Friday, November 29, 2013
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
By: Brad Feld | Managing director of Foundry Group and co-founder of TechStars
As Global Entrepreneurship Week continues, entrepreneurship is in the air and it's everywhere. As our world and society continues to rapidly evolve and change, entrepreneurs and innovation are at the core of it. And creating startup communities, in every city in the world, is an essential part of this evolution.
In 2010, when I started thinking about what had happened in Boulder, Colo., to make it one of the most visible and powerful startup communities in the world, I began with the premise that you could create a startup community in any city. During the past 45 days I've been in Boise, Oklahoma City, Chicago, Des Moines, San Francisco, Seattle, Detroit, Boston, Montreal, Toronto, Lexington, and Louisville meeting with entrepreneurs, seeing what they are up to, and exploring how to create vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystems in these cities.
This experience, along with the response to my recently published book, Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City, supports my view that a thriving startup community can be created anywhere.
Most net new job creation comes from young, entrepreneurial companies. The age of a hierarchical society stemming from the industrial revolution is over, as we aggressively shift into a network society that is a product of the post-information era. And startups, and entrepreneurs, are at the core of this reinvention of the way we work and live.
Building a vibrant and sustainable startup community is not easy and takes a long time. I believe there are four fundamental principles, which I call the Boulder Thesis. They are:
1. Entrepreneurs must lead the startup community.
2. The leaders must have a long-term commitment.
3. The startup community must be inclusive of anyone who wants to participate in it.
4. The startup community must have continual activities that engage the entire entrepreneurial stack.
While there are many participants in startup communities, including government, university, investors, service providers, and large companies, the startup community must be led by entrepreneurs. Not every entrepreneur needs to be a leader, but there must be a critical mass of them or the nothing significant will be sustained.
These entrepreneurs must have a long term commitment — at least 20 years. Startups take a long time to build, and it follows that startup communities do as well. There are no quick solutions here — if you are focused on "How are we doing as a startup a community?" in a year, you are focusing on the wrong thing. Go on a 20 year journey — dedicate yourself to creating something amazing where you live.
The startup community has to be inclusive of anyone who wants to engage in any way. Welcome newcomers with open arms. Let new leaders emerge — there is no "president" of a startup community — no one can control it. Use a "give before you get" approach, where you contribute energy and resources to the startup community, without a clear expectation in advance of what you are going to get back.
Think of the power of a network instead of a hierarchical organization, and encourage more and more nodes on the network. Sure, there will occasionally be bad actors in a startup community, but as the network grows, the organism will reject or reform the bad actors. And you'll be pleasantly surprised that you get much more out of the startup community then you put in.
Fundamentally, every city was once a startup. There was a reason that people decided to put a stake in the ground and start each city on this planet. Each city has unique characteristics and strengths, which I refer to as "natural resources," and they go well beyond the physical natural resources that were the motivation for the creation of many cities. So the essence of "startups" is in the fabric of the formation of every city. Build on this and help create an amazing startup community wherever you live.
This is a repost of an article that appeared on CNBC website on November 14, 2012
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
By Paul Chen
On November 20, 2013 Inkubatora Technologicznego KPT held a event called Made (IT) in China. That got me thinking...
Diversity initiatives can have important and interesting social justice benefits, but the real reason you want to pursue diversity programs is for innovation. You want diversity of thought. Here’s the key: If you want diversity of thought, you have to bring in people around you who have diverse experiences. Differences in race, gender, and socioeconomic background are three characteristics, but so are differences in learning style or differences in professional field. And I’m not suggesting that any one of those points of diversity is more potent than others.
H. Naylor Fitzhugh Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School
During Poland’s Golden age of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Poland had it’s greatest amount of diversity in terms of demographics and religion. It contributed to its influence as an important European center for the development of modern social and political ideas. During the Islamic Golden Age, Baghdad was the center of the exchange of goods and scientific ideas. All of this came from the diversity that was allowed and encouraged by the people and the institution. Unfortunately, all of these ended when things started to become too homogeneous. In Poland’s case, all the power started to accumulate in the hands of the nobility. In Islam’s case, the power started to accumulate in the hands of the radical conservatives.
Poland and China Trade
At the moment, Poland is a relatively homogenious society. This could be a limiting factor in its need to grow and innovate towards a more competitve economy. In recent years more and more attention has been directed towards the Asian tigers. India and China has become a dominating force on the world economic stage. Although the rate of growth is slowing down quite a bit, China is still growing faster than its Western counterparts. It is easy to see why so many countries have become very interested in getting their hands into the new honey pot.
In 2011 Hungary was successful in the procurement of a $3.6 Billion investement agreement with the Red Dragon. The origins of this deal can be traced back to a 1988 bilateral agreement easing visa regulations of Chinese citizens who want to enter Hungary. This started a large amount of trade between the two countries. It is obvious that Hungary has learned its lessons from about 700 years prior when the Golden Horde mercilessly took over the Hungarian territory in a matter of two months. It is better to do business with those from the East rather than fight them. I had been in Budapest during the time of Premier Wen’s visit. The Parlament Building and the Széchenyi Chain Bridge were festooned in Chinese Flags.
Poland has never been in the radars as far as the Chinese are concerned in terms of trade. Poland as some Chinese residents have said are rather under developed. Their visa policy are too restrictive and prohibiting. The border guards often try to cause trouble for Chinese businessmen. Although there are some the current efforts of the Polish government to get China to become interested in investing in Poland it might not be enough to make much of a difference. The COVEC debacle only made it worse. China has already found a „port” into the European market in Hungary. The Polish market is simply not big enough to warrant a major effort. It is enough to establish a small hub in Jaworzno as a distribution point and to make the deals with the local telecoms to get their Huawei equipments into Polish hands.
Another reasone to the lack of warmth between China and Poland is the general Polish attitude towards Chinese culture. Being a ethinc Chinese here in Poland, I sometimes feel like a social pariah. I can speak Polish and I do engage in some Polish cultural activities, and I do have some Polish friends. I still cannot shake the feeling that Polish people seem to think they are better than the Chinese. I have taught Chinese in many instances, and when I try to bring some Chinese cultural components into my lessons, I do not get any sense of enthusiasm. Polish people are generally enthusiastic in learning languages. However, this is generally where the interest seem to stop. They don’t really try to get deeper into another’s culture. The first thing that any good sales man tries to do is to make a human connection. Then they can try use emotions to create desire and need for their products. One of the ways is to express interest in another’s cuture.
I have been to enough Chinese Polish conferences to see that most of the topic has to do with due dilligence and intellectual property. And most of the so-called experts try to give some magic pill tips in doing business with the Chinese. Most of them still focus too much on the differences between Poland and China. Wouldn’t it easier to focus on the similarities first. Then, I believe the differences will work themselves out. First of all doing business in China is plagued with a massive amount of beauracracy, well so is doing business here in Poland. Poland can use its experience dealing with communist governments to deal with the Chinese government. The Polish pierogi is quite similar to the Chinese jiao-tse. In many of these conferences, the experts seems to adopt this „us vs. them” mindset. And most of them are Polish. Why not let the Chinese into the conversation?
Here is what the experts are missing. The Chinese is a very tight-knit community. Word travels fast. Once you get a bad reputation, it is very hard to live it down. Chinese people hold grudges. There are a lot more of the Chinese then Poles. Chinese people don’t open their purses so easily. (Think Jews and Scots) China has access to a vast amount of wealth due to the fact that they don’t over spend and possibily currency manipulation. Chinese IT talent is high in quality and cheaper than Poland. China has more to offer than gadgets, cheap household wares, and cheap clothing. China is filled with well qualified talented individuals.
Currently, there are some Chinese-Polish cooperative efforts which is a start. And universities like AGH, Jagiellonian and University of Warsaw are trying to attract more Chinese students. They are among the universities recognized by the Chinese educational authorities. Perhaps through these activities, they can turn things around.
Thursday, November 21, 2013
Thank you all for coming to our birthday meetup today! We had baloons, a cake, and probably the highest attendance up to date. We don’t have officially confirmed data, but from the looks of it, there was about half billion people at Google for Entrepreneurs this morning… well, more or less, that is.
By CLAIRE CAIN MILLER
This is a repost of an Article that appeared on the New York Times on November 20, 2013
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Startups Gaining Luster in the Golden City of Prague under the Guidance of Wayra: A Telefonica Venture
By Paul Chen
In December 1890 a group of outcast artists from Paris decided to revive the SociétéNationale des Beaux-Arts because their art were considered not up to the standard of the them prestigious Salon de Paris. Rather than having their paintings and sculptures exhibited among the many at the Louvre, they opened a smaller exhibition where its members can show off more of their craft. These days, paintings and sculptures of Manet, Delacroix, and Rodin are worth millions each.
The moral of the story is that it is sometimes better to have the big fish in a small pond approach in startups. In recent years, telecoms like Deutsche Telekom and Spain’s Telefonica while being giants are giving some very talented individuals and teams chances to do just that. In Krakow and Berlin, Deutsche Telekom formed branches of the accelerator hub:Raum. In many Latin America capitals as well as some selected European cities, Telefonica opened branches of the accelerator Wayra.
While some telecoms and corporations are resistant to the idea of outsourcing research and development to startups. The reasons are understandable. The low level of control over product development and the high up-front pre-seeding fee can be concerning to some middle level managers and accountants. However, in the end both the sponsoring company and the startup can benefit from this model. Because they are startups, they can concentrate on developing a good solid product and service while being nimble enough to make necessary pivots without having to answer to some mid-level managers. Additionally, the startups, if successful, will be providing the community with jobs and improving the local economy. And they will keep the market competitive providing better products and services to the customer. The startups will also have access to the sponsors’ large portfolio of pre-existing clients.
The sponsoring company wins by being the first in line to acquire the rights to use the products and services. The sponsors are also able to add more variety of services to their menu. If the startup does badly, they can distance themselves from the product and service as the startup is considered a separate entity. As a result the company brand doesn’t get damaged. There is probably a tax incentive in having these ventures.
In the center of the golden city of Prague on the magnificent Wencelas Square sits the Czech office of Wayra. I caught up with Ms. Linda Kajzarova the branch manager. This is what she has to tell us:
This is certainly a really great location, why here, rather than outside the city center like other coworking spaces in Prague?
There are two reasons:
- It is better for the startups to have many varieties of food options within walking distance so they can eat and get back to work without having to travel long distances.
- It looks wonderful for investors to visit a more upscale office in the middle of the city. That way they can feel the energy as well as the hustle and bustle.
How does the Wayra Academy work?
In our first round of recruitment, we received over three and half thousand (3,500) applications for ten (10) spots. A startup can reapply as many times as they wish. We will always provide them with good honest feedback without any sugar coating. During their time with us they will have access to the following:
- Fully equipped (internet, furnished workspace, kitchen use, a shower) coworking space in the heart of the city.
- Infrastructure for growth
- Access to our global team of experienced mentors
- Six (6) months of training focused on the topics of: pitching, negotiating, product and customer dev.
- Insider information on all the markets that Telefonica serves
- 40,000 Euro of pre-seed funding given in installments provided certain KPI’s are met.
- Access to our global network of offices, personnel, and community
What does Wayra want in return?
We would ask for 10% equity, first right privileges.
What are you looking for in a startup?
We are looking for startups with a focus on telecom products and services. We are looking for hard-working, passionate people who believe in their idea. We are looking for startups that will be able to make contributions to our global community and believe in the system.
Some cities will try to compare their startup community to those in Silicon Valley. How do you think Prague compares to the Valley?
There are a huge number of success stories to come out of Silicon Valley, which is wonderful for them. However, as you have heard from other places in Prague earlier, here in Prague, we would like to create our own pond and success stories. We don’t really need validation from the Valley. We know we are good and we believe in ourselves.
Any early successes?
One of our startups,Datamolino, was invited to make a pitch at the Wayra Global Demo Day. They were able to make their pitch to over 300 global investors.
How do you think the Prague Startup Community could improve?
I would like to see more girls involved. I would like to see more people be courageous enough to take a chance and put themselves out there. It’s OK to make mistakes, as long as you can learn from it and it improves your idea or product in some way. I would like to see more people apply to our accelerator program.
Wayra just closed the next round of global recruitment.
The current cohort of startups:
(the only Czech startup) – An alternative interface for Android smartphones that simplifies functionality.