Thursday, October 30, 2008

Good words about being entrepreneurial!

The latest from Mark Loschiavo, center director at Drexel U's excellent Entrepreneurship Center (their academic director, Donna de Carolis is excellent too.)

I thought this was a nice way to phrase some things that we all already know, but occasionally lose sight of. I will slip in a couple comments of how this applies to Idaho at the end, but enjoy Mark's eminently stealable words!

"The Executive Director's Corner

When speaking to members of a CEO think tank recently I was asked to comment on the top three critical success factors for entrepreneurs. This depends on many variables - stage of company, industry experience, and company type, just to name a few. After some thought I selected three critical success factors that I think transcend many, if not all, variables. More importantly, I wanted to select three factors that are unique to entrepreneurs.

The first is to become intimately familiar with the entrepreneurial ecosystem, which includes all of the stakeholders in the entrepreneurial community. Whether talking about service professionals, private money sources, customers, suppliers, advisors, mentors or economic development agencies, it is important for the entrepreneur to understand the roles - more importantly the sweet spots - for each of these players, who they are, and how to exploit the rich resources they have to offer.

Secondly, the entrepreneur needs to interact early and often with the players in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Because the entrepreneur does not have access to the vast resources of a large company an entrepreneur has to leverage the vast resources of this ecosystem. This includes everything from capital access to subject matter expertise.

Finally, the entrepreneur has to be singularly focused. A friend of mine founded a company focused on service and support for PCs. Having spent time in that industry myself, I am acutely aware of just how competitive an industry it is, and the slim margins it typically yields. When asked how he was able to build such a successful company, competing with the likes of IBM, Compaq and others, his response was revealing. He said, "while this was only one of many products, offerings and solutions that IBM thought about on a daily basis, it was the only thing I focused on, all day, every day”. (again, credit to Mark Loschiavo, Drexel University -thanks, Mark!)

NK: What does this mean for Idaho? One thing that's clear to me (and many others) is that we really don't have the map of the ecosystem that we need. There are people working on this mapping, but we really need that comprehensive, detailed directory. There are so many resources out there and even I get surprised now & then. Local communities need a detailed map of what's out there. Figuring out to build- and maintain – a detailed “directory” for the state would be well worth it.

However, this also extends to the human assets within the community members themselves! ("Wow, I didn't know you were...") We can help communities map these assets' and it's neither difficult nor expensive, but it does require commitment.

Another dimension: Directories/maps need “high touch” - human guidance. However, one real key is that entrepreneurs (current and future) need to find ways to interact, whether at Kickstand meetings, sitting outside Dawson-Taylor (or Cazba) or taking the initiative to communicate. Why not use tools like LinkedIn, Facebook and (gulp) Twitter to make it easier to communicate?

On Mark's third point, “focus” is NOT “obsession”. Passion is good, but it needs to be harmonious passion not obsessive passion. A recent Pavarotti quote struck me: “I am not disciplined. I am devoted.” Devotion is what Mark is telling us to cultivate.

I am devoted to helping Idaho, even though it seems foolish at times LOL). What keeps me going is that I know just how devoted many of you are to your own efforts and to a better Idaho. I applaud you; your devotion honors us all! /nk Oct 08

As ever, email me at if you want to know more.

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Saturday, October 04, 2008

Pleo Comes Home! Pleo Comes Home!
(ok, he never really left... but Ugobe is now HERE!)

As many of you know, I've had the great pleasure of working with the efforts of Eagle & Star to nurture their nascent tech corridor. Great fun - despite 7 am meetings, LOL.

One of those pleasures is working with passionate professionals like Teri Bath & Lloyd Mahaffey (not to mention a host of others who re working on Teri & Lloyd's goal of growing a more entrepreneurial region). Appended below is the press release on a nice little coup... that could become the launching pad for more... a lot more. (I love the potential for synthetic life forms as a tech niche! And the underlying science is unbelievable.)

In the Eagle team, I'm tasked on the entrepreneurship side (and you will dig at we're working on) but today the kudos are for Teri & Lloyd (and Rosemary & John & Gretchen and all the rest.

Well done, gang, well done! Proud to know ya, Norris

For immediate release:

October 3, 2008: California tech firm moves headquarters to Eagle

Ugobe, creators of the “life form” Pleo the dinosaur, will move its headquarters to Eagle, Idaho from Emeryville, Calif. – part of the first phase of the development of a new technology corridor in the southern Idaho city.

Ugobe’s move affirms the state’s “top-to-top” strategy in recruiting new businesses to Idaho. The Department of Commerce is using Idaho executives to reach out personally to targeted company executives in other states. The strategy is part of Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter’s Project 60 initiative to grow Idaho’s gross domestic product from $51.5 billion to $60 billion.

“Our best salesmen are the folks who already live, work and raise families here. They know the quality of life, the quality of our work force and the kind of business climate that appeals to those with entrepreneurial spirit,” Governor Otter said. “We’re pushing economic opportunity on a number of fronts, and I’m proud of the great example being set by the community of Eagle.”

Ugobe already has a 9,000-square-foot research and development facility in Eagle. Luring the headquarters away from the Silicon Valley is an added coup that lends credibility to Eagle as a burgeoning technology hub, said Teri Bath, president of the Eagle Chamber of Commerce.

“We already have a little cluster here and that drew Ugobe,” said Bath. “We have the infrastructure here to support it, and the quality of life that draws the employees they need.”

The move was the result of a dedicated effort by the Eagle Chamber of Commerce, the Idaho Department of Commerce and Idaho Economic Advisory Council Chairman and former Apple Computer executive; C. Lloyd Mahaffey. Business costs, workforce and quality of life were the key issues that convinced Ugobe executives to make the move.

"Pleo and our life form technology started right here in Idaho. Ugobe's headquarters were later established in Emeryville, California. As the corporate and R&D teams traveled between California and Idaho the benefits of consolidating in Eagle became apparent. The depth and loyalty of the technical workforce, the pro-business attitudes of Eagle and the state government's support for new technology made this an easy decision. We are delighted to have the international attention on Pleo being directed to Eagle, Idaho." Said John Sosoka, Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder of Ugobe.

“This creates a solid robotics foothold in the Treasure Valley, which will spawn other companies over time,” said Mahaffey, who has also been instrumental in establishing Eagle’s wine industry. “When one company comes, others have a tendency to follow. This opens a whole new area of technology interest in the Treasure Valley that doesn’t currently exist.”

Ugobe’s Web site describes itself as a company that has blended “engineering, life sciences, philosophy, and artistic design” to create life forms that “blur the line between technology and life.” Time Magazine called Ugobe’s first product, Pleo, one of best inventions of 2006.

Pleo recently was featured in The Wall Street Journal, ABC’s Nightline, and in Wired. The Today Show called pet robots, using Pleo as an example, as one of the “top 6 tech trends of 2008.”

More information on Ugobe is at and [p.s. Don't open the Pleoworld site with short people around you, they will want you to buy them one. Hell, you'll want one yourself! ]

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Gallatin Group 1st "Technology Summit"

Not quite what I'd expected but I learned a few things - and met some good folks and potential allies.

The two key speakers talked about the DOD acquisition process and the Congressional budgeting process.

Good news: Plenty of opportunities for small/new firms to get involved. No shortage of talented people who will help you.

Bad news: It takes work and serious planning ahead (of course, for the more devoted of you, that only weeds out the amateurs!)

Note: They gave us a binder with a Guide to DOD Contracting and the PPT slides. Not sure what's available online, but any of you want a copy, let me know.

As usual, some of the very best intel came from side comments, such as:

Get thee to FedBizOpps [I'd add] and register. You can get alerts sent to you based on the keywords you choose.***

Also, it really helps to get on the Central Contractor Registry & make sure you have your DUNS and CAGE numbers, etc.
You also need to ID which set-aside categories you qualify for.

After Wendy Jordan's take on the bureaucracy entailed in DOS acquisition, I was a little daunted but was emphatic that more entrepreneurs should get involved in government contracting & procurement.
she had some hints -
* put your product/service on the GSA's "schedule"
* identify lead contractors who you could subcontract for
* get expert legal help, as they can help you write winning contracts
* And.. Have a great story. And that's still the entrepreneurs edge.
[google on anti- hemorrhage bandages from shrimp shells]

Procurement dollars are bigger, but fewer (I heard an avg $11 million)
R & D dollars are smaller, but more frequent (~$1 million)

Be ready by early February - that's when the next numbers are released - what I heard was that if you want in, especially for procurement, you may have a month to make your case. Have that killer white paper ready in advance.

"Dual Use" - if you've got something with excellent commercial potential, that makes DOD very happy unless of course it's sensitive technology. Otherwise, dual use is a BIG plus and (as Mr. Ritter would say) you should be thinking that way anyhow!

Dennis Kedzior talked budget - he had some some great charts (if a bit frightening) about the growth of the federal budgets.

What really hit me, though, was that work on the FY 2009 budget started in February 2007. Twenty (20) months.
[So if you want to make the President's budget, there are people with a 20-month head start. So if you've got something that a federal entity should buy... start NOW. Especially if you're going for a "Congressional Interest Item"! LOL]

p.s. and don't forget SBIR/STTR. Idaho is starting to get traction, thanks to Rick Ritter & TechConnect (and Mark & Brian at Commerce) but we're still leaving money on the table. (If you're not from Idaho, ignore this! LOL)

In sum, I'm not sure I would have labeled this a "tech summit" but a welcome reminder that procurement and R&D opportunities abound... if you're willing to put in the effort (and to listen to those with expertise.)

Regardless, it's clear that the Gallatin Group has added their voice here. I fully expect there will be more events, whether they organize them or help others. I do think that they'll get feedback from attendees as to what would make sense in future events. I was certainly pleased to meet Joe Hardy from their DC office and finally meet local partner Marc Johnson. (Thanks too to McKinsey Miller for hooking me up for this.)


*** since 'economic development' is one of mine, I keep gtting alerted to a sizable rural ec dev opportunity in rural.... Afghanistan.