“Entrepreneurship is a way to find out whether you are a visionary or just hallucinating”

Jun 02 2010

Steve Blank

Steve Blank

He has been listed by the San José Mercury News as one of the 10 influencers in Silicon Valley. Steve Blank is a very active retired serial entrepreneur who is now teaching entrepreneurship at multiple universities. He is also the author of the Customer Development model for early stage companies, which is adopted by more and more startups. He has kindly answered HitBarcelona questions.

- 21 years and 8 high technology companies: what is the most important lesson you have learned?

A startup is a transitory organization which exists to search for a scalable, repeatable and profitable business model. And that you need to test your hypotheses about your business model against the reality of customers and market. To do so founders need to recognize that there are no facts inside your building so they need to get outside.

- Once you said: “If you think entrepreneurship is about the money, become a VC”. What does entrepreneurship mean to you?

Entrepreneurship is a way for founders to bring their passion, vision, energy and dedication to life and to find out whether they were a visionary or just hallucinating.

- Eric Ries and you are the leading proponents of the “lean startup”. Do you still think it is the best way for entrepreneurial ventures to reduce failures rates and boost innovation?

Startups are trying to solve for two simultaneous unknowns; what are customer needs and what are the minimum product features. Customer Development and the Lean Startup are one set of methodologies to approach those problems.

- The “Customer Development” model is one of the core themes in your classes. Do entrepreneurs pay attention to this process?

Founders who are doing their first startup will ignore Customer Development. Those who have started a company and failed tend to appreciate the model.

- You have done several talks on The Secret Story of Silicon Valley. Why did entrepreneurship blossom there?

The serendipitous intersection of Fred Terman, Stanford’s Dean of Engineering with deep ties to the U.S. military and intelligence agencies + the Cold War and the United States’ need for advanced technology for electronic intelligence,+ an extremely liberal view of how startups and academics should work together, combined with the rise of Venture (risk) Capital.


Guides to Successful Innovation

May 23 2010

Successful Innovation

Successful Innovation

Type “How to turn a good idea into successful innovation” in Google and you’ll get 1.750.000 results. Some websites seem to have come across the magical formula: “work, strengths, and impact“. Others point out that “successful strategic innovations need more than a great idea”. In other words, that “ideas by themselves are worthless”.

A few ones are more precise: “market orientation has to be directed towards clear product definition early in the innovation process”, and “success is driven by market-orientated teams who share their knowledge of current and future customer needs across all departments”. Eventually, the UK Department for Business Innovation and Skills presents a “60 minutes Guide to Innovation” (PDF) to turn ideas into profit. In Catalonia, ACC1Ó, the agency for competitiveness, puts some guides to innovation online, as well. On the other hand, the Cambra de Comerç de Barcelona explains how to innovate in 10 steps.

HitBarcelona aims to promote projects and redefine the keys to business success but with a Face-to-Face formula: by bringing together business leaders, innovators, investors and entrepreneurs to share ideas. Will you miss it?


“Going green lowers costs and provides capital to reinvest in people and innovation”

May 19 2010

Andrew Winston

Andrew Winston

Andrew Winston is a great connaisseur of what exactly “going green” means. He is the founder of Winston Eco-Strategies and the author of two strategic “green” books: Green Recovery, a strategic plan for using environmental thinking to survive hard economic times, and Green to Gold, the best-selling guide to what works - and what doesn’t - when companies go green. His work consists of helping companies both large and small use environmental strategy to grow, create enduring value, and build stronger relationships with employees, customers, and other stakeholders. He has kindly answered the questions of HitBarcelona about innovation and the challenges of the cleantech sector.

- We use to think sexy innovation is the one related to new products (cf. iPad!). Is innovation in processes undervalued?

Yes, I think we often focus only on the new product/revenue-generating part of ‘innovation’, when in fact there is innovation going on in all parts of the business and in different areas of value creation. For example, companies like 3M and DuPont have cut literally billions out of their cost structures through eco-efficiency over many years. Finding new ways every year to use less energy, water, and material is innovative. Redesigning a product or process to eliminate a toxic element, and thus reducing overall risk to the business, is innovative.

- You talk about Green Recovery when companies just struggle to survive, by any means. What are the advantages of going green?

Going green creates value in a number of ways. It lowers cost structure, saving money that helps companies survive tough times, but also provides capital to reinvest in people and innovation. Seeing your business through an environmental lens is also a tremendous driver of innovation — it allows you to see the business, product, and market in a new light. And doing right by planet, people, and profits is a wonderful way to build intangible, or brand, value — in the form of customer loyalty and greater ability to attract and retain the best people.

- What are the hurdles and challenges of the Cleantech sector?

Cleantech is a very broad term and encompasses every form of new energy, efficiency-focused companies, new material technologies, and much more. There’s no one hurdle, but of course like all new sectors, there are challenges in getting the capital to get to scale. And it’s often difficult to get the buy-in needed from skeptical customers — there’s a lot of inertia in our system.

- Which is the first goal to be achieved by a company that wants to get green values?

The first step is to understand your environmental and social impacts, up and down the value chain. I suggest starting with a qualitative analysis of how the business or industry touches on, and is impacted by, big environmental challenges like climate change and water constraints. Think about what these pressures mean to your suppliers and your customers. Then embark as well on a more quantitative approach to get a baseline on carbon and other metrics, up and down the value chain. You can’t manage what you don’t measure. After that, you’ll know better where your risks and opportunities lie. It’s more than worth the upfront investment in getting smarter about your footprint.


Ideas, The Most Powerful Energy to Progress

May 14 2010

Just a month left to HitBarcelona. More than 70 speakers to talk about Open Innovation, Corporate Venture, Venture Capital, the most innovative entrepreneurial iniciatives and the future of cities; a Venture Capital Corner to meet the world’s major investment funds face to face and a Global Entrepreneurship Competition where the best business plans will get cash prizes and the opportunity to showcase the potential of their proposals to international investors. Will you miss it?


Hitbarcelona Plenary: Keys to unlock your business success

May 10 2010

Key to unlock your business success

Key to unlock your business success

Analysts agree that innovation is of crucial importance in economic recovery. As businesses attempt to find growth opportunities to overcome recession, HitBarcelona wants to share and discuss the best strategies to stimulate internal R&D, incorporate competing ideas, attract investment finance and be successful.

Which are the best options to consider? Is Corporate Venturing, that is investing in external start-ups, the best way to incorporate innovation right now? HitBarcelona has invited leading companies to explain how Corporate Venturing can be used to generate organic growth within an organization. It will be in the Plenary Congress, a forum in which you will meet the people behind the most recent entrepreneurial success, who will also talk about the characteristics companies should have to attract investment to become international leaders.

Eventually, global entrepreneurs, like Dennis Crowley, Verne Harnish, Gurbaksh Chahal or Marcos Cuevas will share the key elements that have made them succeed. The rendez-vous is the 16th June. They will be there, will you?


Where your money goes

May 06 2010

Aaron Patzer (image from twitter.com/apatzer)

Aaron Patzer (image from twitter.com/apatzer)

He says “most people who are rich are not rich because they have flashy careers. They are rich because they were very methodical about their saving.” That might be the reason why, in 2007, he built a personal finance tool with a simple interface, easy to understand and use, which added its one millionth user 18 months after its launch. Word of mouth spread.

Mint.com founder and former CEO Aaron Patzer is now VP and GM of Personal Finance at Intuit, after the company’s $170 million acquisition of Mint. He is 29 years old and he is convinced that the cloud is secure enough to control personal finance. And “It’s not just network security, — it’s physical security. Our servers are located in an undisclosed facility”, he states in a ZDNet interview.

Mint enables users to know how much they have, how much they owe, and where their money goes. The web-app even shows personalized ways to save and make more money. An “independent and objective view” the banks don’t have, he says, because they want to sell their own products.

Is this the future of personal finance? Are users globally ready to tell about their money on the cloud? Are smartphones the ideal devices to run this kind of personal app? Which are the potential features on mobile? These are some of the questions the entrepreneur will answer at HitBarcelona next June. It will be a great opportunity to convert money numbers into understandable words to keep in our wallet.


Health Care 2.0

Abr 30 2010

Health Care (image from: michigan.gov)

Health Care (image from: michigan.gov)

Some economists say pessimism is slowing job creation and likely weakening the recovery. So, on a more positive note, it’s worth underlining that early-stage investors are still placing bets.

According to Forbes.com, they are looking at Internet, Software, Electronics, Mobile and Communications, Energy and Utilities, and Health Care. Therefore, being in the right sector can make all the difference. For the record, CB Insights enhances that Health Care was the most popular one among venture capitals in the fourth quarter (2009), attracting $1.8 billion spread over 167 deals.

The above mentioned article also states that there is a clear recovery taking place right now in the biotech arena. Moreover, the Internet and digital medical information are having a major disruptive effect on the practice of medicine. Some experts predict in 10 years’ time remote care will keep patients healthy and at home. What do all these changes mean for the Health Care Industry, globally speaking and taking into account Inflatable Tent the long-awaited Health Care reform in the US?

Some of these topics were discussed in the e-Health week conference, held in Barcelona last March, and in the Health 2.0 congress, held in Paris, a few weeks ago. In her blog, Cristina Ribas points out some conclusions worth to be shared. The 2.0 Health Care products success depends on integration of data from private and public services, access to specialized communities and personalized content and some kind of virtual assistance.

What do you think about it? What’s next for Health Care? HitBarcelona offers you an ideal environment to discuss it. The congress will also bring together well-known experts of the sector, who will reveal the latest investment trends and explain where and how to invest. Will you miss this opportunity?


Redefining the keys to business success

Abr 27 2010

We were looking at new ways to tell you that Hit Barcelona is a unique global event which brings together business leaders, innovators, investors and entrepreneurs to share ideas, promote projects and redefine the keys to business success inflatable golf. So, we’ve tried the coolest new feature now in YouTube:


Is a 10-Step Program Enough?

Abr 26 2010

When Innovation turns into business... (image from innovation-applied.com)

When great ideas turn into business... (image from innovation-applied.com)

Bringing new technology to market is hard. “A crap shoot”, according to the author of The Innovator’s Dilemma, Clayton M. Christensen. With a little training, people can display an amazing amount of inventiveness and come up with new products or services that are downright excellent. But how many of them see the light of commercial day? This is the tough part. Is there any recipe, any rules to seduce the market? Which are the tools required to turn an opportunity into a competitive and sustainable business velcro wall for sale?

The books published generally focus on the innovation process. In Serious Play, Michael Schrage, a research associate at MIT Media Lab and columnist for Fortune, describes the kind of culture that is needed for encouraging innovation and lays out the 10 rules of “creative improvisation in corporations”. He advise entrepreneurs to be willing to fail early and often, to know when the costs outweigh the benefits, to build a prototype that engages customers, vendors, and colleagues and to create markets around prototypes.

In another book published in March 2010, Robert F. Brands, former CEO of Airspray N.V. - manufacturer of the ubiquitous foaming pumps on soaps of all kinds-, offers as well a 10-step program to “create and sustain NEW in Business“. The keywords/phrases are: Inspiration, Risk, New Product Development Process, Ownership, Value Creation, Accountability, Training and Coaching, Idea Management, Observation and Measure, Net Results and Reward.

They are certainly useful…and catchy, but what do they mean in practice? Can Innovation be applied following a 10-step program? HitBarcelona wants to escape theory to offer some practical examples of successful application of innovation to help entrepreneurs to turn ideas into a solid business that can transform society. It will be exciting to discuss on this issue next June.


Why Recession Is the Mother of Invention

Abr 22 2010

He has pointed out several times that the place where we live is not a destiny to be accepted passively but a choice that shapes everything about us. His ideas on the Creative class that fosters an open, dynamic, personal and professional environment, which in turn attracts more creative people, business and capital, have turn into global best-sellers. And for good reason.

Richard Florida is one of the world’s leading public intellectuals on economic competitiveness and cultural and technical innovation. In his latest book, Great Reset, coming out the 27th April, the professor and head of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the Rotman School of Management (University of Toronto, Canada) explains how new ways of living and working will drive post-crash prosperity. According to him, an economic convulsion—dubbed a Reset—“transforms not simply the way we innovate and produce but also ushers in a whole new economic landscape.”

In this respect, Florida is convinced that “our economic system needs to stop channeling funds into super-risky, highly leveraged, and speculative areas”. “Instead we must return to the original vision and purpose of the financial markets: supporting innovation and the growth of the real economy”, he says. He makes oneself clearer in a recent video realeased by The Wall Street Journal:

He will surely explain further on this topic at HitBarcelona, in June. 54 days left.