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. 

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.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

I wanna rock n' roll all night....

My third report describes the  friends I made as I settled into la vida local and the cruel irony of Spanish priesthood. Visuals inspired by the Twilight Zone, provided by Google Images.
This is unofficial report number three.  You will be glad to know that I speak enough Spanish now to have basic conversations.  I utilized this newfound ability with some punk rockers (punkis) panhandling in the street.  They had mohawks and rainbow colored hair and safety pins stuck in their faces.  
They were cool.    
Upon asking them where the local punk rock bar was, they took me to a nearby cafe coffee house.  Like most people here, it seems that even punkis are coffee addicts.  The cafe was playing poorly recorded music on a cheap stereo.  "Punki no es muerto!" was spray painted on the wall . Punk's not dead. 

I am starting to believe that I am living in some sort of parallel universe to Sanford.  So far I have met Spanish versions of Vicky, Kirik, Bob Wayne and my brother.  The Spanish Kenny McMahan even has a completely indecipherable regional accent.  The Spanish Bruce Howard is always hanging around bumming cigarettes off people.  Of course I am the one and only, except that everyone here ties me to Brad Pitt.  I say my name, they say "Brrad Peet".  The guy in the hotel I was staying at referred to me as that for my entire stay and even wrote it on the bill.  That explains the hoard of women hanging around who looked confused when I went into Brad Pitt's room.

I moved out of the hotel this week into an apartmento.  I am in the penthouse suite.  Though that sounds glorious and all would expect me in the penthouse, in Spain it means that I hit my head a lot on the downward sloping ceiling.  The realtor ladies who are renting it were not unlike realtors in America, thus that parallel universe thing again.  They were super nice but kind of scatterbrained in a good way.  I am tall enough to stand up and look out of the skylight and see the ocean.  They wanted to see as well so one of them got a chair and stood on it, only to have it smash to pieces. She was ok so it was sort of funny.  This was one of those times when acting like I didn't know what she was saying was beneficial.  I wanted another chair.  As she tried to convince me that I had another chair (made with the same remarkable craftsmanship of the first), I just kept a blank look I my face and said "Another chair, yes, ok" over and over.  She finally gave up and I got a new chair.
This past weekend I went to check out a church that is completely covered in oyster shells.  

It looked cool, but I got to thinking that making celibate Catholic priests eat a church-load of oysters was some sort of cruel Vatican joke.  The immediate area was surrounded by people selling souvenir junk, much like an American tourist spot.  The church itself was in the shadow of a casino, which blocked the seaside view.  I am sure the oyster eating priests are stoked that their hard work has been rewarded by turning it into a tourist trap.  Most of the shells had been written on and I read a few. My friends had visited: Punki no es muerta!. 

More later.  Shout out to 7, peace out to all.
18 junio 1997

Note: All images displayed are courtesy of Google Images.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

And we'll never be Royals, bro.

Report #2 covers my pre-Instagram* trip to Madrid and what I ate there.  
*Due to lack of Instagram, all photos are courtesy of Google Images. 
Howdy Gang!
This is unofficial report number 2. I am integrating well into Spanish society. I will soon be a North Carolina version of Ricardo Montelbon. As I have mentioned before, I was made to drive here. Plus I get to start all over with that pesky points system. Not that the cops could catch you. They all drive the same small cars everyone else does. There is one car style here and it looks like a Ford Festiva.
I might as well sit in the back seat of mine. Roads and sidewalks are both small and both made out of cobblestone. I was on a road recently that I thought was particularly steep. Then I realized I was about to drive down a flight of stairs. Then I rolled forward more as I stalled the car trying to go back up in reverse.
This weekend I went to Madrid. There I saw the Royal Palace and hung out with the king and queen in their throne room. There was lots of things covered in gold. 

Also, it seems that if you are royalty, it is your obligation to have lots of naked people on your walls and ceilings. In this respect, most college dorm rooms are practically a royal palaces, minus the gold and 30 foot ceilings. I think kings are just big frat boys. They even have really cool velvet togas. And the scepter: beer bong. 

After that I walked around the area where they had the Spanish Inquisition. The S.I. was when they tortured you until you admitted to doing something bad, at which time you were immediately tortured for doing bad things. This drew large crowds of people into a large square, including my friends the King family. I could tell the Kings hung out here because there were naked people painted on the sides of the buildings. One of the more popular torture methods was burning people alive. 

 Building on that "cooking" theme, the square is now full of cafes and with dudes who clamp their hands and bang on guitars while singing Spanish songs. I ate there and got pizza(that's a cheese pizza, Russell). Spanish pizza is different because they use about a teaspoon of sauce and a pound of cheese. The top of pizza was burnt, leading me to believe it may have done something wrong. 

Back in the homestead of Vigo, I saw Steve Patterson and some other American GKN people this week. It was quite a relief to speak American. The Spanish speak good English, but no American. Since I speak Spanish like Tonto, conversations are always burdensome. It is especially daunting when you say things and people start laughing. I recently attempted to make a comment in Spanish about a gage storage area, and actually noted that it was a good place to store a "woman's anatomical feature". The language thing has also rewarded me with some interesting menu selections. I ate octopus twice one day, leading me to wonder what words don't mean "I want octopus". I figure it is just some inside joke among the restaurant people: 

If an American comes in, they get octopus. 
More later. Peace out!
11 julio 1997

Note: All images displayed are courtesy of Google Images. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Nacho & the Bull

I recently found some old files from my year in Spain back in 1997 while I was working as a Manufacturing Engineer for Guest, Keen, and Nettlefolds (GKN Automotive). I lived in the Galicia region of north-west Spain in the city of Vigo.

During my time at GKN Indugasa, the Galicia office, I wrote several reports home to my team in the States sharing my adventures. All comic descriptions by me, all images by Google. Below is the first report, written shortly after my arrival in Vigo:

¡Hola, Mi Amigos!

Hello from the land of flamenco dancers and bull fighting. This is the non-formal report on my goings-on. I am doing well here in Vigo.

I arrived safely after a smooth flight only interrupted once by terrorists, who I handily dispensed. My accommodations are nice as I am living in a nice American style hotel (that means I have my own bathroom). I have resumed Spanish classes and get to regularly practice trying to guess what people around me are saying. The sounds "thh" and "rrrrrrrrrrr" abound. Neither of which I have been able to figure where to use correctly.
The people of Indugasa have been very nice to me. I have been paired up with a young engineer nicknamed Nacho. Gotta love that name. His real name is Ignacio Martinez. Nacho must be Spanish nickname for Ignacio, like Bill for William. Next time you see Ignacio Martin, just call him Nacho. That will be a one way ticket to the corner office, guaranteed.

The people in the factory are very accepting as well and are actually quite enthusiastic about teaching me how to learn words and to say them correctly. Today I had an extensive counting lesson with a Spanish Bob Wayne look-alike.
The weather here is comfortable, but it has rained EVERY day. The plus side of all the rain is that the local rivers were all pumped up. I of course had no kayak and just looked. $%&%¿รง*. I was able to go drive around the countryside and to the beach this past weekend and even ventured into beautiful Portugal. And then got lost (no titans of industry in the car this time) and had the pleasure of speaking Spanish poorly to a couple of Portuguese people, who only spoke Portuguese. I pointed a lot. They were very nice and I got found, so all is well. The countryside is as beautiful as the roads are narrow. The driving here is absolutely crazy, much to my liking. Speed limits are ignored and never enforced. All other rules of the road are optional as well.

As I was driving local-style in the mountains, I got to meet a large Mercedes bus as it came screaming around a curve. The country roads are made to hold 1 Mercedes bus and no cars. Needless to say, I got to do some off-roading. I also got to meet up with some oxen and El Torro, the bull. I was driving a red car and I think someone yelled ¡Ole!. It was a tense moment. I would have rather had another bus, because Torro looked pissed.

An old lady with some twigs saved me.

Tell everyone all is well. Big "¡Hola!" to the team back in MTC7 and all the rest of the gang. Sangria for all when I return. More stories later.

Adios, mi amigos.

Note: All images displayed are courtesy of Google Images. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

List of Ithaca Startups, 2015 Edition

Here is my 2015 list of startups based in/near Ithaca, NY:

Agave BioSystems
The American Knitting Co.
Backwoods Techgear
Bio Nexus
Collegetown Cab
Collegiate Sun / The Hardy North
Comet Action Sports
Copper House Coffee
DataPoint Labs
e2e Materials
Emmy's Organics
Fibonacci Sequence
Firelight Camps
Gene Network Sciences
Hybrid Silica Technologies
International Climbing Machines
Incandescent Software
Ithaca Builds
Ithaca Hummus
Ithaca Voice
Kreyol Essence
Merryweather Outdoors
Motion Intelligence
North Sea Resins
Nova Speech
Party Headphones / Audiarchy / Eversound
The Piggery
Red Tail Hawk
ReMarkable Paint
Seraph Robotics
Ship Index
Sound Reading
South Hill Cider
Spider Holster
Standard Hydrogen
STREAM Collaborative
Subversive Malting and Brewing
Super Pulse
Synergy Marketing Solutions
Tech S2
Think Topography
UR Path
Ursa Space Systems
Weaver Wind Energy
Wicked Device
Worthy Jerky

Notable departures from the list: Congratulations to Push Interactive on their acquisition by GORGES, Inc.!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Walking Advice

Britnell Ventures CEO Sean Neville came to speak to my entrepreneurship class at Ithaca College. Usually that's a situation where the guest stands in front of the room and talks.

The Standard Stance

This time we decided to mix it up a little by making is a walking session. Though it was a cold day, it was sunny and clear.

Walking Clears the Head

We toured the new Athletics and Events Center and other buildings on campus. While we walked around campus, student entrepreneurs took turns sharing their business pitches with Sean, and discussing his thoughts on next steps.

Walking with our Feet, Talking with our Hands

We visited the Handwerker Art Gallery. Students talked about the inspiration for their business ideas. And the canvas they use is the Business Model Canvas.

Other Canvases

Finally, we strolled by the frozen water fountain. With cheeks rosy but energy refreshed, they also talked to one another and shared the feedback. Much of the learning comes from their peers as much as guest speakers.

The Smooth Ice is Like a Blank (Business Model) Canvas

Thanks Sean!. The students remarked that it was one of the most memorable guest speaker experiences they had been a part of.

Monday, January 19, 2015

I snuck into a college faculty meeting; Here's what I learned goes on there

I have been moonlighting as college faculty on and and off for the past 7 years. I've mainly focused on teaching my classes and working with my students, without getting involved in the inner workings of the school. This year my role at Ithaca College expanded and I decided it was appropriate for me to get more involved. I was surprised and impressed with what I learned goes on at these (seemingly) super secret meeting. The student version of myself thought that these meetings were completely different.

When do we talk about making tests impossible and failing all the students?

Here are the topics that were not covered:

  • That kid with the hair.  What's his deal?  Let's conspire to flunk him.
  • Synchronicity: How can we make all homework and exams due at the same time?
  • Let's compare lists of students to flunk.
  • The worldwide shortage of A's.  What can we do to award fewer of them.
  • Can we make classes start any earlier? How about dawn?
  • How to speak in the most monotone way possible to induce sleep.
  • That kid with the weird clothes.  What's up with him?  Let's definitely flunk him.
  • How to make that screechy chalkboard sound.

Instead they talked about things that were actually useful to students. Including:

  • College is expensive. What can we do to make it cheaper?
  • Helping students find the right degree to fit their interests and strengths.
  • Staying current with the needs of students.
  • iPhones: How to better use the technology that students already love to teach better.
  • Writing better letters of recommendations
  • Improving the MBA program
  • Recruiting the best students from High School and Freshman who are still classified "Undecided"
  • Working with other schools across campus

Huh. Who knew?