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Archive for August, 2010

IDEO HighLights Worrying Trends

August 25, 2010 Leave a comment

The design folks in IDEO have a new trending website called ‘Patterns‘, which features a range of identified ‘trends’ including one that they term ‘Sugar Coated Conservation.’

What is worrying is the recent survey data they have from the US in terms of attitudes towards conservation issues. According to a Pew Research poll conducted across the U.S. in 2009, global warming ranked dead last on the list of Americans’ top 20 priorities, with only 30% of participants identifying it as a “top priority.”  The broader topic of “energy” didn’t even make the top five concerns. Perhaps unsurprisingly the major issues identified were ‘now’ related problems such as the economy and jobs security.

One of the problems about being in a recession is that the focus is always on survival mode. Of course one of the problems in a boom is that the focus is on enjoying said boom. It is depressing to think that it will take more than one large-scale environmental disaster, which can be in someway attributed to global warming, for sustainability issues to move up the rankings. And don’t blame the US, I suspect similar trends would be found in Ireland, Europe and beyond.

One a more positive note the IDEO Pattern site is rather good and should get us thinking about the potential in this and other trends.

Custom Coffee Blends Revenue for Nonprofits

August 25, 2010 Leave a comment

Springwise reports the launch of a new service from Newhall Coffee Roasting company called ‘Newhall Coffee for a Cause’, which allows qualified nonprofits to sell the blends of their choice from the microroaster and receive a significant percentage of the proceeds from every purchase in return. The nonprofits promote the branded java blends on an ongoing basis and they receive quarterly donations in return from Newhall. The deal offers from $3 to $6 per bag as a donation.

For example Newhall Coffee and the Michael Hoeflin Foundation partnered to create the Hope Blend in the fight against Children’s cancer. Beyond developing a tool the organization can sell directly, Newhall Coffee also placed the Hope Blend into Whole Foods Valencia, and has helped facilitate partnerships with local retailers who act as the point of sale for the organization.

Mentoring Start-Ups is Key but Tough

August 24, 2010 Leave a comment

So I have been mentoring a number of start-ups that came out of the Invent DCU postdoctoral programme that ran in March-May this year.  Invent is part of Dublin City University, which encourages the transformation of cutting edge research into innovative and commercially exploitable products and services. The Ryan Academy developed an entrepreneurship programme with Invent for the postdoctoral researcher community.

After the programme was over we met with the researchers individually  and where they had a specific idea for commercialisation, we moved them onto the mentorship part of the programme. The plan is to set them up with at least one mentor but in reality it is more likely to be several as different mentors bring different elements to the mix. For quite a few of them, software and one clean tech start-up, I have ended up mentoring them pretty much all the time. Tough? Yes, it is time-consuming juggling several different technology areas and different people with different needs.

Fun? Totally, you get to play with a number of different start-up ideas, bounce ideas off the founders and others, think through both simple and complex issues. But it has also made me realise how vital good mentoring is, something that was rammed home at the Techstars Boulder visit earlier this month.

What are the key elements? Target market identification, what the positioning of the product might be versus competition (or in many cases not so much competition but ‘ the current way things are done versus a better way the new company can offer’), and getting into that all important, potential first customer or client.

Last week we helped to get a first sale to a prospective client for one of the companies. It was a decent sized sale with a larger potential to sell into the client’s bigger network. And it was a thrill to help set the deal up and advise on closing it. Now we are working on different product lines for this young entrepreneur, setting the company up legally and getting the word out. Hopefully we can help ‘birth’ two or three start-ups from the research community, with Invent’s support, between now and Christmas. And have a lot of fun doing it.

Is Dublin a Good Place to do a Start-up?

August 24, 2010 Leave a comment

There is an interesting article on Techcrunch about Europe’s leading start-up hubs with a decent pitch for Dublin, although some of the comments from the people on the article are slightly strange. For example the Catholic church gets a number of mentions (????) in the debate. Surely it is about the entrepreneurial eco-system….I mean Boulder was full of hippies and new age types that hasn’t effected their development as a start-up centre.

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Applying Old Economy Skills to Smart Economy

August 21, 2010 Leave a comment

So Ireland has a big issue – thousands of jobs have been lost from the construction industry and it’s related services industries. Financial institutions are losing jobs on a regular basis from the knock-on effect. But we have a strong SME sector that has seen increasing exports abroad. Now we need more of that.

So how do we solve these seemingly unrelated issues? Well, many in the higher end of financial services and construction (engineering, architecture) have the basic skills that COULD be applied to the smart economy or at least the SME end. We won’t be able to turn them all into entrepreneurs despite our best efforts, but we can upskill them and get them into SME’s. The problem with being in an SME (and I started my career in one) is that they more than often focus on getting to the end of the month without going out of business. Cashflow is king and the current banking system isn’t helping them in that. So talking about export markets and new products is fine if you are IBM or Microsoft, who have the time and money to invest. SME’s don’t.

But we can look at attaching these ‘old economy’ people (with some specific additional skills) to these companies, in a way that doesn’t put any additional financial stress onto the SME in question. If we can do that, we may be able to leverage the huge human resources we have basically lying around and not contributing to the economy at the moment. If these people can prove their worth to the SME sector, they will get kept on the long run.

Google Adds Like.com to List of Purchases

August 21, 2010 Leave a comment

Looks like the rumours of a week ago are true, with Google buying Like.com which was founded in 2004.  The company core business is that it indexes images based on it’s image recognition technology. It also has developed a number of smaller sites devoted to fashion and e-commerce including personalisation shopping site Covet.com. The company via one of it’s founders, on it’s website, said the sale to Google would help to ‘supersize our vision and supercharge our passion.” Indeed. It may have also super-grown their personal bank accounts in the process. Why is Google buying them? Not for the eCommerce methinks but Google has been looking at video search and image search for sometime now.

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Intel buys McAfee?

August 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Interesting turn of events as word on the street is that Intel is buying security giant McAfee for a whooping $7.6 billion ($48 per share in cash). McAfee will continue to operate as a wholly owned subsidiary. This may be part of Intel’s cloud strategy and/or security strategy particularly on new devices. In the past they have bought companies like Ireland’s Havok because they will drive a need for better, more powerful, fast chips.

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