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Friday, December 12, 2008

Hewlett & Packard, Bacon & Morgan

Earlier this week, Merc columnist Mike Cassidy wrote a touching tribute to entrepreneurial engineer Karl Bacon, who died Nov. 14 at age 98:
In 1946, Bacon and partner Ed Morgan opened the Arrow Development Co. in Mountain View. The two were a tight team who started out doing some machine work for HP and just about anything else that would bring cash through the door. Bacon was the math mind, a self-taught engineer who tended to figure out what needed to be made while Morgan concentrated on how to manufacture it.

Then Morgan got the idea that they could build a merry-go-round for the city of San Jose, which they did. Soon a man named Walt Disney was talking to them about coming up with some rides for a new park he was opening in Anaheim. They did that, too.

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, Mad Tea Party, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, It's a Small World, Alice in Wonderland, Matterhorn Bobsleds, Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion and more.

"They did most of the rides in Fantasyland," says Jane Bacon, 87, Karl's wife of 67 years.
The article goes on to talk about all their other major contributions to amusement park rides. While we don’t think of this as a high tech business, during its heyday 40-50 years ago, this was obviously state of the art.

Other tributes on the Internet include a discussion of their Matterhorn design, and the bio on Amusement Today, and a review of the book about them. Amazon also sells that book, which documents their 20 year relationship with Uncle Walt and his fantasy-land.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Engineering is "sexy" again?

At least Business Week pundit Vivek Wadhwa seems to think so. (Something about Wall Street jobs being in short supply nowadays).

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Forbes discovers mobile phone classes

As a follow up to my earlier post on teaching mobile phone programming, this evening Forbes reported on programming classes. Reporter Elizabeth Woyke talked to professors at MIT, Stanford (iPhone), Columbia (iPhone and Android), as well as a Google evangelist.

The overlap between her story and our visit was the course taught by Prof. Hal Abelson and Andrew Yu, MIT's head of mobile services (who we did not meet). Woyke reported:
Abelson and Yu view themselves as training the next generation of mobile entrepreneurs. The course is structured around weekly critiques to teach students project management and presentation skills. Adult mentors who work in the mobile industry provide guidance in and out of class. "There's a lot of asking, 'Why will people use this?'" Abelson says. "We tell the mentors to treat them like real start-ups."
As more mobile development courses pop up, they will naturally become more specialized, Abelson says. He advises future classes to embrace themes, such as creating applications for the developing world, to keep things challenging. "Making something for a phone will be old news. There has to be some other spin," he says.
As with my own first-hand observations, these accounts suggest a win-win proposition. Students get credit for taking a class on programming, but by developing applications in a new and emerging industry segment — as with PCs in the 80s or the web in the 90s — they develop cutting edge skills that may be immediate relevant in a commercial (or entrepreneurial) context.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Teaching mobile programming

1st of 4 parts.

I’ve spent time the last two weeks visiting various universities to see how they do research and teaching on mobile phone programming. I’m posted on the research elsewhere, but wanted to summarize here what I learned about teaching at MIT, Georgia Tech and UCLA.

Based on what I’ve seen, the model for a mobile phone programming class would be a project-based class that combines needs analysis, use cases and prototype system development. Add in some sort of revenue model analysis, and you have a course that introduces budding software engineers to the possibility of entrepreneurship. (Absent revenue model analysis you have the typical engineering “make something cool and let’s see if we can sell it.”)

The class assumes students already have basic programming down pat, and also have at least one project course under their belt. This would be either a master’s level class or an upper division class that follows (say) software engineering.


Building Mobile Applications. The most famous course on this topic probably that by Hal Abelson, who is now the dean of teaching programmers at MIT. 24 years ago he shifted the EECS introduction to programming to Scheme (MIT’s local dialect of Lisp) with his text, Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs.

We met with Abelson for nearly an hour to discuss his Spring and Fall 2008 classes offered to MIT CS undergraduates. The spring course (Building Mobile Applications with Android) got great writeups, perhaps because one of his teams won $300K in prize money from the Android Developer Challenge, Google’s Java programming contest.
The student application, Locale, was one of the first made available on the Android Market, and the team is evaluating commercial possibilities. Not a bad return for a 13-week class.

This semester, the class has 10 teams and about 40 students. For Abelson, a founding director of the Free Software Foundation, the iPhone was ruled out due to Apple’s NDA requirements for iPhone developers (abandoned too late for this semester). The projects are instead spread across three platforms.

Instead of being entirely about Android, the Fall course has more balance. Four projects are using Android in Java. Three are using Microsoft Visual Studio and the Windows Mobile SDK, supported by Microsoft Research New England. The remaining three are supported by the Nokia Research Center in Cambridge — two Java applications and one using Python (PyS60).

The class is extremely labor-intensive. Abelson credited Andrew Yu, (manager of mobile services for MIT) with much of the work. Each team has an industry veteran mentor — essentially a voluntary TA. Paul Oka of MSR said he spends 3 hours/week in the class and team meeting, and as much as another 5 hours early in the semester when the students are getting started.

Pervasive Computing. Abelson’s was not the first mobile phone programming course at MIT. Larry Rudolph taught a series of pervasive computing courses, first with the iPaq and then with Nokia phones using PyS60. From this effort, he wrote a boo to provide a Bluetooth programming tutorial and a 2003 pedagogy article in IEEE Pervasive Computing.

NextLab. Abelson’s course is not even the only mobile phone course at MIT this semester. If Rudolph’s course was more technology-oriented than Abelson’s, then the Nextlab course at the Media Lab is more project and need oriented, with a distinct social entrepreneurship spin. The “NextLab” course is part of MIT’s “Next Billion Network,” referring to the next 1 billion cell phone users expected to be added over the next four years — mostly in less developed countries.

We met one of the NextLab instructors (Luis Sarmenta) and visited a class session run by the other (Jhonatan Rotberg). We heard presentations by three projects, servicing Mexican farmers, rural Indian mobile commerce, and Boston low income preschool parents.


In Spring 2008, Deborah Estrin taught “Current Topics in Computer System Modeling Analysis.” The class held 25 students — typical for a lab class — mostly master’s students, and was taught uses PyS60 with the Nokia N95.

The assignments are consistent with Estrin’s large research project on mobile sensing, with the students assigned to gather location and sound data and plot the data using Google map APIs. The 12 projects tended (not surprisingly) towards mobile social media.

Georgia Tech

At the College of Computing, there was other interest in mobile computing among researchers. I found two classes.

Mobile Computing. Thad Starner is a longtime (and prolific) researcher on pervasive and ubiquitous computing. Thus, it’s not surprising he’s taught several courses on “Mobile & Ubiquitous Computing.” I couldn’t find the website, but Starner said this semester he’s teaching about 45 students using the OpenMoko handset. Openness is a big deal to Starner, who is well known around Tech for not doing any business with Microsoft.

Augmented Reality Games. Conversely, Blair MacIntyre is teaching augmented reality (the intersection of virtual reality and reality) game programming using Gizmondo. This discontinued Windows CE-based handheld gaming console has limited communications capabilities.

Other Schools

My list is of necessity incomplete: I haven’t been able to visit all of the top C.S. programs in the country. Each school visit took a minimum of 2.5 hours, and then there’s the matter of the plane tickets. Here are a few that I found on the web.

Stanford. At least one faculty that I met this week mentioned Stanford’s course, “iPhone Application Programming,” being offered this quarter (Fall 2008).

Carnegie Mellon is offering a course this semester entitled “Mobile and Pervasive Computing.”

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ending performance reviews

S.Culbert's Beyond Bullsh*t(Beyond Bullsh*t: Straight-Talk at Work (Hardcover))2008The WSJ small biz blog this morning highlights a provocative column on HR practices by UCLA Professor Samuel Culbert. That it’s provocative seems to go without saying, since Culbert’s motto (and subtitle of his latest book) is “straight talk at work.”

Culbert wrote in Monday’s WSJ arguing that performance reviews are a bad idea. On the WSJ (inside the paywalll?), he also has a video on dealing with bad performers and a podcast for employees on dealing with a bad review.

From my days as a software entrepreneur, the column resonated with me, because my employees (including the software engineers and testers) always wanted a review, and I always hated doing them. So having someone telling me I shouldn’t do them seems like found money.

To summarize from the pullquote:
The Promise: Performance reviews are supposed to provide an objective evaluation that helps determine pay and lets employees know where they can do better.
The Problems: That's not most people's experience with performance reviews. Inevitably reviews are political and subjective, and create schisms in boss-employee relationships. The link between pay and performance is tenuous at best. And the notion of objectivity is absurd; people who switch jobs often get much different evaluations from their new bosses.
He lists 7 reasons why they’re a bad idea:
  1. Two People, Two Mind-Sets. The review is confrontational because the two sides have different goals.
  2. Performance Doesn't Determine Pay. Often the review is a rationalization for the eventual (budget constrained) salary decision, rather than a review of performance.
  3. Objectivity Is Subjective. Objectivity is a myth: employees change bosses, their reviews change dramatically.
  4. One Size Does Not Fit All. The same checklist is used for all, although people have different strengths and should be evaluated by different criteria.
  5. Personal Development Is Impeded. Employees won’t be honest about areas where they need to improve if it comes back to haunt them at review time.
  6. Disruption To Teamwork. The boss is supposed to lead a team but the review causes employees to conceal and be dishonest, undercutting trust.
  7. Immorality Of Justifying Corporate Improvement. The reviews are supposed to improve performance and the company, but actually they just encourage political behavior.
I don’t completely buy his proposed alternative, which he calls a “performance preview.” However, as a teacher, a parent and someone who was a tech employer for 15 years, I do agree with the goals of his alternative process:
Holding performance previews eliminates the need for the boss to spout self-serving interpretations about what already has taken place and can't be fixed. Previews are problem-solving, not problem-creating, discussions about how we, as teammates, are going to work together even more effectively and efficiently than we've done in the past.
Anything that turns a review from a win-lose to a win-win is a good idea in my book. Also, my personal and business philosophy was always look forward, not back.

The only thing missing is how to adjust salaries, since that was the entire reason employees all pushed for a review. I guess for that I have to buy the book.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Cleantech Venture Challenge

Cross posted to Cleantech Business

The University of Colorado at Boulder is preparing to host its 4th annual Cleantech Venture Challenge, an international business plan competition for new ventures that somehow address a “sustainability” need. The business plan competition is sponsored by the Deming Center for Entrepreneurship at the Colorado’s Leeds School of Business.

The competition uses a three-stage process. An intent to compete must be filed by Nov. 21, followed by a complete business plan on January 30, 2009. The eight semifinalists will come to Denver March 17-19 for the final rounds and the ultimate selection. The National Renewable Energy Lab (in nearby Golden, CO) will also invite the top renewable energy project to present at NREL.

The top prize is $25,000. The finals will also coincide with a sustainable business summit to be held at the Denver convention center, part of the state’s efforts to position itself in the cleantech business.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

10 fatal assumptions

In providing feedback to my MBA entrepreneurship students, I went looking for information on market sizing assumptions.

I didn’t find what I was looking for, but I did find another interesting document, from Purdue University’s extension program. The note on “Fatal Business Planning Assumptions” by Cole Ehmke of Purdue offers a list of 10 common but flawed assumptions made by new ventures.

Although he’s in agricultural economics, the first three would resonate with any tech entrepreneur or investor:
  1. We have no competition
  2. All we need is 2% of the market
  3. Our product will sell itself
I would love to see a “10 most common tech startup mistakes” list, but for now this is a suitable cautionary list.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Latest research on high-tech startups

Since 2003, an informal consortium of four (now five) West Coast research universities have been hosting an annual research conference on technology entrepreneurship. The 6th West Coast Research Symposium on Technology Entrepreneurship was held earlier this month at Stanford (engineering not business). The other sponsoring organizations are USC, Oregon, Washingto and UC Irvine.

The conference is no longer just a West Coast affair, but this year drew an national (if not international) contingent of tech entrepreneurship researchers, with presenters from MIT, Wharton, Illinois, Northwestern and INSEAD (among others). Because it’s a small conference — consisting mainly of the paper authors and discussants — there’s not enough room for all the people who want to attend.

In an interesting innovation, Stanford has put MP3 files of all the presentations up on the Stanford Technology Ventures Program website. (Independent of WCRS, the STVP also has an impressive list of talks posted to its own iTunes U site as well as its own website).

Next year’s conference will be back at UW Seattle. Let’s hope that this innovation becomes a regular feature of the program.

Friday, September 12, 2008

IFRS tax increase

The SEC and other leading accounting and regulatory organizations are stampeding to switch US accounting rules from GAAP to IFRS. The question is not if, but when.

The nominal goal is to provide both comparability across nations, and also to simplify the accounting practices of MNCs that operate in multiple markets. (Of course, as with SOx, the shift will provide full employment for accounting firms like PWC and KPMG).

The reaction of engineering entrepreneurs to GAAP or IFRS would be MEGO. Of course, this is about the reaction an accountant would have to a discussion of the relative merits of Si or SiC as semiconductor substrates, or the platform requirements for building a service oriented architecture.

However, when I was a (non-MBA) entrepreneurial software engineer, the second class I could in night school was accounting: I needed to understand how financial performance was measured in my tiny startup and how to talk to my CPA. (The first class I took was strategy, which I thought was the most fun — an opinion I still hold more than 15 years later).

This brings me to a letter to the editor in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal highlighted the accounting impact that IFRS will have on small businesses:
New Accounting Standard Offers Benefits, Problems
In "Closing the Information GAAP" (Information Age, Sept. 8). Gordon Crovitz has done a public service by informing the business community of the pending consequences of the adoption of the International Financial Reporting Standards. As a member of the Financial Accounting Standards Board's Small Business Advisory Committee, I can relate that IFRS has been a subject of discussion in our past two meetings.

What Mr. Crovitz does not state is the tax implications facing businesses adopting IFRS. Mr. Crovitz is correct in that IFRS does not accept the last-in, first-out method of inventory. IFRS only accepts the first-in, first-out method. Nor does IFRS accept mark-to-market accounting. Businesses changing from the LIFO method to the FIFO method will experience significant tax increases. Only congressional action protecting the entire business community can avert this unwelcome tax increase. According to my sources, the IRS is also currently working on the preparation of guidance materials for the anticipated adoption of IFRS.

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants has developed a Web site to provide important information (www.ifrs.com). The implications of IFRS will be far and wide regardless of which party controls Congress in the next few years. The time to begin preparing is now. The time to contact our congressional representatives to protect businesses is now.

Leonard Steinberg, E.A.
West Windsor, N.J.
In an inflationary environment LIFO will increase taxes for manufacturing (or retailing) firms — because profits will be recorded against the lower basis of the older inventory rather than the newer basis of the more expensive inventory. (Of course, under GAAP, firms can elect FIFO if they expect the newer inventory to be cheaper).

My sense is that startup firms — particularly small startups run by engineers — are completely ignoring what will happen when GAAP is replaced by IFRS. But this stampede to help large multinationals be more efficient (generally an admirable goal) may crush the smaller, less well-funded small firms. And this doesn’t even count the switching cost of moving over to the new system.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The lighter side of raising money

Raising venture capital is an essential prerequisite to many tech startup business plans. While some companies — usually software or services — can bootstrap off of savings or credit cards, companies with high R&D or manufacturing costs need a sizable cash hoard before they see first revenues (let alone profits).

In teaching about VC, my favorite tool has been the documentary Startup.com. Although about a New York-based startup called GovWorks.com, the presentations and negotiations with Kleiner Perkins, General Atlantic and Highland Capital illustrate the broader issues faced by tech startups raising money.

A friend, serial (i.e. chronic) tech entrepreneur Doug Klein, recommended The VC, a comic strip from the dot-com era. The strip rang true: as an entrepreneur during this period, Doug swears he lived each of these vignettes at some point during their fund-raising efforts.

The comics take the point of view that the actions of VCs are funny. Some of these are painful funny, as in the VC is going to flush us because he can’t buy a clue. Most of them are about laughing at (rather than with) the VCs in some way, shape or form.

All 52 strips from 1997-2000 are online at TheVC.com Business school professors (and public speakers) have been using Dilbert cartoons for a decade to lighten up discussions of project management, managers and (more generally) corporate bureaucracies. This site is a source of illustrations for one aspect of tech startups.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Creating firms and an industry

[1985 Man of the Year]One of the major goals of our entrepreneurship program at San José State is to identify and re-establish ties with successful alumni entrepreneurs. We have a number of College of Business graduates who achieved success in low-tech startups, most notably Peter Ueberroth, Don Lucas, Gary Sbona and Mike Sinyard.

However, the most visible successes have come from our tech entrepreneurs. A few people know that Gordon Moore spent 2 years at SJSU (where he met his wife) before graduating from Cal, and then Caltech and going on to Shockley Labs, Fairchild and Intel. (Not to mention Moore’s Law).

In addition to semiconductors, two other SJSU alumni helped create the disk drive industry that made PCs possible.

Last April we had as a guest speaker serial entrepreneur Larry Boucher (who has an EE from Cal and both a BS and MBA from SJSU). He worked for Shugart Associates before founding Adaptec, Auspex and Alacritech. He was a technical pioneer that made both SCSI and NAS possible.

An even more compelling story is Finis Conner, who got a 1969 degree in industrial management. Conner founded three major disk drive companies: with Al Shugart, he co-founded both Shugart Associates (1973) and Seagate Technology (1979). Without Al, he created Conner Peripherals in 1986.

Very few people have created both firms and an industry the way that Shugart and Conner did. Certainly Moore and Andy Grove deserve credit for helping to create the semiconductor industry (and Intel), as the two Steves did with PCs and Apple Computer.

What is cool is when an entrepreneur can have success creating an industry, as well as technical success, business/shareholder success, and personal financial rewards. SJSU can be proud of its major successes here, even if they are far fewer than Stanford or Cal (let alone MIT).

Monday, August 11, 2008

Users becoming entrepreneurs

Last week I was at the HBS-MIT User and Open Innovation workshop. The conference is mostly (but not entirely) about user innovation in the footsteps of Eric von Hippel and his 1988 and 2005 books.

One of the major subthemes was on user innovators who become entrepreneurs. I’ve summarized the research I heard on the open innovation blog, but here wanted to comment on its applicability to facillitating engineering entrepreneurship.

One of the examples cited was Medtronic, the $14 billion/year firm founded by an electrical engineer and his brother-in-law to repair medical equipment. They were not user innovators, but to make their first pacemaker they involved doctors (i.e. pacemaker buyers, i.e. users) in the design.

This raises a question of how to best commercialize at the intersection of a highly technical user (in this case, MDs or scientists) and highly technical production processes (e.g. engineering of a human-wearable medical device). In this case, science is the customer — as with say instruments for radioastronomy — as opposed to being the input for the engineering (as with the WW II RadLab physicists enabling microwave radar).

So what if you have a product category that requires a combination of engineering competencies with deep knowledge of science, which belongs on the founding team? Are the engineers — who talk to doctors — more likely to succeed? Or does the advantage lie with a doctor-founder who hires engineers? The first is an example of a lead-user approach, while the second is user entrepreneurship.

My hunch (not immediately provable) is that the most important factor is none of the above. Instead, I suspect the driving force will be the same as with any other tech startup: how much business knowledge does the technical founder have — or, lacking such knowledge, how much is the founder willing to defer/listen to those with such knowledge?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Build or flip?

Once upon a time, tech entrepreneurs were motivated by a desire to build something of lasting value: a better mousetrap, a great company, or to change the world. In 1938, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard sold eight oscilloscopes to Walt Disney, who was making Fantasia. Seventy years later, the successor business-to-business instrument division is at the core of Agilent.

It always helped to have good timing — either by being lucky or making your own luck. HP was there when Disney (and soon the war effort) needed electronic instruments. Fairchild bet big on silicon just as the military was shifting from tubes to transistors. Intel took the integrated circuit to the next level with its 4004 microprocessor, and bought back the rights from Busicom. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak went to the Homebrew Computer Club and saw how the microprocessor would enable personal computing.

In the original waves of tech startups, going public meant generating enough of a track record of revenues and profits that investors could reasonably hope that your stock would go up. Those (relatively rare) IPOs meant a few tech entrepreneurs got to be fabulously wealthy and endow vanity foundations (that today seem likely to do less good for society than their companies did). But the wealth was not the thing, at least until the hippies of Apple Computer created dozens of millionaires with their IPO, and later IPOs from companies like Sun, Oracle and SGI permanently changed the Silicon Valley mentality.

However, a much larger number of companies didn’t change the world, or create large (or even small) fortunes. Instead, they provided value to their customers, income and training to their employees, and a chance to have a vocation of meaningful work. It’s a standard power law distribution: if you buy a lottery ticket, you’re far more likely to win $5 than $50 million.

This more typical path was my own experience. We didn’t have an exit strategy because I hadn’t heard of the term when we started the company in 1987. Every penny that I made off the company came out of positive cash flow which (without the benefit of reduced capital gains taxation) is a much harder to way to throw off profits. But we produced good quality software for 17½ years before closing the doors in 2004.

The dot-com bubble seems to have changed things. Companies went public without profits and sometimes barely with revenues. There was a gold rush mentality and people who weren’t really qualified (either by talent, ethics or disposition) to build a real company were looking for a get rich quick scheme. This has continued into the current Web 2.0 era, as I was reminded when I gave a presentation at USC Thursday on Web 2.0 business modes.

So the new mantra is “flip this company.” As a 2004 Business 2.0 article proclaimed

The New Road to Riches
How To Get Ahead In The Postbubble World
Build A Company Cheap. Flip It Fast. Repeat.

Flipping a company today is about selling out to a big company ina just a few years: the Holy Grail is the $1.8 billion that Google paid for YouTube after only 18 months. However, the philosophy is similar to the dot-bomb (some say dot-con) era, companies built using this philosophy were sold to the public as a naked demonstration of the “greater fool” school of ethics.

This may be the road to riches, but it’s not a way for entrepreneurs to create value or success (more broadly defined). This philosophy was dissected by author Jim Collins in a thoughtful 2000 essay. He illustrated a point using a 1985 medical equipment startup:

The real question, the essential question is this: Is your company built to work? The answer rests on three criteria: excellence, contribution, and meaning. Again, consider Cardiometrics. The company may not have been built to last, but in all of its activities, it adhered to the highest possible standards: Instead of relying on expedient studies and marketing hype, it conducted rigorous, costly clinical trials in order to demonstrate the value of its technology. And the company clearly made a significant contribution -- to the market, to its investors, and to the lives of patients all over the world. Finally, the people of Cardiometrics found their work to be intrinsically meaningful: They worked with colleagues whom they respected and even loved, and they pursued a worthy aim to the best of their ability. Built to Flip? Built to Last? Cardiometrics embodies neither of these models: It was built to work.
Today, I believe that the opportunities for startups to IPO are greatly diminished, for a variety of reasons. IT is mature with a large number of diversified established incumbents. Biotech startups have disappointed investors with both the risk and the payoff. Both types of startups lack the complementary assets such as distribution or economies of scope to fully capitalize on their innovations.

Today startups are being acquired, and sometimes a piddly little company can create a value that they will be unable to unlock on their own, but can be realized by a Google or a Cisco. But in a free economy, every excess eventually self-corrects, so if acquiring companies don’t get value, they will buy fewer companies and pay less for those that they get — or their mistakes will put them out of business.

Either way, assuming that a bad business will be bought at a good price seems like a lousy bet.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Who deserves SBIR funding?

The Wall Street Journal reported this week on an ongoing controversy over eligibility for SBIR funding. This follows up on earlier reporting by the Washington Business Journal.

The Small Business Innovation Research program (established 1982) provides grants of about $200K for Phase I and $1.5 million for Phase II from 12 cabinet departments and agencies. In addition, five of these agencies administer SBTTR (Small Business Technology Transfer) grants — which are similar to an SBIR except they require cooperation with a university or federal research lab. The grants are funded by a Congressional mandated set aside of 2.5% of their research budgets.

An entire industry has developed around SBIR. At the university-industry conference last week at UCI, it is clear that states see integrating with SBIR is one of the easiest and most effective parts of a regional innovation strategy, as with the presentation by Lee Herron of the Georgia Regional Alliance. Drafting off the SBIR screening and legitimation, states can provide matching funds or bridge funds for firms that have won a first SBIR and are awaiting receipt of follow-on funds

The SBIR was created by PL 97-219:
The Congress finds that
  1. technological innovation creates jobs, increases productivity, competition, and economic growth, and is a valuable counterforce to inflation and the United States balance-of-payments deficit;
  2. while small business is the principal source of significant innovations in the Nation, the vast majority of federally funded research and development is conducted by large businesses, universities, and Government laboratories; and
  3. small businesses are among the most cost-effective performers of research and development and are particularly capable of developing research and development results into new products.
Therefore, the purposes of the Act are
  1. to stimulate technological innovation;
  2. to use small business to meet Federal research and devel- opment needs;
  3. to foster and encourage participation by minority and disadvantaged persons in technological innovation; and
  4. to increase private sector commercialization innovations derived from Federal research and development.
The SBIR program is the envy of the world — other countries want to copy “the world’s largest seed capital fund.”

Today, however, there is a controversy about SBIR eligibility. In particular, the question is whether VC funded firms are eligible for SBIR funding. The rules were tightened in 2004 after the GAO investigated on behalf of Congress.

Of course, VC funded firms don’t care for this rule. The biotech industry trade association has been lobbying since 2003 to get the rule repealed, because very few biotech firms get started without VC. Their opposition has been far less organized, with people like SBIR consultant Gene Watson of Wyoming  and some bloggers fighting to keep the restrictions.

There are arguments on both sides.

The VCs and their supporters say that the ideas that have already attracted outside capital are better quality ideas than the average submission and thus should be included. Of course, the biotech industry also cite the importance of innovation in their industry to human health and well-being.

While that’s true, there are several possible arguments in favor of the restrictions.

First, the restriction does not prevent VC-funded firms, only those that are 49+% owned by firms or investment funds. If the VCs don’t dilute their entrepreneurs, then biotechs can get funded. Or biotechs can get funded early in their life before heavy dilution. This would be consistent with the use of an SBIR as a seed capital fund.

Second, the SBIR funding is relatively small compared to the VC funding; a quick check suggested the average 2005 Series A was $21 million but today is more like $30 million. So reducing SBIR funding by $500K will just force the VCs to pony up another 1.5%, perhaps diluting the founders another 3% or so. Relaxing the restriction would reduce the amount of money VCs have to put into biotechs — but (economists would predict) not allow biotechs to develop any drugs they would otherwise be unavailable to do.

This leads to the final point. The point of the SBIR would appear to be to make sure that small businesses that don’t have money to fund their innovations have a way to do so. The VC-backed firms have shown they can raise money, so the question is just who’s going to put up the money to fund their innovations — the government or the VCs.

This year, the biotechs are winning handily. A change to explicitly allow VC-funded firms to get SBIR grants is incorporated in the SBIR reauthorization bill H.R. 5819, which has passed the House 368-43 and is heading to the Senate. A quick glance at the votes suggests that won support of all Democrats and all but a few Republicans (not clear if their opposition is from the small business-friendly “Main Street” wing or from the anti-spending Libertarian wing).

Given the SBIR program expires Sept. 30, there will be pressure to pass some sort of reauthorization bill. Given the lopsided House vote, it seems unlikely the Senate will reinstate the restriction. It appears that the WSJ story was prompted by efforts to publicize the fight by the National Small Business Association, but for the average citizen or politician, this would appear to be an esoteric policy fight.

Monday, June 30, 2008

OC learns to do tech entrepreneurship

This week I’m attending a 2-day conference on university-industry relations at the West Coast home of the National Academies of Science and Engineering, back at my alma mater, UCI.

The event is taking place at the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center — named using the profits from Beckman Instruments, founded in 1935 to make instruments to help grow oranges. Beckman Coulter is now a $3 billion/year company based in nearby Fullerton.

One of the sessions was about UCI’s efforts at developing a technology entrepreneurship ecosystem for Orange County, which has a population of 3.1 million but (unlike most urban counties in California) has no single dominant city.

My PhD studies at UCI overlapped UCI’s first push, with Accelerate (1989 to 1997), a SBDC that was a pale knock-off of the grandaddy of all public university tech hub programs, UCSD’s Connect. Having met Bill Otterson (the successful entrepreneur who created Connect and ran it until his death in 1999), the event planner at the head of Accelerate never had a prayer of duplicating 10% of that success.

Having been away from UCI since 2002 (except an occasional visit now and then and again), it is clear that UCI’s role in this innovation ecosystem has changed dramatically since then.

Phase II began in 2002, and was much more successful. In the Fall 2002, a new program called OCTANe was co-founded by a local executive (Dwight Decker, Chairman of Conexant) and a UCI’s vice-chancellor for fundraising (ex-MIT ILO head Tom Moebus). The program gets a couple of people from UCI, but otherwise is funded outside — from industry membership, program fees or from nonprofit grants.

Headed since March 2004 by Gary Augusta, the organization has an interesting (and perhaps unique) structure.
So far, it has helped create 27 companies, mostly in IT and biomedical. While that’s a small part of the 650 VC-backed companies, it’s a pretty good track record for this new program.

UCI is the informal hub of the OCTANe model, but UCI is more directly at the center of two other initiatives, which were recounted by Dave Schetter, outgoing head of the UCI tech transfer office.

One is the role that UCI plays (like other universities) in accelerating the commercialization of its own technologies through its tech transfer office. Starting from university licensed technology, UCI helps get funding from SBIR, STRR and UC Discovery Grants. To facilitate tech transfer, it also colocates researchers and startups in industrial space at the UCI research park. The acceleration model was a complex PowerPoint animation — I hope that the JPEG below captures some of it.

Second, UCI, its TTO and its entrepreneurship center are jointly running Orange County Business Incubation Network, a group of local incubators. Two already exist — Orange Coast Medical Ventures and Tech Coast Works (IT) — and two others in biotech and aerospace are planned.

Between successful startups (like Allergan, Broadcom and Conexant) and retirees, OC has capital available for startups. One legitimate question from the floor was how to create this sort of infrastructure for tech startups without such capital — which is not a problem that California clusters really have to worry about.

What does it take to create such a system? Augusta said three things: money, leadership and a catalyst to change the culture and create cooperation across boundaries and silos.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Product design and tech startups

The Wall Street Journal had a special section this week on the importance of product design. It’s currently available free, although (as with other stuff on their site) you can never tell what’s going to end up behind the pay wall.

I’m becoming increasingly convinced of the importance of product design in both the practice and teaching of technology-based startups. In general, firms that enter a high-tech market tend to enter based on innovation (Dell being the obvious exception). And — particularly given Apple’s influence with the iPod and iPhone — good product design is increasingly important as a differentiator.

This means that startups often need good design skills to have their products noticed in the market. We tend to think of industrial design — the shape of the device, placement of buttons, etc.

But as a Mac programmer of nearly 20 years, we also got drilled into us the importance of user interface design — which Xerox got (e.g. with the Mesa, Alto and SmallTalk systems), Apple refined, but many Windows software companies long ignored. Apple has carried this over to the iPhone: the features that the iPhone has are not exceptional, but the ease of use is. And from what I’ve seen, Apple’s high standards for Macintosh UIs have carried over to 3rd parties on the iPhone.

This also carries over into education. Stanford has an acclaimed (and AFAIK unique) Design Division within its Mechanical Engineering department. SJSU locates its design department within the combined School of Art and Design. As with other SJSU programs (like EE, CS and business), the design program provides the largest share of local design workers due to our size and that majority of our graduates end up in Santa Clara County. The design students were quite prominent in our recent Silicon Valley Business Plan Competition.

My favorite story in the special section was about the new masonry field saw developed by MK Diamond. It sounded like an important breakthrough in portability and usability for a very mature product category. More interestingly, it had elements of user innovation in the story, which was interesting both because the users got involved in developing the technology — and also that the manufacturer listened.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Georgia Tech’s TI:GER program

Last month, I was fortunate to be able to attend a workshop on technology management education that was held at Georgia Tech. The workshop emphasized the interdisciplinary nature of such education. Earlier I blogged about Harvard’s brand new technology commercialization program, instituted by Lee Fleming and his colleagues.

But with the press of work, I didn’t write up what was covered about our host’s program, the Georgia Tech TI:GER program. The program was initially funded by a National Science Foundation IGERT grant, but with the expiration of the grant is seeking replacement funding. Host Marie Thursby created the TI:GER program, based on her earlier program at Purdue.

Eccb810Ae7A0352Ce0Ed9110. Aa160 .LPart of the importance of the program was transfer to other programs. One mechanism for that was the publication of a book of readings edited by Thursby and Gary Libecap. The chapters are among the readings used in the three semester-length core courses for the TI:GER students.

The TI:GER program is jointly sponsored by Georgia Tech and the Emory Law school. Each interdisciplinary team includes a Georgia Tech MBA student, two Emory law students, and a science or engineering PhD student (3rd or 4th year) from Georgia Tech. The learning goals for the team members are:
  • S&E PhDs: become aware of business and legal issues, produce a dissertation of technical merit and market relevance and (perhaps) commercialize their own technology;
  • MBAs, JDs: get experience in technical research setting; and
  • All: communication/team skills
So far the program has included 190 students in six years. One of the teams — Syzygy Memory Plastics, with Ph.D. student Walter Voit explaining the potential of the technology to make objects that will spring into any shape.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Tracking MIT tech startups

If you’re looking for technology entrepreneurship, most academics think of MIT and Stanford. Both schools — driven more by the entrepreneurial attitudes of their engineering students than their business schools — have spawned thousands of tech-based startups. Of course, I’m a little biased (as an MIT alumnus and a keeper of the Silicon Valley myth of exceptionalism).

Looking for something else, I found the Xconomy blog, founded (by among others) by the former editor of MIT’s magazine, Technology Review. Although it’s organized as a blog, it’s more like an online magazine.

Last year, they had two really interesting articles on MIT entrepreneurship. One contrasted MIT and Harvard tech transfer. Another chronicles recent Boston tech startups (including a list of the startups).

On a lighter note, they profile the entrepreneurial activities of the successful MIT blackjack team fictionalized in the movie 21 (based on the book Bringing Down The House).

There are plenty of blogs about Silicon Valley tech entrepreneurship — led by VentureBeat and ValleyWag. Xconomy seems to be the only comparable Boston blog, and as long as MIT alumni continue to create tech startups, one worth monitoring.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Harvard’s tech startup successes

[Zuckerberg]While Harvard students, Bill Gates co- founded Microsoft in 1975, and Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook in 2004. There weren’t a lot of home runs in between. Unlike the little science school down the road, Harvard doesn’t have a lot of big success stories.

The small business column of the Wall Street Journal has a long feature on today’s incipient entrepreneurship among current Harvard students, encouraged by Zuckerberg as a role model.

Based on my own experience and research, my sense is that student (or you alumni) entrepreneurship succeeds based on four factors:
  • student intelligence/ability
  • cultural attitudes surrounding the nascent entrepreneurs — family, friends, faculty, fellow students, local industry. (This is Stanford’s secret weapon, dating back to the Terman days).
  • formal preparation, such as technology entrepreneurship programs
  • external demand conditions, like starting a dot-com in 1998 or Web 2.0 company in 2004.
Harvard obviously has smart students, and now it has a real engineering school which (if it’s like other engineering schools) will be filled with faculty interested in solving real problems.

The WSJ talks about the culture issues. I hope that it’s more about empowerment — a belief in the possible through the Zuckerberg existence proof. But (as with a decade ago) there’s a hint that greed is a (the?) major factor. Wanting financial returns is fine, but great startups are created by entrepreneurs who want to change the world, not those who are counting the days to their IPO.

Photo by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid via Flickr.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

SJSU's prize-winning tech startups

Today we had the finals of the 6th annual Silicon Valley Business Plan Competition here at San José State. I was one of the judges that winnowed down the 69 entries to 17 semifinalists and then 8 finalists.

The first prize ($10k) was won by a low-tech business plan by a student from our undergraduate honors business program, but the second ($5k) and third ($1k) prizes went to high-tech plans from SJSU alumni:

  • nMotion plans to make a market in high-tech ads (since they don’t have a website, for now I won’t say more)
  • BayCom has developed a new text message-based reader response system it calls Dial-Send-Read.
Our four industry judges were excited by the plans, as each year we have worked to bring technology-based startup plans from other colleges across campus.

We historically have had a dilemma that I think many campuses face with their business plans. Business students can come up with well-executed plans for run-of-the-mill businesses (like restaurants), while engineering (or here, industrial design) students have great technology but a hard time making a business out of it.

As I saw at the Georgia Tech conference, the key to good technology entrepreneurship education (like real startups) is cross-disciplinary cooperation. Technology management faculty are re-inventing this wheel across the country every year.

While such cooperation is a common issue for all tech entrepreneurship, like other CSU schools we have a slightly different problem than Harvard or Georgia Tech. We’re primarily an undergraduate program: 75% of our 32,000 students are undergraduates. My sense is the matching process is a little tougher with undergraduates than graduates — perhaps because the graduates will have already experience some cooperation in the workplace.

TI:GER and the other programs are going for formal, structured cooperation as part of a curriculum. So far, we’ve gone for informal cooperation — matchmaking business students with students who have a good technology. I’d be curious to hear how others have done such informal (or at least extracurricular) cross-functional cooperation.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Japan's engineering shortage

Saturday’s NY Times reported that Japan is now facing a shortage of engineering graduates.
Rikei BanareUniversities call it “rikei banare,” or “flight from science.” The decline is growing so drastic that industry has begun advertising campaigns intended to make engineering look sexy and cool, and companies are slowly starting to import foreign workers, or sending jobs to where the engineers are, in Vietnam and India.

It was engineering prowess that lifted this nation from postwar defeat to economic superpower. But according to educators, executives and young Japanese themselves, the young here are behaving more like Americans: choosing better-paying fields like finance and medicine, or more purely creative careers, like the arts, rather than following their salaryman fathers into the unglamorous world of manufacturing.
My friend Kaz Asakawa is quoted in this article:
The problem is likely to worsen because Japan has one of the lowest birthrates in the world. “Japan is sitting on a demographic time bomb,” said Kazuhiro Asakawa, a professor of business at Keio University. “An explosion is going to take place. They see it coming, but no one is doing enough about it.”
I suppose it’s good that the smart Japanese students want to be doctors. But finance? (As elsewhere, the willingness to pursue low-paying creative careers would be a function of personal and societal wealth that allow young people to live off the previous generation.) At least it’s not lawyers, who are a net drag on high tech companies.

The US has been facing this problem for more than a decade. How do we get more engineers?
  • One way is to persuade high school guidance counselors to send colleges more students.
  • Another is to relax immigration rules (such as the H-1b), which some (such as Norm Matloff) argue is just a way to reduce wages.
  • A third is to argue — as Hal Salzman and Lindsay Lowell did in Nature earlier this month — that quality is more important than quantity — what matters is proportion of the very best technical talent.
Yet another solution is to hand out lottery tickets — incentive stock options — in hopes that the prospect of a big payout while motivate people to take the risk of working for startups. Certainly that is the philosophy around here in Silicon Valley, in other high tech regions like Seattle and San Diego, and also among MIT alumni. This afternoon I finished reading 17 semifinalists on our business plan contest, and certainly there is no shortage of engineers around here who want to start their own company.

But I have to remind myself there are still engineers (or CS types) that just want a job. These are people paid not in founder’s shares, or qualified options, but in salary. The problem is that (as with nurses and teachers), the economy needs a lot of engineers, so raising salaries across the board is a lot more expensive than paying high wages to a handful of NYSE traders or MLB players.

As I noted in researching entrepreneurship in the Asian PC industry a decade ago, two key factors are cultural attitudes towards startups and the access startups have to the domestic market. But since then I’ve realized that a third crucial factor is labor mobility by technical workers: engineers are willing to start (or join) new companies if they know they can always get a job if the startup fails, whereas historically in Japan and Korea the best jobs were available to those who joined MNCs and never left.

So increasing the attractiveness of engineering as a career both increases the supply of would-be entrepreneurs and the safety net for those who try to be entrepreneurs but fail — not to mention the supply of experienced engineers available to be raided.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Harvard’s Inventing Breakthroughs and Commercializing Science

At the Georgia Tech conference earlier this month, Lee Fleming of Harvard Business School described the program he created for technology commercialization.

The program he created is “Inventing Breakthroughs and Commercializing Science”. As the course explains its goals:
  1. it gives you the managerial insights to increase the chances that your organization will invent a breakthrough.
  2. it gives you an understanding of today's increasingly complex innovative landscape. …
  3. the project will give you hands-on experience - as a member of a multi-disciplinary team - in the development of science-based technologies such as genomics, nanotechnology, information technology, and photonics.
As with the other programs discussed at the conference, the Harvard program has a strong interdisciplinary focus. In this case, the interdisciplinary nature is that of its students, who come not just from HBS, but also from science, engineering, medicine and other schools at Harvard. (Lee said a major issue is the divergence of class schedules, which Harvard plans to correct in Fall 2009).

The program (created with Vicki Sato and Kent Bown) has four modules: breakthrough innovation, opportunity analysis, analyzing prior patents, and developing cross-disciplinary teams.

As with most research schools, Lee is encouraged to bring his research into the classroom. The readings and cases (listed below) are largely based on his own work. In this day of Google, I won’t share his insight into the pedagogical purposes of each, but let instructors get that from the teaching notes.

I first learned of Lee from his paper with David Waguespack on open standards (which I cited in my own (co-authored) paper on open source communities). We met F2F when we served as discussants together for a panel at the 2007 Academy meeting, but I’m hoping we’ll be working together more in the future.

Lee also has a personal stake, in that his wife is CEO of a startup (with early stage funding) that is based on university licensed technology. So he’s living the technology commercialization life first hand.

Below is a bibliography of the materials presented by Lee.

  • Lee Fleming, “Breakthroughs and the “Long Tail” of Innovation,” Sloan Management Reviews, 49, 1 (Fall 2007), pp 69-74.
  • Lee Fleming and Matt Marx, “Managing Creativity in Small Worlds,” California Management Review, 48, 4 (Summer 2006), pp. 6-25
Here are the cases and the Harvard Business School Publishing case numbers.
  • “Aptekar’s Unlikely Spin; Commercializing an MRI Breakthrough from Atomic Clocks and Quantum Computing,” (N1-608-064). (Teaching Note: 5-608-078)
  • “Epodia: Demise of the HBS case-writing Monopoly?” (9-605-077) and “Linux, Supplement to Epodia,” (9-606-067). (Teaching Note: 5-607-104)
  • “HP Nanotech: Partnership with CNSI,” (9-606-045). (Teaching Note: N5-607-105)
  • “Infovision (A): Technology Transfer at Georgia Tech,” (9-605-064) and “Infovision (B): TI:GER Program Assessment,” (9-605-065). (Teaching Note: N5-607-102)
  • “Photovoltaic Breakthrough,” (9-604-034). (Teaching Note: 5-606-085)
  • “Barry Ricemen at NetD” (A) (9-606-090) and (B) (9-606-151). (Teaching Note: 5-607-107)
  • “SpudSpy,” (9-605-059). (Teaching Note: 5-607-103)
Teaching Notes without Cases
  • Module Note: “Key Concepts in a Module on Managing Invention of Breakthroughs,” March 19, 2007, (5-607-109).
  • Teaching Note: “The Process of Scientific Discovery”, (5-607-126).

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Interdisciplinary tech management education

Last Thursday and Friday, I was fortunate to be invited (due to a last minute cancellation) to attend a workshop at Georgia Tech on “Graduate Education in Technology Commercialization.” The annual workshop is funded by the Kauffman Foundation and hosted by Tech’s TI:GER program.

The major theme of the 24 hours was interdispclinary (or multidiscplinary) cooperation on campuses for delivering technology management education. One of the Thursday dinner dinner speakers were Mark Allen, Senior Vice Provost for Research and Innovation at Tech. Like Allen, I really liked the idea of combining research (generating new knowledge) and innovation (in this case, commercializing knowledge) under one vice provost.

The other dinner speaker was Andrew Comrie, who lists among is various titles “Director of Graduate Interdiscplinary Programs” at Arizona. He argued that the central mission of universities — knowledge creation and knowledge transfer — require creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship. Multidisiplinary programs allow creating new knowledge. One example is the professional science master’s, such as the combined biotech/business degree offered by UA and SJSU. The PSM — once a pet project of the Sloan Foundation — is inherently interdisciplinary, often including a business component to better prepare scientists for industry careers.

The discussion of the two specific curricula — at Georgia Tech and Harvard — were also clearly interdisciplinary in both the teachers and the students. (I hope to post more later).

An important point made by host Marie Thursby was that universities are organized around discplinary lines, but companies (and real world problems) are not. At some schools crossing disciplinary silos is harder than others. In my experience, it tends to be a double whammy — an overriding loyalty to disciplinary identity also crowds out an interest in solving real (often interdisciplinary) problems, as the Sidney Harris cartoon suggests.

The program continued with a panel discussion of the interdisciplinary technology management centers at various universities, starting with Ikhlaq Sidhu and Ted Schielman of Berkeley. The panel continued with Sherry Hoskinson (of Arizona’s McGuire Center) and Jay Kesan, who talked about their Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Management at Illinois.

Clearly much of the progress here is due to Kauffman funding teaching initiatives and transfer of best practices. But it also depends on the willingness of various faculty and universities to take a risk — going beyond the conventional disciplinary silos, norms and rewards systems — in search of programs that will best prepare students for work in a multi-disiplinary world.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Five business lessons for engineers

At this year's TI:GER workshop, the most directly relevant talk was that by Ikhlaq Sidhu of UC Berkeley’s College of Engineering. Dr. Sidhu is an adjunct professor in the industrial engineering department and Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology.

Like most of the speakers, he talked about what his school has done in technology management education — in this case, 900 students taking 9 courses and/or involved in the VentureLab program. (The previous speaker, Ted Sichelman of the Berkeley law school, had enumerated the various interdisciplinary technology efforts across seven colleges at Cal).

As Sidhu explained his program, one figure jumped out at me — the supporting cast of 600 Silicon Valley professionals that get involved in the center’s programs. With names like Judy Estrin (former CTO of Cisco), such a supply would be impossible to find (let alone engage) anywhere outside Berkeley or Stanford (or maybe MIT or Harvard).

However, what I found most remarkable (i.e. worth remarking on) in his talk was a recap from the presentation he developed for last year’s workshop. Specifically, he identified five skills that today’s engineers need:
  1. To know what problem is worth solving
  2. To know how to acquire resources
  3. To be able to communicate
  4. To know how to work within and build global virtual teams
  5. To be leaders in a global economy — not commoditized contributors.
This list is now driving Berkeley’s vision of how it trains engineers.

I personally found the list compelling for three reasons. First, all five relate directly or indirectly to business issues, not the technical side of engineering. That these are hard problems is exactly why I became a business professor (rather than taking the shorter path into C.S.)

Second, the list resonates with my 15 years at Palomar Software. While global teams are recent (and a bit of a fad), the other four are the issues that my cofounder and I — two engineers in a garage — confronted when running our software company 20 years ago. Neil and I were both above average communicators, but the accuracy, precision and completeness of communication by our staff was an ongoing challenge. While Palomar eventually found problems worth solving (that were not commoditized until 2001), during the first 7 years our choices were severely constrained by lack of resources.

(In 2000-2002, when we were working with HP and its other onshore and offshore printer driver development partners, we had to confront the global teams issue, complete with 8 p.m. PST teleconferences to Bangalore).

Finally, commoditization is an issue that’s been a central theme of my Silicon Valley-oriented blog. If technology is a commodity, it will be done in India, China, or wherever the cheapest location is this year: the only economic reason to train and employ American engineers is to create value that can’t be created elsewhere.

Friday, May 2, 2008

BPC: beyond the university

I’m attending a workshop on technology commercialization programs at the Georgia Tech Ti:GER program, funded by the Kauffman foundation.

One of the speakers, from the Arizona’s McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship, mentioned one of their successful startup teams, LenSense. The company has a technology for camera phone zoom lenses that they hope to someday have embedded in 25% of the world’s phones.

What caught my eye was not that they were a mobile phone technology (an area of great personal interest) nor that they met with local angels (apparently as part of the annual business plan competition).

What was interesting was that the team entered a real (i.e. non-university) business competition — and ended up finishing in the top 12 (the only school team to do so). The competition, Mobile Rules! funded by Nokia, awarded a series of prizes in March.

Unfortunately, they didn’t finish high enough to get publicity out of Nokia, and it’s not clear what they won other than the experience. But it seems this is something that all technology entrepreneurship programs should consider — seeking out real world competitions, if nothing else to enable the students to enter such competitions again after they graduate.

Monday, April 14, 2008

CFP: Technology Management education

This CFP on technology management education is from the AMLE, top management education journal. For the purpose of this blog, it’s important to note the link back to a 2004 special issue on entrepreneurship education. See the complete call for papers.

Call for Papers
Academy of Management Learning & Education
2009 Special Issue


Guest Editors:

Phillip Phan, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Donald S. Siegel, University of California, Riverside
Mike Wright, University of Nottingham

The teaching of technology management has a long history in business schools. However, the nature of such education and its focus has changed in recent years. For example, the emphasis on entrepreneurship, venture capital, and emerging technologies has reinvigorated the discipline and brought new issues and new educators to the forefront. The rise of a knowledge-based economy has also focused greater attention on innovation and the commercialization of intellectual property. New institutions (e.g., incubators and science parks) and new organizational forms (e.g., research-based joint ventures, and technology alliances) have emerged that may have profound effects on technology management education. Non-profit institutions, most notably, universities and federal laboratories, have become much more aggressive in protecting and exploiting their intellectual property. They are also working much more closely with industry and government.


What are the implications of recent advances in entrepreneurship education (e.g., the 2004 AMLE's Special Issue on Entrepreneurship Education) for research on technology management education?


Submissions should be received by September 1, 2008 and should be accompanied by an assurance of originality and exclusivity.

About this blog

This blog is intended to explore the intersection of engineering and entrepreneurship education. Given my business card says “innovation and entrepreneurship” and my background running a startup software company, it’s a longtime interest.

Since I have other blogs, I’m not sure how much time this one will get, but it has an obvious focus distinct from the others. So we’ll see.