Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Protecting the Protectable

Posted: December 14, 2015 by Bill Cunningham in Uncategorized

Robin-miller-BlogIn today’s competitive marketplace, startup companies look to gain an economic advantage however possible. Not everyone plays fairly – so, for those who do, it has become increasingly important to protect proprietary business information.   The law provides two ways to protect this information: patents and trade secrets. While certain types of information can only be protected with patents and other types of information can only be protected as a trade secret, many types of information can be protected by both. A company must choose the best protection under the circumstances. Choose carefully – because patents and trade secrets are not created equally. When safeguarding your confidential information, the cost, the time it takes, the length of the protection must be weighed against the overall reason for protecting the information.

Patent protection. A patent can only be obtained by filing for protection with the US Patent and Trademark Office. The steps required to even attempt to get a patent could be cost prohibitive for smaller companies – a simple patent application and fees can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars. Once you file the application, it can take years before the patent ever issues – if the application is even accepted. In the end, this investment may not be worthwhile because patents are only good a limited number of years. After the patent expires, the information is no longer exclusive to the patent holder and competitors can gain access to it. If the goal is to derive exclusive, indefinite economic benefit from the information, process, or procedure, then trade secret protection may better suit your needs.

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Health is Wealth

Posted: March 8, 2015 by Chuck Matthews in Uncategorized

Dr. Chuck MatthewsThe first wealth is health.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is estimated that sleep deprivation costs the average US worker over $2,200 in lost productivity each year or $63 billion as a nation. Moreover, a lack of sleep has been linked to a myriad of undesirable health issues such as high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes.

For busy entrepreneurs, taking care of one’s health too often takes a back seat to the pursuit of what seems in the moment to be a more pressing objective – the survivability of the new venture. It is relatively easy to succumb to the temptation of taking our health for granted, especially when we are young and relatively fit and driven to make the nascent venture a success.

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Region’s startups create more jobs, seek new talent

Posted: February 16, 2015 by Amanda Greenwell in Uncategorized

AmandaGreenwellIt’s no secret that startups are drivers of job growth in the United States and here in the Tri-State. In fact, a 2010 study from the Kauffman Foundation reports that new firms add an average of three million jobs to the U.S. economy compared to existing businesses. The accelerator program I manage, UpTech, and so many other groups in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky strive to support startups’ total growth in their early stages, but the other critical need our community provides is offering local talent to fill jobs for these companies.

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Persistence and Perspiration

Posted: September 1, 2014 by Bill Cunningham in Culture, Innovation, Leadership, People, Startup, Uncategorized

bill-cunningham“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” — Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill gave a rather short commencement speech at Harrow that should inspire or dissuade every entrepreneur. Every startup goes through a Tale of Two Cities experience: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” As a founder, you come to realize that reality never follows your business plan. The worst that can happen most times never does.  The best that can happen never materializes — but often is replaced by a better result. Entrepreneurs have great imaginations without which innovation would never occur. However, when it comes to execution, you must persevere and swing for the fences. You are David facing Goliath — but you already know how that movie ends — so you keep pushing every day.

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Success = Believe in Who You Are!

Posted: August 17, 2014 by Tom Heuer in Uncategorized

Tom Heuer, Miami University Center for Entrepreneurship“Business is difficult today.” We hear this statement from the executive leaders that we consult with and from the recent graduates who are in their first or second position. We are not hearing that “business has been robust over the past few months.” Now, we wish that this was an anomaly, but reality is telling us that many companies are struggling. Beyond experiencing difficult economic times, why are many companies not meeting expectations?

The answer is very simple – most organizations are too fixated on delivering today’s results and not preparing their company for tomorrow. “Today” is important. Without today’s success, you may never arrive at tomorrow. However, many leadership teams come to the understanding way too late that organizations must prepare every day for their future. The hard work of business sustainability/growth relies on allocating time to thinking and focusing on the future. What is happening in the marketplace? How is our industry changing? What firms are entering the market innovating and creating disruption? How are our customers’ needs changing? Are these changes being factored it into our future?

Our experience is that most companies and their leadership teams can avoid sluggishness if they work hard at envisioning the future while staying true to who they are. Yes, the markets and business environment are evolving rapidly. But, leaders who are in touch with their company can adapt to disruption swiftly. The adjustment will be difficult if senior management is primarily concentrating on delivering the monthly or quarterly plan.

So, what are “real growth” companies eagerly doing to sustain their revenue opportunities? In working with clients, we have discovered five distinct approaches:

  1. These companies know who they are and have worked hard to share this with their stakeholders. The leaders believe in their identity. This belief inspires their view of the future. So, with support of their stakeholders, they are committed to their vision long term.
  2. Culture is everything to these companies. Success starts with a defined culture. Leaders embrace and promote the culture. They hire people and entice customers who reflect their values and culture. Culture adherence makes companies powerful.
  3. They know their customers intimately and reinvent their product offerings and services to reflect their customers’ articulated and unarticulated needs. These companies are uncanny in creating demand and ultimately, sustaining their business – because they know their customer.
  4. By realizing their identity and understanding the customer intimately, these companies put serious resources behind developing the capabilities necessary to execute the business/service Securing the capabilities is their promise to loyal customers. This drives sustainable revenue growth.
  5. Achieving margin growth is second nature. These companies will jettison businesses, products and people that are no longer in line with their identity and/or are underperforming. This approach provides the resources to build the capabilities for delivering the value proposition and sustaining sales.

Success in today’s difficult business environment requires all companies to know their identity and stay committed to it. This is leadership’s job. Your stakeholders will expect you follow this path. So, stay disciplined and be encouraged by the company’s steady and sustained sales growth.

Please let me know your thoughts. Send me your comments – heuertm@miamioh.edu.

C4: The Creative Explosion

Posted: April 20, 2014 by Jim Friedman in Uncategorized

Jim-FriedmanCreatives are the newest business rock stars.  It wasn’t always that way.   Creativity used to be synonymous with art making.  You were creative if you could paint, write draw, sing or dance.  It’s different now.

IBM asked more than 1,500 CEOs what they believed was the single most important factor they wanted in a new hire.  Their answer?  Creativity.  The world is changing quickly. The future is unsure.  So creativity may be the single most important skill we can teach our students to prepare them for the world after graduation.

But, do we teach creativity?  Do our teachers value it?  Do they know how to foster it or even identify it? Do business executives?  Do you?  It’s not easy.

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What’s in a name?

Posted: December 14, 2013 by Vance VanDrake III in Legal, Marketing, Startup, Uncategorized

vancevandrakeWhat’s in a name?  Groups of related trademarks are often referred to as a “family.”  Businesses often treat their trademarks, their business names, and their product name or logos like their children.  A trademark indicates source (it tells purchasers where or from whom the product or service comes.) Trademarks represent the goodwill in a brand.  To be successful, you must protect your own brand with equal vigor and take precautions not to tangle with other brands that may be confusingly similar. 

Many early-stage companies with outstanding innovation, leadership, and funding fall apart because of a poor name selection process, or a misunderstanding of trademark law. This results in an expensive trademark battle or, in some cases, being forced to change a name.  Because trademark owners are so protective of trademarks, they spare no expense to eliminate all  potential threats.  These proceedings can be very expensive and disruptive to a business but are easily avoidable. (more…)

5 Startup Lessons From My Newborn

Posted: October 27, 2013 by Tim Metzner in Culture, Leadership, People, Uncategorized

Over the last 16 months I’ve had the fortune of being a 2-time new dad and new startup founder. I’ve learned a ton from both (including following either path is not for the faint of heart,) and recently realized there is much overlap in lessons learned from both worlds.

1. The right partner is everything.

Finding the right co-founder or spouse makes all the difference in the world. In fact, choose poorly on this front and eventual failure is all but certain. Things might not blow up right away, but as soon as times get rough (and they will), you’ll learn how well you chose.

So do yourself a favor and be diligent about the things that you can control. Pick a partner who complements your strengths, understands and accepts your weaknesses, and is ready AND willing to jump in the trenches when it’s time to do battle.

2. Output is important.

Every new parent tells you one of the most important things they do is meticulously monitor their output. Are they creating enough dirty diapers (both #1 & #2) to show that they are eating enough and making the transition out of the womb?

Tracking Owen’s dirty diapers, I realized the similarities to measuring early output in a startup. When launching, it’s easy to focus on the wrong things — branding, 3-year business plans, the perfect logo. Founders tend to avoid anything uncomfortable, or anything that might disprove their great idea. For this reason, focus on doing the right things to help you test and learn as quickly as possible.

3. Sleep: Take it when you can get it.

Most of us underestimate the value of sleep. Experienced parents advise you to “sleep when baby sleeps.” So when your baby decides to snooze, you seize the opportunity to get a bunch of stuff done (using both hands.) Before you know it, you’ve been non-stop since baby fell asleep and now it’s feeding time. The same happens with startups. At the end of the day and everyone has gone home, you know you should shut down.  You can’t help but think, “this is super productive time, I should just keep cranking for a while”– four hours later it’s the middle of the night and you have an 8am meeting.

Had you prioritized sleep, you’d likely be more productive today. If you get that next item checked off your list, a new one pops up. Just accept this.

4. Unplugging is underrated.

I’m terrible at this. My idea of a great family vacation includes getting up early (before everyone else) to get stuff done. The same thing happens as a parent. We love spending time with our kids, finding fun activities on the weekends, as we should!

But to be the best mom/dad/founder you can be, YOU NEED A BREAK. Taking a night off without the kids or laptop is not just selfish “me time,” it might be the best thing you can do for your family/business. Patience, understanding, and persistence are all vital to being great. So how do you keep your energy and enthusiasm up for this? Schedule weekly time away from work/family. Spend time with your spouse or co-founder doing non-work/family stuff. Schedule regular time alone for reflection, fun, and just relaxing–even if it’s just 30 minutes a week.

5. Don’t forget to enjoy the journey.

After the arrival of our first son, my wife and I were trying to figure out life as new parents when I turned on some music and start singing and having fun with Nolan. My wife instantly remarked “Oh yeah, we’re supposed to have fun with him — aren’t we!?” As new parents there is an incredible sense of responsibility. Those first days can be overwhelming and stressful, which is why a sudden burst of fun refreshes your soul.

The same applies to startups. Starting a company is just crazy overwhelming. Startup entrepreneurs undergo a ton of pressure and stress that often causes them to work their butts off without taking any time to celebrate.

But guess what… you should! It’s OK to have fun and celebrate success. In fact, You’ll have a healthier culture (both work and family) if you make it a habit .

Overcoming Obstacles

Posted: September 22, 2013 by Chuck Matthews in Uncategorized

Nothing is an obstacle unless you say it is.

UC Chuck Matthews

             — Wally “Famous” Amos, Cookie and Literacy Entrepreneur

Starting a business can be more than a little daunting. While it is easy to say all great new ventures start with an idea, it is quite another to nurture that idea into a concept with some substance, formulate a plan to bring it to reality, and ultimately launch the venture.  Entrepreneurs are particularly adept at overcoming obstacles, staying the course, and pursuing their passion when others are skeptical at best and downright negative at worst.

Wally “Famous” Amos knows a thing or two about overcoming obstacles. Beginning in 1975, he established one of the most recognizable brands of his day, Famous Amos Chocolate Chip Cookies.  Against the odds, he achieved success building the first stand-alone retail cookie chain in the U.S.  Vision, passion, and a gift for promotion were the ingredients in his recipe for making his dream a reality and overcoming obstacles that came his way. Even when one of his key investors pulled out right before his grand opening, Amos didn’t panic, but persevered.

Here are some of the key lessons that I have learned over the years that can guide you on the path to turn an idea into a venture.  Let’s get STARTed. (more…)