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Archive for the ‘Entrepreneurs’ category

Pepsi’s Innovative Business Model for Entrepreneurship

June 14th, 2010

I was intrigued to hear about the Pepsico 10 challenge, announced at InternetWeek NY in May.

The challenge involves four main components:

How it works

Contestants from around the world are invited to submit their companies for the contest. The only criteria is that require is that the company already have a product, be producing >$250,000 year in revenue, and (presumably, but it isn’t stated on the website) the company should be focused on the Internet (but who isn’t nowadays?).  Ten companies will be selected during a 2-day event at Pepsi headquarters as finalists and invited to pitch to a panel of VCs, Pepsi execs, and other participants.  The winner wins money, fame and a host of contacts for increasing the lifespan of their company.

More details available here.

What’s innovative about this?

It seems like a win-win-win for all parties involved. Entrepreneurs who submit plans presumably get feedback on what works and what doesn’t about their current business model – and what’s needed to scale their businesses.  Mashable is a big winner in associating itself with leading edge entrepreneurial ideas – particularly those that are related to social media. This helps steal the thunder from its competitors (like TechCrunch) by allowing Mashable to report on innovations in entrepreneurship AHEAD of the competition and track potential hot companies of tomorrow.  InternetWeek wins by associating itself with a new model for recognizing entrepreneurship – potentially increasing its readership and following (among those who want to be on the leading edge of technology).  Highland Capital wins by seeing some of the best plans on the planet.  Pepsi, who presumably is matching the largest monetary and time commitment to this experiment, is potentially the biggest winner (although it may be hard to measure this) by associating its most precious asset – it’s brand/name – with young, risk-taking, intelligent entrepreneurs who are trying to change the world. In the world of the Millenials, these young social media start-up execs represent the future leaders…so Pepsi is associating itself with a great group of people.

Wait, Where Have We Seen This Before (Welcome Back Kotter)?

For those of you old enough to remember, the word “challenge” has a rich history at Pepsi, and is in fact a major component of the Pepsi brand. In 1981, here is one of the early commercials released by Pepsi in a series of “Challenges”…which went on to win many advertising and branding awards:

So, creating a “challenge,” in this case to find leading edge social media companies and technologies is a smart fit for this particular company and brand.

What Pepsi, Highland Capital and Mashable May be Missing

A short-coming I see from this model is the lack of specificity in the type of business start-up that is being sought.  What area of consumer internet should the company be from?  What customer needs should the technology address?  By being open to a wide range of opportunities, I think the contest creators may get a lot of applicants who really do not fit the criteria for what Pepsi was initially looking for.  I also think a lot of companies will pass on the opportunity to submit applications because of their uncertainty as to what Pepsi is really seeking.  On the flip-side, by keeping the “scope” wide, presumably the challenge brings in a wider range of opportunities.
Another short-coming might be awareness. The best plans will come to this contest only if entrepreneurs are aware of the contest.  Among 10 entrepreneurs I personally spoke with, only one was aware of the “Challenge” and no one I spoke with planned to submit a business plan.  (yes I realize my sampling was small and random)  Some significant marketing dollars (and lots more PR) need to be applied to this contest in order for it to become known to the community.  Perhaps partnering with Universities, other online social media broadcasters (TechCrunch or Vator.tv, for example) will help in the long run. As a professor at UC Berkeley, I’d love to get my MBA and Engineering students thinking about the contest next year.  Hopefully, Pepsi realizes that it needs to commit to 4-5 years of this model in order to really reap the benefit.

Noth withstanding these things, I like the fact that a major brand who could have spent millions by throwing out more advertising, billboards, and magazine back covers, is devoting some attention to this (yes, I realize the budget for this contest was infinitesimlly small compared to Pepsi’s overall brand annual budget). Give them kudos for trying…and give Mashable and Highland high marks for assisting in an innovative new approach to partnering for entrepreneurship.

Y Combinator …look out! There’s a new innovative model on the block.

Personal Brand and Creativity

May 14th, 2010

I was interviewed by Dan Schawbel, author of Me 2.0, on his website this week on the topic of Personal Branding and Creativity.  It got me thinking about the nature of creativity and personal brands on the internet.

In the early days of Yahoo, when I took over marketing and sales, it was clear that the BRAND at the company was both the name/identify of “Y-A-H-O-O” as well as the personalities of Dave Filo and Jerry Yang.  So, our earliest marketing at Yahoo was not expensive television commercials or , it was simple public relations aimed at the top US consumer reads – so with minimal marketing spend we ended up with stories on Filo & Yang in Rolling Stones, People, NY Times, Wired, and more.  All within 6 months of funding and officially launching the company.

In 1996, when I formed Interactive Minds, one could already see the power of Personalities (aka personal branding) on the Web. I teamed up with Howard Rheingold to form a company called Electric Minds.  Electric Minds was initially funded by private angels and Softbank Ventures, but did not survive…we failed to find a business model that would work in that period of the Internet – and our cost structure to produce an early community site was insurmountable.  However, it was an extremely creative endeavor – putting together PERSONAL BRANDS from a variety of technology experts that Howard knew and positioning them as global experts in their field of expertise, then surrounding them with many early social elements.  In a funny way, Electric Minds was an early pre-curser to Social Media market -but was the example of a company TOO EARLY to take advantage of the explosion.  Timing is everything.
Several months after Electric Minds came along, another early community company called The Mining Company, founded by former CEO of Prodigy Networks (@kurnit) came along.  They changed their name to About.com, went public in the dotcom bubble period and today are one of the few pre-bubble community companies still running strong.  About.com took the approach of giving thought leaders for thousands of areas (dogs, boating, stamp collecting) a “voice” and a set of tools for building community.

This is the first example I can think of where personal branding occurred on the Internet with NON-POP CULTURE people/experts and elevated them to Internet notoriety.

In the following years, personal branding has come into vogue in many ways.  First, there as the “Internet Pioneer” – Howard Rheingold is a great example of this. He was followed by Jim Cramer, The Motley Fool, Matt Drudge and Perez Hilton.

Next came the waves of famous Bloggers…..and the age of Youtube celebrities, some of whom, like LonelyGirl15 were not even real…

Now we have Twitterati. 5 Million followers and counting for @aplusk (AshtonKutcher). Byte-sized personal branding at your service.

With each wave of personalities that come to the Internet, they carry their own unique form of creativity – in “voice”/personality, style, and antics.  No one quite communicated like Howard Rheingold (or dresses like him), no one quite had the style of Arianna Huffington, no one has the short-form entertainment appeal of Violet Blue or the techno-social grace of Michael Arrington.

The latest wave of online personalities that are growing include those who are able to capture the heart and spirit of the millenials in several new areas: social consciousness, global savvy, and celebrity.  One great way to watch the celebrity arena is Celebrifi , by Blue Buzz Networks, which I’m mentoring.

Keep a watch for these areas.

See the interview at : http://www.personalbrandingblog.com/personal-branding-interview-randy-haykin/

I’m now thinking about what comes next. :)

Creativity at Any Age

February 20th, 2010

I read this week’s Wall Street Journal article “Fleeting Youth, Fading Creativity” (WSJ, Feb 20, 1010, p. W3) with fascination…

The article, by Jonah Lehrer, suggests the following:

  • Scientific & technical revolutions are often led by younger minds (think Newton, Watson, Einstein, Madame Curie, Jobs, Andreessen)
  • Certain fields lend themselves to innovation by younger minds, including Physics, Math & Poetry, Chess
  • There seems to be an inverted U-curve that describes human capacity for creative thought, with the top of the u-curve coming somewhere between the ages of 25 and 50.
  • The disciplines of  Biology, History, Novel-writing, and Philosophy might not peak until their late 40′s
  • Many individuals have increased their creativity later in life by switching fields of study (thus potentially applying learnings from one field to another in a “intersectional” manner (see my prior blog post on this called “Intersectional Creativity& Mash-ups”)

One key part of this argument I do buy is this:  when we are young, we are likely to take more risks and we are likely to be less encumbered by rules bestowed upon us by marriage, work, community, church, etc.  In other words the YOUNGER MIND, in general, does have the advantage of being FREE to make key connections that the older mind has to work harder to achieve amidst a cadre of society-driven rules which have been enforced for a longer period of time.

While I don’t disagree with the premise that certain professions require young/fresh minds to attack them, the author neglected to mention the wide variety of creative careers that have taken off for LATE BLOOMERS in many fields.

Old Farts Have Been Creative Too!

The NY Times article highlights “Five sicentists who made their marks while they were young”, including: Archimedes (in his 20s when sitting in the bathtub), Marie Curie (just turned 30 when investigating radioactivity), Galileo Galilei (speed of objects falling in late 20′s), William Lawrence Bragg (x-rays and crystal structure; Nobel laureate at age 25), and J. Robert Oppenheimer (Manhattan Project lead, first discoveries at 23 years old).

Indeed, these great discoveries (involving major sciences) were made by youngsters who could view the world in an alternative way and remove themselves from the scientific “rule-sets” of their days. (Archimedes was quite fortunate to thrive in an ancient society of Greece that rewarded created thinking)

But there is a variety of evidence that older humans have the capacity for creativity & innovation – well into their “retirement” years.

Here are a few I immediately dug up:

1) Ben Franklin - perhaps one of the greatest of all American Inventors – invented the Lightening Rod at age 44 and discovered electricity at 46, drafted the Declaration of Independence at age 70, invented bifocals in late 70′s.

2) Henry Ford - founded Ford Motors in late 30s and geared up production lines in his late 40′s.

3) Sam Walton – launched the first Walmart, in , at age 44.

4) Ray Kroc – was 52 when he incorporated the innovative new approach later called “McDonalds”.

5) Ray Kurzweil - author of more than 10 books on topic of scientific thought and futuristic thinking, has come up with some of his most impressive new ideas long after the age of 50 (he was born in 1948 and is 62 this year).  His book The Singularity Is Near was published when he was 55)

6) Alfred Hitchcock - his best and most creative films were done after the age of 50.

7) Guru Singh – one of my friends and mentors, Guru Singh, who is now over 60 is one of the most creative authors, teachers and global social conscience innovators that I know. Check out his blog !

Can you think of other examples?

Conceptual vs Experimental Innovators

A great article from Wired Magazine, written in July 2006, reminds us that Genius can come at many ages. Researcher David Galenson (Harvard) underscores the difference between creative activity can be found in two forms: “Conceptual” innovators and “Experimental Innovators”.  The Conceptual Innovators tend to come up with their ideas at an early age, in big dramatic leaps into new vectors – the Experimental Innovators seem to have a slower path to the great “aha” moment, trying many variations over time (think: Thomas Edison).
I like to think about Bill Gates – he appears to be a Conceptual Innovator in his youth in the area of software, but in later life (post 50 now), he is starting to innovate in new areas  Oddly enough, a number of employees attracted to Microsoft, including Jeff Raikes, Nathan Myrvold, Paul Allen – all seem to be blooming in new creative ways – I suppose they are “experimental” innovators now.

In my role at UC Berkeley, I try to surround myself with the ideas, theory, practice and real world examples of great minds, creativity and innovation…and it seems to come in many forms and many ages.  It all gives me comfort in knowing that at age 49, I still have plenty of time to make my major creative contribution to society.  

What are your thoughts on this topic? Respond below or  Tweet me at http://twitter.com/randyhaykin

Innovative Company – Triporati

February 9th, 2010

Jim Hornthal is a serial entrepreneur, angel, and venture investor in the Silicon Valley.  Jim is the former Founder and Chairman of Preview Travel, a company that rose within the Travel industry during the early digital days, went public and subsequently merged with Travelocity. As the Harvard Business School case by Bill Sahlman on Preview, will tell you:  this was a yo-yo ride from start to finish for Preview – but along the way Hornthal became an expert on travel and online behavior.

What is Triporati?

Perhaps that’s the reason that Jim’s mention of his new company on travelor behavior caught my attention over lunch with him last year, and even more so when he recently demo’d the applications he’s built in “stealth” mode these past 18 months.   The company is called Triporati and the product Jim has launched showcases a bit of  the technology/IP that will eventually become part of the fabric of the $trillion dollar  travel industry.

Arriving at Triperati, the user is given an option to “play the game” – filling out details on one’s personal travel preferences allows a user to narrow down a series of potentially interesting vacation destinations. The more details one provides on their interests and travel experience, the more specific the suggestions the system can make.  And the system learns as the user engages more with the system

The system works in a way similar to a  project, the Music Genome Project, , circa 2000, in which a team  broke down music listening into 400 attributes.  That IP forms the basis for a company called Pandora.

Genomes, DNA and Heredity

The team at Triperati calls this the “vacation genome” project.  In other words, it is capturing the “building blocks” built around one’s travel or vacation interests.  The “genome” in a biological context refers to the both the genes and non-coding sequences of DNA.  So, if Triporati is truly looking at the “genes” of travel/vacation consume decisions, then it must take into account both the choices that unfold from one’s interests AND the history (think:  biological history or heredity) of one’s choices in prior trips/travels/excursions.

This, according to Hornthal, is in fact the objective of the company. To capture both the ontology of vacations and the taxonomy of travel – and put the two together inot a useful IP/algorithm that helps predict future vacations of interest. Furthermore, users who are logged into the Triperati system would be leaving a digital footprint that serves as the “non-coding” portion of the equation, or history/heredity.

This intersection of multiple sciences, as it is applied to travel (a third intersection) is rather intriguing.

In theory, such a system would allow the owner to provide a much more customized/targeted system of choices to users who are not totally clear on where they’d like to go for “next year’s family fun.”

Triporati is funded by angels and CME Ventures (SF) and is currently engaging in several significant partnerships to enable its technology on others’ platforms, as well as testing out its own consumer site, www.triporati.com.

Other industries could benefit

Vacation genomes not only have bearing upon the “travel” industry, but they also could impact the “concierges” industry.  Not familiar with this industry?  It’s a growing $2B+ industry.  A sample company (disclaimer: I’m on the Board)  is Les Concierges, based in SF.  This company currently serves a whos-who of corporate clients (such as Nordstroms, Fidelity, Amex, BofA and VISA), and has recently inked a major partnership with insurance industry behemoth Axa.  The Concierge market focuses not only on travel requests, but also on events (such as concerts), gifts (such as anniversary), venues (such as ball-parks, restaurants), and other goods and services.  A genome approach to this industry would be a HUGE way to assist those calling on the concierges.

Whatever the outcome for Triporati, I find the team’s approach to travel to be a forebearer of more of this to come – understand the users profile, pattern-matching travel/trips to other “like” experiences.

Jim is the former Founder and Chairman of Preview Travel, a company that rose within the Travel industry during the early digital days, went public, and subsequently merged with Travelocity. As the Harvard Business School case by Bill Sahlman on Preview, will tell you:  this was a yo-yo ride from start to finish for Preview – but along the way Hornthal became an expert on travel and online behavior.

Innovation and Creativity at the University

January 7th, 2010

In 2009, I was given the opportunity to create and teach a new course at UC Berkeley’s “Management of Technology” group, serving both master-degree candidates in Engineering as well as MBAs at the Haas School.  All in all we had 46 students in the class. The class is called ICE –“Innovation, Creativity & The Entrepreneur.”

I am personally very grateful for the opportunity to teach this particular course.  First of all, I am interested at this point in giving something back to others – and this class represented the ULTIMATE way to give something back to the younger generation – this is the future generation of innovative leaders.  And, Creativity is a life-long passion of mine.  Lastly, the results of the class were extremely rewarding (read on, below).

Why a Class on Creativity/Innovation AND Entrepreneurship?

While colleges & corporations all over the world are stressing Innovation, and even Berkeley itself has several leaders in the field of innovation, such as Professor Sara Beckman and Professor Henry Chesbrough, I researched ENTREPRENEURIAL Innovation in 2008.  We do have a very excellent Lester Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation here at the Haas School – the emphasis is on hands-on student learning for future entrepreneurs.  I teach New Venture Finance each spring from within this Center.  Several classes within Lester Center integrate ideas on creativity and innovation into their curriculum.

Outside of Berkeley, I could find very little in this area – few cases,  very few articles, few courses taught on the subject (Harvard Business School had a course of this nature in the late 1980’s, taught by professor, John Kao), and the last book I could find on the topic of Innovation and Entrepreneurship was a book by that very name by Peter Drucker in 1985. (If I’ve missed something in my research, my apologies – I’d LOVE to learn about it).

Plenty out there on Innovation and Corporations, but little on entrepreneurship…maybe entrepreneurs are EXPECTED to be innovative…but of course they are not  necessarily, in reality.

Topics on Creativity

The class basically covered these topics on Creativity & Innovation:

  • Definitions of Creativity & Innovation in the working world
  • Company Environment – how physical space, values, beliefs & culture affect innovation
  • Leadership – how to enhance or kill Creativity in the entrepreneurial environment (see my previous post on this topic)
  • Measuring Group and Individual Creativity
  • The Creative Problem Solving Process
  • Management of Global Creativity
  • Creativity in Design
  • Innovations in Product Development
  • Innovations in Marketing (see my previous posts on this topic)
  • HR , Company Culture and Innovation (see my previous posts on this topic)
  • How business models affect innovation

Speakers really enhanced the class !

At UC Berkeley, we are very fortunate to be closeto  the Silicon Valley (and I’m fortunate to know a lot of people!)  During the 15 week class we had a variety of excellent speakers parade through the halls of the Haas School on their way to our classroom.  I am highly indebted and grateful to the following seasoned professionals for their time and great presentations:

New cases developed for this class

As luck would have it, I had superb support from Anne Marxer who is a MBA candidate at Haas and did a great job as my Teaching Assistant.  We also were very fortunate to get 4 special case studies done – Case studies were also superbly written by Jenny Herbert Creek (on Netflix’s Cultural innovations) and Rekha Ravindra (on Reply’s business model innovations) – thanks ladies!

Professor Linda Hill, a long-time mentor and well-know professor/administrator at Harvard Business School, co-collaborated with me on a case on Digital Chocolate, which was nicely written by HBS West Executive Director Alison Wagonfeld.  The case is available world-wide now through the HBS Publishing – see: http://hbr.org/product/digital-chocolate/an/410049-PDF-ENG?N=4294958507%2520516161

Getting Innovative

Of course, no classroom on innovation or creativity would make sense unless we tried to be a little innovative ourselves. I surprised myself by managing to come up with at least 4 innovation in this classroom, that the students seem to enjoy.  Some of the  approaches were bit out of the ordinary and took advantage of existing technologies:

  • Classroom Innovation #1: the Virtual case – With expert videographer and Cal grad Suzanne Lamar, I created four unique cases and tested them out on the class – each case was filmed at the company and then presented on the web in snippets (each no more than 2 minutes long, a total of 6-8 per company).  Students were asked to write down answers to questions on each clip, in addition to reading a short case study on the company.  The result: students seem to retain more of the learning, and internalized the material, plus had more fun.  For great examples of this, see:  http://www.haykin.net/learning/index.html
  • Classroom Innovation #2: unique use of Wiki – I asked all 50 students in the class to each come up with 2 examples of Marketing Innovation (from anywhere in world) off the ‘Net and enter their findings in a wiki which was organized by marketing topic. The result was so rich and useful for a 2 hour class – but in reality we created enough material for the basis of an ENTIRE COURSE on Marketing Innovation.  During my lecture, I shared a framework on marketing with the class, then stitched together examples they had all posted – in real time and using video, audio, etc.  We had an amazing time.
  • Classroom Innovation #3: unique use of Online forums - we used this as a classroom tool to allow better participation by students.  Some students were shy by nature and said less in class.  I created a discussion forum online that only the class could see and comment on.  Those students who were quiet in class had a chance to “speak up” and many of them left comments all semester long.  Plus the students interacted (debated, complimented, compared) with each other in these forums.  The forums also provided great feedback for me from the students on class tools, speakers, etc.
  • Classroom Innovation #4:  the Personal Innovation Plan – one final brainchild I had for this class was called the “PIP” (personal innovation plan). During the 15 weeks of class, I asked each student to keep a Personal Journal of what they were learning, their thoughts and ideas.  Then,  I asked each student to  come up with a full person plan of how they would put the class into action in their own lives – using what they had learned all semester.   About half the class presented their PIPs to me, and the other half delivered physical PIPs.

Here are some examples of the amazing plans that the students presented, some of them were WORKS OF ART:

  • A colorful desk calendar that provides photos, quotes, memorable learnings from class for each month of 2010
  • A live multi-media website the integrates all the course material, assignments, personal journals
  • A desktop full-scale model of House in the movie “Up!” from  Pixar containing a hidden journal and go-forward plan
  • A magazine interview revealing personal findings and learnings
  • An amazing short story about a Bunny (who was in fact the student in disguise)
  • Interpretation of a few weeks of dreams and how they fit into the creative process
  • A Powerpoint slide show of images/photos along with orginal music
  • A comic-strip representing all that was learned in class
  • Original Music demonstrating several aspects of the class

Through this approach, and innovations during the semester, I felt that I got the privilege of getting to know the 46 students in my class more intimately than most other professors at US institutions.

If you have any questions about this class, I’d love to hear from you at Haykin@haas.berkeley.edu, or leave your comment at bottom of this blog!