Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Initial Thoughts: Technology Transfer Society

Global meeting in DC last weekend where I also got to visit our tax dollars again... or what's left of them? ;)

For old fans of “Laugh-In”, my reaction to this year's global meeting of the Technology Transfer Society was.... “verrrrrrry interesting....” ;)

Good papers & speeches but the REAL fun was in the "other" meetings... the hallway chats and the private huddles. Got to chat up some pretty high-powered folks both in T2S and in government (Tekes, NSF, et al.) As Yogi said, "You hear a lot by listening."

Also had an informative meetup with Peter Fischer in Crapo's office. Thanks, Peter!)

My preso went very well (whew!) – – a great co-author [she had just returned from speaking to the UN on entrep!] Despite her massive jet lag & my usual "norris-isms", we managed to blow a few minds. WHY we blew some minds reflects the “verrry interesting” part. The audience at T2S<>

a) the top researchers of tech transfer and the

b) top thought leaders in the T2 world (like the tech transfer star at France's NASA -what a cool cat!)

Bottom line on most of the audience:

  1. they all recite the mantra “we must be much more entrepreneurial” and

  2. they have no idea what they really means or how to do it

  3. BUT have open minds, making this a big, big opportunity for entrepreneurship experts*

  4. AND it remains clear that the tiny number of truly successful tech transfer programs** are all characterized by the kind of entrepreneurial culture & ecosystem that we can only dream about. (Though, alas, we COULD create that IF we chose to do so.)

    * p.s.: again, look at the U of U's success - my case study is at

So.... what an opportunity for the entrepreneurship experts there to present on how we can move in that direction (and diagnostics for why we can't as yet...)

** it's also a huge opportunity for any tech transfer/commercialization program that chooses to go this route! (and diagnostics for why we can't as yet...)

My presentation built on the intersection of two things you'd like:

First, can you imagine mechanisms where all the different states' innovation councils & tech councils compared notes? I've been asked to help develop a major study that will talk to all of them. (Given I already have three requests to do comparative studies of local innovation systems/entrepreneurial ecosystems to compare Idaho to the Basque country, Oregon & North Carolina.. why not expand the scope?)

But what will we look for? Especially, how will we assess whether they are doing the right things the right way..and for the right reasons? Maybe we look to what they'd never do & philosophies they embrace?

Second, so where are some new clues? What do approaches like the "lean startup model" and "Startup Weekend" have to tell us about what it REALLY takes to grow entrepreneurs?? (Hint: Bureaucracies freak out... and entrepreneurs get energized!) It turns out these approaches are VERY informative... Fun watching the audience reactions to concepts like Startup Weekend, TechStars & Y-Combinator!)

P.S.: Anyone interested in the councils project? Should be serious fun.

The PDF of the slides is here - please feel free to comment. I'd love your feedback!

Our Major Conclusion -- supported by the best minds (well, partly stolen from the best minds...LOL) So....

#1 Best Practice for Tech Transfer,
#1 Best Practice for Tech Commercialization, AND
#1 Best Practice for Entrepreneur-Led Economic Development in general?

Grow the entrepreneurial mindset.

That requires the right 'training' (the right training done the right way) and

Also requires supportive local communities & ecosystem. (likewise, the right things done the right way.. and for the right reasons)

Takes considerable expertise to design & deliver, as the 'mindset' part is far more critical than just skills. But, that talent is at our fingertips; all we need to do is ask. And. most of what we can do is free/cheap; the rest is eminently fundable (I've already had multiple discussions with funders.)

Seems simple but not for the faint-hearted or the inexperienced ;)

Eagerly awaiting your feedback!



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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Happy Global Entrepreneurship Week!

Global Entrepreneurship Week November 15-22, 2010

In 2009, well over 2 million participants in over 100 countries
In 2010, we expect as many as TEN million participants worldwide

It's not too late to sign up & join the fun!
The gauntlet has been thrown down. Idaho has been challenged to sign up a bunch of official partners for GEW. In response to that challenge, the regional GEW coordinator for the state of Idaho cordially invites you to be an official partner in GEW 2010. There is no cost, so why not be part of the fun? And...

The real power of GEW is to inspire continuing events all the way through 2011!
Global Entrepreneurship Week typically features one or more marquee events during the week, if possible, connected to one of that year's feature events. However, there's nothing to preclude additional events before, during & after the Week. For example...

In 2009, Idaho put on one of GEW's signature events, Startup Weekend. (In fact, it's because of Idaho that Startup Weekend became a featured event for GEW!) For 2010 and on into 2011...

Here in Idaho, please feel free to register any entrepreneurship-related event that you are doing in November and December as a GEW event at or (or feel free to ask me to post it for you – whatever is easier for you.) Finally...

Isn't it about damn time that we start doing more things together as an ecosystem?
I'd love to figure out some things we can do together (not just now but all the way through 2011!):
* How can I help YOU to put on an event all the way through 2011?
* How can I help you get others connected to your 2010-2011 events?
* How can I help you connect with events that others are doing?

The good folks at GEW HQ are “nudging” me [with blunt instruments] to recruit partners far & wide across Idaho, so I'd be particularly jazzed if you & your organization would sign on.

Will you do us the honor?

Just Entrepreneur It!

p.s. and did I mention? Sign up at or (and it's free)

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Friday, November 12, 2010


Dear entrepreneurial friends - here is a synopsis of the absolute state-of-the-art about how we grow entrepreneurs. This data is 'hot off the presses' from the largest high-quality data sets available (GEM, PSED, World Bank) What amazing talent... humbling for me, as usual.

A FAVOR: Please give me feedback - argue with me -cheer me on - buy me a beer -make me buy YOU a beer. Idaho needs to talk about this stuff - now.

Drawing on the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) data set (ultimately involving well over 1 million respondents globally over nearly a decade) several realities are beginning to emerge. None should be that surprising, except maybe just how strong the conclusions appear. And that there are direct policy implications... that need not cost much.

Total entrepreneurial activity (both entrepreneurship from the push of necessity and from the pull of opportunity) has very clear predictors that we need to recognize.

* Globally (and definitely in the US) opportunity-driven entrepreneurship has been in decline since 2005 and plummeted in the last year. Unsurprisingly, necessity-driven entrepreneurship has increased but that creates fewer jobs. We simply are not growing ventures that create lots of jobs. And Idaho lags the US...
Implication for Idaho: We need to help businesses (of any size/age/industry) to grow!

(* We already knew that the decline of job creation since 2008 has been unprecedented. Layoffs increased, of course, but that pales in comparison with the fall-off in job creation. Meanwhile, we seem hellbent on increasing the barriers to entrepreneurial job creation.)

* So how can we change all this?
Here are the three most important factors - all of which are things that we can influence as a community.

i. Entrepreneurial Potential is a Function of Potential Entrepreneurs.

The strongest predictor of entrepreneurial activity is the prevalence of adults who are prepared for entrepreneurial activity -- they have the entrepreneurial mindset: I can be an entrepreneur. I want to be an entrepreneur. And I know how to do it right.
Implication for Idaho: Quality, not just quantity of training. This is not about entrepreneurial training - it is cultivating an expert mindset. You've heard this often but now even more critical: Truly experiential, deeply transformative entrepreneuirial learning. (Think Startup Weekend, not "how to write a biz plan"!)

i-a. Fear of Failure?
Fear of entrepreneurial failure or do potential entrepreneurs accept (or even embrace) that failure is a possibility?

And a possibility for learning?
Implication for Idaho: See experiential learning above! Book learnin' won't cut it.

ii. Is Growing a Business Highly-Regarded?

Cultural support for entrepreneurship - Do people believe they'll be encouraged if they try, does the media "get it" (do they focus heavily on newer & especially fast-growing businesses?) Is entrepreneurship generally considered a good career option? Is entrepreneurial success rewarded by the community?
"Old school" values are also important: Respect for authority wedded to a healthy skepticism of authority (sounds pretty Idahoan, doesn't it?)
Implication for Idaho: Communities are often more supportive than we realize so we need to do anything we can to let prospective entrepreneurs know that there is a supportive ecosystem. And to help local communities to help entrepreneurial growth. (In turn, this helps grow the ecosystem.)
Implication for Idaho: Structurally, revamping your local innovation system will obviously help:
(a) Really map the existing ecosystem, as it is & as it is perceived,
(b) build a first-cut road map for upgrading the innovation system,
(c) then align your resources to the roadmap in terms of distinctive (not core) competences.

iii. Is It Getting Easier or Harder to Grow a Business?

Ease of doing business - how hard is it to start a business in terms of bureaucratic hurdles? Is the regulatory regime friendly? (Is the tax & regulatory burden actually shrinking?) How centralized are the control mechanisms for the local economy?
Implication for Idaho: Identify the systematic barriers - actually measure what is required. However, it is also a great opportunity to identify missing/needed facilitators (what will trigger entrepreneurial action?)

We can do this!

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