson, Jeannine Javelosa and Hassan Nizrin (both were part of the 2012 WEF ecosystem session that made all this possible), Melinda Emerson, Steve Strauss, Rickie Moore and Dan Evans from Lyon/WEF AND the ever-energetic Viet Anh Vu of WEF who made all this sing. (Also thanks to WEF directors Caroline Le Brun and Angela Feigl for dropping by and not immediately running off in terror, LOL… )

* Mahesh Arungundam from the 2012 WEF ecosystem session did too [link]

Monday, November 18, 2013

Happy Global Entrepreneurship Week!

Happy Global Entrepreneurship Week!

Sorry that I keep getting invites elsewhere for this great week but I *am* thinking of you all.
Amazing, amazing things afoot globally but Idaho is inching forward. GE "Week" hasbecome a misnomer, now a year-round celebration.

In honor of GEW, I will post items this week to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn with hashtag #IdahoRocks so please follow at @entrep_thinking on Twitter and/or 'Norris Krueger' on LinkedIn and Facebook.

I will be posting the good news for Idaho, the USA and the world on entrepreneurship.. but please feel free to add your own items with the #IdahoRocks hashtag. (Even if you're not from Idaho, lol) I will also try to remember to update the blog with this.

MONDAY: First fun item...

During my visit to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, I made a couple of solemn promises to the Foundation, one of which was to make sure that their powerful introductory entrepreneurship training program "Ice House" get going in Idaho. Watch these videos and tell me that you aren't just as psyched as I am!

Ice House
short video (3 min): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qsmsxzuu2PII
longer video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0mg2GPWc0Go

Ping me via email (norris.krueger@gmail.com) or Twitter or Facebook if you're interested in helping!

TUESDAY: Top Ten Myths/Misconceptions About Entrepreneurs and Entrepreneurship!

WEDNESDAY: from my dear friends at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation...
Maybe THE highlight of my recent visit there! 305 people roaring with entrepreneurial energy... wow, just wow!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The REAL "wings" of Entrepreneurship?

Had this exchange tonight with two of my new friends from the World Entrepreneurship Forum - two of Dubai's leading entrepreneurial champions... They started by talking about the intensity of entrepreneurial activity (startups at least) and it's in the air, in the very DNA of the place.

I did my usual "How can I help?" (Trust me, these are two guys who deserve it - they were rock stars in my how-to-build-entrepreneurial-ecosystem master class/workshop... Sans doute!)

Here's the reply...
"Wings, Norris, we need the Wings ;) "

My semi-corny response...
"Ever look at a plane and wonder HOW that big piece of metal flies? But we believe it works, yes?

Wings are easy... just bend it into a reasonable airfoil.
But what you also need is the faith that you have the ingredients for flight.
And to have people like you guys around to have faith in them.

Don't seem to have enough VC/angel capital?
Of the Inc 500 fastest growing firms... every year most of them are completely bootstrapped.
Have faith that you can make it work - you WILL find the right business model.

Mentors help. Role models help. (And, yes, resources help.)
But an entrepreneurial economy is very much a self-fulfilling prophecy.
And it grows one entrepreneur at a time!

Use your December WEF event to blow some air under a few wings! "

At the same time I'm talking to a great young thinker in Denmark who is bringing together a bunch of all-stars to talk about the "microfoundations of strategy" - that is, the individual is the key player. You need innovators to grow innovation. You need entrepreneurs to grow entrepreneurship.

Most of you reading this are going "Duh!"... but you'd be surprised how many in academe AND in the halls of power who don't really believe that. Institutions matter. A lot. We do want the right kinds of enabling conditions but it still comes down to individuals taking action. Not necessarily alone but it is still about taking action.

What Makes Us Take Bold Action?
A bias toward action is important... where does it come from?
It is very situational..

What is the evidence?
* It helps to believe in our own capabilities, personal and collective.
* It also helps to know that, yes, our efforts will be worth it... that we ARE creating significant new value of somebody...
* It helps that we know that we are going to learn, even if we fall flat tomorrow.
* We act because we've taken action before in similar situations..
* And we definitely act when the risk of "missing the boat" dwarfs the risk of "sinking the boat"
Alas, our brain's own wiring conspires against us... We are quicker to act in response to a threat than we are to an opportunity... we how do we learn to override our wiring and act on opportunities?

Consider two different modes of action...
a) Reflect then act or...
b) Act then reflect?
The latter is at the heart of how human learn important things...
(Study/read/process then go for it... or learn enough to get started, then go for it, knowing that this is rarely a one-off... You get to learn and try again... if, of course, you actually learn!)
You will shocked to know that experiential learners... are more prone to take strategic action in pursuit of opportunities. Yes, we may be wired to react to negative signals more quickly and more strongly but... you have heard of neuroplasticity? This is all about re-wiring... and we all have the capability!

BTW: Here's a quick read from Wiredhttp://www.wired.com/business/2013/10/free-thinkers/

And, yes, this is my passion for constructivistic, true experiential learning that shows up again... but this time it is also what truly matters in growing an entrepreneurial economy. At the World Entrepreneurship
Forum, at NACCE, and again at the OECD's ecosystem conclave... it was a recurring subtext in much of the entrepreneurial ecosystem discussion: Action is key. Individuals acting.  (more on that in the next post...)

Thank you all for believing that we DO have wings... and for all that you do to blow wind under them... for me, for everyone.

Love you all,


Thursday, November 07, 2013

Day 3: World Entrepreneurship Forum

Day 3: World Entrepreneurship Forum

WEF was still going strong on its second full day: The day opened with extended conversations with several of the 2013 Award winners. A few highlights:

Highlights for the Day: What Spoke to Me
Yesterday had the steal-able phrase of “Don’t wait for the door to open, build your own damned door.” Today, Dan Epstein of the Be Unreasonable program had another that I am stealing:

“Be Pathologically Collaborative” LOL but… think about it. What if we all try to help each other, even when in conflict with our mandates and entitlements? (We already know that healthy local economies are characterized by participants contributions where they add the most value, not what the necessarily want to do.) Think of the enabling conditions we would accelerate!
I thought Dan was speaking directly to me when he challenged us to identify:

“What’s MY unreasonable thing?” That is what I should be working on. Gulp.

…by the way, click on this-> “Unreasonable At Sea” (…you will thank me... but you will thank the Be Unreasonable crew even more)

Ashish Thakkar of the Mara Group. Just like all the other presenters, incredibly humble and incredibly aware of what more needs to be done. Ashish wants nothing less than to bring the African Lion to the forefront of global commerce.

The Mara Group partners widely and enthusiastically with firms and individuals with top-flight expertise AND with willingness to enter 20+ African countries. Mara brings in-depth on-the-ground expertise in each country.

You want a market with 1 billion+ people? Talk to Ashish! (I am.)

WEF Leadership
During this day, my reflections kept coming back to the WEF crew themselves. If I were creating my own program like WEF I would recruit most of them (assuming I could afford them!) My young friend Viet Anh Vu seems to be everywhere and on top of everything. I see in him an awesome leader in the making. Faculty gurus Dan Evans and Rickie Moore get more things developed and implemented at EM Lyon and WEF. (Dan is a math major and a Buckeye; Rickie spent 6 months in Boise courtesy of HP.)

Finally, I really enjoyed working with WEF’s executive directors. Outgoing director Caroline Brun always seemed poised and calm no matter what the madness swirling about. The incoming director, Angela Feigl, brings different skills and personality to the table – I was particularly taken by Angela’s eagerness to explore new partnerships. VERY entrepreneurial and my readers will know that I always resonate with people like that! Having both Angela and Caroline on board goes a long way to explaining why WEF 2013 took such a big jump forward (so… thanks!)

How WEF could keep taking positive leaps forward? Angela, Viet and Dan talked about what if WEF members/delegates could each just recruit 1 good new delegate, WEF could move forward without losing the intimacy and the ridiculously high quality of attendees. (Apparently, I am expected to do more recruiting.  Hint. Hint.)

Huge thanks and major props to Dan, Viet, Angela, Rickie and the rest!
 I would ride into battle with any of these colleagues and friends.

Speaking of the future, perhaps the most amazing aspect of WEF is the Junior WEF. Chapters are growing around the globe, including local/regional conferences that were uniformly impressive in places like Shanghai, Chile and Argentina. (Also: Check out the Rural WEF conference in India that focused completely on sustainability.)

I’d single out some of the more impressive JWEF delegates but it is actually very, very hard to pick out only a few. [Though I really want to go hang out with most of the chapters. Invite me to Buenos Aires? Marie from Shanghai *ordered* me to visit Shanghai, lol.] Quite a few of them are entrepreneurs – with very cool business models that are very much born global (check out, for example, Sophie Vurbillot’s Planet Expat!  I learned about it at our dining-out event downtown where I was apparently the only person in Singapore using chopsticks. ) Other JWEF-ers, my apologies for not listing all of you!

Next up... Day 4 and…
My master class/workshop on how you as an individual can grow a more entrepreneurial ecosystem in your own community. (Spoiler: It was mind-blowing.)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

World Entrepreneurship Forum Day 2

World Entrepreneurship Forum Day 2
Opening session had some remarkable speakers with remarkable messages. Morning session videos should be posted on the WEF website.

Want to Improve Society? Create Jobs.
Hearing Singapore’s Minister of Trade & Development call himself “Minister of Entrepreneurship”? Priceless.

It gets better: They had Russian president Medvedev visit and he was able to set up his own business in…. Two Minutes.

Did I mention that you can set up a legal business entity in Singapore in two minutes?
Must be a way to get Idaho to do that!

(And he shares my definition of “entrepreneurship”: "Entrepreneurship is making things happen" Not a bad way to get started, eh?)

Sustainable Thinking IS Entrepreneurial Thinking!
Chief Almir, of the Surui Amazonian tribe is working to re-forest their ancestral lands and paying for it by tapping into the global carbon-offsets market. I would never have thought of that in a million years. Remember what I said in my last post? Great sustainable thinking DOES require great entrepreneurial thinking! ;)

Celebrate Your Entrepreneurial Successes… Celebrate What You Have!
Passionate comments from Bruno Bonnell of MD Robopolis (and Board Chair for EM Lyon) – I enjoyed bragging on Alain Fayolle to him. (Alain is Da Man in studying entrep education.)

Build Your OWN Damn Door!
Nanxi Liu of www.Enplug.com talked about designing opportunities around new possibilities. Don’t wait for the door to open, she said, build your own door. I am so stealing that image. 
(I also think that WEF needs to steal it as their mantra. That is EXACTLY what we are talking about in these sessions, in our thinktank groups and even at the breaks. Making cool stuff happen. Brains+Passion+Action = Awesome.

Great Panels
My favorite was on incubators and accelerators with Steve Fang of Singapore and my friend Eythor Jonsson from Iceland/Denmark – Thor had the best slides of the day and gave a tour de force overview of accelerators. And at least 5 years of a research agenda both A-journal AND practical!

Awards Banquet
When the first three awards go to:
1. Sir Richard Branson [serial entrep of the year]
2. Ashish Thakkar of the Mara Group [young entrep] and
3. Dan Epstein of Be Unreasonable [entrep educator]
You KNOW it’s a good evening! :)
When the next three are:
4. Handicap International, http://www.handicap-international.us & co-founder Jean-Baptiste Richardier [social entrep]
5. Wamda founder & Aramex founder Fadi Ghandour [business entrepreneur] and
6. Mme Ellen Sirleaf, president of Liberia [policy maker]
Yeah… this was a mind-blowing, inspiring set of WEF award winners.
Honored to have met them. [Jean-Bapiste hung out with us all day; I had NO idea. Mostly he was cheering on Chief Almir.] Great acceptance speeches especially from Dan Epstein and Jean-Baptiste.  Videos will be posted on the WEF website.

Bonus: Mahesh was a great contributor last year but could not attend in 2013 - he sent me this video cheering us on!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTsLc-lEXss

World Entrepreneurship Forum - Day 1

Singapore!!!! October 30, 2013

The World Entrepreneurship Forum opens in a few hours for nearly 3 days of discussions and 'think tank' activity around growing entrepreneurial ecosystems. This year's theme is timely: Sustainability. (Can you actually identify sustainable opportunities without deeply engaging the entrepreneurial mindset? That's one thing that inspired me about WEF -- they and their members really get it, that you can't have a great entrepreneurial ecosystem without community members having great entrepreneurial mindsets. And a great entrepreneurial ecosystem fosters and supports great entrepreneurial thinking... and does it actively!)  http://www.world-entrepreneurship-forum.com/Events/Annual-Meeting/Singapore-2013

The WEF delegates come from every corner of the world, mostly entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs (not that WEF makes any more distinction between them than I do). Mix in a rich variety of policy makers and some media wizards and a tiny handful of eggheads ;) and… who knows?

Got here in the wee hours - remarkable airport and $9 shuttle to the posh Grand Copthorne on the Singapore River. Delta upgraded me PDX to NRT so I wasn't completely brain-fried. This is a marvelous city, another destination where it will be difficult to leave. (Any Singapore universities need a veteran entrepreneurship educator/researcher? :)

The "Who" of WEF
Not sure who will be here from 2012 - but there are some I am fervently hoping for! A newcomer who I scammed into coming is Icelander Eythor Ivar Jonsson who typifies the kind of talent that WEF attracts: Has built incubators & seed forums [http://www.klak.is/2013/01/08/eythor-kvedur-thakkir-fyrir-samstarfid/] and is active in the Global Accelerator Network where I hope he is still working to gather data [hint, hint, Thor!] He and I share a keen interest in studying more rigorously the question of how deep entrepreneurial mindsets can be encouraged! On top of all that, my CD player still has his debut music album.

I might be overly fond of the "residual clamiant" model of entrepreneurship. The entrepreneurial function is to create and allocate economic and noneconomic rents across multiple stakeholders... and keep what's left over. If I can create genuine value for customers/clients, suppliers, employees and neighbors and not go broke... that requires a very different way of looking at the world. This is not an optimization problem, it's a *design* problem.

Now imagine the stakes getting raised for any organization by invoking the triple bottom line - to be sustainable, environmentally, socially AND economically and be able to do that dynamically over an extended period of time? You need great entrepreneurial minds that are already 'bent' in the direction of designing opportunities that move us forward.

I look forward to a few days of seeing what smart, passionate people from an insane variety of backgrounds can come up with. (I am also looking forward to my Saturday am "master class" on ecosystem building. We had a breakthrough last year on this, led by Jeannie Javelosa and Peter Vogel and a great 2012 team. I look forward to raising the bar in 2013 with a workshop where participants will leave with concrete action items for building their own startup communities. (And, yes, there will be much Feld-ian Fun to be had this week!)

After seeing the ecosystem-building power that is arising mightily in the US community college system at the NACCE conference and then seeing how we are finally learning how to really grow entrepreneurial mindsets via the Kauffman Foundation-backed Ice House training... how can we at WEF move this needle even farther?

More tomorrow! [But tell me what YOU want to hear, ok?]

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Gobsmacked :)

(Always wanted to use that word.)

This NACCE conference has been a mind-blower. Again. The potential of community colleges to grow entrepreneurs AND entrepreneurial communities is unparalleled. www.nacce.com (Natl Assn for Community College Entrepreneurship)

Seeing what programs (and funding!) is readily available is exciting as hell.

Seeing what other community colleges are doing (often without spending much money) was great. (Only a *little* envy*over my buddies at Spokane CC, Walla Walla CC and (*drum roll*) North Idaho College partnering so brilliantly with Avista. A public utility teaming up so closely with community colleges to drive their economic development efforts? OK… VERY envious!)

Seeing the Immense Potential of community colleges… priceless.
·         Who else is better able to deliver all-out true experiential learning? And do it well?
·         Who else is better able to bring in and skillfully use expert mentors from the community?

The resources coming online have me revved up…
            The Kauffman Foundation [www.kauffman.org] alone has:

·         Ice House blended/online experiential entrepreneurship training – gone global and just recognized by the Vatican for the good that Ice House is doing in Africa to empower. [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0mg2GPWc0Go]

·         “1 Million Cups” weekly coffee meetup – in KC, now up to >300 people every week (300!)

·         The online Founders Academy

·         Helping the Khan Academy to create an entire channel just for entrepreneurship

·         Supporting Global Entrepreneurship Week [www.gewusa.org – have YOU signed up yet?]

·         Supporting Big Omaha and Big Kansas city (www.bigomaha.com
                               Who wants in on doing a Big Idaho????

·         The new Slingshot initiative that plugs in badass Entrepreneurs-in-Residence at 10 lucky CCs.
p.s. Why not IDAHO?????

I’m now in DC for the ICSB Public Policy conference (www.gwoctober.com) then Monday-Wednesday (21st-23rd) I am invited to the Kauffman Foundation to talk projects!

Any messages from Idaho/Boise for the Kauffman crew?

           As always....  Entrepreneur Up!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

who AM I??

I'm in Lisbon with the wonderful chance to help mentor the next generation of Europe's entrepreneurship scholars. (Last month, I had the parallel opportunity to help mentor the next generation of young educators. 

What an honor. And what a learning experience for me. 

Lisbon is incredible - if Portugal ever gets its economy turned back around, this place will be an entrepreneurial powerhouse. They have gone through two total collapses of their economy and rebounded remarkably, so are they possibly too resilient and optimistic?? (Scary that so many Lisbonites remember the TIME of an earthquake in 1755. Not just the day.. the time.)

Makes me wonder... Friends, am *I* too resilient and optimistic? Has it blinded me?

This week I have been having one of those TOO interesting conversations by email and skype with two different Boise friends who have been teasing me unmercifully about being a nominee for Idaho Innovation Awards' Innovator Award. It makes me realize that: 
#1 people misuse the terms "innovator" and "innovation" all the time and 
#2 I do a lousy job of explaining what I do. 

As one friend puts it... "People dismiss you as only a rah-rah guy. A champion, no doubt, but what is your "Product"? What have you created that other people are using?" I responded "Oh, everybody knows...." Uh-oh. :(

Both of them told me pretty bluntly that "They will never let you win." That a couple of key people have a huge (and unconscious?) vested interest in dismissing me. "Why else do people in Idaho not use your ideas?" [Note: I have no idea who is involved in the voting, I just hope this is not true. Don't we want the best for Idaho??]

Amid all this fun and recognition - my European work, huge successes at the Academy of Management conference, etc.... it was VERY humbling to get this deserved kick in the groin. Anyway, these two friends *independently* told me to explain what I do and where people are adopting my "products". (Do I need to introduce those two so they can coordinate their "tough love", lol?)

My friends, will you indulge me a little bit of introspection (and probably a bit of #humblebrag?) I need to work through this and get it out so I can get more groin kicks as needed ;) 

TL;DR version of My Innovations:
1. Three innovations on the academic side (one widely-adopted, two are still early but rolling)
2. Two innovations in developing and measuring the entrep mindset (both used globally)
3. Two innovations in assessing and developing entrepreneurial ecosystems (both used globally)
4. Revenue model still needs work. OK, needs a LOT of work :)
5. p.s. And I am helping schools and communities build great entrepreneurship programs.


Product #0: Am *I* "the product" - I would like to think that this is a good thing (I am biased, of course ;) A couple of my support letters to the Innovation Awards were blind copied to me (of the 12, most were confidential 
although I do know the names ranging from the likes of Jeff Sayer and CWI to a few of the best minds in the entrepreneurship world to a couple of multiple-year Inc. 500 list members. (I am definitely scared to know what some of them have to say... they know me all too well, LOL). But my friends argue that all of this makes me easy to dismiss as that rah-rah guy, a champion not a leader, an egghead, etc. So...

Product #1: I am the co-founder of a major subfield in entrepreneurship research (most-cited author, best paper had >1000 people citing my work..). Check me out on Google Scholar. Before my work, almost nobody studied the intentions of entrepreneurs, it is now one of the biggest topics. 
Customers: number in the thousands: scholars AND educators AND even entrepreneurs. (How many entrepreneurs read any academic stuff? It is awesome to know that I have been an exception.)

Product #1A: Co-founder of the NEW niche of neuro-entrepreneurship. 
Product #1B: Co-founder of a major initiative to bridge the stupid divides between academics, policy makers and entrepreneurs. This is way overdue. [And we need YOUR help!]

Product #2: The intentions research and neuro-entrepreneurship work has led to the ONLY full framework for understanding the entrepreneurial mindset: How entrepreneurs learn and what that means IN PRACTICE. And how to measure our true impact.
Customers:  I am the only person working on full-scale assessments of mindset for major universities, OECD and the EU.

Product #3: Entrepreneurial ecosystem - Customers: the IDAHO 'FIRE" model has been adapted by others - they use it under different names but I always present it as the IDAHO F.I.R.E. model. [Only place where traction is zero... Idaho. Ironic, huh? ;) ]

Product #3A: DEFRAG the entrepreneurial ecosystem model. Customers: Same thing - the DEFRAG model is getting adapted by others but they give it their own name. (Funny, though, my biggest happy-dance moment was a short"attaboy" from Brad Feld.)

Back to the TL;DR list:
1. Three innovations in the academic field of entrepreneurship.
2. Two innovations in developing and measuring the entrep mindset
3. Two innovations in assessing and developing entrepreneurial ecosystems.

4. P.S. AND... please don't tell anybody! I'm now helping CWI to develop a cutting-edge entrepreneurship program that will get national/global recognition. Happy to share what we've got so far. You WILL like. 

So am I an Innovator or not? It was encouraging for me to chronicle what I've been blessed to get to do AND a sobering reminder that I have not explained myself remotely well.

Any thoughts (or additional kicks to the groin) are, of course, welcome! I really need your advice.

As always, friends.... Thanks and Entrepreneur Up!

p.s. Why Lisbon remembers the time: Lisbon's 1755 earthquake leveled this very religious/Catholic city. On All Saints' Day while much of the city was at morning High Mass (why they remember the time). Oops, but this meant this was the first major earthquake to get treated as a scientific phenomenon (not an act of God) that in turn jumpstarted what we now call geophysics. 

AND within a year, the city was rebuilt. Portugal will be back. 
(Architecture/city planning buffs will love the longer story of this. Ping me, if interested. Blanchard.;)

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Sturgeon's Law? (90% of everything is....)

“90% of Everything is Crap!”

Gulp. Science fiction giant Ted Sturgeon offered this iron law of the universe more than once.
Actually, all he is doing is pointing out that the world, especially the human world, is Pareto distributed.
You know Pareto’s famous heuristic – the 80/20 Rule? That’s all Sturgeon is saying… provocatively.
Here’s why…. And here’s why it matters in entrepreneurship development.

90% of pretty much anything IS crap… by comparison to the top 10%. In any market, the top 10% of firms tend to control the market share, represent the leading innovation, are the best firms to work for, etc. Look at the distribution of salaries in sports: The best leftfielder in baseball might make 10X what the 10th-best leftfielder makes. And deserves it.

And among that top 10%, the best 10% of those is head and shoulders above the others. And so on… Think: the Seals are from the very best Marines, Delta Force is the best of the best Seals, etc. You want to tell a Marine that s/he’s crap? :) But if you ask them about the Seals or Delta Force? They know.

Think about it visually: What you have are two Bell curves, one for the 90%+, another for the 1%. If you are on the “90-percenter” curve where the median is set at 20-25 on an 0-100 scale, you’ll see that most ecosystems (and programs) will fall between 15 and 30. If you move from 10 to 20, that looks impressive. However, where you want to be is in the top 1%, yes?

These numbers were developed as part of a global effort to classify entrepreneurship programs. Of the ~5,000 programs worldwide, less than 50 really have something special going. Less than 500 are doing the right things the right way (and for the right reasons). Most programs (4500+) are trapped in the 90% because they will never do what’s necessary to move up. Do you want to be average when average is not very good or....???

Ecosystems are no different. There are maybe 1% of the entrepreneurial communities who are true “Startup Communities” but maybe 10% are starting to get there. So…. 

Do YOU want to be in the 90% or the 1%? (1) 

An Important Point
If we chart ecosystems on a 0-100 scale, “average” doesn’t look very good. This stylized drawing shows how “average” is probably centered around 25 and you don’t really move the needle until you hit 50 or so. 

What if 90% of ecosystems “score” between 20 and 30? What if the top 1% scores in the 80s and 90s?

Do you want to move your community from 20 to 25? Or do you want to move it above 50? For likely the same amount of money & effort? Remember that moving like that is often not a function of doing more, trying harder or spending more money. Making the leap requires doing things very differently.

Another Important Point
The difference is not just quantitative, it’s qualitative. Think about the 10,000-20,000 hours of deliberate practice to grow the mindset of an expert. Part of why it takes so long is that experts in a domain see the world very, very differently. In ways that are far from the conventional wisdom. The Navy Seals may be faster and stronger but what really differentiates them is a very different mindset.

Why Does This Matter for Entrepreneurial Ecosystems?
Take a look at the very best entrepreneurial ecosystems.

#1. They are scarce, maybe 1% of communities. If we believe Sturgeon’s Law, that makes them the best of the best of the best. And they are qualitatively different.

#2. They operate very, VERY differently.

It’s Not Just Ecosystems…
Consider as a parallel, the very best programs of technology commercialization. They do 8-10 things that the average program doesn’t do (and maybe can’t do or worse… Won’t do.) Some programs dabble in 1 or 2 of these highly disruptive behaviors but to even make it to an average program, you’ll have to do more and you have to do them well. And if you want to be in the top 1%? You have to do all of them and be good at all of them. (2)

The same dynamics appear to be true for the very, very best entrepreneurial ecosystems. The “special sauce” consists of a set of ingredients, each of which adds its own “flavor” of disruption. Is your community prepared to do these things? No matter how it takes?

If you truly believe in doing the right things the right way AND for the right reasons, you need the right people. And often, that is the hardest and most disruptive behavior of all. You want to tell an entrenched (and ‘entitled’) insider that he or she lacks the right stuff? I’d rather risk annoying that Marine! :) 

It all adds up to a new narrative, a new shared mental map of how things work, how things get better and how we do things. When we say “REALLY map the ecosystem”, a big part of this is showing everyone what the current narrative is… the shared cognitive maps and scripts… and showing everyone there’s a new narrative. Once we defrag the existing ecosystem, that new narrative will become clear. If may involve a few 180-degree turns and some judicious shuffling of the chairs. 

But do this right? We just may be able to accelerate the growth of a healthy, self-renewing entrepreneurial ecosystem!

(1) If Brad Feld is right, then it will still take decades (that 10-20,000 hours again?). But if he is… shouldn’t we get going? NOW? (and if we can accelerate the process then… shouldn’t we get going? NOW? J )
(2) By the way, the same is true for the very best entrepreneurship programs. (And, intriguingly enough, the top 1% overlaps almost completely with the top 1% of tech commercialization programs. Hmmm…….)