Thursday, January 31

Management of Innovation

A Melissa Schilling talk on business strategy and the anaylsis of both technological innovation and market adoption.

It opened my eyes up to various areas of business that I was aware of, but didn’t have an understanding of the reasons why things happen as they do. Melissa has armed me with some tools to further understand markets in terms of technological advances and consumer adoption. It’s always interesting to take a step back from the direct results of business and try and look at the deeper reasons for why things happen, and understand the direct consequences of changes in technology and the markets.

Melissa covered many exciting topics during her presentation. I was particularly intrigued with the topics on cycles of technology, deployment strategy and market adoption. There were so many aspects that I wasn’t aware of, and many of the underlying principles that she spoke of made complete sense to me as to why things happen in business the way they do.
I will be reading the book Melissa has written on the subject, and then reading further into the interesting topics of the limits and curves involved in technological advances and consumer adoption.

The presentation including a huge amount of extremely useful and insightful information that related directly to my business and the market that I am pursuing.

Wednesday, January 30

Angels Vs Venture Capitalists

A talk from Marianne Hudson on Angel investment and then a talk from Niall O'Donnell on Venture Capital.

The evening was spent watching "Mr K" at the Foundation with huge pizzas.

Marianne's talk proved to be a great insight into the world of an angel and how they fit into the game of investments in businesses. I wasn’t aware of the huge scale of Angel investors and how much they contribute to businesses, especially compared to VC’s.
Angel investors are an overlooked, but highly valuable group for young businesses without enough value for VC’s to want to invest, but offer a good opportunity for an individual, or group of Angels to be interested.
Angels can bring money to the table, but maybe more importantly they can bring credibility and therefore might be the catalyst to securing larger funds from VC’s.
There are a lot more Angel groups around the world than I realized, and many who specialize in specific types of businesses such those owned by ethnic minorities, or who are from a certain area.
Overall it was a good overview of the Angel investment area, and clarified some areas that were unknown before regarding investment below the VC route.

Naill concentrated on the world of venture capital during his session. It made me more aware of the huge complexities of signing a VC deal, and the importance of the words written on the term sheet. Although I wouldn’t have attempted a deal without a good lawyer, I’m not even more aware that the quality of the lawyer has an impact on the deal, and I certainly won’t skimp on hiring someone that is both skilled and experienced.

Venture Capital firms vary greatly on how they will treat a company when they invest, so it’s not just about attracting a VC, but it’s about attracting the right VC. There are a lot of questions that should be asked before signing your company away, more than the obvious how much, and what percentage of the company. There are other factors, such as how long the VC firm wants to invest for, what’s their track record on both how many companies they have seen to exit, and how long this takes. You need to approach venture capital firms at the right time. If they are out trying to raise their funds, then they are less likely to want to invest in you, and if they do invest, they will potentially be distracting with raising their own money, rather than paying attention to you. Also you need to look at what stage the company is with their fund pool, as if they are towards the end of the funding cycle, they will want a much quicker return than if they are at the beginning. This might mean they force you to exit at an earlier stage than you want.

The environment of your business area will depend on what types of VC companies will invest in you. If you are in a hot area, then you need to show why you are better than anyone else. If you're out on your own, then why isn't anyone else doing it?

An ideal Angel is a retired expert from your field. The opposite is the local business man that isn't going to add any value to what you’re doing. If the Angel doesn't understand the sales strategy or the timeframes involved, then they're not good investors.

It was a good, solid presentation and has given me a platform of understanding that I can build on in the future.

Tuesday, January 29

IP: A game of attack and defense

Talk by Peter McDermott followed by a game simulating the Patent system by Andrew Torrence.

After these sessions by Peter and Andrew I feel that I am now in a much better position to understanding the use of IP and how it can be utilized to gain an advantage. The systems involved in IP are more complex than I was aware of before this talk, and the systems throughout the world are also completely different. It is important to seek professional help, from someone who understands the unique nature of the country you are looking to protect your IP in. It’s also very important to understand how acting on your IP in a particular country can affect the ability to protect your idea in others.

The key lessons were that IP is incredibly important, more so than I had an awareness of. Its value to a business is huge, especially at this time in history, because information is so valuable. There has to be a strategy to utilizing IP, and it’s not just about a patent, there is an offensive and defensive attitude towards IP.
Businesses need protocols for collecting and evaluation IP that is generated within the company, as proper records could be crucial if IP is disputed. Also be careful when disclosing patent applications, only show what you need to, no more and keep the claims well protected until the last minute. Sometimes patents can be a useful marketing tool, even if they aren’t that useful for business purposes.
There is a lot of effort in bringing together the different laws regarding IP throughout the world, but there aren’t systems that let you protect yourself worldwide, so always be aware of specific laws in different countries, and act accordingly.

Peters presenation was very informative presentation, with a lot of good material and useful insights into the laws involved in IP protection.

During Andrews session we were able to play a simulation that looked to model the complex nature of Patents. It was an interesting take on the way in which patents work, and instantly made the complex ideas behind the system a lot clearer. The patent system is clearly difficult to model, which was something that I wasn’t aware of, yet it the software gave a unique approach to providing understanding to a system that I haven’t had any involvement in up until now.

I learnt that the patent system isn’t as abstract as I had thought. There are rules to the system, that if you know how to use the system to your advantage, it is possible to benefit greatly. However it also seems that because of the nature of the system, no matter how well you know it, there are nuances and problems that you can’t always be aware of and so you won’t always come out on top.

Overall it was a great experience, and a worthwhile session. It would have been brilliant to spend more time working on various strategies using the system, to see how they affect the outcome.

Saturday, January 26

Truman Museum Visit

Trueman Presidential Museum and Library visit

Friday, January 25

Ted Zoller

Sessions with Ted Zoller "New Venture Boot Camp".

Ted made some excellent points on entrepreneurship and it’s benefits to the economy of nations. It was interesting to see the cultural differences between America and the UK in terms of their views on entrepreneurs and the pros and cons of being an entrepreneur in America compared to the UK. It was also interesting to see statistics on the growing economies of the developing nations, and the speed in which they are growing compared to the stagnant G6 countries. Ted also imposed on us the responsibility we have as entrepreneurs on building up wealth, which was a sobering viewpoint.

I learnt the need to look globally at the economies and interests of all nations, not just the usual candidates such as the US and Europe. There were some useful lessons on the reasons for pursuing entrepreneurship and the roles we have to fulfill. Especially revealing were the principles of understanding the appropriate business model for the type of business I am in, including looking at whether they are destructive, an application, a service or a platform. Ted was also very good in explaining the principles of the Value Proposition, and how to bring this important concept to our businesses. The time spent defining and developing the Value Proposition for my business was extremely useful. Finally Ted introduced me to the idea of the business’ beachhead, where the market, innovation, business and financial models overlap.

The time we spend with Ted was extremely constructive, and the knowledge that he shared will be beneficial in progressing my exploits in entrepreneurship, especially at this moment so early in the pursuit of a highly successful company. I am excited to hear what Ted has to say further at our next session.

Ted was an extremely capable speaker, who captured my attention throughout the session, and provided enough time for discussion and questions throughout the day to keep the seminars entertaining and interactive.

Thursday, January 24

KTEC Pipeline Event

I was lucky enough to have the chance to attend the KTEC Pipeline annual awards ceremony.

Although I have seen many investment pitches, none have been from experienced entrepreneurs that have multimillion dollar forecasts and successful companies. I was inspired by the enthusiasm and commitment the presenters showed and their ability to describe their business propositions. It was also inspiring to see how similar their presentations are to those that the fellows have been creating, and bar some polish, and a better understanding of our markets and business models, we aren’t far of the standard that I saw from the KTEC businesses. It was useful to see my mentor Tim Donnelly pitch his business, as I will be working closely with him in his organization for the second half of my fellowship and this insight was very useful.

There were a number of aspects that I noticed in the entrepreneur’s pitches that I learnt from. Firstly the importance that was put on the team behind the idea, including the management, but seemingly as significant the advisors the companies had backing them up. Also every pitcher used the term Value Proposition, which was something that I hadn’t heard before, but is a term thrown around here to represent the viability of the idea to both investors and customers of the business. Other things that I noticed were successful pitchers knew who they were pitching too, and had obviously done the research into the judges, and they also all thanked the judges for making the time to be there, another nice touch.

This was a great experience, invaluable to me going forward as an entrepreneur. I was impressed with the scale of the event, and the amount that has been invested in the future of entrepreneurship in the Kansas area. The KTEC scheme looks to be a great success, and to be a part of the ongoing improvement to the area is a real honor. Everyone that I met was extremely approachable and kind in spending time with me and I’m looking forward to other such events.

Wednesday, January 23

Carl Schramm

Talk from Carl Schramm, the President and CEO of the Kauffman Foundation gave us a talk this morning, which was inspirational and encouraging for our time here in the US. He covered a number of topics, and had some extremely interesting things to say.

It was an interesting viewpoint on the different quadrants that make up an ideal position for an economy to bloom by providing a favorable situation for entrepreneurship. It helped me to understand the role of the US economy in the advancement of start-up business and how the UK and other countries are behind in their approaches. It was also interesting to view how the macro economy affects the micro of allowing entrepreneurial ventures to prosper.

A couple of good quotes:

"Writing a business plan is the stupidest way of becoming an entrepreneur"

"You're on a lonely journey when you are the boss"

With the mentoring scheme at the foundation, they have a rule that they can not invest in the mentee's company. This gives them an objective viewpoint, and means mentoring the business doesn’t turn into a hobby.

One final point he made is that in pursuit of your own self interest ($$$) you can't help but doing some social good in three key areas:
1. You birth the new
2. Create jobs
3. New enterprise is where all wealth is made

Carl is a fantastic speaker, with a huge amount of charisma. It was a great experience to hear his perspectives on the economy and entrepreneurship in his unique and captivating style.

Tuesday, January 22

Welcome to the Kauffman Foundation

Tour of the Foundation, welcome lunc with the senior leadership team and meeting with mentors.

Thursday, January 3

American Visa

I was successfully awarded an American Visa for my time in the US yesterday. I had to visit the American embassy in London, Grosvenor Square.

The process was assisted by my sponser AILF in the states, and they sent me various documents that were necessary for the Visa. I also had to fill out many online forms that I needed to take with me, not much fun and a lot of repetition.

Luckily I was with Mitu, also on the Kauffman Fellowship, who had her interview at the same time.

Upon arriving at the embassy, in the freezing cold, I had to stand in a queue similar to that at a fairground to quickly check that I had all the documents necessary. Then through security, much like airport security, where they took any electrical equiment off me and I had to take off any metallic objects (including belts).

Into the embassy (past the armed guards) I entered a room, reminding me of a large doctors waiting room, with the obligitory paitent calling system. The first wait was for the handing in all the forms, and finger print scans. The second for the actual "interview" which only lasted 2 minutes, and consisited of simple questions like "what are you doing in the states?" and "what have you been doing since graduating?". Lastly there's a queue to organise to have your passport, including Visa sent back to you (at a cost of £14).

Although I had been warned this process could take 3 hours, I was lucky enough to get in and out in 1 1/2 hours. All in all, pretty straightforward and painless.

If I had any tips, then I would definately take a book, or something to do as it's could be a long wait. Despite what they say you can take a mobile, they will just take it off you at security, and I saw a few people with largish bags. Lastly, if you can then a later appointment seems best, as there were signs outside that suggest morning appointments would have to wait in the cold.

Tuesday, January 1


Welcome to my blog. Here you will find ramblings and photos from my fellowship with the Kauffman Foundation, Kansas City, US.

It will be kept updated, and is an easy way for my family and friends to keep up with what I'm doing for the time I'm away.

I hope it provides and interesting read, I'm certainly looking forward to the next 6 months, it's going to be a fantastic experience.