Category Archives: Current in Entrepreneurship

Where A.I. Is Going (& Why We Need Entrepreneurship)

You’re racing to the airport, unaware there’s a wreck on the highway ahead.  Fortunately, an artificial intelligence-driven system in your vehicle is looking after you.  The system automatically checks on your flight –still on schedule and determines your chances of making ti to the gate on time are slim.  With your permission, it can proactively book an alternate flight.

“That’s the true virtual assistance in the future,” says Gartner vice president and fellow David Cearley.  “Rather than having conversational interfaces respond to discrete things, it understands the context and can respond to (your) intent.”

Much has been said and written about the future of AI, and the role it will play –good and potentially bad– in practically everything consumer and businesses engage in.  What pretty much everyone agrees on is that AI will make a profound difference through the next decade and beyond, during which we may see a further blurring between human and machine.

About a year ago, reseachers at Pew Research Center and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center asked the following: “By 2030, do you think it i most likely that advancing AI and related technology systems will enhance human capacities and empower them?”  Of then nearly 1,000 technologists who weighed in, about two-thirds predicted most of us will be better off, with one-third thinking otherwise.  And most expressed at least some concern over the long-term impact of AI on the “essential elements of being human”.

Almost no one disputes the fact that AI will continue to get smarter.  Sriram Raghavan, who heads IBM Research AI, says that this year by combining learning with logic, AI will start to develop a “common sense” reasoning system, to help businesses deploy more conversational automated customer care and technical support tools.  For his part, Jeff Loucks, executive directors of Deloitte’s Center for Technology, Media & Telecommunications, believes that within 10 years, AI-powered robots may help aging people remain in their homes.  And, AI embedded in more smart devices will help all of us monitor our health and wellness.

For more on this article, please get a copy of today’s USA Today Jan. 22, 2020 or refer to this website -

Importance of Entrepreneurship Now

Entrepreneurship is needed NOW as a survival skill by those workers being displaced by automation, not just blue collar workers but now, because of artificial intelligence, white collar workers.  AI has enabled cognitive thinking through repetitive patterns to allow “machines” to think for themselves and replaced repetitive think work.  Thusfar, State Farm has replaced claims handling processors, MetLife underwriters, and all forms of cognitive computing such as finance, marketing, government and healthcare.

The world economy faces a massive disruption of labor.  Jobs are going to machines at an alarming rate, and ramifications will alter everything we know  about work.  Three forces have been at work since 1990, but will soon go to warp speed.  First is the Gig Economy, which is an environment in which temporary positions are common and organizations contract with independent workers. A study by Intuit predicted that by 2020, 40 percent of American workers would be independent contractors.

Second is the automation of anything that is repetitive and can be replaced by robotics; most automobiles are now made by robots.  Third is the combination of Artificial Intelligence and Big Data. Artificial intelligence (AI) makes it possible for machines to learn from experience, adjust to new inputs and perform human-like tasks.  Deep learning is a type of machine learning that trains a computer to perform human-like tasks, such as recognizing speech, identifying images or making predictions.

Because Big Data has been growing exponentially, AI and deep learning have much to work from.  In 2013 SINTEF estimated that 90% of all information in the world had been created in the prior two years.  Lots of data is exactly what machines need in order to learn to learn.  Google’s DeepMind AI has learned how to read and comprehend what it reads through thousands of annotated news articles.

McKinsey research says that up to one-third of U. S. workers and 800 million globally could be displaced by 2030.  They recommend businesses and policymakers act now to keep people employed.  The single most impactful solution is to empower one and all with entrepreneurship whose innovative and creative skills can allow laborers to transit to self-employment (or to thrive as a freelancer in the Gig Economy).





All You Need to Know to Make Money With Your Hobby

The dream of practically everyone I know is to quit their dull, unfulfilling nine-to-five, and chase their passion while being rewarded with money and fame along the way by loyal, rabid fans and followers, as well as finding joy and satisfaction from creation.

The journey from point A, where you start to think you’d like a creative way to make a bit of money, to point B, where you’re actually earning money by being creative, can seem like a very long and meandering route.

I think a big problem is that there’s often not a lot of transparency with people who have actually achieved it. You might not really see how other people do it, or you might not understand the steps they’ve taken. You might start, only to lose faith along the way when their path doesn’t work for you.

It can take days, months, or even years to make the journey but you know what? We all have to start somewhere, sometime. Here are the five easiest steps you can take to make your hobby something that can pay the bills.

1. Find your passion.

This one is, of course, the most important.

If you’re going to turn a hobby into a lucrative side gig, you absolutely must be passionate about it. You must enjoy it when everything’s going wrong, and you must be able to take rejection for it because I guarantee that will happen. Whether you want to become a YouTuber, an artist, an Instagram influencer, or a wood carver, what you’re doing must be worth more than money to you.

There has to be a fire driving you in order to begin. No matter what your hobby is, you have to have something to stay with it.

I used to believe that my passion was baking. I thought that it wouldn’t take much for a little baking side hustle to take off — I just needed my first big break. When that big break didn’t come soon enough, I quit. There was no passion to keep me going.

This one is, of course, the most important.

In short, over the course of the journey, you will struggle, you will fail, you will be told you’re bad. You need a reason to continue regardless. That’s passion.

2. Find a platform.

One of the best things about existing in this era is that there’s a platform for every type of side gig. If you’re a musician, you can put your content on Soundcloud. If you’re an artist, you can put your work on Instagram. Content distribution is getting better and easier every day, which means it’s simpler for the people who care about (and who hopefully will one day pay you for your work) to find you and applaud you

A guy from my hometown literally built a solid platform, and when it was Garage Sale Saturday on our street, he sat on top of his platform building furniture, which was his side hustle. People loved the show, and they bought his stuff.

Note: it might take some experimentation to find it. You might discover what you thought was a failsafe platform lets you down. This is where it comes back to passion. Don’t be afraid to branch out and try new or unusual platforms.

There’s the right platform out there for everyone, something that will fit your needs, whatever you’re selling, and your audience. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking.

3. Find something to keep you accountable.

Humans suck at accountability. We say we’ll wake up and go for a run, but we sleep in. We vow this will be the last time we eat chocolate, but we buy more cake.

So, we need some kind of way to track when we succeed and watch us when we fail. For running, it helps to get a running buddy. I personally found that for healthy eating, a monetary reward system worked best for me.

On Instagram, I often see people doing photo challenges. They’ll post one picture and say they’re beginning the Black and White challenge, or the Photo a Day challenge, where they have to post in a certain format for a certain length of time.

How can you do this for your hobby? I like a sticker system: every day I do the hobby, I get a sticker. That way you can build on your streak of motivation and effort.

The end point is, find a system that helps you track your hobby. Not the progress, not the goals — just how often you do the dang thing. Give yourself an internal reason to keep going and lend you accountability.

4. Find a community to support you.

I believe it’s very rare that someone will do something well, continuing happily in the face of obstruction, without needing any support from others.

Now, I’m not talking about sycophants who will agree with everything you say. I’m not saying that if you don’t have a single fan, you’ll stop. The are lots of examples of people pursuing their hobby alone, even when the going’s gone very, very tough.

I’m saying it’s easier if you don’t have to do it alone.

For writing, I’ve found that one of the reasons I’ve been able to keep going when I fail is that I’m not alone. The writing communities I’m lucky enough to be a part of are full of incredibly supportive, experienced members who answer any and all questions they can help witt.

It’s chock-full of role models to emulate and aspire to be like; and it also has people who are willing to admit when things aren’t going their way, too.

This last component is most important. It’s great to see successful people and aspire to be like them, but when you’re doing a side-hustle and you look around, social media makes it seem like everyone but you is succeeding. It’s incredibly valuable to have people who confirm that things suck for them right now, too, and you’re not alone, and yes, you will keep going.

The takeaway is to find a group of like-minded people trying to do the same thing as you. Search on Twitter, on Google, at your local grocery store notice board. It’s easier together.

5. Don’t lose your passion once you’ve found it.

This is the one I’ve struggled with the most. When you’re good at something, and people tell you that you’re good at it, and you’re rewarded for it, it’s easy to follow your dreams.

When you struggle, when you get bad feedback, when you look around and everyone’s doing about ten times better, that’s when you run into problems. At that point, it’s easy to forget why you started doing it. It’s so tempting to stop, give up, take a break you won’t come back from.

For me, I was hopeful I could turn painting into a side hustle one day. I was hindered by the fact that I’m not very good at painting, I didn’t know anyone else who was painting, and I genuinely didn’t believe that I could ever earn money from painting.

In short, I didn’t believe it rewarded me enough to persevere.

What I didn’t realize was that a) side gigs can be profitable without needing to be paid; and b) sometimes it takes time to make something financially profitable. Essentially, I overlooked the mental and emotional benefits that painting brought me on a regular basis, in favor of chasing that dollar sign. I also ignored the fact that I’d have to practice — a lot — in order to become good enough at painting to sell my work.

To regain my passion, I had to force myself to paint. And I think sometimes, that’s what it takes: when you run out of motivation, you have to run on willpower alone. It’s worth it. You’ll get there.

What you don’t see behind every successful person who turned their hobby into a gorgeous, creative, fulfilling full-time job, is that someone has worked hard for what they’ve earned.

It’s easy to tell yourself that they’re unicorns, rare breeds who had it easy or got lucky, because that means that if you fail, it’s not your fault.

But everyone can do it. All it takes is finding your passion, your platform, your accountability, your community, and the patience to continue when you feel the passion is gone. As long as you understand it’s a journey, not an overnight transformation, you can turn your hobby into a paying side hustle, which might one day turn into a career.

Courtesy of by Zulie Rane, May 2019

Entrepreneurs Upbeat About Hiring, Researchers Find.

New York — Although many small businesses struggle to find staffers to fill their open positions, many entrepreneurs with recently launched companies intend to create jobs within a few years.

That’s one of the findings of a study by researchers at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. The study, based on surveys of approximately 3,000 people in the U. S. during 2018, found that 87% of entrepreneurs with young companies expect to employ workers during the next five years, and 38% expect to have six or more workers.  Seventeen percent said they expected to have 20 or more workers in five years.  Those expectations reflect the confidence and optimism of owners of businesses that are in the early stages of growth, the study said.  “They trust that they can recruit, hire, and develop employees to help them successfully grow their business,” it said.

Entrepreneurs in the study were upbeat even as small businesses in general were struggling to find staffers.  Hiring at small companies tracked by payroll processor ADP was erratic during 2018.

By Liz Weston, Nerd Wallet, Published Dec. 22, 2019 Sarasota Herald-Tribune

U.S. News & World Report has ranked Babson College the No. 1 undergraduate school for entrepreneurship for the 23rd consecutive time.


Entrepreneurship can be the antidote to poverty

More than 38 million Americans are living in poverty, according to the latest U.S. Census data. That’s just under 12% of the population.

Not exactly what President Lyndon Johnson had in mind when he declared war on poverty in 1964, more than a half-century ago. Since then, the U.S. poverty rate has averaged about 13%. It’s declined slightly during economic booms and ticked up during recessions.

In other words, the War on Poverty has been fought to a draw, despite trillions of dollars in federal spending. Yet more spending is exactly what the leading contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination are calling for as part of their effort to alleviate poverty.

There’s a better way to help people climb the economic ladder. And that’s by making it easier to be an entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurship is one of the surest ways for those with low incomes to beat a path into the middle class and beyond. A study from the Small Business Administration found that “self-employed workers who own incorporated businesses have much higher earnings than all other worker groups in low-income areas.”

Entrepreneurship is also a pivotal way for immigrants, many of whom arrive without intimate knowledge of or connections to American society, to secure the better life they sought by coming here. Nearly 30% of all new entrepreneurs are immigrants.

But as a new report on the state of entrepreneurship from the Pacific Research Institute shows, government has erected barriers that make it difficult for low-income entrepreneurs to get their businesses off the ground, hire more workers, and work their way out of poverty.

These barriers include costly business taxes, fees, and permits; a complicated tax code that requires significant out-of-pocket expense for compliance; nonsensical occupational licensing laws that impede a person’s right to work; and exceedingly high minimum wage laws that make it difficult for entrepreneurs to create jobs.

All told, small businesses with fewer than 50 employees face nearly $12,000 in costs per worker just to comply with government regulations. Adhering to the tax code costs very small businesses — those with one to five employees — about $4,300 per employee.

There are several market reforms that policy makers can deploy to reverse this trend. In light of these unconscionable tax and regulatory costs, policy makers should cut bureaucratic red tape, simplify the tax code, and jettison ill-considered new regulations such as a $15 minimum wage.

Reforms should also focus on improving low-income entrepreneur’s access to capital, which is perhaps the biggest hurdle aspiring businesses must overcome.

Starting a business takes an estimated 4.4 times the median net worth of an African American household. It takes four times the median net worth of the average Latino family.

The Federal Reserve’s annual Small Business Credit Survey notes that firms seeking between $100,000 and $250,000 have the most difficult time securing financing. These are the micro-businesses that low-income entrepreneurs are building from the ground up.

Community banks are the traditional providers of credit for these firms. But they’ve been stymied by overly burdensome federal regulations. Reforms enacted in 2018 exempted small banks from some of the Dodd-Frank Act’s most onerous regulations; that should help improve small businesses’ ability to access credit in the future.

Micro-lenders are beginning to enter the market as well. They’re well-positioned to serve the typical credit needs of small entrepreneurial firms. The best way to further encourage the growth of micro-lenders is by streamlining rules and assigning oversight to one national regulator.

Starting a new business has always been a piece of the American dream, especially for immigrants and those starting at the bottom of the economic ladder. Unfortunately, too many government-created obstacles stand in the way of entrepreneurs toiling to produce better lives for their families. Removing these obstacles is essential to helping those struggling the most — and ultimately winning the War on Poverty.

Wayne Winegarden is a senior fellow in business and economics at the Pacific Research Institute. Download a copy of his study “Entrepreneurship as a Pathway to the American Dream” at  Courtesy of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Why Tim Cook Still Has His Job at Apple

What happens to a company when a visionary CEO is gone? Most often innovation dies and the company coasts for years on momentum and its brand.

apple-equals-microsoftRarely does it regain its former glory.

Here’s why.

Microsoft entered the 21st century as the dominant software provider for anyone who interacted with a computing device. 16 years later it’s just another software company.

After running Microsoft for 25 years, Bill Gates handed the reins of CEO to Steve Ballmer in January 2000. Ballmer went on to run Microsoft for the next 14 years. If you think the job of a CEO is to increase sales, then Ballmer did a spectacular job. He tripled Microsoft’s sales to $78 billion and profits more than doubled from $9 billion to $22 billion. The launch of the Xbox and Kinect, and the acquisitions of Skype and Yammer happened on his shift. If the Microsoft board was managing for quarter to quarter or even year to year revenue growth, Ballmer was as good as it gets as a CEO. But if the purpose of the company is long-term survival, then one could make a much better argument that he was a failure as a CEO as he optimized short-term gains by squandering long-term opportunities.

How to Miss the Boat – Five Times
Despite Microsoft’s remarkable financial performance, as Microsoft CEO Ballmer failed to understand and execute on the five most important technology trends of the 21stcentury: in search – losing to Google; in smartphones – losing to Apple; in mobile operating systems – losing to Google/Apple; in media – losing to Apple/Netflix; and in the cloud – losing to Amazon. Microsoft left the 20th century owning over 95% of the operating systems that ran on computers (almost all on desktops). Fifteen years and 2 billion smartphones shipped in the 21st century and Microsoft’s mobile OS share is 1%. These misses weren’t in some tangential markets – missing search, mobile and the cloud were directly where Microsoft users were heading.  Yet a very smart CEO missed all of these.  Why?

Execution and Organization of Core Businesses
It wasn’t that Microsoft didn’t have smart engineers working on search, media, mobile and cloud. They had lots of these projects. The problem was that Ballmer organized the company around execution of its current strengths – Windows and Office businesses. Projects not directly related to those activities never got serious management attention and/or resources.

For Microsoft to have tackled the areas they missed – cloud, music, mobile, apps – would have required an organizational transformation to a services company. Services (Cloud, ads, music) have a very different business model. They are hard to do in a company that excels at products.

Ballmer and Microsoft failed because the CEO was a world-class executor (a Harvard grad and world-class salesman) of an existing business model trying to manage in a world of increasing change and disruption. Microsoft executed its 20th-century business model extremely well, but it missed the new and more important ones. The result?  Great short-term gains but long-term prospects for Microsoft are far less compelling.

In 2014, Microsoft finally announced that Ballmer would retire, and in early 2014, Satya Nadella took charge. Nadella got Microsoft organized around mobile and the cloud (Azure), freed the Office and Azure teams from Windows, killed the phone business and got a major release of Windows out without the usual trauma. And is moving the company into augmented reality and conversational AI. While they’ll likely never regain the market dominance they had in the 20th century, (their business model continues to be extremely profitable) Nadella likely saved Microsoft from irrelevance.

What’s Missing?
Visionary CEOs are not “just” great at assuring world-class execution of a tested and successful business model, they are also world-class innovators. Visionary CEOs are product and business model centric and extremely customer focused.

The best are agile and know how to pivot – make a substantive change to the business model while or before their market has shifted. The very best of them shape markets – they know how to create new markets by seeing opportunities before anyone else. They remain entrepreneurs.

One of the best examples of a visionary CEO is Steve Jobs who transformed Apple from a niche computer company into the most profitable company in the world. Between 2001 to 2008, Jobs reinvented the company three times. Each transformation – from a new computer distribution channel – Apple Stores to disrupting the music business with iPod and iTunes in 2001; to the iPhone in 2007; and the App store in 2008 – drove revenues and profits to new heights

apple-2001-to-08-arcThese were not just product transitions, but radical business model transitions – new channels, new customers and new markets–and new emphasis on different parts of the organization (design became more important than the hardware itself and new executives became more important than the current ones).

Visionary CEOs don’t need someone else to demo the company’s key products for them. They deeply understand products, and they have their own coherent and consistent vision of where the industry/business models and customers are today, and where they need to take the company.  They know who their customers are because they spend time talking to them. They use strategy committees and the exec staff for advice, but none of these CEOs pivot by committee.

Why Tim Cook Is the New Steve Ballmer
And that brings us to Apple, Tim Cook and the Apple board.

One of the strengths of successful visionary and charismatic CEOs is that they build an executive staff of world-class operating executives (and they unconsciously force out any world-class innovators from their direct reports). The problem is in a company driven by a visionary CEO, there is only one visionary. This type of CEO surrounds himself with extremely competent executors, but not disruptive innovators. While Steve Jobs ran Apple, he drove the vision but put strong operating execs in each domain – hardware, software, product design, supply chain, manufacturing – who translated his vision and impatience into plans, process and procedures.

slide1When visionary founders depart (death, firing, etc.), the operating executives who reported to them believe it’s their turn to run the company (often with the blessing of the ex CEO).  At Microsoft, Bill Gates anointed Steve Ballmer, and at Apple Steve Jobs made it clear that Tim Cook was to be his successor.

Once in charge, one of the first things these operations/execution CEOs do is to get rid of the chaos and turbulence in the organization. Execution CEOs value stability, process and repeatable execution. On one hand that’s great for predictability, but it often starts a creative death spiral – creative people start to leave, and other executors (without the innovation talent of the old leader) are put into more senior roles – hiring more process people, which in turn forces out the remaining creative talent. This culture shift ripples down from the top and what once felt like a company on a mission to change the world now feels like another job.

As process oriented as the new CEOs are, you get the sense that one of the things they don’t love and aren’t driving are the products (go look at the Apple Watch announcements and see who demos the product).

Tim Cook has now run Apple for five years, long enough for this to be his company rather than Steve Jobs’. The parallel between Gates and Ballmer and Jobs and Cook is eerie. Apple under Cook has doubled its revenues to $200 billion while doubling profit and tripling the amount of cash it has in the bank (now a quarter of trillion dollars). The iPhone continues its annual upgrades of incremental improvements. Yet in five years the only new thing that managed to get out the door is the Apple Watch. With 115,000 employees Apple can barely get annual updates out for their laptops and desktop computers.

But the world is about to disrupt Apple in the same way that Microsoft under Ballmer faced disruption. Apple brilliantly mastered User Interface and product design to power the iPhone to dominance. But Google and Amazon are betting that the next of wave of computing products will be AI-directed services – machine intelligence driving apps and hardware. Think of Amazon Alexa, Google Home and Assistant directed by voice recognition that’s powered by smart, conversational Artificial Intelligence – and most of these will be a new class of devices scattered around your house, not just on your phone. It’s possible that betting on the phone as the platform for conversational AI may not be the winning hand.

It’s not that Apple doesn’t have exciting things in conversational AI going on in their labs. Heck, Siri was actually first. Apple also has autonomous car projects, AI-based speakers, augmented and virtual reality, etc in their labs. The problem is that a supply chain CEO who lacks a passion for products and has yet to articulate a personal vision of where to Apple will go is ill equipped to make the right organizational, business model and product bets to bring those to market.

Four Challenges for the Board of Directors
The dilemma facing the boards at Microsoft, Apple or any board of directors on the departure of an innovative CEO is strategic: Do we still want to be a innovative, risk taking company?  Or should we now focus on execution of our core business, reduce our risky bets and maximize shareholder return.

Tactically, that question results in asking: Do you search for another innovator from outside, promote one of the executors or go deeper down the organization to find an innovator?

Herein lies four challenges. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates (and 20th century’s other creative icon -Walt Disney) shared the same blind spot: They suggested execution executives as their successors. They confused world-class execution with the passion for product and customers, and market insight. From the perspective of Gates there was no difference between him and Ballmer and from Jobs to Cook. Yet history has shown us for long-term survival in markets that change rapidly that’s definitely not the case.

The second conundrum is that if the board decides that the company needs another innovator at the helm, you can almost guarantee that the best executor – the number 2 and/or 3 vice president in the company – will leave, feeling that they deserved the job. Now the board is faced with not only having lost its CEO, but potentially the best of the executive staff.

The third challenge is that many innovative/visionary CEOs have become part of the company’s brand. Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Immelt, Elon Musk, Mark Benioff, Larry Ellison. This isn’t a new phenomenon, think of 20th-century icons like Walt Disney, Edward Land at Polaroid, Henry Ford, Lee Iacocca at Chrysler, Jack Welch at GE and Alfred Sloan at GM. But they’re not only an external face to the company, they were often the touchstone for internal decision-making. Years after a visionary CEO is gone companies are still asking “What would Walt Disney/Steve Jobs/Henry Ford have done?” rather than figuring out what they should now be doing in the changing market.

Finally, the fourth conundrum is that as companies grow larger and management falls prey to the fallacy that it only exists to maximize shareholder short-term return on investment, companies become risk averse. Large companies and their boards live in fear of losing what they spent years gaining (customers, market share, revenue, profits.) This may work in stable markets and technologies. But today very few of those remain.

In the 21st Century an Execution CEO as a Successor Increasingly May be The Wrong Choice
In a startup the board of directors realizes that risk is the nature of new ventures and innovation is why they exist. On day one there are no customers to lose, no revenue and profits to decline. Instead there is everything to gain. In contrast, large companies are often risk-averse engines – they are executing a repeatable and scalable business model that spins out the short-term dividends, revenue and profits that the stock market rewards. And an increasing share price becomes the reason for existing. The irony is that in the 21st century, the tighter you hold on to your current product/markets, the likelier you will be disrupted. (As articulated in the classic Clayton Christensen book The Innovators Dilemma, in industries with rapid technology or market shifts, disruption cannot be ignored.)

Increasingly, a hands-on product/customer, and business model-centric CEO with an entrepreneurial vision of the future may be the difference between market dominance and Chapter 11. In these industries, disruption will create opportunities that force “bet the company” decisions about product direction, markets, pricing, supply chain, operations and the reorganization necessary to execute a new business model.  At the end of the day CEOs who survive embrace innovation, communicate a new vision and build management to execute the vision.

Lessons Learned

Innovation CEOs are almost always replaced by one of their execution VPs

  • If they have inherited a powerful business model this often results in gains in revenue and profits that can continue for years
  • However, as soon the market, business model, technology shifts, these execution CEOs are ill-equipped to deal with the change – the result is a company obsoleted by more agile innovators and left to live off momentum in its twilight years

Courtesy of *Steve Blank’s October 2016 Post which also appeared in the Harvard Business Review    –  (*Steve is considered the “Godfather” of Lean Startup in Silicon Valley as a new venture method.)


Realizing a skills-based (STEM) future in the workforce for Young Women

A digital society is a dynamic one. In the future, new technologies will regularly enter the marketplace, continuing to make lifelong learning necessary. A skills-based economy means that degrees and hierarchies will no longer be as relevant. When abilities are prioritized above factors like gender, more women could feel empowered to enter the STEM industry, knowing they’d be less likely to be assessed on the basis of gender.

Recently, Dr. France A. Córdova, director of the National Science Foundation, gave a presentation at the U.S. Council on Competitiveness meeting in Washington, D.C. She holds an extraordinary record of accomplishment and has made a tremendous impact on academia and the U.S.’s scientific community. Córdova is also the youngest person — and first woman — to serve as Chief Scientist at NASA. Her journey began with her love for STEM.

In some ways, the future of work is largely linked to STEM. Yet in this day and age, despite role models like Córdova, women continue to remain significantly underrepresented across the board in this industry. What’s more, the inevitable reality of an AI-integrated workforce is coming.

According to recent research, women make up just 26 percent of those who hold computer- and math-related jobs. Moreover, data from UNESCO indicates that only 35 percent of women go into STEM, of which a mere 3 percent decided to pursue fields like IT. And when it comes to computer science degrees in the U.S., only 18 percent of them are earned by female college graduates.

Interestingly, in Eastern Europe, more women tend to pursue STEM. About 74 percent of women occupy medical professions in countries like Estonia and Latvia. In Bulgaria, 27 percent of IT workers are women –– a nine-fold lead over the U.S. And Eastern European countries boast the highest proportion of women who work in high-tech companies.

These results are partly a product of socialist-era policies that encouraged females to pursue the maths and sciences in the name of the State’s advancement. American can learn from the policy initiative of driving the populace to pursue STEM via large-scale campaigns for societal betterment.

Though Eastern Europe trumps America when it comes to women in STEM, many females who do choose to explore the industry report experiencing gender discrimination. Results from a survey of 1,000 college-aged women conducted by Girls Who Code suggested that “half [of the women] had either had a negative experience applying for a job in tech or know a woman who has.” Furthermore, of the survey respondents that reported a negative encounter, 25 percent said their interviewers focused on “their personal attributes rather than their skills” and 21 percent of women said they “encountered biased questions.”

In light of this pressing issue, female-centric STEM initiatives has appeared across the US. Among the best known national programs include the previously mentioned Girls Who Code organization, as well as Kode With Klossy, run by former supermodel Karlie Kloss. And though specialized STEM programs for girls are a step in the right direction, we need to make a leap. Current efforts aren’t nearly comprehensive enough to adequately prepare women for an AI-augmented reality and work towards solving the problem of discrimination and the gender gap.

We can take advantage of the inescapable marriage of technology and biology to craft a novel multi-part solution for helping solve the discrimination and STEM gender gap:

  1. STEM awareness campaigns:Evangelize STEM in the workforce of tomorrow.
  2. Special science and technology tracks for girls:Create a separate, more advanced science and technology curriculum for girls during early education due to biological developments in maturity.
  3. AI in interviewing:Implementing carefully vetted AI in hiring procedures to potentially help eliminate gender-bias discrimination.
  4. Realizing a skills-based future:Create an understanding that the future economy will likely be skills-based rather than degree-based.

Nationwide STEM awareness campaigns and action-oriented programs

“Women make up just under half (47 percent) of the workforce, but they are 58 percent of workers at the highest risk of automation,” states a recent report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Therefore, the digital workforce revolution could drive some women to encounter high levels of job insecurity.

But just how much of a threat does automation pose? According to the U.S. Census, between 2006 and 2010, 96 percent of secretarial and administrative positions were occupied by women. Females also reportedly hold 77 percent of teaching positions and 78 percent of central-office administrator roles.

Learning from eastern Europe, America can introduce “STEM awareness campaigns,” large-scale private-public initiatives through which the government, academic and private institutions work in tandem to educate the public about STEM. One example of a current STEM awareness initiative is STEMFuture, an international non-profit organization that provides education and workshops for adolescents to encourage careers in technology, math and science.

STEM awareness campaigns have the potential to significantly lessen the strain of automation on women and deliver a new set of opportunities and benefits to the female workforce of tomorrow.

Launching advanced separate technology coursework geared for girls

Scientific research suggests the female brain matures faster than the male brain and possesses unique structural attributes. For example, girls tend to have stronger neural networks in the temporal lobe, leading to better memorization and listening abilities. In addition, the corpus callosum (a weave of fibers that conjoin the left and right hemispheres of the brain), can be up to 25 percent larger in developing female adolescents than in their male counterparts.

Currently, schools teach boys and girls at an equivalent pace, neglecting their separate biological needs. If educators take advantage of development differences, special STEM curriculums could be crafted for girls at an early age. This could help bring STEM to girls across classrooms in the U.S. and encourage them to explore the field more deeply.

AI-augmented HR interviewers

Using AI to improve the HR hiring process isn’t news. Many companies use AI recruitment software that aims to make hiring more efficient or cut down on bias. This innovation suggests that AI will remain central to the future workplace environment.

According to a Pew Research report, “about  four in ten working women (42 percent) in the United States say they have faced discrimination on the job because of their gender.” Moreover, another another study by Pew suggests that 50 percent of women in STEM jobs have experienced gender discrimination. Carefully vetted AI could help decrease gender bias discrimination in STEM by exclusively assessing candidates based on skills.

It’s Time for Psychological Science to Become More Entrepreneurial

There are few things in life that almost everyone agrees are “good,” and entrepreneurship is one of them. Federal, state, and local governments, politicians of every persuasion, the media, and people in general share the belief that entrepreneurship offers many important benefits: It generates new jobs, contributes to economic growth (and thus tax revenues), and is often a source of new products and services that make life better and more convenient. Imagine living in a world that had no smart phones, GPS, photocopiers, online shopping, or even wheeled luggage. All of these modern conveniences have roots in the ideas and actions of entrepreneurs.

State and local governments try to persuade entrepreneurs to locate companies in their regions by offering tax breaks and funds to build needed facilities. Universities, too, have sought to increase entrepreneurship by launching well-equipped start-up centers where students can work on their ideas free of charge and with support from faculty. Universities also run business-plan competitions in which the winners receive substantial cash awards, in addition to access to individuals or companies who can provide financial support for their ideas.

Going further, many universities have created departments of entrepreneurship, located primarily in schools of management or business. These departments have the same responsibilities as other departments: teaching courses (undergraduate, graduate), providing service to the university, and conducting and publishing research that adds to knowledge in their field.  The existence of these departments raises three interrelated questions:

  • What knowledge do they seek?
  • How can that knowledge be acquired?
  • How can that knowledge be used?

Answering the first and last questions is fairly straightforward. With regard to the knowledge sought, all fields, from physics to philosophy, have basic questions they seek to answer. For the field of entrepreneurship, one such question is why some entrepreneurs succeed while most fail. As for how that knowledge can be used, it can be incorporated into courses to provide future entrepreneurs with the help they need. Helping them succeed is, in fact, a crucial goal of the field of entrepreneurship.

The middle question — how that knowledge can be acquired — is somewhat more complex. Several approaches have been used in entrepreneurship research. One involves asking successful entrepreneurs about their experiences; presumably, the information and insights provided by people who have “been there, done that” can be revealing. But the fact that individuals often do not know why they acted as they did or what factors influenced their outcomes casts doubt on this approach.

The good news is that there is another approach: conducting systematic research on entrepreneurship using the methods of psychological science. The knowledge provided by this burgeoning academic research enterprise is increasing our understanding of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship, and it is presenting a variety of opportunities for greater participation of psychological scientists from across our diverse field.

To that end, let’s go back to the question of why some entrepreneurs succeed while most fail. Answering this question involves, logically, efforts to identify the variables that play a role in these contrasting outcomes. What skills, knowledge, personal characteristics, motives, goals, and cognitive assets do successful entrepreneurs possess, or possess to a greater degree than unsuccessful ones? All these variables relate to individual entrepreneurs, without whom there is no entrepreneurship. As this fact gains recognition, interest in psychological science as a source of information about these variables has increased — albeit slowly, given that many researchers in this area were trained in economics or branches of sociology and are thus unfamiliar with the knowledge acquired by psychological science.

One reason I began studying entrepreneurship was that I believed the field could benefit greatly by drawing on research conducted by psychologists. I had been an entrepreneur myself, so I could view it from the inside as well as the outside as a researcher. The result was that I became an “importer” of psychological science, bringing its findings, theories, and methods into the field of entrepreneurship. In this, I drew on areas of research well known to psychological scientists: social processes, counterfactual thinking, the role of cognition in recognizing opportunities for new products or services, affect, self-regulation, self-efficacy, and even social categorization — the “us versus them” effect. Many other researchers in entrepreneurship have done this too, making psychological research an important source of knowledge for entrepreneurship research and theory overall.

Clearly, entrepreneurship has benefitted by using information gathered by psychological scientists. But there also are several important ways in which psychological science, too, can benefit from developing closer connections with the field of entrepreneurship. These benefits fall into two categories: research and financial.

On the research side, psychological scientists working with entrepreneurship researchers can test their theories, findings, and methods in new environments and with new populations. I/O psychologists have conducted research for many years in large, established companies. Potentially, much could also be gained from research in start-up companies.

Further, entrepreneurs are a fascinating and unique population. Many leave secure jobs with relatively high pay and excellent benefits to found new companies. They realize that the odds are against them — 80% of entrepreneurial companies disappear within 3 years — yet they are willing to work long hours, often with little financial benefit. Why? Psychological science can help answer that question in ways that can help aspiring entrepreneurs succeed.

Cognitive psychologists, for example, might gain new insights into decision making and the process through which individuals recognize opportunities. My research, and that of other researchers on this topic, indicates that pattern recognition — “connecting the dots” between seemingly unrelated concepts, events, or situations — plays a role, and I’m sure that cognitive psychologists could provide additional insights concerning this issue.

Social psychologists, in turn, could gain greater understanding of prosocial behavior by studying “social” entrepreneurs, who do not seek personal wealth but aim to solve important problems such as malnutrition, disease, and poverty. They could also explore why individuals donate to entrepreneurs through crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter and GoFundMe — in some cases generating millions of dollars in contributions.

Similarly, developmental psychologists could explore the factors in entrepreneurs’ lives that influence them to choose this risky career path. Possibilities might include exposure to social models (my grandfather and two uncles were entrepreneurs), experiences of success for expressing creativity, and even genetic factors.

Besides gaining access to a wide range of useful data, studying entrepreneurs is an opportunity for psychology researchers themselves to be, well, entrepreneurial. Departments of entrepreneurship are generously funded by their universities, state or local governments, and — perhaps most important — donors. These gifts are often substantial, amounting to millions or even tens of millions of dollars, and provide funds for travel, equipment, and large data sets. One of my former PhD students, for example, needed $10,000 to obtain data necessary for his dissertation research. These funds were readily available to him from the endowed chair I held (which had a large budget) and department resources.

By building ties with the field of entrepreneurship and working closely with faculty in departments of entrepreneurship, psychological scientists may also be able to obtain support for their own work — for instance, funding for equipment or travel to relevant conventions. Such collaboration could also reduce teaching responsibilities through integrative courses taught by faculty in both departments and could open the path to new and different sources of funding.

Overall, the central thought I hope to communicate to my psychology colleagues is that it is time to become more entrepreneurial — to recognize the benefits of studying entrepreneurship and to build bridges to the thriving research enterprise in this exciting and integrative area of study. In a sense, the field of entrepreneurship research has already done its part. It is now up to psychological science to make this relationship reciprocal, perhaps by following the advice of one famous entrepreneur: “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing”—Walt Disney.

Courtesy of the APS, Assn. for Psychological Science, written by Robert A. Baron, Professor of Entrepreneurship Emeritus, Oklahoma State University, as sent by The Entrepreneurial Scholar at the Kauffman Foundation.

The Truth Behind Netflix’s Incredible Success

Today, it’s hard to think of Netflix as anything but an incredible success. Its business has grown  at breakneck speed and now streams to 190 countries, yet it has also been consistently profitable, earning over $1 billion last year. With hit series like Orange is the New Black and Stranger Things, it broke the record for Emmy Nominations last year.

Most of all, the company has consistently disrupted the media business through its ability to relentlessly innovate. Its online subscription model upended the movie rental business and drove industry giant Blockbuster into bankruptcy. Later, it pioneered streaming video and introduced binge watching to the world.

Ordinarily, a big success like Netflix would offer valuable lessons for the rest of us. Unfortunately its story has long been shrouded in myth and misinformation. That’s why Netflix Co-Founder Marc Randolph’s new book, That Will Never Work, is so valuable. It not only sets the story straight, it offers valuable insight into how to create a successful business.

The Founding Myth

Anthropologists have long been fascinated by origin myths. The Greek gods battled and defeated the Titans to establish Olympus. Remus and Romulus were suckled by a she-wolf and then established Rome. Adam and Eve were seduced by a serpent, ate the forbidden fruit and were banished from the Garden of Eden.

The reason every culture invents origin myths is that they help make sense of a confusing world and reinforce the existing order. Before science, people were ill-equipped to explain things like disease and natural disasters. So stories, even if the were apocryphal, gave people comfort that there was a rhyme and reason to things.

So it shouldn’t be surprising that an unlikely success such as Netflix has its own origin myth. As legend has it, Co-Founder Reed Hastings misplaced a movie he rented and was charged a $40 dollar late fee. Incensed, he set out to start a movie business that had no late fees. That simple insight led to a disruptive business model that upended the entire industry.

The truth is that late fees had nothing to do with the founding of Netflix. What really happened is that Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph, soon to be unemployed after the sale of their company, Pure Atria, were looking to ride the new e-commerce wave and become the “Amazon of” something. Netflix didn’t arise out of a moment of epiphany, but a process of elimination.

The Subscription Model Was An Afterthought

Netflix really got its start through a morning commute. As Pure Atria was winding down, Randolph and Hastings would drive together from Santa Crux on Highway 17 over the mountain into Silicon Valley. It was a long drive, which gave them lots of time to toss around e-commerce ideas that ranged from customized baseball bats to personalized shampoo.

The reason they eventually settled on movies was the introduction of DVD’s. In 1997, there were very few titles available, so stores didn’t stock them. They were also small and light and were easy to ship. Best of all, the movie studios recognized that they had made a mistake pricing movies on videotape too high and planned to offer DVD’s at a level consumers would buy them.

In the beginning, Netflix earned most of its money selling movies, not renting them. However, before long they realized that it was only a matter of time before Amazon and Walmart began selling DVD’s as well. Once that happened, it was unlikely that Netflix would be able to compete and they would have to find a way to make the rental model work.

The subscription model began as an experiment. No one seemed to want to rent movies by mail, so they were desperate to find a different model and kept trying things until they hit on something that worked. It wasn’t part of a master plan, but the result of trial and error. “If you would have asked me on launch day to describe what Netflix would eventually look like,” Randolph wrote, “I would have never come up with a monthly subscription service.”

The Canada Principle

As Netflix began to grow it was constantly looking for ways to grow its business. One idea that continually came up was expanding to Canada. It’s just over the border, is largely English speaking, has a business-friendly regulatory environment and shares many cultural traits with the US. It just seemed like an obvious way to increase sales.

Yet they didn’t do it for two reasons. First, while Canada is very similar to the US, it is still another country, with its own currency, laws and other complicating factors. Also, while English is commonly spoken in most parts of Canada, in some regions French predominates. So what looked simple at first had the potential to become maddeningly complex.

The second and more important reason was that it would have diluted their focus. Nobody has unlimited resources. You only have a certain number of people who can do a certain  number of things. For every Canadian problem they had to solve, that was one problem that they weren’t solving in the much larger US business.

That became the what Randolph called the “Canada Principle,” or the idea that you need to maximize your focus by limiting the number of opportunities that you pursue. It’s why they dropped DVD sales to focus on renting movies and then dropped a la carte rental to focus on the  subscription business. That singularity of focus played a big part in Netflix’s success.

Nobody Knows Anything

Randolph’s mantra throughout the book is that “nobody knows anything.” He borrowed the phrase from the writer William Goldman’s memoir Adventures in the Screen Trade. What Goldman meant was that nobody truly knows how a movie will do until it’s out. Some movies with the biggest budgets and greatest stars flop, while some of the unlikeliest indy films are hits.

For Randolph though, it’s more of a guiding business philosophy. “For every good idea,” he says, “there are a thousand bad ideas it is indistinguishable from.” The only real way to tell the difference is to go out and try them, see what works, discard the failures and build on the successes. You have to, in other words, dare to be crap.

Over the years, I’ve had the chance to get to know hundreds of great innovators and they all tell a different version of the same story. While they often became known for one big idea, they had tried thousands of others before they arrived at the one that worked. It was perseverance and a singularity of focus, not a sudden epiphany, that made the difference.

That’s why the myth of the $40 late fee, while seductive, can be so misleading. What made Netflix successful wasn’t just one big idea. In fact, just about every assumption they made when they started the company was wrong. Rather, it was what they learned along the way that made the difference. That’s the truth of how Netflix became a media powerhouse.

Courtesy of Greg Satell

Getting Schooled – Lessons from an Adjunct

From Poets & Quants, posted December 3, 2019 on (Steve is considered Godfather of lean startup as creator of the customer development process which started the methodology).

I’ve been an adjunct professor for nearly two decades. Here’s what I’ve learned.

Colleges and universities that offer entrepreneurs the opportunity to teach innovation and entrepreneurship classes may benefit from a more formal onboarding process.

The goal would be six-fold:

  1. Integrate adjuncts as partners with their entrepreneurship centers
  2. Create repeatable and scalable processes for onboarding adjuncts
  3. Expose adjuncts to the breadth and depth of academic research in the field
  4. Expose faculty to current industry practices
  5. Create a stream of translational entrepreneurship literature for practitioners (founders and VC’s.)
  6. Create fruitful and mutually beneficial relationships between traditional research faculty and adjunct faculty.

In my experience as both an adjunct and a guest speaker at a number of universities, I’ve observed the often-missed opportunity to build links between faculty research and practitioner experience. Entrepreneurial centers have recognized the benefits of both, but a more thoughtful effort to build stronger relationships between research and practice—and the faculty and adjuncts who are teaching – can result in better classes, strengthen connections between research and practice, build the Center’s knowledge base and enhance the reputation of the Center and its program.  (See here for what that would look like.)

An adjunct is a non-tenure track, part-time employee. Innovation and entrepreneurship programs in most schools use experienced business practitioners as lecturers or adjunct faculty to teach some or all of their classes. In research universities with entrepreneurship programs adjuncts are typically founders, VC’s or business executives. Tenure track faculty focus on research in innovation and entrepreneurship while the adjuncts teach the “practice” of entrepreneurship.

It’s Been A Trip
I’ve been an adjunct for almost 18 years, and I still remember the onboarding process at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley. I started as a guest lecturer, essentially walk-on entertainment, where the minimal entry was proving that I could form complete sentences and tell engaging stories from my eight startups that illustrated key lessons in entrepreneurship.

Feeling like I had passed some test (which I later learned really was a test), I then graduated to co-teaching a class with Jerry Engel, the Founding Executive Director of the Lester Center for Entrepreneurship at Haas. Here I had to master someone else’s curriculum, hold the attention of the class and impart maximum knowledge with minimum damage to the students. While I didn’t realize it, I was passing another test.

I knew I wanted to write a book about a (then) radically new entrepreneurship idea called Customer Development (later the foundation of the Lean Startup movement). Concurrently, Jerry needed an entrepreneurial marketing course, and suggested that if I first created my class, a book would emerge from it. He was right. The Four Steps to the Epiphany, the book that launched the Lean Startup movement, was based on the course material from my first class. I don’t know who was more surprised – Jerry hearing that an adjunct wanted to create a course or me hearing Jerry say, “Sure, go ahead. We’ll get it approved.”

And here’s where the story gets interesting. John Freeman, the Faculty Director of the Lester Center for Entrepreneurship at Haas, began to mentor me as I started teaching my class. While I expected John to drop in to monitor how and what I was teaching, I was pleasantly surprised when he suggested we grab coffee once a week. Each week, over the course of the semester, John gently pointed (prodded) me to read specific papers from the academic literature that existed on customer discovery in the enterprise and adjacent topics. In exchange, I shared with him my feedback on whether the theory matched the practice and what theory was missing. And herein lies the tale.

I got a lot smarter discovering an entire universe of papers and people who had researched and thought long and hard about innovation and entrepreneurship. While no one had the exact insights about startups I was exploring, the breadth and depth of what I didn’t know was staggering. More importantly, my book, customer development, and the Lean methodology were greatly influenced by all the research that had preceded me. In hindsight, I consider it a work of translational entrepreneurship. 18 years later I’m still reading new papers and drawing new insights that allow me to further refine ideas in the classroom and outside it.

The Relationship of Faculty, Staff and Adjuncts
What I had accidentally stumbled into at U.C. Berkeley was a rare event. The director of the entrepreneurship center and the faculty research director were working as a team to build a department which explored both research and practice in depth. Together, in just a few years, they used the guest speaker > to co-teacher > to teacher methodology to build a professional faculty of over a dozen instructors.

A few lessons from that experience:
A successful adjunct program starts with the mindset of the faculty research director and the team building skills of the center director. If they recognize that the role of adjuncts is to both teach students practical lessons and to keep faculty abreast of real-world best practices, the relationship will flourish.

However, in some schools, this faculty-adjunct relationship may become problematic. Faculty may see the role of adjuncts in their department as removing the drudgework of “teaching” from the research faculty so the faculty can pursue the higher calling of entrepreneurial research, publishing and advising PhD students. In this case, adjuncts at the entrepreneurial center are treated as a source of replaceable low-cost teaching assets (somewhere above TA’s and below PhD students.) The result is a huge missed opportunity for a collaborative relationship, one that can enhance the stature and ranking of the department.

When there is support from the faculty research director, the director of the entrepreneurship center can build a stronger program that enhances the reputation of the faculty, program and school.

At U.C. Berkeley this support eventually led the entire school to change its policy toward adjuncts, giving them formal recognition – designating them ‘professional faculty,’ creating a shared office space suite, inviting adjuncts to participate in some faculty meetings, etc.

A side effect of this type of collaboration is that the faculty-adjunct relationship offers the school an opportunity to co-create translational entrepreneurship.

Translational entrepreneurship is fancy term for linking entrepreneurial research with the work of entrepreneurs. As a process, adjuncts would read an academic paper, understand it, see if and how it can be relevant to practitioners (founders, VC’s, corporate exec or employees) and then sharing it with a wide audience.

While Jerry and John built a great process, they didn’t document it. When John Freeman passed away and Jerry Engel retired, the onboarding process went with them. Linked here is my attempt to capture some of these best practices in an “Onboarding Adjuncts Handbook” for directors of entrepreneurship centers and adjuncts.  It’s worth a look.

Lessons Learned:  A small investment in building repeatable and scalable processes for onboarding adjuncts would:

  • Allow entrepreneurship centers to integrate adjuncts as partners
  • Expose adjuncts to the breadth and depth of academic research in the field
  • Potentially create a stream of translational entrepreneurship literature for practitioners (founders and VC’s.)
  • The result would be:
    • Better adjunct-led classes
    • Deeper connections between research and practice
    • Better and more relevant academic research
    • Enhanced reputation of the center and its program
  • See – a suggested onboarding handbook.


Entrepreneur stories to inspire your own business success!

Each day this week…enjoy a new story from an inspiring entrepreneur.

Sheila Cowart is the owner of Longevita Pilates & Yoga Studio. Competition is fierce in this space, with more than 38,000 gyms and fitness studios in the United States. To stand out from the crowd, Sheila focused on discovering what real problems people were facing and how her business could help solve it.

For Sheila and Longevita, this means building a positive, community atmosphere that can lead to achieving fitness and activity goals. This course of action includes tailoring classes and routines for pre- and postnatal women, as well as for those with conditions like multiple sclerosis.

“If I can make a positive difference in their life for that hour or hour-and-a-half that they’re here, I fell I’ve done my job,” Sheila says.

Sheila is clear that it’s been a lot of hard work, including filling multiple from sales to marketing and more. Yet, she would never trade it for a more traditional corporate role because she knows that what she does matters and “makes a difference in people’s lives.”

Enjoy the Longevita Video