Monday, October 29, 2012

"The Tall, Skinny Floor Pedal?"

"The Tall, Skinny Floor Pedal?"

p.s. World Entrepreneurship Forum
Was.. well, imagine a gloriously eccentric global mix of entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs, eggheads and policy types exploring best practices at growing entrep ecosystems and.. improving the state of the art. Whoa.
Add that to the other legs of the trip, especially the visit to "Stanford East", Aalto in Helsinki... Wow!

Meanwhile, I've been asked to put together an "A Team" to disseminate best practices on new venture accelerators. These recent experiences have inspired today's chat! If you have ANY interest in creating (or joining) an incubator/accelerator, you really need to know the realities.
(Short answer: You are likely to be disappointed...)

"Accelerator" is the New Buzzword
It's not enough to be an incubator of new/small businesses, you must try to be an accelerator!

Only problem? It isn't really working.

#1.  Accelerating IS better than incubating for many firms
#2. But it isn't necessary
#3. VERY hard to do it right (even incubating is tougher than it looks)
"Good" is NOT good enough- you have be great. And if even Silicon Valley has a tough time... ;)
#4. Co-Working Spaces are the real missing link for communities
Make a sexy place for people to work, to meet up, to start percolating... now you have something!

Basically, the ONLY two accelerators who make positive returns are Y-Combinator and TechStars. That's about it. There are so many "accelerators" (even old-school incubators) that are underachieving mightily.

Mostly because they don't have the human capital (let alone social capital) to really make a difference for the new ventures. (See below)

Spectrum of non-virtual support for new ventures looks like this:
Cheap office space <----------->Balls-to-the-wall Accelerators
[most incubators]                     [YCombinator, TechStars]

Some are temporary plus follow-on (like TechStars and its cousins)
Some are actually virtual - there's an explosion of online platforms for mentoring [e.g., the new].

Key ingredients are NOT the space itself but...
* Mentoring.. mentoring on steroids [few places can do this]
* Skilled management of the process [equally few have this.. NO place for novices, I fear..]
* Great selection of the *teams* (focus on team, not initial biz idea)
* COMPLETE "buy-in" from the "inmates"
* Must be run by people who have never played politics with entrep turf issues (i.e. in Jim Collins's terms, get the wrong people off the bus, especially those who want to drive, LOL)
* MUST be deeply connected across the local, state (and national) entrepreneurship ecosystem.

Alternate models are out there -
What we're now calling the "venture creation practice" model (Gothenburg, Aalto, Stanford, Babson, Twente and a handful of others) is something we need to talk about for Idaho & beyond.
...but that's a story for another day [besides, people will call me "hater" again, LOL]

Friday, October 26, 2012

In Praise of Entrepreneurial Ecosystems..

In Praise of Entrepreneurial Ecosystems..

of course, we need to understand what they are, eh?

Here is Lyon, France for the World Entrepreneurship Forum - what a blast! A global group of entrepreneurs, policy makers, academics and even some students to explore how to really make entrepreneurial economies move forward.  (There are also some A+ experts on entrepreneurship education too like Alain Fayolle, Colin Jones, et al.) The perfect mix of rock stars and worker bees to really push this agenda forward!

For those of you who heard Brad Feld speak earlier this month in Boise, the key imperatives will sound very familiar.

We got a nice overview of the concept, including a new initiative to spur mapping of local ecosystems (something that Idaho would profit from immensely -want to know how to do it brilliiantly? Read on!) We also got some excellent case studies from across the globe.

The WEF hallmark is setting up mini-thinktanks, each with a motley crew of experts. My first team included civic officials from Warsaw and Lyon, a brainiac IT entrepreneur from India, a workforce developer from Namibia and me... Incredibly productive team that I was proud to be part of. 

My second team was, if anything, even more diverse and even more productive. (We came up with a diagram for ecosystem analysis that blew everyone's mind - I was facilitator but it was the team that made this happen (I just hung on for dear life, LOL but it's great to play facilitator & not 'expert'!)

The "Tao of Entrepreneurial Ecosystems" [ ] is already getting global attention.. and we designed it in 30-40 minutes. Looks a little eccentric? But it is powerhouse - Very proud of my team!

Before WEF, I spent 9 days at Aalto University in Helsinki - this school is essentially 2 years old and has already begun revolutionizing Finland's entrepreneurial ecosystem. More on that in future posts, but suffice to say... WOW! Much to steal, er, adapt.)

And before that, the International Council for Small Business held its fall public policy research conference where I got to share my "markers of a healthy ecosystem" whitepaper [] and heard some incredible intel on growing a more entrepreneurial economy. Again, more to follow in a separate post.

(And before ICSB, I spent a couple days at the amazing National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship [] where I lead a workshop on ecosystem development -terrific feedback/intel from attendees there too.]

So what the heck can we take away from all these? Let me focus on WEF..

Entrepreneurship Education - the revolution in entrepreneurial learning isn't coming.. it is HERE. We need to be on board ASAP.

To be remotely effective, it requires being deeply, deeply transformational. That means truly experiential learning and that is NOT easy to do, let alone do well. In particular, the key to this is deep immersion in the community. More important, the immersion must be two-way. Co-immersion where the community is as deeply immersed in the learning environment as the learners are immersed in the ecosystem.
Action Item for Idaho: Start deploying bleeding-edge entrepreneurial learning NOW. Start the co-immersion NOW. 

Ecosystem "101": See "co-immersion". We need to map where we are (but NOT a static map -> instead, capture the dynamics) and where we want to go (that means we need to go ask the entrepreneurial community; do not rely on the "name" people and institutions*) then align your resources based on who adds the most value (not on past activities or preferences).
Did I mention "co-immersion"?
Action Item for Idaho: Bring together the core group of people who really want to grow a more entrepreneurial Idaho AND have the 'right stuff' NOW (that is: Are they competent? Honorable? Connected locally? Connected nationally?? If they fit all four (or maybe 3?) then those are the "must-have' people at the table to get this started. Fortunately, that list is longer for Idaho than you might think! :)

So... ready to get busy? NOW???
I've found a few people with the right stuff who are ready to roll on this... and some of you WILL be recruited! :)

Entrepreneur Up, folks!

Monday, October 01, 2012

Thank you! And a fun tool for inspiring change!

Hi,everyone! First of all, I have to thank many of you for your kind words about the Idaho Innovation Awards.  I am grateful to be in the company of such cool finalists.*  If I knew so many were cheering me on... well, words fail me.

In return , I'd love to share a powerful (but fun) tool to get people psyched up... and to get them thinking. What can ONE person do?

Watch this video (and turn up the volume!) this is an iconic movie scene that I use to ask these three questions... that I'd like YOU to answer. It's now Oct 1 - three months left in 2012. In that time:
* What can WE do to make a difference today?
* What can we do to help someone ELSE make a difference?
* What can *I* do to help you??

Also, I have been slacking on my communication. The downside of social media is that I forget about email & my blog. On my way back from a global workshop on experiential learning in social entrepreneurship (in Denver, in a hotel full of Oakland Raiders fans and their, um, outfits :) I made a list of blog topics - I'd love to know which ones excite you (or bore you) the most.

* Social (& sustainable) entrepreneurship - its importance & the good news here in Idaho
* "Defragging" the entrepreneurial ecosystem
* How to expand our celebrating of what we have (not worrying what we don't)
* for example, the Eagle-based Symbee Stars project.. you will like.
* Some thoughts about improving our use of crowdfunding (usually, the "next big thing"... isn't. Crowdfunding IS a game-changer. Read the blog post below this one.)
* My Japan trip - massive eye-openers I want to share
* My OECD trip to evaluate entrepreneurship education at German universities - again some great lessons
* My new friends at the Startup Genome project in SF []
* Impact investing: Investing to get social/environmental returns AND financial returns (triple bottom line as economic engine).
               Anything else you'd like me to research?

* ;