Category Archives: Current in Entrepreneurship

Who Is Terry Gou? New Plants in Wisconsin

Foxconn, the Taiwanese manufacturer that makes electronics for Apple and other tech companies, is coming to Wisconsin.

The firm will invest $10 billion in Wisconsin to build a new manufacturing plant that produces LCD panels. The project will create 13,000 new jobs and should be completed by 2020, according to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.  Foxconn’s estimate on jobs was more conservative. In a statement, the company said the project will create 3,000 jobs with the “potential” to generate up to 13,000 new jobs.

Foxconn announced the investment from the White House. CEO Terry Gou was flanked by Walker, Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Paul Ryan. President Trump later joined them. Walker and Ryan thanked Trump for his work on the deal.

“One thing we know about this president is how committed he is to reviving American manufacturing and bringing jobs home. This right here shows actual results,” said Ryan, a Republican who represents Wisconsin. Trump called Gou “one of the great businessmen anywhere in the world.”

Shortly after President Trump’s inauguration, Gou began teasing plans to invest more than $7 billion in a plant for producing displays, with the potential to create as many as 50,000 jobs. However, Gou has been talking about shifting some manufacturing to the United States for several years, with little to show for it so far. In 2013, for example, Foxconn announced plans to build a $30 million plant in Pennsylvania. It has yet to be built.

Foxconn got some generous tax incentives for its Wisconsin venture. The state’s deal for the new plant, which requires legislative approval, includes incentives totaling as much as $3 billion, Walker said. The details of the incentive package would be announced in the coming days, he said. Walker said the investment could transform Wisconsin. “We’ve named it Wiscon Valley,” Walker told reporters at the White House. “It could be very much like Silicon Valley.”

Foxconn had considered building the plant in Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania, among other states. Foxconn currently has facilities in Virginia and Indiana, each of which employ fewer than 1,000 workers, according to its website.

The announcement may give Trump a victory as he looks to bring back jobs. Trump also said Tuesday in a Wall Street Journal interview that Apple CEO Tim Cook “promised” him the company plans to build “three big plants, beautiful plants” in the United States.

Apple has not commented about Trump’s claim. It’s unclear where such plants would be located, how many people they would employ and which products they would produce. During the campaign, Trump said he would “get Apple to to build their damn computers and things in this country instead of other countries.”

Trump echoed the sentiment shortly after winning the election, telling The New York Times it was his goal to “get Apple to build a big plant in the United States, or many big plants.”

Foxconn grew into a powerhouse for electronics manufacturing for Apple, Microsoft, HP and others thanks to its ability to staff its factories with cheap labor in China. At its peak, Foxconn employed more than one million people. Employees live on factory campuses and have been known to work far more hours for far less pay than would be acceptable under U.S. labor laws.

At times, Foxconn’s workplace demands have resulted in worker riots and suicides. In fact, Foxconn installed nets outside buildings to catch workers trying to jump to their deaths. It’s also unclear if Wisconsin, or any state for the matter, can supply Foxconn with the thousands of skilled laborers it would need to manufacture electronics at scale.


Daimler Benz Director on the Future


 In a recent interview the MD of Daimler Benz (Mercedes Benz) said their competitors are no longer other car companies but Tesla (obvious), Google, Apple, Amazon ‘et al’ are…… There have always been the 3 constants …  Death, Taxes and CHANGE!  Software will disrupt most traditional industries in the next 5-10 years.

Uber is just a software tool, they don’t own any cars, and are now the biggest taxi company in the world  Airbnb is now the biggest hotel company in the world, although they don’t own any properties.

Artificial Intelligence: Computers become exponentially better in understanding the world. This year, a computer beat the best Go player in the world, 10 years earlier than expected.

In the US, young lawyers already don’t get jobs. Because of IBM Watson, you can get legal advice (so far for more or less basic stuff) within seconds, with 90% accuracy compared with 70% accuracy when done by humans.   So if you study law, stop immediately. There will be 90% less lawyers in the future, only specialists will remain.

Watson already helps nurses diagnosing cancer, 4 times more accurate than human nurses. Facebook now has a pattern recognition software that can recognize faces better than humans. In 2030, computers will become more intelligent than humans.

Autonomous cars: In 2018 the first self driving cars will appear for the public. Around 2020, the complete industry will start to be disrupted. You don’t want to own a car anymore. You will call a car with your phone, it will show up at your location and drive you to your destination. You will not need to park it, you only pay for the driven distance and can be productive while driving. Our kids will never get a driver’s licence and will never own a car.

It will change the cities, because we will need 90-95% less cars for that. We can transform former parking spaces into parks. 1.2 million people die each year in car accidents worldwide. We now have one accident every 60,000 miles (100,000 km), with autonomous driving that will drop to one accident in 6 million miles (10 million km). That will save a million lives each year.

Most car companies will probably become bankrupt. Traditional car companies try the evolutionary approach and just build a better car, while tech companies (Tesla, Apple, Google) will do the revolutionary approach and build a computer on wheels.   Many engineers from Volkswagen and Audi; are completely terrified of Tesla.

Insurance companies will have massive trouble because without accidents, the insurance will become 100x cheaper. Their car insurance business model will disappear.  Real estate will change. Because if you can work while you commute, people will move further away to live in a more beautiful neighborhood.

Electric cars will become mainstream about 2020. Cities will be less noisy because all new cars will run on electricity. Electricity will become incredibly cheap and clean: Solar production has been on an exponential curve for 30 years, but you can now see the burgeoning impact.

Last year, more solar energy was installed worldwide than fossil. Energy companies are desperately trying to limit access to the grid to prevent competition from home solar installations, but that can’t last. Technology will take care of that strategy.

With cheap electricity comes cheap and abundant water. Desalination of salt water now only needs 2kWh per cubic meter (@ 0.25 cents). We don’t have scarce water in most places, we only have scarce drinking water. Imagine what will be possible if anyone can have as much clean water as he wants, for nearly no cost.

Health:  The Tricorder X price will be announced this year. There are companies who will build a medical device (called the “Tricorder” from Star Trek) that works with your phone, which takes your retina scan, your blood sample and you breath into it.

It then analyses 54 biomarkers that will identify nearly any disease. It will be cheap, so in a few years everyone on this planet will have access to world class medical analysis, nearly for free. Goodbye, medical establishment.

3D printing: The price of the cheapest 3D printer came down from $18,000 to $400 within 10 years. In the same time, it became 100 times faster. All major shoe companies have already started 3D printing shoes.

Some spare airplane parts are already 3D printed in remote airports. The space station now has a printer that eliminates the need for the large amount of spare parts they used to have in the past.   At the end of this year, new smart phones will have 3D scanning possibilities.  You can then 3D scan your feet and print your perfect shoe at home.

In China, they already 3D printed and built a complete 6-storey office building.  By 2027, 10% of everything that’s being produced will be 3D printed.

Business opportunities: If you think of a niche you want to go in, ask yourself: “in the future, do you think we will have that?” and if the answer is yes, how can you make that happen sooner?  If it doesn’t work with your phone, forget the idea. And any idea designed for success in the 20th century is doomed to failure in the 21st century.

Work: 70-80% of jobs will disappear in the next 20 years. There will be a lot of new jobs, but it is not clear if there will be enough new jobs in such a small time.

Agriculture: There will be a $100 agricultural robot in the future. Farmers in 3rd world countries can then become managers of their field instead of working all day on their fields.

Aeroponics will need much less water. The first Petri dish produced veal, is now available and will be cheaper than cow produced veal in 2018. Right now, 30% of all agricultural surfaces is used for cows. Imagine if we don’t need that space anymore. There are several startups who will bring insect protein to the market shortly. It contains more protein than meat. It will be labelled as “alternative protein source” (because most people still reject the idea of eating insects).

There is an app called “moodies” which can already tell in which mood you’re in. By 2020 there will be apps that can tell by your facial expressions, if you are lying. Imagine a political debate where it’s being displayed when they’re telling the truth and when they’re not.

Bitcoin may even become the default reserve currency … Of the world!

Longevity: Right now, the average life span increases by 3 months per year. Four years ago, the life span used to be 79 years, now it’s 80 years. The increase itself is increasing and by 2036, there will be more than one year increase per year. So we all might live for a long long time, probably way more than 100.

Education: The cheapest smart phones are already at $10 in Africa and Asia. By 2020, 70% of all humans will own a smart phone. That means, everyone has the same access to world class education.

Every child can use Khan academy for everything a child needs to learn at school in First World countries. There have already been releases of software in Indonesia and soon there will be releases in Arabic, Suaheli and Chinese this summer. I can see enormous potential if we give the English app for free, so that children in Africa and everywhere else can become fluent in English and that could happen within half a year.

LinkedIn Article by Najit Khan, Tiganimas Communications, 5/10/2017


Digital Disruptors Teach Traditional Retailers

The big retail shakeout of 2017 is battering traditional chains of all stripes: Payless has filed for bankruptcy and is closing about 400 stores; Michael Kors, Ann Taylor, Abercrombie & Fitch, Guess, The Limited and Staples are all shutting locations; and department stores ranging from Sears to Macy’s and J.C. Penney are pulling the plug on many of their establishments as well.

Critics are quick to blame the shift to digital technology for this bloodbath, and that is part of it. But executives from three digital disruptors point to a much more fundamental problem: Legacy retailers have lost their focus on the customer. And as the consumer’s expectations have changed, they did not adapt quickly to meet them — opening the door to their digital rivals.

Take eyeglass e-tailer Warby Parker. The founders started the business in 2010 after realizing that two European conglomerates controlled the spectacles market worldwide, driving prices way up. “We thought it didn’t make sense for a pair of glasses to cost as much as an iPhone,” said co-CEO Neil Blumenthal, at the Consumer Response to the Evolving Retailing Landscape conference hosted by Wharton’s Baker Retailing Center.

Warby Parker decided to manufacture its own eyeglasses and sell directly to consumers online and through bricks-and-mortar stores. By cutting out the middleman, it could price prescription glasses for as little as $95 a pair. To make life easier for online customers, it offered free shipping and free returns and let folks try on five pairs of glasses at home for five days. If people need prescriptions, the company uses telemedicine to deliver it — folks download an app and pair it with a second screen like a laptop for a vision test. An eye doctor reviews the results and if all is well, signs the prescription. Customers can also get their eyes checked at Warby Parker stores, where optometrists are on staff.

Inside its stores, Warby Parker displays glasses in the open at eye level and offers full-length mirrors to folks trying on frames. It’s a more customer-friendly approach compared to the typical optical shop, where glasses are sometimes under lock and key and small vanity mirrors are the norm. Making these little changes greatly improves the shopping experience for customers, yet the industry has not made them, Blumenthal noted. “This isn’t rocket science,” Blumenthal said. “But for whatever reason, the industry wasn’t … figuring out simple, better ways to display and sell glasses even in the store.”

“Every experience, whether it is our website or Instagram … or packaging, it’s all about our conversation.”–Jessica White

Jessica White, executive director of customer at beauty products and lifestyle startup Glossier, said the company focuses on encouraging digital conversations among the community of people who use its products, whether on its website, on social media or in its showroom. This approach makes sense since the business grew out of the Into the Gloss blog by former Vogue editor Emily Weiss. She found out that women love to talk about beauty and the blog’s 1.5 million monthly readers are constantly writing and commenting about what they’re doing.

To preserve the zeitgeist of the blog, Glossier avoids making a hard sell of its beauty products, unlike many legacy retailers. For example, “our Instagram looks like our customers’ Instagram. It doesn’t look like a brand talking to a customer. It looks like what a customer’s Instagram would actually look like,” White said at the Wharton retail conference. This subtle shift in marketing strategy makes Glossier stand out. “Every experience, whether it is our website or Instagram … or packaging, it’s all about our conversation,” she added.

Warby Parker also focuses obsessively on pleasing the customer. “We measure our net promoter score religiously,” Blumenthal said. This score measures a customer’s willingness to recommend a company’s products or services to others. It ranges from 100 all the way down to below zero. He said Warby Parker has scored in the 80s since inception while rivals are in the 20s and 30s or even single digits. A big advantage of being vertically integrated — controlling everything from the manufacturing to retail sales — is that “we are able to get data and insight directly from the customer and immediately act on it,” he said.

For example, Warby Parker had offered ‘virtual try-ons,’ where glasses are superimposed on customers’ faces online. But the company discovered that it actually decreased sales because the technology wasn’t up to snuff. Then it noticed that people were walking into stores with a paper list of frames they wanted to try on — so that led to the creation of customer ‘favorites’ and digital lists on its website. And if customers tried on frames in a store but left without buying, they are emailed photos of themselves wearing different glasses to send to friends and family for feedback. That’s because buying glasses is a social activity.

Warby Parker also strives to make the buying experience fun. “How do we create as big of a branded experience as possible?” said Blumenthal. For store décor, the retailer pays homage to its literary heritage — sporting terrazzo floors, library lamps and shelves that look like book stacks. The company’s name comes from two Jack Kerouac characters: Warby Pepper and Zagg Parker. Its first fashion event was at the New York Public Library.



The United States of Startups

Using CB Insights database, we identified the most-well funded VC-backed technology startups by state based on disclosed equity funding. We excluded funding from debt as well as lines of credit and only considered companies that have raised at least $1M of equity funding to date. Companies that haven’t raised a round of equity financing since 2015 are excluded.

With these criteria for selection, companies in 46 US states make the cut as well as Washington, D.C. Four states did not have any companies that met all our criteria for inclusion in the map: Mississippi, Alaska, and North and South Dakota. Companies featured in those four states are the most well-funded private tech companies in these states since 2015. They do not have disclosed VC backing. Puerto Rico is excluded from this mapping.

The tech boom has diffused beyond the traditional hotbeds of California, New York, and Massachusetts, across the the entire United States. Other states are home to well-funded and well-known startups, including Magic Leap (Florida), Draft Kings (Massachusetts), and the satellite company OneWeb (Virginia), among others. The less well-known include Idaho-based 4G LTE network solutions company CradlePoint, which has raised $106M in equity funding to date.

Using CB Insights database, we identified the most-well funded VC-backed technology startups by state based on disclosed equity funding. We excluded funding from debt as well as lines of credit and only considered companies that have raised at least $1M of equity funding to date. Companies that haven’t raised a round of equity financing since 2015 are excluded.

With these criteria for selection, companies in 46 US states make the cut as well as Washington, D.C. Four states did not have any companies that met all our criteria for inclusion in the map: Mississippi, Alaska, and North and South Dakota. Companies featured in those four states are the most well-funded private tech companies in these states since 2015. They do not have disclosed VC backing. Puerto Rico is excluded from this mapping.

The most well-funded company featured in our map is Uber in California, with $12.5B of funding to date.  Unicorn companies valued at $1B+ are well represented in our map. The nine unicorns that are also among the most well-funded startups in unique states are: Uber (CA), Datto (CT), Magic Leap (FL), GreenSky (GA), Avant (IL), Draft Kings (MA), Infor (NY), Domo (UT), and Vox Media (Washington, D.C.). For a rundown of US based unicorns, check out CB Insights’ The United States of Unicorns.


Six Phrases to Change Your Life.

“Tell me more”

Dr. Mark Holder believes that his time as a happiness researcher has given him insight into how we nurture our human relationships. In his TEDx talk, Dr. Holder cited interviews with hospital patients where researchers found three simple words that would trigger stronger relationships with patients: tell me more.

“When you’re in a personal relationship talking to somebody and you lean forward and you look them in the eye and you say, ‘tell me more,’ it means not I’m not going on to my own story. I’m not interrupting you, Your story is valid and it means something to me,” Dr. Holder said.

Dr. Holder believes these three words along with “What happens next?” work because they show that we’re listening. We’re not just extracting information out of the interaction, we’re validating our conversation partner’s feelings and emotions. It’s a lesson we can use even if we’re not a science researcher.

“Thank you”

Dr. Laura Trice believes that we don’t ask for what we need. The life coach and consultant said that asking for our value to be recognized is stigmatized and it shouldn’t be. “Be honest about the praise that you need to hear,” Dr. Trice advised. Asking for praise makes us vulnerable but it also deepens our connections in our personal and professional lives.

“I’m not finished yet”

“I’m not finished yet” is not a phrase that vocal expert Laura Sicola actually recommends saying out loud, but it’s one that she recommends conveying in your tone.

Sicola says that we blunder introducing ourselves when we rush through saying our names, making it harder for our listeners to understand what we’re saying. Instead of blurting out our names, Sicola wants us to practice strategic tonality, so that the weight of our words have intention: “I want to start by letting my voice go up, up like this, on your first name as if to say, ‘I’m not finished yet,’” Sicola said. “And then at the top, we’ll have a little break, that little pause that will allow for a sound break to indicate word boundary, and then at our last name, we want to go down, let the pitch fall, as if to say, ‘And now I’m done.’”

“Be interested in other people”

Radio host Celeste Headlee wants us to approach all of our conversations with this mantra in mind: be interested in other people. For Headlee, that means going with the flow, using open-ended questions, not repeating ourselves, and not equating our experiences with our conversation partner’s. Above all, Headlee recommended keeping our mouth shut with our assumptions and listening to what the other person has to say.

“I kind of grew up assuming everyone has some hidden, amazing thing about them. And honestly, I think it’s what makes me a better host,” she said in her TED talk.I keep my mouth shut as often as I possibly can, I keep my mind open, and I’m always prepared to be amazed,and I’m never disappointed.”

“I’m enough”

Through years of trial and error, researcher Brené Brown has found that showing vulnerability, the “courage to be imperfect,” is the key to being a resilient person who can weather anything life throws their way—from layoffs to new responsibilities. In her hundreds of interviews, Brown found that the variable that separated people who constantly struggled to ones who were surer of their place in the world was whether or not they showed vulnerability.

“They didn’t talk about vulnerability being comfortable, nor did they really talk about it being excruciating—as I had heard it earlier in the shame interviewing. They just talked about it being necessary. They talked about the willingness to say, ‘I love you’ first, the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees…They thought this was fundamental,” Brown said. When we numb ourselves to being vulnerable, we may be doing it to protect ourselves, but we also are numbing ourselves to good emotions like gratitude and happiness. Successful people approach their lives as whole-hearted humans who are comfortable with who they are, flaws and all.

“What do you think?”

It’s not in a TED talk, but it will change your life. The simple question “what do you think?” is radically transformative because it forces us to stop and actually find out what other people aren’t telling us. It’s crucial for real conversations that form connections, because it acknowledges the difference and strengths of the person we’re talking to. And it makes us smarter and more likable. Try it and see the effect.


TiE Chapter Hosts Intra Turned Entre-Preneur.


At their July 2017 meeting the Atlanta chapter of TiE hosted David Rudolph, founder and CEO of PlayOn Sports.   They broadcast prep high-school games and other events by streaming them live on computers and other devices. Here’s the math. There are 19,000 high schools in the U.S. Forty-two percent of Americans are fans of high school sports. About 55 percent of high school students participate in sports. And untold numbers of people would pay to watch high school events on TVs, computers or mobile devices.  Charge a license fee to schools to use PlayOn! Sports’ software and its expertise, and a nominal charge to some viewers, and it’s a formula that spells money.

What makes Rudolph’s story so unique is he was a research assistance at Turner Broadcasting at the time of the Time Warner merger.  In an effort to create job for himself, Dave volunteered to put a few miscellaneous sports assets (including 35 excess Atlanta Braves games) together into a new cable channel later titled Turner Sports.  That experience was pure corporate innovation and agile development as he single-handedly iterated the small channel into cable systems.  As an independent decision-maker inside a large conglomerate, Rudolph played the role of Intrapreneur.  When Fox bought the channel in 2008, he then jumped into individual entrepreneurship by creating a brand new market and for the first time offering high-school sports through the internet.

At his TiE talk July 12th, Dave compared becoming an entrepreneur vs. an intrapreneur to having a first baby.  You read the books, prepare for the arrival, but when it comes, your life is completely turned upside down despite best laid plans.  Money was always a concern and still is to this day.  Over time PlayOn Sports has acquired rights to aggregate and produce high school sporting events distributed over TV, the internet, and mobile devices.  Today, the company has 38 employees and earned $10 million in revenue last year.  They train high school students to operate their equipment and website.  There are two million varsity events a year.  Media rights are controlled by the individual high schools, and PlayOn Sports licenses their technical platform to the schools.

Dave’s experience was as pure a transfer from Intra to Entre-preneurship as we’ve come across.  It proves there are always opportunities for new value creation and niche marketing.  And, what a target market, three times as many people attend high school sport events every year as college and pro combined.


Goodie Nation ‘Walks the Talk’.

Hacking for Violence Summer 2017 by Goodie Nation Social Impact Accelerator, Atlanta, GA

#HackTheViolence is our year-long effort to reduce the number of people that die in the United States each year from violent means. We provide a role for all people to play in our innovative process by combining everyday people, from middle school students to senior citizens, with subject-matter experts and highly-skilled professionals in an effort to address this toughest challenge.

The Process is divided into two parts: developing innovators (people) and tech startup social enterprises. Innovator Development focuses on training & supporting current/future entrepreneurs and mentors on tech startup entrepreneurship philosophies and methodologies through design thinking labs, support groups, a college incubator, bootcamps, and hackathons. Participants include middle school students, high school students, college students, teachers, professionals, and entrepreneurs. We develop tech startup social enterprises through our social impact pre-accelerator where the goal is to help launch 15 startups that address some category of violence by January 2018.

Goodie College Innovation Lab #HackTheViolence is a 4-week tech social entrepreneurship incubator for teams of college students designed to help them create technology solutions that address some part of violence. By providing a safe place to learn and implement techniques used by some of the top innovators and changemakers in the world, students will get a taste of startup life in this fast-paced program where they’ll walk away with mentors and a prototype they can use to get funding.  Eligible students include those who have recently graduated from high school, currently enrolled, or recent graduates of colleges & universities (Associates Degrees through – PhD) to want to come up with ideas for websites, apps, chatbots/digital assistants, artificial intelligence, virtual/augmented reality, analytics, Big Data, drones, IoT, etc. solutions. We bring in mentors and professionals to help.  Goodie Nation is a social impact pre-accelerator that provides a role for all people to play in an innovative process solving some of the world’s toughest problems. Our programming develops innovator through training and support as well as social enterprises via a 6-month process. We aim to become a world leader at empowering individuals to solve problems for their own communities.leader by identifying personas for target users/customers, their problem, why the problem exists, value propositions, moonshot ideas, and storyboards.





Why Your Business Needs Design Thinking.

First things first: Design thinking isn’t the same thing as design.  Rather, design thinking is “both an effective problem-solving approach and a mindset,” explains Sebastian Fixson, Babson College associate professor and design thinking researcher.  And, for companies using design thinking, it’s much more than a buzzword—it’s an effective path to innovation.

Design Thinking as a Problem-Solving Approach

To illustrate the need for design thinking, Fixson gives this example: in the U.S. today, there are thousands of cereals available. Says Fixson, “Making a cereal a bit crunchier is probably not going to do anything.”

That’s where design thinking comes in: to help companies innovate and develop a strategic advantage within their industry.

Expert Tim Brown’s design thinking model has three steps: inspiration (finding the problem or opportunity), ideation (developing possible solutions), and implementation (testing solutions). Other models have four or five steps but all involve applying user-focused, or human-centered, design to find, identify, and understand the problem and opportunity. “We need to understand what users really need,” says Fixson. “As a famous anthropologist once said, what people say and do, and what people say they do, are entirely different things.”

Here’s an example of design thinking in action: Pepsi hoped a smaller, pink package would help them sell chips to women in Japan. But that hypothesis was incorrect. “When someone took the time to understand how things are consumed,” Fixson reveals, “they found that women like to snack, but the cultural context makes it inappropriate. It’s noisy in an office environment.”

That single insight led to a redesign of the chip to make it smaller and less noisy when crunched. “A deep understanding of user context was the relevant piece—not trivial, surface-level gender associations.”

The implementation stage varies greatly from traditional problem-solving, too. Instead of a full-scale implementation, design thinking is about performing quick tests to see how people respond to the solution. “Let users tell you what’s right and what’s wrong,” says Fixson.

At Blue Cross, Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Molly Mazzaferro, Director of Innovation, is using this approach to get customer feedback as early as possible. “[We could] spend months, years building something only to find you’re solving the wrong problem,” she explains.

“That’s where the power of design thinking lies: the time and attention to understand users in a deeper way,” Fixson said. “Having a better idea of the problem allows you to develop a better solution.” And, implementing small tests lets you fail fast and iterate quickly.

Design Thinking as a Mindset

Another important note: design thinking is a mindset that requires patience.  “We all tend to want to develop solutions quickly,” empathizes Fixson. But for design thinking to work, you’ve got to focus on finding the problem. “It takes patience and a willingness to suspend solution generation for a while and focus on identifying the problem first. Accept not having the question yet. That’s a mental problem for many of us.”  The mindset also requires a shift in the perception of failure; taking the time to observe, learn, and understand the actual problem.

Instead, companies need to strike a balance between the two mindsets. “There are three characteristics a product needs to be successful: it needs to be desirable, technically feasible, and economically viable,” Fixson explains. While most companies are good at assessing technical and economic viability, they’ve lost touch with the details and emotions of customers. And, that emotional element may lead to a completely different—more effective—solution.

Mazzaferro believes the mindset is equally (if not more) important than the process. “For us, it’s about being human-centered and bringing the customer into the conversation,” she explains. “That’s not traditionally how we’ve approached problem solving.”

Her team also utilizes “radical collaboration”—bringing in provider partners, government agencies, students in the Boston area, and doctors. “We want to bring all these voices to the table for everything from problem identification through solution development.”

Developing a New Mindset

Understanding design thinking is just the beginning. For design thinking to work, a company’s culture must support experimentation. “In many companies, traditional evaluation methods would quickly suggest some of it is wasteful,” points out Fixson. “Most budgeting methods are good at measuring costs, but poor at measuring missed opportunities. There’s no way of putting a dollar sign on an opportunity you didn’t find a solution for.”

There’s also the issue of time. “You’ve spend X hours and haven’t produced something yet,” Fixson says. “Using design thinking on every project may be wasteful. But, on the other hand, if your goal is to think about a new or better solution, then the question becomes can your organization find a way to spend time and attention to rethink the problem?”

For Mazzaferro, it’s getting people to “fall in love with the problem. It’s human nature to fall in love with the solution before you know it’s the right thing,” she explains.

Taking the First Step

“Every company has a different approach, and it depends on how deeply they want to embed design thinking into their way of working,” says Fixson. Some organizations are hiring designers in leadership roles. Others are training large swaths of employees in design thinking, while still others are hiring design consultancies on a project basis.

At Blue Cross Blue Shield, Mazzaferro’s team was born out of a project that recommended what innovation could and should look like at the company. Dedicated to innovation, the team is charged with two things: increasing incremental innovation and pursuing more disruptive ideas.

“Part of it is arming employees with the tools and mindset to work differently on a day-to-day basis,” explains Mazzaferro. This cultural change piece is slow, steady work for a company filled with employees that have been there for many years. “Change is harder the longer you are someplace doing things the same way.”

“The other side of our work is thinking about health insurance and the rapid changes happening in the industry,” Mazzaferro continues, citing provider consolidation, startup activity, and possible changes due to the current political administration. “Health insurance won’t look the same in five years, and definitely not in 10 years, how can we think about healthcare more broadly than insurance?”

Now a five-person team, Mazzaferro is sharing the design thinking methodology across her organization with 90-minute crash courses. Teams experience every step of the process, trying on different behaviors and mindsets. They’re also conducting boot camps, programs developed with the help of Fixson.

They’ve touched one-third of the organization with the design thinking process, always bringing in individuals from outside the organization to demonstrate the radical collaboration idea. The team also helps anyone in the business set up user testing parties to test ideas with actual customers.

Associates, after attending boot camp, receive a black bracelet that says “catalyst.” “It’s a small symbol to show they’re empowered to start using the design thinking mindset,” explains Mazzaferro. Some boot camps have rolled into sprints for deeper exploration of a business problem. The team’s goal is to ultimately develop an incubator program as well as an innovation center—a physical space designed for collaboration.

So far, Mazzaferro has seen Post-it notes up on walls of the insurance provider’s offices, something she hadn’t seen before. “The buzz is growing. It’s felt like we’ve been doing it forever, but it’s only been a year and a half. We have to be patient,” she says. “Some people are never going to be comfortable with it. But we keep marching on.”

Posted in Preparing Entrepreneurial Leaders  by | June 28, 2017



Tori Burch Commencement Speech, Babson College.

“Remember: if the most unique ideas were obvious to everyone, there wouldn’t be entrepreneurs. The one thing that every entrepreneurial journey has in common is that there are many, many steps on the road to success.”  – Tory Burch, Babson College  – [Click Here or below to play video]   Tory Burch, Babson College, 2014

Tory Burch (born June 17, 1966; Robinson) is an American fashion designer, businesswoman, and philanthropist, who has won several fashion awards for her designs.  She is the Chairman, CEO, and Designer of Tory Burch LLC. In 2015, she was listed as the 73rd most powerful woman in the world by Forbes.

Burch began her fashion label – “TRB by Tory Burch”, later known as Tory Burch – in February 2004, launching it with a retail store in Manhattan’s Nolita district.[5][13][14] Most of the inventory sold out on the first day.  When Oprah Winfrey endorsed her line on The Oprah Winfrey Show in April 2005, calling Burch “the next big thing in fashion”, Burch’s website received eight million hits the following day.

Since launch, the company has grown to include more than 200 Tory Burch stores worldwide. The fashion line, which encompasses ready-to-wear, shoes, handbags, accessories, watches, home decor, and a fragrance and beauty collection, is also carried at over 3,000 department and specialty stores worldwide.

Babson College is a private business school in Wellesley, Massachusetts, established in 1919. Babson’s central focus on entrepreneurship education has made it the most prestigious entrepreneurship college in the United States.


What Will the ‘Gig Economy’ Mean for Work?

Not so long ago, the only people who looked for “gigs” were musicians. For the rest of us, once we outgrew our school dreams of rock stardom, we found “real” jobs that paid us a fixed salary every month, allowed us to take paid holidays and formed the basis for planning a stable future.

Today, more and more of us choose, instead, to make our living working gigs rather than full time. To the optimists, it promises a future of empowered entrepreneurs and boundless innovation. To the naysayers, it portends a dystopian future of disenfranchised workers hunting for their next wedge of piecework.

In the US, the “gig economy” is now so salient that the phrase and issues have entered the early exchanges of the presidential race. Earlier this month, as one frontrunner, Jeb Bush, took a well-publicised Uber ride to signal solidarity with the company, another, Hillary Clinton, was more cautious in her support. In a speech laying out her economic plan, she said: “This on-demand, or so-called gig, economy is creating exciting economies and unleashing innovation. But it is also raising hard questions about workplace protections and what a good job will look like in the future.”

Today’s digitally enabled gig economy was preceded by marketplaces such as ELance and oDesk, through which computer programmers and designers could make a living competing for short-term work assignments. But the gig economy isn’t just creating a new digital channel for freelance work. It is spawning a host of new economic activity. More than a million “makers” sell jewellery, clothing and accessories through the online marketplace Etsy. The short-term accommodation platforms Airbnb, Love Home Swap and onefinestay collectively have close to a million “hosts”.

This explosion of small-scale entrepreneurship might make one wonder whether we are returning to the economy of the 18th century, described by the economist Adam Smith in his book An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. The economy Smith described was a genuine market economy of individuals engaging in commerce with one another.

Over the following two centuries, however, the emergence of mass production and distribution yielded modern corporations. The entrepreneurs of Smith’s time gave way to the salaried employees of the 20th century.

A different technological revolution – the digital revolution – is partially responsible for the recent return to peer-to-peer exchange. Most of the new on-demand services rely on a population equipped with computers or GPS-enabled smartphones. Furthermore, the social capital we’ve digitised on Facebook and LinkedIn makes it easier to trust that semi-anonymous peer.

Does this suggest a shift towards a textbook market economy? Granted, Uber, Airbnb, Etsy and TaskRabbit are quite different from organisations such as Apple, BP or Sainsbury’s. Because you aren’t actually renting a space from Airbnb, taking a ride in a car owned by Uber or buying a product made by Etsy. The platform simply connects you with a provider of space, a driver of a vehicle or a seller who runs a virtual shop.

But these platforms are by no means merely the purveyors of Smith’s invisible hand. Rather, the hand they play in facilitating exchange is decidedly visible. Uber, not individual drivers, sets prices. Airbnb trains its hosts to be better providers of hospitality. Etsy facilitates seller community building. All of them provide user-generated feedback systems, creating a high-quality consumer experience. Much like an organisation building a brand might.

From The Guardian by Arun Sundararajan, professor at New York University’s School of Business.