On 20 Jan 2012, the last day of the Entrepreneurship Winterim, Thunderbird alum, serial entrepreneur, and mega-donor Scott Walker spoke to us at his Napa vineyard, Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards. He told his life story, especially focusing on the ups and downs of his journey as an entrepreneur. Now, years later, after turning around multiple companies (this is his specialty) and starting, and selling, many of his own businesses at a tidy profit, he is the man of the hour. We hung on his every word. By the end of his talk, he had convinced us to work for him for the starting salary of $0, accompanied by the fringe benefits of learning everything from him and possibly getting rewarded big-time down the road. No risk no reward—a fundamental principle we have all, of course, learned in finance class at business school. According to Scott, he was a late bloomer with no idea what he would do in life. He had a degree in political science and history, with the notion of becoming a lawyer one day, but without any solid plan. We’ve all been there. His course changed the day a professor at his university recommended Thunderbird to him….
16 Jan 2012 we met with Alain Labat of VaST Systems (acquired by Synopses). He began work in San Jose in 1980 working for the engineering systems division in Xerox, at the PARC (Palo Alto Research Center). Back then, Silicon Valley was just that, Silicon Valley. Now, the area only focuses on semiconductors up until Mountain View, and then it becomes Social Media Valley. From Palo Alto North it is Software Valley. This is a fitting (and explanative) simplification. His current office space, naturally since he has dealt primarily in semiconductors, is in the original heart of silicon, Santa Clara. Alain also explained a unique perspective on how he saw the VC and investment side of SV change over the last 20 years, moving from a period where every company ended in an IPO, and investors couldn’t wait long enough to throw ridiculous amounts of money in the mix, to the post-dotcom era where only a few small few end in an IPO, some end in an M&A exit, and most just die out. Because the culture has changed from expecting an IPO to an M&A exit, Alain has therefore established a business in this very niche—consulting with startups who….
Today the Thunderbird Entrepreneurship Winterim (#eWinterim) spend the morning in Palo Alto at IDEO (Palo Alto is the company’s headquarters, but with other locations in San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Boston, London, Munich, Shanghai, Singapore, Mumbai, Seoul, and Tokyo). IDEO is a global design consultancy firm that takes a human-centered, design-based approach to helping organizations in the public and private sectors innovate and grow. We identify new ways to serve and support people by uncovering latent needs, behaviors, and desires. They do this by employing a range of skillsets–anywhere from anthropologists, to engineers, to human factor specialists are used on a given project depending on the requirements. How the design interacts with the user, though, is always paramount. We got to tour their design spaces, and see the evolution of famous products such as the Palm Pilot, the Microsoft Mouse, various medical devices (including a defibrilator that was redesigned from a two step process to a three step process because IDEO’s human factor specialists were able to prove that users preferred three steps, even when the third step was not necessary), and famous toys (their Toy Lab was quite the playground). The atmosphere was “Google-like” and the hierarchy relatively flat–when….
Today, the Thunderbird Entrepreneurship Winterim (#eWinterim) met with the co-founders of Fanminder, Paul Rosenfeld and Tracy Grover. With Fanminder, a small business owner can create unlimited offers and promotions that reach fans on Facebook, Twitter, and mobile phones, with no marketing expertise required. The company specifically focuses on small businesses that have a storefront (retail space). In this blog, I will discuss the three major takeaways from our time with Paul and Tracy. We first touched on the immense amount of creative destruction when you are playing the startup space. Many startups go down, with only a few actually getting going—this is demonstrated in both Tracy and Paul’s history. Both have worked for several startups that eventually went under for various reasons. But neither could stay away. In fact, with a good sense of humor Paul self-admitted that his track record has shown (until Fanminder) that he has been “a marketing genius but a financial failure.” As for Tracy, she comes from an entrepreneurial family, though she didn’t want to be an entrepreneur initially (in fact, she purposely avoided it). She mainly thought she wanted to have an outside life—while growing up she saw how much her father worked (who….
This morning the Entrepreneurship Winterim was in downtown SF checking out the TechShop on Howard Street. This is a great business that enables start ups and individuals with great ideas prototype and/or build a live product. Moreover, it is a venue to retool (quite literally) and learn new skills (hardware and software skills) to stay up to date with the changing tech landscape. What is the TechShop you ask? TechShop provides you with access to a wide variety of machinery and tools including milling machines and lathes, welding stations and a CNC plasma cutter, sheet metal working equipment, drill presses and band saws, industrial sewing machines, hand tools, plastic and wood working equipment including a 4′ x 8′ ShopBot CNC router, electronics design and fabrication facilities, Epilog laser cutters, tubing and metal bending machines, a Dimension SST 3-D printer, electrical supplies and tools, and pretty much everything you’d ever need to make just about anything. The TechShop is for EVERYBODY! (note, I stole a good deal of this description from their website, because I couldn’t remember exactly the types of machines they actually had from memory!) And not only do you get access to the machines, but also to computers….