Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A Valuable Resource for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

In the past few semesters I have utilized many different books on entrepreneurship, and have realized that few books on this topic are suited for course use. The Startup Playbook: Secrets of the Fastest-Growing Startups from Their Founding Entrepreneurs by David Kidder has turned out to be an extremely valuable resource for my Fall 2016 Ideas into Action course.


Kidder is a serial entrepreneur who has assembled a collection of 40 interviews with our era's most influential startup players. From PayPal and LinkedIn, to AOL and TED, Kidder breaks down the secrets to startup success in simple and actionable terms. My students benefited from the book’s practical advice and inspirational takeaways in each interview. Kidder hits on common issues like how to persevere through criticism, and how to define and execute a personal vision, which is often times the hardest part for my students (and young entrepreneurs alike). The book’s clear language and approachable structure can be easily navigated for course use. I highly recommend this book.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

List of Ithaca Startups: 2016 Edition

Here is my 2016 list of startups based in/near Ithaca, NY:

ActionXL
Adispell
Aerofarms
Agave BioSystems
AIBC
The American Knitting Co.
Avital Apiaries
Backwoods Techgear
Ba-Li Cravings
Bio Nexus
Biophyzica
cheribundi
Collegetown Cab
Collegiate Sun / The Hardy North
Comet Action Sports
ComposerHQ
Copper House Coffee
daapr
DataDesk
DataPoint Labs
e2e Materials
Ecolectro
Emmy's Organics
Farmigo
FearWalk
Fiberspark
Firelight Camps
Flicstart
Geri-Safe Grainful
GiveGab
Gene Network Sciences
Glycobia
Grokstyle
hovvaX
Hybrid Silica Technologies
illume Projects
International Climbing Machines
iFyber
IMM
Incandescent Software
Ithaca Builds
Ithaca Hummus
Ithaca Voice
KettleShell
Kingsley Quality Woodworking
Kreyol Essence
Lionano
Maidbot
Mezmeriz
MicroGen
Miel Beauty Bar
MiTeGen
MouseCare
Motion Intelligence
North Sea Resins
Nova Speech
Novasterilis
Novomer
OnSet
Ontology2
Optigen
Pick2Pay
The Piggery
PiXL
PocketSights
Primet
Redneck Gangsta
Rosie
Red Tail Hawk
ReMarkable Paint
Rheonix
Sanmita
Seraph Robotics
Ship Index
Shrub Bucket
Singlebrook
Snabb
StopPack
Sound Reading
South Hill Cider
Spea.re
Specdrums
Spider Holster
Standard Hydrogen
STREAM Collaborative
Super Pulse
Sustainable Viticulture Systems
Swidjit
Synergy Marketing Solutions
Tech S2
Terrenew
Tetragenetics
The Chaat Co.
The Frame Shop
ThinkPlay
Think Topography
transfolios
Tunetap
UR Path
Ursa Space Systems
vitamMe
Vybion
WavElectric
Weaver Wind Energy
Wicked Device
Widetronix
Worthy Jerky
Yorango
Zymtronixcs


Notable departures from the list: Congratulations to Advion on their acquisition by Bohui Innovation Technology, and congratulations to BinOptics on their acquisition by M/A-Com Technology Solutions!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Being the CEO of your Own Career

I was recently asked to be the guest speaker for the 2016 induction ceremony for Beta Gamma Sigma at Ithaca College. The talk I gave was entitled "Being the CEO of your Own Career". The key point is that you should view your career as if you are the CEO of a corporation, and these are some traits of entrepreneurial CEO's. Here are the key points from that talk:

  1. Entrepreneurs Focus on Results
  2. Reputation is Tough to build, Easy to ruin
  3. Entrepreneurs don’t do the “bare minimum”
  4. Entrepreneurs Ask for things
  5. It’s not all about the money

We are all Startup CEO's

1. Entrepreneurs Focus on Results

A start CEO's title really stands for "Chief Everything Else Officer" because they are the person who has to get it done if noone else has done it. By focusing on results, not actions, you'll see your work from a customer's standpoint: a job that is 90% done is "not done". Your boss and employer is your customer, so they will view the work you do the same way.

2. Reputation is Tough to build, Easy to ruin

In business, your reputation is key. The best opportunities come from people who know your reputation, and opportunities are missed that you never knew about because of your reputation, so protect it. An entrepreneur friend of mine is fond of saying "Treat every decision as the decision that may define you, because it might".

3. Entrepreneurs don’t do the “bare minimum”

I see this a lot from students who want to figure out what the smallest amount they can possibly do to get a grade. Entrepreneurs don't do that. They want to over deliver and delight their customers. They go places and do things that they think will help their business, even when there is not a direct correlation to a business result.

4. Entrepreneurs Ask for things

Don't wait to be given a promotion, a raise, or more responsibility. Ask for it. Entrepreneurs aren't given a sale, the ask for the sale.

5. It’s not all about the money

Figure out what makes you happy, and rarely is it $. Few entrepreneurs I meet are in it for the money. They're in it for the lifestyle, and it's because it's a lifestyle that they define.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Books for the Basics: Building a Strong Entrepreneurial Foundation

Whether you're a first-time entrepreneur or seasoned innovator, these books will help you build a strong foundation of entrepreneurial principles to move your business forward. 


For folks actively working to start companies, I use this book extensively. Inside it you will find out about the Business Model Canvas, which we now use instead of a formal business plan: 


 Business Model Generation: 

by Osterwalder & Pigneur



Get it here.


This is the book that has sparked a new attitude about startups: 


 The Lean Startup: 

by Eric Ries



Get it here.


This is a book the Kauffman foundation recommends for first-time entrepreneurs:


 Who Owns the Ice House? 

Eight Life Lessons From an Unlikely Entrepreneur

by Schoeniger & Taulbert



Get it here.


My friend would runs the 50+ hamburger restaurant chain, Hero Certified Burgers, advises anyone interested in the service industry to read this book: 


Restaurant Man

by Joe Bastianich



Get it here.


A great read for first-time entrepreneurs starting tech companies: 

Get it here.


If you want to mix quant with startup, your math brain will love this book: 

Get it here.


A fun read about a lot of interesting businesses ideas from England: 


Get it here.


Putting data and peer-review research behind the process of starting companies from university research and technology: 

Get it here.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A Change in Plans

 In Report #5 I encounter a change in plans and live like a true Spanish winemaker for a day. In writing this post I also encountered Google Image, provider of all images below.
Howdy Amigos.  This is unofficial report number five.  Unbelievable how time sometimes takes on a different measure.  Not to long ago, I wrote number one on a whim.  Anyway, Let storytime begin.  
I was able get the bead on the local whitewater establishment.  After a long hiatus I was beginning to suffer from withdrawal.  As things would have it, I didn't get the instructions right to the location.  I was about an hour and a half out of Vigo, but took over 3 hours to find the place.  Damn Spanish roads.  About the time I was close enough to smell victory, I stopped to talk to a old shepherd of a small herd of sheep.  He gave my car a funny look but provided directions on how to get to the river.  Upon descending the "road" I reminded myself that this was a rental and accelerated as to use the underbody to slide over the craters.  I finally found the tiny little shed that housed the gear for this day's whitewater adventure, but had missed the people who were going to hook me up.  They left me a note and by the time I got there I had 2 hours to kill before they would return.  What at first was frustrating quickly became very interesting.  
I struck up a conversation with a farmer on this back dirt road I was waiting on. His name is Louis. He was tending to his family's vineyard and seemed not to mind this interruption to his work very much. Turns out he lives in Vigo, but his parents lived on this remote riverside farm where he grew up.  About this time each year the family gets together to bottle the wine that has been aging in casks. Today was that annual day and Louis invited me to join. Seemed like a good plan.  We headed to the rustic, red clay roofed house where Louis loudly introduced me to the family.  There were at least 4 generations represented.  As I shook hands I tried to gather the names: Traci, Chino, Carlos, Pedro.. there were about 15 people all told. The older looked at me with curiosity while the children cowered behind legs at the sight of the tall American.  We then moved to an old stone barn with a dirt floor, wooden casks lining the walls and piles of assorted empty wine bottles stored in every unoccupied place. Seasoned ham aged inside a insect proof net box and a large manual press stood in the corner. I asked Louis if they danced on the grapes to extract their nectar.  He gave a good belly laugh, repeated to him family and the room filled with laughter and people slapping me on the back. 

The men proceeded to set up to do some bottling as the first cask was tapped. A small trough filled with wine and bottles were quickly placed under the tubes that flowed out of it. Louis dipped a short glass into the trough and handed it to me.  Incredible. Then he looked around quickly and shot out of the barn. He returned quickly with a huge round of cheese and a loaf of fresh bread. And then he refilled my glass.  They all watched as I took some cheese and bread, and more wine.  Smiling from ear to ear I honestly told them it was wonderful. Pleased by this, they joined me for a glass.  All paused and looked my way. Loud and bold I said ¡Salud! This was repeated with much enthusiastic approval, glasses clinked and we all drank. Health!

 After insisting on refilling my glass once again, Louis and family quickly set up an impromptu assembly line. There was one man preparing bottles to be filled, another at the filling trough, one at a unique embottling press and others to pack and move finished bottles. The elder members supervised and the younger ran the line. I watched and enjoyed my delicious wine and good fortune. I asked if I could help and was politely cut another slice of cheese and served more wine.  After a few more inquiries I was allowed to have a go at the embottler machine. A curious piece of equipment that has a lever, some springs and a strange gripper system that act in unison to forcibly join the cork and bottle.

I quickly became the cell bottleneck as I was slow in operating the device. I thought I had the hang of it until my fifth bottle exploded into a shower of glass and wine.  I tried to resign from my post, but they encouraged me to continue.  After I managed to clumsily break another bottle, I rotated out to the cheese gourd, bread and freshly refilled glass. Louis then took over the bottler machine, and quickly preceded to burst a bottle. I said that the Spanish were as strong was Americans and they laughed again.  Maybe at my Spanish or my wine-plied wit, either way my back was slapped some more and I felt like these were people I had known for a lifetime. 
 After savoring the moment and trying to capture and hold the details, the people from the kayaking place returned and I said goodbye to my new friends. I hurried back with my camera for photos and apologies. Louis and I exchanged addresses and I fully intend to send him a letter and thank you for such a wonderful display of Spanish hospitality.  After stepping back a century or two and living 2 hours in the life of a rustic Spanish farmer, the river was anticlimactic at best.  Of all my unique experiences, I think this one will stay with me as the most pronounced and most special. 

Salud!
8 julio 1997

Note: All images displayed are courtesy of Google Image.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

An American in Vigo

In report #4 I struggle with frozen food, language barriers, and Spanish customs.
I also struggle with finding photos from my trip, so all pictured below are courtesy of Google Image.
OK, here we go. This is unofficial report number four.  I have moved into an apartment.  I was excited that I would be able to resume my normal diet of home cooked bachelor food.  Restaurant surprises were starting to stress me out.  I went to the nearby supermarket and picked out a few items from the heat and serve section of the freezer.  Frozen pizza hitting the top of the list.  I hurried home and got set to chow.  I opened the door below my stove and found that instead of an oven, I was provided additional storage space.  Having neither an oven or a microwave, I am now in the process of trying to figure out how to cook frozen pizza on a stove.  Fried pizza, my favorite.  Well, this same night I was not to be thwarted. I had been brave and purchased heat and serve paella. Paella is a Spanish staple that is similar to gumbo, but without the spice.

Upon opening the bag, I discovered that I did not have a bag off heat and eat food, but rather a bag full of frozen seafood.  It was straight off the boat and into my freezer. I looked at my food, it looked at me and I had potato chips for dinner.   I have a new game I play.  I call it Stupid American. I speak much more Spanish than I understand, but I can get by.  I am not really embarrassed about going out in public and talking and take great sport in doing so. The game is played like this: Someone will say something to me, and I reply with absolute nonsense with a perfectly straight face.  Recently I was in a cab and the guy could tell I wasn't from around here.  He asked if I spoke French.  I am an American, I replied.  He then asked if I like Vigo.  I said "My chair is cold".  He looked at me funny but continued and preceded to tell me some long winded bit about a big ship in the harbor. I told him I have an apartment that is white and tasty. He looked at me strange again and concluded the ride in silence. 
  I talked my Spanish professor into teaching me all the words that aren't in my dictionary. The guys in the factory have taken great pleasure in supplementing this portion of my training as well.  I may not be able order a decent meal, but I can sure curse up a storm when it arrives to my displeasure.  So using this new list of words, I have discovered another way to play Stupid American.  I will intentionally mispronounce words by drawing from my continuously expanding list of vulgarities.  On the weekends I get a rental car.  A Fiat Punto. 


En Spanish, the word punta is a derogatory term applied to prostitutes.  

With great pleasure I will tell people that I have a punta on the weekends that GKN provides.  I am looking forward to going to a furniture store and looking at cabinets.  The word for drawer, cajone, can easily be mispronounced as a term for male anatomy.  All with a smile and a straight face.
My language skills also give me the ability to create havoc in busy situations. I recently went to the grocery to get some deli meat. After my run in with the frozen food, I was hoping to see what I was buying first.  The deli was packed and when my number came up I tried to tell the woman what I wanted.  I came very close to getting 100 slices of turkey.  After we got that worked out, she sighed and asked if I needed anything else. I said no, and that I needed some cheese, 100 slices please. If the people shopped like they drive, they would have been honking at me.  This weekend I went out on the town with an engineer from the factory named Alfonso.  I called him The Fonz, but he didn't get it.  He didn't like being called Al very much either.  Al speaks just a little more English than I do Spanish, so I am learning a fair amount with him. Fonz, like me, can speak more than he can understand. Well, we are hanging out in a closed off street that was packed with people.  Bars lined the street and the people were making great use of them. In this is a very homogenous society I stood out a great deal. Among the short, black haired, skinny Spanish dudes, I was somewhat of a spectacle. Unless I was wrapped in the stars and stripes, I couldn't have looked more American.  As the night progressed, woman who had visited the bar once or thrice approached me and slurred some Spanish.  I of course had to get Alfonso to translate.  Most of the translations began with "She drinks much and...."  I was asked to provide Gorbachev style kisses (that cheek-cheek thing).

It should be duly noted that the female Spanish populous doesn't much care for the way I wear my jeans either, and felt obliged to tell me.  I responded with a general comment about Spanish woman, selecting the appropriate words from my alternate vocabulary list, and almost had an international incident in my hands. Apparently there are some instances when the Stupid American game can cause real trouble.  
I do want to send a special thanks out to Vicky for so efficiently navigating the internals of Sanford for me while I am over here trying to make contact.  Hello to the 7 gang and tell Benton that his long lost twin brother works on the shaft line here.


More later, Spain out.

27 junio 1997

Note: All photos displayed are courtesy of Google Image.