Archive for the ‘Ecosystem’ Category

An Entrepreneur As Catalyst

Posted: May 24, 2015 by Jerry Malsh in Culture, Ecosystem, Innovation, Leadership, People, Startup

jerry-malsh-2015By now you’ve probably heard about the young Seattle entrepreneur who recently raised the minimum wage for all 120 employees of his firm to $70,000 per year (phased in over the next three years) while lowering his own salary to $70,000 from its previous high of nearly $1million.

Why?

  1. Because he wanted to help the people who have helped him grow his business by making a positive, significant difference in their lives. Not just the difference between falling behind and catching up, but the difference between catching up and moving ahead.
  2. Because he knows how out of whack CEO-to-worker pay ratios have become. The ratio of CEO-to-worker pay has increased 1000% since 1950, according to data from Bloomberg.

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Dr. Chuck Matthews“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” Albert Einstein

In the last few days, have you asked yourself, “Where did 2014 go?” Time is the most precious resource that any entrepreneur possesses. Although, time can seem to possess us instead of the other way around.

While the New Year prompts reflection about time, it also raises the specter of how we create value for our customers over time. The ongoing challenge for entrepreneurs is not only creating value at the outset of the business, but continuing to add value for customers today and into the future. The transition from one year to the next also brings into focus the nearness of the future. Tomorrow begins today.

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WISE Entrepreneurs

Posted: December 7, 2014 by Chuck Matthews in Culture, Ecosystem, People, Startup

“Wisdom begins in wonder.” Socrates

Dr. Chuck MatthewsWhen it comes to new venture creation, never underestimate the power of experience and expertise. While there is no lack of attention appropriately focused on young entrepreneurs, the 50+ entrepreneur set has been quietly leading their own entrepreneurial revolution. Research by the Kaufman Foundation suggests that twice as many successful entrepreneurs are over 50 as under 25.

Interest in the “post-retirement entrepreneurship” movement is due in part to the numbers of baby boomers “aging up” but who are far from slowing down. The indomitable music icon, Cher, once challenged that she was too old to be singing rock n’ roll, reportedly replied, “You’d better check with Mick Jagger.”

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What Makes a Great VC

Posted: November 29, 2014 by Micah Baldwin in Culture, Ecosystem, Money, Startup

Micah BaldwinEvery year as the Newly Minted VCs begin to settle in and blog/tweet, there is a bevy of posts about how venture capital as it stands today is broken, and they, with their new insights and operational histories are going to fix it.

Of course, most of them become what they rail against over the course of the next few years.

As I have started to think more and more about jumping the fence full force into the investing side of the entrepreneurial equation I keep asking myself two questions:

What makes up the perfect VC, and can I be that.

For many, it seems that for founder/CEOs the answer has been distilled into three key components:

  1. Keep money in the bank.
  2. Recruit amazing talent.
  3. Articulate the vision.

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Things Are Looking Up

Posted: May 4, 2014 by Chuck Matthews in Culture, Ecosystem, Innovation, Leadership, Startup

The optimist says, the glass is half full; the pessimist says, the glass is half empty; the engineer says, you’ve got about twice as much glass as you need for the job.” – Unknown

Dr. Chuck MatthewsWith new buds blooming on trees and flowers, birds chirping, and the return of baseball, Spring always signals a time for renewal and optimism. A positive attitude can certainly be motivating.  For small business owners, this certainly seems to be the case.  According to the Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index, small business optimism has hit its highest level in five years jumping 21 points in the first quarter of 2014. They cite a number of key drivers that contribute to this overall increase in small business optimism: improved cash flow, improved access to credit, and expected increases in revenue and hiring.

Challenges of course remain.  The good news on this front is that according to the WF/GP Index, these concerns are more focused on attracting customers, and targeting business opportunities than on continuing challenges from the overall economy or government issues (regulation, taxes, healthcare).

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bill-cunninghamBoston stole the startup crown from Cambridge this past year by closing 97 venture capital deals in 2013 compared with 66 in 2012. Kyle Alspach, tech guru writer for the Boston Globe, penned a front page article describing the huge tectonic shift from Cambridge to Boston. Although Silicon Valley still reigns as the startup king, Cambridge has always enjoyed a vibrant startup ecosystem thanks to the talents and treasures attracted by MIT and Harvard. Former Boston mayor Thomas Menino wanted to

Kyle Alspach, Tech Guru Writer at the Boston Globe

Kyle Alspach, Tech Guru Writer at the Boston Globe

“create an irresistible environment” for entrepreneurs – changing the name of Boston’s Seaport district to the Innovation district. He rallied the politicians to build infrastructure, and real estate barons to convert warehouses into cool, high tech space. It turns out that the basics attract entrepreneurs, and Cincinnati would do well to take copious notes on Boston’s journey. (more…)

The Future is Bright

Posted: October 9, 2013 by Bill Cunningham in Ecosystem, Planning, Startup, Technology

“The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades”

              — 1986 hit song by Timbuk3

bill-cunningham

sunglassessmallSara Specter, editor at Modern Materials Handling, asked me to review and give feedback on a draft of the US Material Handling and Logistics Roadmap, a synthesis of over 200 participants from all facts of industry, academia and government to predict the state of the industry in 2025. Since Material Handling and Logistics touch every facet of our life from what we eat and wear to how we drive and play, it makes sense to think about how our organization would fit into that world.

My first impression: Technology will disrupt the market more than we can imagine. At Promat 2013, a logistics trade show, the futurist, Edie Weiner, talked about the speed of technology change: “It is happening at an exponential exponential rate, and I did mean to repeat myself.”

The roadmap thinkers envision innovations such as “same day” and even “same hour” deliveries. While this seems like a ridiculous notion that we would need something the same hour, look back to the 1970’s where we thought next day delivery was limited to extremely urgent situations. FEDEX changed all that. And the thought of free, two-day delivery for everything seemed like a sure way to lose money, yet Amazon dominates a market where they have set expectation that everything is delivered in two days for free.

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Developing Startup Leaders

Posted: September 29, 2013 by Jessica Reading in Culture, Ecosystem, HIgher Education, Leadership, People, Startup

jessica reading miamiThis summer, college students interned in our region’s startups and entrepreneurial companies.  Recently I met with several of them as they reflected on their experiences.  Or more accurately, raved about their summer:

  • “There’s nothing like going to work in the morning knowing it will be nothing less than an adventure”
  • “I learned how entrepreneurship can manifest in so many ways”
  • “My supervisor taught me to embrace being outside my comfort zone, and never doubt myself”
  • “I couldn’t replace what I gained this summer with any life experience”

These reflections are the wish list of what any educator wants every student to say after completing a course and often only result from the most empowering of teachers.  This summer, our region’s startups educated our students, teaching ‘real-world’.

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Chasing the Gleam

Posted: July 14, 2013 by Micah Baldwin in Ecosystem, Leadership, People, Startup

Micah BaldwinEntrepreneurs have something in common with coal miners and gold prospectors.

We have all chosen occupations that are actively shortening our lifespans.

River miners crush fingers, toes and even teeth shoving aside huge boulders to reach the gleam beneath. “I’ve been buried under the water three times,” says Bernie McGrath, a prospector and former pipeline worker. “It’s a treacherous way to make money.” From: Smithsonian Magazine

We destroy our health, relationships and (some) sanity with an extremely small chance of success. We are chasing the gleam, and (some) are willing to almost die to get it.

Founders that work 24 hours a day, that outwork everyone, that put it all on the line for their companies are our heroes. We are taught that we should be living as close to the poverty line as possible (when Next Big Sound gave their Techstars Demo Day pitch, one of their lines that got the biggest laugh: “…we are young and cheap to keep alive.”)

But what if I told you that all these years we have been lied to? What if the concept of working yourself to the bone was an antiquated as the Model T, and as effective in a remake of Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift?

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What Startups Really Need

Posted: June 30, 2013 by Tony Shipley in Ecosystem, Leadership, Startup

tonyshipleyFor those people who are connected to our community’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, you may remember the Regional Technology Initiative (RTI) created in 2001 that involved 200 people working for 100 days to create a master plan for entrepreneurial growth. Greater Cincinnati’s entrepreneurial spirit has grown phenomenally since then and the resources to support the goals have flourished.

So what do our region’s entrepreneurs really need to jump-start their businesses? Customers.

In every business, sales cures a lot of ills, and nothing of significance really happens until a company sells something. In startups creating sales is mission critical for success. Early customers provide tremendous value to startups. Sales provide much needed non-dilutive cash as it comes with no equity or debt strings attached. These transactions provide much needed validation that value exists in the product or service. No marketing study or survey can demonstrate that better than a customer exchanging their hard-earned dollars for a company’s product or service offering.

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