US Leads The Way With New Office For Entrepreneurship & Innovation

Bloomberg reports that the US Commerce Department is in the process of establishing a new Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation to help entrepreneurs transform ideas into companies.

This office, according to Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, will help fledgling business owners get training, credit and access to government research, in a bid to encourage the ‘right kind’ of risks by business leaders.

The office will be geared toward the first step in the business cycle: moving an idea from somebody’s imagination or from a research lab into a business plan. What we need to do is get better at connecting the great ideas to the great company builders.

Bloomberg notes that this plan is picking up the ball from Barack Obama’s comments a few days ago that new technologies and businesses are the key to re-establishing economic growth…The administration will try to ‘catalyze breakthrough’ technologies.

What I find really interesting here is that this rhetoric echoes the Australians who announced in May that they would be creating a Commercialisation Institute. I put forward a paper in July on how I believe such an initiative can optimally assist entrepreneurs and boost innovation.

However, we are still waiting to get a feel from Canberra that something is actually being done beyond the rhetoric. I hope that this US initiative is able to achieve a catalytic breakthrough in Australia too by showing up their tardiness in getting stuff done!

The other interesting echo is that Gary Locke points to the United States’ failure in capitalizing on its solar technologies. Similarly, Australia was a world leader in this area with technology developed in Sydney. Today this is being commercialised in China. Carpe diem, my friends!

Acquisition Is The New Black – Is The Entrepreneurial Economy Back

Has anyone else noticed this trend of late? It appears as if corporate acquisitions have become the new black.

Nokia, for example, have acquired Bit-Side, Cellity and Plum so far this year. The Finnish mobile company is now reportedly targeting the London-based travel social network Dopplr.

After a hiatus, Google is also back in the M&A game. CEO, Eric Schmidt told Reuters Television:

“Acquisitions are turned on again…and we are doing our normal maneuvers, which is small companies. My estimate would be one-a-month acquisitions and these are largely in lieu of hiring.”

Google Acquisitions and Investments

Google acquired On2 Technologies last month and reCAPTCHA last week. MeetTheBoss has a subway-style map of the company’s acquisitions (thanks TechCrunch) – this may prove useful if you are trying to figure out their M&A strategy.

After a break of almost a year, Adobe turned on the spigot last month with the acquisition of start up Australian hosting and ecommerce company, Business Catalyst. They then fronted up for a billion dollar deal by acquiring Omniture, a web analytics business.

How can we forget Oracle’s billion dollar acquisition of Sun Microsystems last month.

Microsoft’s only acquisition so far this year has been BigPark, a Canadian interactive gaming company. Before this deal they had last made an acquisition this time last year.

IBM has kept up a steady pace in recent months acquiring Exeros Assets, a data discovery software company in May, both statistical analysis software developer SPSS and source code analysis company Ounce Labs in July and Singapore-based analytics and optimisation business Red Pill Solutions this week.

So, what does this mean for entrepreneurs and their financial backers?

Investors typically focus as much on the potential exit as they do on the team, the technology and the market when they are deciding whether to bring a company into their portfolio. Knowing that the corporate development VPs are once again actively scouting for deals for their companies will be comforting to venture capitalists and their limited partners. They will become more active in growing their portfolios again.

As a result the entrepreneurial economy or ecosystem will be sufficiently lubricated to begin grinding its gears and tending towards a state of equilibrium.

Sydney’s Dust Storm Fail Whale

Red Dust Over Sydney

What a weird and wonderful morning. I was working away early this morning as the usual glow started appearing on the skyline, but it seemed more intense than normal.

It was only when my wireless uncharacteristically died that I stuck my head up long enough to really take notice. Going out onto the deck I saw what looked like a beautiful mist hanging in the forest around me.

But as the morning materialized, it became evident that this was truly an extraordinary morning. We’ve been enveloped by a monster dust storm, dramatically reducing visibility and casting an eery glow over the city.

Yi Ying Lu, who created the now infamous Twitter fail whale, has produced one just for Sydney’s dust storm. If you’d like to see a stream of photos capturing this phenomenon check out Flickr.

UPDATE: I couldn’t go past adding this picture by @jamesielliott (thanks to @paulmckeon for bringing it to my attention):


Re-architecting the business paradigm through social business design

Shropshire BridgeThe current enterprise branding/marketing outflows and monitoring systems are not designed for engagement. Instead they are asynchronous push mechanisms –

“Look at me, I’m the cool brand you need to identify with”;

“Hey guy, you really need to buy me, I’m the product that will make you whole again”.

The challenge for anyone working in the social business design arena is not being complacent and accepting the parameters set by clients –

“We have a total budget of $500k, how can you use this to push us in our market using these new social media tools”.

The challenge is convincing a client to change their entire product development, marketing, sales and distribution cycles to become more integrated around a synchronously engaged model, a model that goes way beyond retrofitting.

The challenge as well is telling them that far from making their business more cutting edge, in fact, this radical redesign will make them far more like the businesses that existed pre-industrial revolution.

In putting forward these re-architecting challenges, I am building on a thesis put forward by Luke Harvey-Palmer:

So much of the theory and practice that resides at the core of Social Business Design sounds like the same principles that successful villages and communities existed upon largely up until the early 18th Century.  For these villages, commerce was very much about the community, and conversations and relationships.  With the Industrial Revolution and the rise of globalisation most recently, corporations have forgotten the notions of community, collaboration and consultation.  Before the advent of advertising and the ‘agency’ people were persuaded to buy products by the people who made and distributed the products…and this all took place on local markets, where everyone gathered to enjoy the social aspects of business!

and continued by Robin Hamman of the Dachis Group:

Whilst it’s true that, at present, most social media monitoring is being used to protect existing mass processes, I remain enthusiastic about it’s potential to help genuinely social businesses gain a foothold by helping them identify opportunities, make contact with those with a need (“the market”) and build awareness of their ability and eagerness to fulfill that need. That, however, requires more than just a monitoring solution – it requires a consumer focused strategy, utilising a variety of social tools to support consumer involvement in every step of the process, including product or service definition, testing, refinement and marketing.

Being bold with clients about re-architecting rather than retrofitting will ultimately deliver far greater return on (change) investment.

[pic courtesy of Burwash Calligrapher]

Innovation Bay: Summer Angel Investor Dinner

Table for 20

I’m really pleased to announce that, together with my Innovation Bay co-founders, I’m hosting a Summer Angel Investor Dinner on the 6th October in Sydney.

Our June dinner  was totally oversubscribed. We had a huge demand from entrepreneurs wanting to pitch their ventures to our group, who included some of Australia’s and the world’s most successful and connected businesspeople.

It’s also really great to point to a success story from the June event. One of the companies that pitched – Posse – secured four new investors from this session and has gone on to launch in the US and UK. They are growing gangbusters and acknowledge the invaluable advice they’ve received from Innovation Bay and its members.

I expect the October event will be no different. We are currently screening potential demo companies so ping me asap if you are interested in being considered.

There is absolutely no cost to entrepreneurs for pitching at the dinner. Our only challenge is that we need to limit the number of companies pitching so be quick!

San Francisco Innovation Storm

GoldenGate thunderstorm

Ok, not quite an innovation storm, but it’s kinda cool to imagine that with all the awesome thinking going on in this wonderful part of the world that there would be a few brainsparks from time to time.

As this amazing picture shows, a thunderstorm came rolling through early morning …

[pic courtesy of fgfathome]

Social Business Design: Birth of a New Industry

La Défense

New industry sectors coalesce and crystallize as a result of a number of factors converging.

In the case of Social Business Design this is an area that has been bubbling under for about 18 months with a range of different tags, such as Enterprise 2.0, but it never really gelled together. There were differences of opinion on who the market was, how to approach it and what exactly did it constitute. Was it simply setting up a corporate blog, an internal wiki and a customer forum or was there more to this area?

Charlene Li’s book Groundswell went a long way towards gathering impetus behind this new industry sector, but still the gel wasn’t quite there. When she left Forrester and set up the Altimeter Group people took notice, but their attention wasn’t galvanized.

And then Jeremiah Oywang left Forrester as well and joined Charlene. People started to sit up and really take notice – they were primed for something to happen. Around about the same time David Armano, an exec with the Dachis Group gave a presentation at the Social Fresh conference titled Social Business by Design. The industry now had a moniker to focus around.

The key inflection point though came last week when Dachis acquired Headshift. Much has already been written about this and most industry commentators will agree with the following tweet from @amayfield:

Headshift/Dachis is massively significant. Not marketing…this is a new sector shaping up: social business.

The Social Business Design meme is now starting to spread rapidly courtesy of one of the classic tenets of this industry: sharing. David Armano had placed his deck of slides on Slideshare two weeks ago. It has since been featured on Slideshare’s new “hot on Twitter” section and is gaining a lot more viewers.

This depth of attention around the topic is rapidly turning to more widespread adoption of the term, both by potential industry practitioners and by their potential clients. An industry is born.

What is Social Business Design?

Anne McCrossan has delivered a cogent summary of this arena:

Social business design sits at the intersection of organizational development and marketing, and can loosely be described as the practice of developing communities of engagement to develop ideas, activities and outputs for commercial and social benefit.

As organizations adopt the principles of social business design, intangible, soft assets like brand value, purpose, human resources, processes and capabilities come to the fore. Social business design is about engendering involvement and it’s inbound.

Slightly differently, marketing services and ‘broadcast’ media operate on the basis the message and transaction are the means to the end. Marketing services communicate primarily outbound.

Her entire post is pure gold and I highly recommend anyone who has read this far to jump over to her site and continue reading.

You will be hearing a lot more on the topic of Social Business Design and I will aim to synthesise and analyze as much of it as I can.

ADDED: Gaurav Mishra has posted a comprehensive summary of this burgeoning space and I wanted to point to his thoughts as they complement the thread in this post.

The key take out, for me, from his comments are that both Altimeter and Dachis focus on using emerging social technologies for transforming businesses, instead of merely reaching out to customers.

This is a salient point. As the social technologies shift, so can the emphasis that an agency puts in those technologies. For example, Augmented Reality is still in its early infancy as a technology and a few years out from being of use within the enterprise. However, when it does mature as a technology it will have an immense impact, until then it is on all of our watchlists, but it’s not worth confusing clients with until it matures somewhat.

[picture courtesy of JArous]