Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Ideas to Reality: World Class Training in Technology. Now.

Q: What’s the Best Online Training for Lean Startup?
Q: What’s the Best Online Training for Technology Commercialization?
A: Steve Blank’s new Stanford-based Lean Launchpad class

The Start: Maybe the premier technology entrepreneurship course at Stanford, Lean Launchpad [] teaches the Lean Startup model (eg, Steve Blank’s Customer Development model) in-person to advanced science & engineering students at Stanford and Berkeley. Can you imagine getting brainiac techies actually talking to customers? And does that mean there is hope for some of you! ;)

Proof of Concept: The NSF put this at the heart of their new Innovation Corps to serve the 100 best technology commercialization teams for novel NSF-developed technologies.

The Payoff (for Us): The course is being offered now as an online course (over 60K has already signed up, including me!) as a series of 10 1-hour video lectures bundled with its textbook, The Startup Owners’ Manual. Free, except for the textbook.

But Wait…There’s More! Why Not a Blended Course?
My dear friends at Startup Weekend have commissioned (and threatened, LOL) people to organize local meetups. The video lectures will likely begin later this month but the pacing is up to us (lectures are archived).

It probably means 10 weekly 2-3 hour meetups or more likely 5 weekly/biweekly meetups of 4-5 hours for us to share what we are doing, what we are learning and how we can help each other. This is for anyone willing to take the plunge – I’m a b-school PhD in entrepreneurship and I’ve been a tech entrepreneur and I’m taking it! (Of course, my past “experience” means I’m the perfect candidate, LOL)

Initial feedback will let us set the schedule (most likely a weekday evening, though I’m hearing that many meetups are scheduling Sunday afternoons).

The Startup Weekend crew will be sending me Eventbrite invitations to share – expect a ping as early as this weekend. We estimate a ticket price of $50 to cover the text and refreshments. (Not bad for a Stanford MBA/MSEE-level of education even without the meetup!)

Obviously sponsors and prospective hosts are welcome …and anyone who’ll provide coffee, beer and/or pizza ;) Please email me: Norris.Krueger[at] if interested!

For You?
Plan A: Respond “Yes!” to the eventbrite invitation & let me know your best/worst days
Plan B: Be hip but boring and simply sign up for Steve’s class & do it on your own 
Plan C: Wear a permanent “L” on your forehead & not even try to take Steve’s class ;)

p.s. But, Norris! I don’t live in/near Boise!  So host your own meetup – I will help!

Can you or your organization host/sponsor? Call me.
Want to do this outside of the Treasure Valley? Call me.
Want to seize this incredible opportunity? Say “YES!” to the invitation.

Entrepreneur UP. Y’all!

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Growing jobs is inherently entrepreneurial....

... bureaucratic processes simply cannot generate serious entrepreneurial outcomes.

ONLY entrepreneurial processes yield entrepreneurial outcomes. So.. why do we keep trying to 'tweak' bureaucratic processes when we should know it just doesn't work?

Back in 2004/05 I was commissioned by the City of Boise to do a white paper on what it REALLY takes for communities & universities to collaborate to drive economic development. Thank you for the great feedback so far- it needs an update, so comments still welcome! [ or http:// ]

In my world this is a hot topic - and it is scary to realize that globally there probably aren't more than 20 universities who are truly moving the needle. But interestingly, these pretty much overlap with the <20 schools who are off the charts on "getting" technology commercialization [one version here:].

When 'best practice' = 'worst practice'?
We've been studying these role models and what they do differently. They share several vital, necessary characteristics. (You will be 'shocked' that the key practices are polar opposites of what almost every university does. Ouch.)

For Idaho?
Bad News => we are not even average
Worse News => the average university is dreadful
Good News => it can be fixed.
consider that list of the 'best of the best' in 2005/6 would've been shorter BUT you'd also see Boise State's name.

We know how to get the mojo back.
Want to try??

p.s. Thanks to all of you who have responded with questions, kudos and the occasional (deserved) brickbat over my recent blog posts and Facebook/tweets. Even when we don't agree, it's nice to know that I'm sharing useful stuff.(In fact, when we don't agree = the best kind of feedback. Only way to learn!)

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

So What IS an “Entrepreneurial” Ecosystem

Any economy is an ecosystem – all the pieces are connected, often in surprising or indirect ways. But what makes it “entrepreneurial”?

How can we measure its “entrepreneurial-ness”?

In honor of TechStars’ David Cohen coming to town, I’ve updated my thoughts about how we take the state of the art of what we know and… put it to good use!

We have now officially reached over 100 different formal definitions for “industry cluster”… mostly circular. With entrepreneurial ecosystems, the most common one is “has a lot of entrepreneurial activity”… LOL but what if we want to predict? Wouldn’t a few metrics and a few slam-dunk policy prescriptions help?

Reality #1: A healthy ecosystem is one that encourages and nourishes the entrepreneurial mindset. (I know, I know... we don’t have good measures for that either…)

It nourishes it broadly & deeply – in healthy communities, people “get it” – not just the entrepreneurs and maybe service providers, but it’s in the air. I had been in Malmo, Sweden’s great MINC incubator for 30 minutes & I felt like a slacker, I need to start a venture. Had the same feeling in Chalmers’ Encubator. Or anytime I walk on Stanford’s campus. In those places, opinion leaders, especially the media get it. The “person on the street” gets it. (There are places that never get it – b-schools are remarkably blind, painfully so. But the students can get it!)

Reality #2: We do know critical predictors of entrepreneurial activity. There are three proven predictors and isn’t that a good place to start? [And, yes, I talked about this in an old blog post [ ]

Short version? Entrepreneurial Capital includes…
                                           Human capital.
                                           Social capital

Human Capital?

Simply ask: How many people believe they are personally prepared to be an entrepreneur? Not just prospective entrepreneurs, but how many NON-entrepreneurs understand what needs to happen? How else can an inherently bottom-up phenomenon take off?

Can this be an illusion? Sure. The data reflects people starting businesses not whether they succeed, so we are already back to the entrepreneurial mindset. Knowing facts and even learning skills is NOT enough, not remotely enough. You must cultivate the mindset of an entrepreneur. Better still, cultivate the mindset of an expert entrepreneur [in the cognitive sense a la Gladwell’s book “Outliers” – if you haven’t put in your 10,000 hours, don’t tell me you’re an expert, ok?]

What does a healthy ecosystem provide to grow entrepreneurial human capital?
Training, sure, but it has to be REAL learning. To move from a novice to an expert, you need metacognition [knowing your own mind, which means intensive reflection].
You also need peer mentoring and support. It’s a lot easier to shift mental models when amongst friends. Why do think immersion events like Startup Weekend kick so much butt? [read me for more:]
You need expert mentors; we all need people who are at our level or higher to coach us through the often harrowing shifts in mental models. Or why TechStars kicks so much butt…
And you need a maestro or two to make all this work. (And what’s funny? There are NEVER the people whose job title says so.. But in a healthy ecosystem everyone knows who these liaison-animateurs are! [google it!]

METRIC/PREDICTOR: How many deeply experiential learning activities are going on? How many groups are just meeting up, whether social media or digital imaging or hackathons or… ?

p.s. Did you know that Steve Blank is making his killer Lean Launchpad class from Stanford available online... for the cost of the text? And the Startup Weekend gang has recruited volunteers to hold in-person meetups staring in late March? If you want in, call me. If you want to help, call me. (Even if you’re not in Idaho, I’m happy to hook you up!)

Social Capital?

What would your momma say if you started a business? We are blessed in the US to have reasonably supportive social norms but it’s not quite universal. Does the media celebrate entrepreneurs? Do our civic leaders? (And do they actually get it?) Do our other institutions really get it? Even the most bureaucratic institutions can think they are pro-entrepreneur but if they don’t understand how entrepreneurs think, they are at best limited and at worst counter-productive. (Odds are, they think they that they DO get it… Yikes and…. Sigh.)

EMPHATIC POINT: Bureaucratic thinking will never get entrepreneurial thinking. Institutions operate top-down/ They LIKE top-down. But they CAN be helpful.. IFF the right people get it.

A healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem is a framework that enables and encourages the emergence of opportunities.

METRICS/PREDICTORS? So how do we know when Very Important People get it? Good place to start: Do they understand how an entrepreneurial economy works?
Do they get… churn? That to grow 1 million jobs could mean creating 10 million new jobs while 9 million jobs exit. It’s normal, it’s healthy & it freaks people out.
[Actual data from mid-2010 to mid-2011: 41 million people took a new job while 40 million left a job. Crazy? Yup. But healthy.]

Do they get… execution is far more important than ideas? The more ideas/intellectual property we have, eventually we get more ideas implemented. BUT the more ideas get implemented, it has a big (and quick) effect on ideas. The innovation pipeline is like pushing on a string. Why not pull instead?
In practice, this means… invest heavily in execution/implementation not on “creativity”. [p.s. Dick Florida agrees, btw.]

Do they get... distinctive competence? Do people in your community migrate toward roles where they add the most value to customers. Not what they do best (a/k/a “core competence”) and certainly not to what they WANT to do (or claim their charter or funders or board insist...) but where they add the most value. If people buy this, turf issues are far more manageable. So are your service providers doing things that add the most value or doing what they feel entitled to?
The same is true for economies. Ireland became the Celtic Tiger by focusing on 4 niches where they already had a sustainable competitive advantage that they could build on – all university research money went to applied research in just those 4 areas plus all industry incentives. It paid off almost overnight (and when they forgot those lessons... oops!) So in your community are leaders focusing on niches where we already can compete or worrying too much about the past?

Do they get… the economy is an ecosystem? That it is a messy web of networks? That we need to encourage connectivity? Read this:
Who are your community’s “influentials”: Are they the people that control access to resources? Or are they the people who connect? (You can’t do both, alas; if you do both, you’re a resource-controller.)
Are your connectors truly liaison-animateurs? [I told you to google it ;) ] Are they proactive? Are they helping others to become connectors too?
In a healthy ecosystem, more and more people know more and more about the ‘map’ of the ecosystem and proactively share that intel. (Again look at Stephenson’s diagram…) Alas… very, very few communities have a detailed (and accurate) shared map of the ecosystem. If they have a map at all, it’s just a laundry list of the ‘players’…which tells us NADA about how to play the game.

p.s. Do they get… the economy is an ecosystem.. redux? Something entrepreneurs can lose sight of is that it’s an ecosystem that is highly and unpredictably interconnected. It’s NOT just new firms but also older firms. Not just small firms but large ones too. Urban & rural. High tech & low tech. Growing & shrinking. For-profit & non-profit. Even public sector & private sector. We’re all in this together folks.

Now that I’ve probably depressed you or inflamed your “Boulder Envy” or “Malmo/Gothenburg Envy”… anything we can do right now? Affordably? Let me offer several ideas where Norris is the Big Slacker - feel free to kick my butt into gear, ok?

Educate Opinion Leaders
Experiential entrepreneurship training by our best & brightest – and start nourishing the mindset broadly & deeply across your community. Find the fertile ground – youth entrepreneurship is maybe the #1 no-brainer for development. Seniorpreneurs are red hot as are disabled veterans, etc., etc.

Policy briefings for civic officials. [OK, Norris is really the slacker here...] Tell them that we bring good news.. ‘cause we do! also...

‘Visioning’ is such a New-Agey term so lets call it a ‘listening session’ – bring together a cross-section of the entrepreneurial community [broadly defined, see the “p.s.” above] and figure out where would we like to be in, say, 2020.

Everyone a Liaison-Animateur?
Why not REALLY map the entrepreneurial ecosystem in your community? Not just make lists of entrepreneurs, service providers, etc. but a real map of the playing field. (Karen Stephenson charges up to $100K to do studies but we can get a rough map for far less & mostly sweat equity. I have the software.)

The visioning, er, listening session connects with this beautifully – gives us a killer roadmap for moving forward productively. Also cheap to do. And there are terrific experts to help us pull it off… magnificently.

Maybe start with asking your community’s entrepreneurs what will trigger them forward. NOT what they are lacking and NOT what the barriers are, but… “What’s the one thing that would trigger you to start (or grow) your venture?”
                  [hmmm. .I suppose that’s one more diagnostic: Do we focus on what we have or what we don’t have? Whether it’s a civic leader or a trade group leader or… ourselves!]

I am really, really interested in your thoughts on this. Please pass this along to anyone else who might want to strangle me, er, buy me a martini. It was fun to write – thank you for reading this far.

Who’s with me????? [not to sound like Bluto in Animal House ....;) What AH character should I be?]

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