Your circumstances are different than most everyone else’s.
However, we can learn from other professionals’ approaches
if we have a mind to it– that is remain curious, or make up
our minds to be curious.
One of the requests from one of the new students is “how
to get involved in entrepreneurial ventures.” It got me to
thinking about things we could bring up.
Riding on a flightI learned about CCA Global Partners which
Entrepreneurs should consider new business and marketing
model described in Robbie Baxters book “The Membership
Second description by the author.
We all experience this model in societies we belong to or
consider and use internet tools.
I. Hot Questions. Share knowledge.
Geeky IT computer know-how Q&A
II. “Bold“ by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler describes
a continuation of a previous book about Abundance due to
technological innovation. When a neatly defined problem
is identified, technology and technological innovation can
provide solutions. This book does not touch on ‘unintended
consequences’ or some longer-term consequences while
trying to convince readers of future possibilities that
Entrepreneurs will find promise in the six Ds of exponentials:
digitalization, deception, disruption, dematerialization,
demonetization and democratization.
III. Wharton Leadership Program
Nano tools dialog includes interesting discussions of:
Resilience, bouncing back from setbacks
Generating ideas with stakeholders
I enjoy reading and learning approaches, new trends
and successful ideas found in the WSJ Accelerators
blog. In yesterday’s issue some outstanding ideas
were shared by Jay Samit, Cristina Bechhold and
Neil Blumenthal about a concept “Committed
Just as Neil states networking itself is an overused
and abused term. Andre Schiotzek from UCI said
the same thing when he spoke about post-doctoral
experiences a month ago. Just like Andre, Neil states
it is first making acquaintances and then friends with
with others. It is important to share our interests,
strengths and weaknesses with them.
Jay and Cristina describe strategies to start and
continue vibrant networks:
- arrive early manage where you spend your valuable
time; scope the room and break the ice with others
- target who you associate with to meet introduction
- fly first class it can generate business
- speak on panels
- be active in worthwhile charities
- mindfully attend events, conferences, shows and
seminars; use existing friendships and associations
- manage your time and your relationships–
mutual introductions and attending others’ events
Things to avoid:
- trying too hard — name dropping, embellishing your
- don’t be all “take” and no give
- avoid selling your interests and needs to the expense
Where does a new company begin? Too often we begin
with a great idea that everybody needs. In the chemical
enterprise or technical fields, this may not be the only
way. Knowing things about ‘adoption curves,’ experience
and ‘feedback loops’ is essential for adapting to the
marketplace of ideas.
MARKETING THE IDEA
Well, first let’s go with an initial idea, concept or product
innovation that will disrupt the product or service space.
Much of the literature suggests that it is appropriate to
start small and in fact begin a marketing campaign earlier
and on a different time line than the production/service
rendering and sales plans.
The marketing scheme markets the core idea to mentors
and backers first. Then, a subsequent plan markets to customers
often and in different ways.
With technical ideas we need to seek out mentors to consider
implications and unanticipated outcomes and even experienced
patent agents or attorneys. One outcome could be infringing on
someone else’s patent or someone infringing on your patent
I thought John Greathouse of Rincon Ventures offered
some ‘first rate advice’ on how to act prudently to avoid IP
catastrophes and minimize IP legal fees without
jeopardizing trademark or patent ideas.
- Consider a single patent with fewer, yet comprehensive,
- draft your own protectable claims (with suitable
- focus your initial patent application to where you expect
early sale opportunities to be, not going for large range
and costly international scope.
Protecting your investment is not an area to overlook or
seriously cut corners on in the initial marketing of the idea.
So, Pitching and patenting go hand in hand.
The person who ‘takes the first plunge’ and founds a
business provides the original idea. (S)he can come up
with the initial gameplan, insight, customer group, yet
others may help “scale” repeatable business and growth.
Conflicts can arise when members of this secondary
founding team wish to wrest “control” from the founder.
Either they recognize their strengths and the organization’s
needs or they decide that a new role is needed, that of a
Steve Blank outlined an intriguing pattern where a person
who is “first among equals” emerges to allocate resources.
We see an example of this with the way Google had
a business minded technical leader, Schmidt, assume leadership
from Brin and Page.
A great deal of research gets its “jump-start” by crystallizing its
ideas for products and processes in a research or grant proposal.
Grant writing is a special skill that can be learned and improved.
This week I was invited to join a panel that reviewed proposals. It is
so important for proposal applicant to read the solicitation very
carefully to determine whether they think their idea(s) match the
solicitation and time frame for the grant. The solicitation for
application might be offered in more than one phase, like in a
screening or feasibility for a short time, followed by a follow-on
Phase II. A Phase III can sometime be required for promising
concepts that often would be found with matching grants or awards
from a non-governmental organization.
The proposals we reviewed will commonly be evaluated for
(1) appropriate match to the federal organization mission and
(2) scrutinized via preset and robust criteria
(3) before a technical review.
(4) Then, with the evidence in hand and summarized grant administrators
review and decide from the highest rated proposals.
External reviewers are brought in, meet, and decide the technical
merits of the proposal again recognizing the agency’s mission and
and solicitation’s goals. [For the most part reviewers are not
revealed to applicants.]
Each proposal is reviewed for specific criteria and classified as:
- excellent: outstanding with numerous exceptional attributes
- very good: strong proposal offering many noteworthy merits
- good: strong proposal however containing smaller gaps, deficiencies.
- fair: an offering with one serious deficiency or several gaps that
are not compensated for by strong elements
- poor: a seriously lacking proposal
Each proposal we reviewed used the same outline but varied within
a range in each section. So, for the timeline, for example, some
proposals will use a Gannt chart, some will use a work breakdown
structure, some will use six sigma process map and definition of
KPIVs and KPOVs (key process input and output variables).
Each proposal should address the “Heilmeier commandments” which
1. What will you accomplish (without jargon)
2. what is done now, what are the limits and what is the background
3. what is new, and why should it be successful
Any preliminary supporting information
4. how does it fit the mission and objectives
5. if successful what difference does it make
6. what are the risks and benefits
7. what is the timeline for tasks and opportunity costs if not supported.
The proposal needs a descriptive summary, a budget, a timeline. CVs/
appropriate biographies of the principle investigator, project team and
consultants and advisers.
There is commonly a time deadline for submission and page length
limit that are strictly followed.
Three items triggered this post on starting your own
business or joining a start-up. The first was a neat
podcast by Tom Ashbrook on “mentors for a new
Tom interviewed experts who mentor or were mentored
by people to start something on their own. Summing
it up, things to do and expect:
- don’t go it alone, get mentors and advisers
- find niche markets and develop an evolving business
- “location, location, location” will provide a longlasting
- it is common that income for start-ups is episodic–
lucrative months and shallow months. Know how you
will manage through this and plan to have failures or
mistakes happen quickly and use them as “teachable
moments,” so you gain from them.
The second is a Photonics Spectra ‘Start-ups Insight‘
interview of Jan Melles who lists five tips. Many have
been touched on in previous segments. He titles the
article Focus on the customer and urges us to develop
a “no matter what, we will succeed” attitude.
The WSJ Accelerators blog points out some truisms
and helpful tips. At the beginning, the income rate
per hour is lower. After settling in, the income rate
increases to a steady state. While paid marketing
helps tell your story, word of mouth revealing satisfaction
and a good product/service speaks volumes. Financial
metrics and a net promoter score of customers–
promoters, passives and detractors leads to growth.
It took me by surprise this week when speaking with
Rob, when he related to me that there is a disconnect
between what recent grads think or are led to believe
and the reality in the job market. They, he said, do not
realize that skills and papers published may be ‘check
marks’ in evaluations but ’soft skills’ are looked at as
essential in the hiring process.
One soft skill that clearly stands out is confidence.
We may not have a definition on the tip of our tongue, as
it is the situational expectation that your efforts will
result in a positive outcome. This expectation leads
to a list of positives– greater energy, support from others,
goal-directed effort and cooperation. As R. Moss Kanter
points out there are three cornerstones of confidence:
accountability, collaboration and initiative to take action.
The reality is we observe a demonstration of a person’s
skills in a presentation. Having confidence goes hand-in-
hand with giving good presentations. Being confident does
NOT mean not being anxious or nervous. But it is knowing
how to rearrange all the butterflies in your stomach to fly
A person can learn good presentations skills. A person
can also gain confidence. The presentation of our technical
accomplishment is the medium by which our confidence
is displayed. [Rules of thumb.]
Gaining confidence is a common thread through a series of
stories of women entrepreneurs in the T. Corrigan and J.
Desai’s piece in the WSJ describing what it was that each
overcame in their careers to become successful.
C. Fiorino- overcame dropping out of law school by
being given the chance to exceed an entrepreneur’s
expectations, first at an entry level position. Then,
developing skills and interests where her leadership
skills could be honed.
B. Comstock- wisely learned how she could propel her
curiosity to dispel her lack of confidence to compete with
competent peers. This attention switch has allowed her
prove to herself and build a reservoir of courage to try things.
L. Tilton- challenged her self-image of being a
victim of circumstances and posed herself with goals
that had value and meaning so that she became a positive
force for good.
These stories of courage and building confidence are
central parts of what catapulted these leaders as
entrepreneurs, not only as first rate presenters. So, garner
a perspective of what a technical presentation is used for,
besides the results and conclusions.
HT and I have known each other for a few years and collaborated
on some projects successfully. He is looking for a position
and seems overwhelmed with daily pressures.
He seeks a position that will last for a decade or more and
provide a sense of security for himself and his family. Is that
realistic in today’s economy, workforce demands and personal
Recently, “On Point” presented a segment on “tours of duty”
employment cycles based on a Reid Hoffman HBR article.
While this may not fit everyone’s picture, it is a reality for
several fields and locations.
It is a mindset that “freelancers” share. In order to be
successful one needs to adopt an entrepreneurial spirit
about your job search. Douglas Rushkoff has written an
interesting book about some of the forces that generate this
reality in “Present Shock” where HT and others seem “overwound”
with too many pressures.
Rushkoff points out that
1. we have lost the sense of our life’s narrative and are pushed
into many pressures in the moment– work, car, rent, daily events,
2. we are constantly interrupted by various communication
media and find we are at the beckon and call of ever changing
things at the same time– constant needs. (He calls this digiphrenia.)
3. we relate to global trends (unemployment, advertized “happiness”,
dominance of ‘branding’, loss of beginnings and endings, etc.). This
leads to despair and loss of hope. We need to define our separate
agenda and purpose.
It is hard to separate ourselves from the tornado of effects
and become grounded. Reassess what steps to take.
Suggestion: Do a personal self assessment and pursue
mentors to establish goals and create a narrative. It may
involve a tour of duty. Worth considering.
One of the routes to interviewing candidates for
start up companies uses “case study interviews.“
In class, we used a case study interview on a small
team. One member of the team was an engineer and
capable for visualizing the problem; another member
was confident, but would need preparation to equally
participate in problem-solving. Shortly after they
began this mock interview the second person asked
to leave and end her participation. Frustrated.
So used to studying for the test and textbook answers
in academic training, this new situation where the
answer was not clear, assumptions had to be made
and more data was needed overwhelmed her.
Fortunately she was coached into how to participate
as a facilitator, notetaker and visual thinker.
Entrepreneurial cultures accept failure as part of
the learning process. They tout: Fail quickly and
learn from each one. The WSJ printed an anecdote
that is abstracted to make a point about the origins
of death certificates and its result in forming three
new industries, namely statistics, life insurance and
“the English king in 1665 desired to know why his
tax revenue was decreasing. His collectors reported
that people were dying. So, the king ordered that
each death needed to be certified. And, “each week
why don’t we write down all the reasons each person
died this week…”
“What questions did you ask today?
Finally, an intriguing real life personal care products
entrepreneurial story was reported where Jon Flint
used a scientific approach to develop proprietary
formulations that could not be copied by others
and met their claims. He never thought he would
enter this field but a stroke of good fortune by
collaborating with renown Robert Langer led to a
number of successful formulations.
For those thinking about working in a start up or
looking to go out on their own, Desh Deshpande
of MIT and Department of Commerce circulated
informative reference material. See:
Proof of concept centers 2 3
Over the last few months, due to the recognition
of the role of start-up companies in a tough economy,
we have done serious research into critical elements
of a ‘going on your own’ or ‘joining an emerging
enterprise’ career path.
Our series topics include:
1. iEconomy and patents, noting “standard essential”
patents and other emerging patenting tactics
2. Interactions with Venture Capitalists, noting the
role of the elevator pitch and other success factors
3. Hiring priorities for emerging companies, noting
understanding the culture and company story
4. Starting a company on your own, noting important
first steps to consider– attorney
5. Disruptive innovations and different kinds of
support in an emerging enterprise.
6, What works in making initial contact with start-up
companies, note “warm introductions” and multiple avenues
of contacts through committed networking
This entry highlights two topics brought up in the
Accelerators blog that are commonly overlooked
by entrepreneurs, namely, the importance of company
culture and determining the valuation of the
In the rush to get the business moving, whether it is
product or service into customers’ hands for use, it
is important to define your core values and traditions
in the early months and days. In successful firms, you
will find a certain “vibe” in every person you meet which
has a direct impact on outputs and raising of funds.
The value of your firm is not what you think it
should be, it is what others, often experts in
the market dynamics, are willing to offer. It is,
first of all, a negotiation which centers on trust,
not winning and losing. There is major caution
in how you go about working with people who
are, often, very experienced. It can not hurt to
involve mentors and trusted colleagues who have
experienced different negotiating styles.
Those individuals who desire to go off on their own,
join a smaller emerging venture or split off from
an existing organization or university are part of
a group called entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurs often have a different “value proposition”
than existing organizations. Disruptive technologies,
Christensen notes, separates existing and entrpreneurial
ventures. Their markets and customers are different
and they expect that the advantages and cultural norms
will take hold over time.
traditional classes in universities MOOCs
brick and mortar retailing Internet commerce
manned military fighters unmanned drones
An entrepreneur is a class of innovator who can lead,
build strong functional teams and understands how to
motivate and sell ideas.
It might be useful to explore the nature and roles of
angel investors or groups and venture capital VC organizations.
A business management view reveals SIX stages:
- seed funding, often by angel investors [will say more]
- start-up funding for market assessment and product
- early production and sales funding
- working capital funding for product refinement and
new market introduction
- expansion funding
- bridge funding to “go public”
Interestingly, certain VCs can focus on different segments,
localities and industries. The amount of help, time
frames and expectations can be different and depend on
Angel investors take large risks of possible significant
gains, for example, 20x to 30x gain over 5- to 7 years,
in a win-lose venture. Angel investors or groups need
to be accredited by the SEC. Many will seek confidential
and proprietary information as part of due diligence.
The entrepreneur must formalize and monitor
confidentiality (as non-disclosure agreements are not
At a meeting last week, I met with several interesting people.
Some were in mid-career looking for a change, others desired
moving for differing reasons and a third set sought to become
involved in a start-up with ideas of their own. One fellow, CM, in
particular had developed useful technology in a university
laboratory under sponsored research and sought counsel.
Before my individual sessions, I toured the exhibition and developed
a connection with two entrepreneurs who are developing a business
and were willing to share and teach others in Entrepreneur Avenue
of the Exhibition. You can find their story and business plan at
They were JL, the principal and CEO, and WR-B, the operations
manager of an emerging genomics firm that had a terrific business
model and story to share. The CEO was quite forthcoming in offering
that the first step should be to:
Obtain and secure an exclusive IP license for technology for low cost
from the technology transfer office.
Then, the second action item, which can be worked on in parallel,
practice and prepare your sales pitch for what you will sell, make or
provide as a service to an experienced attorney
Having convinced a reputable, legal representative knowledgeable in
the field will aid in refining the sales pitch to each group that your
team decides to bring into the effort. They will have connections,
organizations and recommendations for funding sources, VCs, etc.
They will have insight in critical negotiation steps.
You want to provide an incentive for them to want to work with you.
“skin in the game…”
I found JL’s comments unique, well qualified and directly pertinent
to the client’s specific request and I could not offer it any more
Although the entrepreneurial spirit is recently
highlighted in ACS, it is honestly nothing new.
High risk, high reward opportunities on one’s
own or joining with others have been available
since high tech was high tech, and chemical
ventures had to split off from larger companies
Take a look at a WSJ blog article on what start-up
mentors, Brad Field, Neil Blementhal and others
suggest. It reveals behaviors job seekers might
consider and offers what they may find in their
interviews and first days on the job if offered
- both culture fit and technical skill are important
[Preparation; find out about the culture before
- having failed ventures is good, if people learned
from them; know your own talent level and what
you can contribute
- job descriptions and company story need to be
dissected and tested ; understand incentives.
If you are interested in Entrepreneurial business
employment, the Accelerators Blog is a place to
Recently I attended an informative entrepreneur symposium in
fields where venture capital plays the key role. While I note ACS
is urging members to recognize this path to employment, some
features of what is common knowledge in other high tech fields
will help the chemical enterprise adapt and reform in an evolving
A. Your elevator pitch (as different from your elevator speech for
networking interviews) needs to be “top notch” and professional.
B. Venture capital has a distinct regional dimension: East coast vs
west coast VCs
East: in finance, terms to protect against downside
non compete agreements provide a hang-up to future innovation
elegance counts: how smart you are, your pedigree
West: in finance, terms to adequately participate in upside
non compete agreements not enforceable
black cat, white cat: no matter, cats eat mice
C. Finance and Economics. Looking at the big picture, VCs are being
squeezed (going out of business) in the low interest rate environment.
Amazon services levels the playing field
pros and cons
D. FACTORS FOR SUCCESS
age-ism is active; but likeability factor is stronger
look for project managers who have failed and learned from failure
Know there are trends in entrep terms: investor friendly—
solving hard problems with technology and have customers willing
to pay now and in future
scaling is a dominant factor
think about an exit strategy: acquisition, IPO
top 15% of deals pays for everything
With much attention promoting the entrepreneurial
spirit for STEM graduates to excel and thrive,
Charles Duhigg has unearthed the evolution of
some roles patents play in a recent NYTimes
article and podcast.
Duhigg observes that we are now in the
iEconomy and that patents take on strategic
roles of defining new concepts even before
successful demonstrations or products are
prototyped as we have moved from an
industrial economy to a digital and often
We have written about patent trolls previously.
While these are mentioned, entrepreneurs are
paying attention to the patent landscape in “different
lights and using microscopes” when thinking about
business ventures, venture capitalists, competition
and the law.
One interesting area, new to me, is “standard essential”
patents that are significant in many software and presumably
hardware concepts. They are neatly defined by the
example of the railroad rail gauge on moving from one
state or country or company to another. In order for
the public to be served, standards had to be agreed upon
and set. Then, all users had to agree to license and
share for fair compensation.
The truth of the matter, in offering a presentation or workshop,
it is not what the presenter presents, but what the audience
members take away and experience that imprints a learning
cycle on their brain neurons.
When they sense a situation in which they face something
they can relate to a previous experience they can react,
respond, initiate, clarify, or pursue.
[Importance of critical thinking over didactic thinking.]
The Northeast Student Chemistry Career Symposium yesterday
in centrally located Holiday Inn in Brookline gave attendees
- perspectives on careers
- discussions on networking and communications
- discussions on resumes and references
- practical experiences in mock interviews
The feedback we sought and received taught us that the audience
received and internalized the messages that
1. the interview does not start with an employer contacting a
person based on being attracted by a well written resume.
It starts much earlier. It lasts well beyond leaving the location
after an on-site interview.
2. interviews are unnerving experiences that can lead to
stressful or pressure-packed feelings. Preparation, practice
and persistence are key in developing interpersonal skills to
3. interviewing continuum as a big picture model shines a
light on different aspects of search, narrowing down,
preparation, performance and improvement cycle that needs
to happen throughout your career.
4. clarifying precisely the documents needed to apply for
specific positions was revealing. Although different presenters
offered reflections on resumes, it almost never satisfies everyone
in the audience, since each person is a different case. Public
relations documents might be best handled individually.
5. some presentations required the audience to be there for
the whole presentation. Other presentations were designed
to deliver at least something of value for those who moved
from one to another presentation. Presentation design (not
overly dependent on power point, highly interactional) makes
Some behind the scenes conversation:
DON’T EXPECT YOUR FIRST POSITION TO BE ONE
YOU HAVE FOR YOUR WHOLE CAREER. CONSTANTLY
- INCREASE AND BROADEN YOUR SKILLS AND
- LOOK OUTWARD AND FORWARD.
WISE SKILLS ARE INCREASINGLY MORE IMPORTANT.
Advisers expect certain things out of grad students to
get their positions– get publishable results, publish them,
have good relationships with your P.I. and interview
to find out what you will do next.
Real life experience says one thing is missing– the grad
student must be proactive, develop skills, set goals and
learn how to be assertive and make decisions.
The adviser will not do this. It is the grad student’s