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….
13 Jan 2012, the 2012 Entrepreneurship Winterim met with UCLA alum Richard Pink, owner of Pink’s World Famous Hot Dogs, headquartered in Los Angeles. During the session, I probably wrote about 6 pages of notes–put simply, he had so much insight on topics ranging from employee compensation, to product differentiation, to family business conflict management, to business risk diversification, that I couldn’t help but try to accurately capture every word Richard spoke. I was especially impressed with the frankness in which he spoke, and the sincerity in helping educating future businessmen and women. And just as an aside, he has a law degree, practices real estate law on the side, and teaches at USC. I won’t hold that against him, but I do not agree with his decision to attend USC post-grad after being a Bruin (my parents are both UCLA alums). His parents, while not college educated, were very wise. They bought a hot dog cart towards the end of the Great Depression, figuring that “everybody’s gotta eat” and “people like hot dogs.” We can call hot dogs a consumer staple good, which, if priced correctly is basically recession proof. At the same time, they didn’t put all their….
On the #eWinterim, Kimberly Fowler, of YAS, told a very motivational story of changing her career, mid-career, after being a CEO of a large corporation (and previously working as an attorney). After sustaining a substantial climbing injury, she could no longer continue as CEO during her recovery period, and therefore found herself unemployed when she had healed. While her friends advised her to simply go back to basic practicing law, as she was doing prior to being a CEO, she decided to focus on what she loved–Yoga and Spinning. At the time (1999), the Yoga craze had already begun, and there were also separate spin studios that were quite popular. But nobody thought to take the two and make a combined product–a studio consisting of Yoga and Spinning. Without the support of her family and friends (they thought she was crazy), she put her entire savings on the line to invent and create this hybrid industry. That’s lesson number one–if you think something has potential, no matter what anyone else says, take the risk and go for it (with proper research and execution strategy, of course). In almost every entrepreneur’s story, there is also an insane element of luck and….