Entrepreneurship – Economist Special Report on Why and How…

Mind of an Entrepreneur

The Economist ran a special report (March 14, 2009) on Entrepreneurialism and there were several interesting and important points that I felt like writing about. The 16-page report discusses the state of entrepreneurship around the world. In some regards, the report contains an apologia for European entrepreneurship, at least as it pertains to the non-Anglo-Saxon countries. Denmark is cited as a standout example in many regards, and most of the Scandinavian countries, as well as Britain, have a good record in the promotion of and opportunity for start-ups. The United States generally retains its leader status for entrepreneurship and one of the articles, “The United States of Entrepreneurs” describes a number of reasons why the US has managed to continue its run of entrepreneurial successes.

The one reason that really caught my fancy was the power of the story. The notion is that, all throughout high school and university, American-educated children hear stories of inventors and entrepreneurs such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Steve Jobs, etc. How on earth one can substantiate the positive benefit, I have no idea. However, the underlying concept is that icons and role models have no uncertain power and stories, etched into the young, moldable minds, have a habit of being converted into dreamed up business plans.

The article describes the usual suspects of freedom to hire and fire and access to venture capital. [If the notion of investing in a start up is considered a venture in the US, it is called capital risk in numerous European countries].

Another surprising point, as far as I was concerned, is the link with Academia. According to the Economist article, another advantage in the US “is a tradition of close relations between universities and industry. America’s universities are economic engines rather than ivory towers, with proliferating science parks, technology offices, business incubators and venture funds…” That the content and instruction in the “MBA” schools, borne out of the US, provides best-in-class business-training is probably unassailable. But, I would not have known about the comparative strength of the link between academia and business, as I am unaware of the strength of the link in other systems.

The final point I would like to highlight is the U.S. “immigration policy that, historically, has been fairly open.” A professor of Duke University, Vivek Wadhwa, is quoted as saying that “52% of Silicon Valley start-ups were founded by immigrants…” What is not said, but which I firmly believe, is that the reputation of America – all that is incarnated in the American Dream – attracts the entrepreneurially spirited immigrants. Immigrants who, at least in theory, have the choice of which country to which they will attempt to emigrate, will not select the USA if they are fearful of failure, if they are looking for protection and care for [a large number of] children. The reputation of you can “make it rich” in the US is inevitably accompanied by the knowledge of the lack of a safety net. In short, I maintain that the US has a habit of receiving applications from immigrants wishing to create and produce.

The final piece that is fascinating to observe is the propensity for start-ups in the US, not only to survive longer, but more emphatically to scale quicker. Witness the number of companies in the top 100 (based on market cap) that did not exist twenty years ago (Google, Ebay, Yahoo, Amazon…, but the list is not just limited to internet stories). The chart below is particularly telling, measuring the net number of people hired by surviving, new companies. (Source OECD)

Net Employment Gains

If you want to have some fun, look at this complete list of the world’s countries ranked according to the ease of doing business (source: the World Bank Doing Business database). There is no single column on mafia or corruption levels, per se, but the different categories are broad and quite fun to explore: getting construction permits, trading across border, enforcing contracts… Topping the listing is Singapore, followed by New Zealand and USA (with no changes in the top 8 from 2008). Among European countries, Italy comes in at an appalling 61st, while France is 31st (2 ahead of Azerbaijan) and Greece is 96th. Russia (120) and Ukraine (145) are at the “deep” end of the table. Below is the top 20, ranked according to ease of doing business (2009).

Ease of Doing Business Top 20 Countries

A parting remark: The word entrepreneur is a distinctly French word, n’est-ce pas? But, somehow may have been lost in the [bureaucratic paper] shuffle, if not translation.

Microsoft buys Yahoo

Microsoft buys Yahoo?Microsoft to buy Yahoo for real this time? (BBC report) It was announced late yesterday that Microsoft has put in a bid to buy Yahoo for $44.6B, some 62% above where the Yahoo stock price closed on Thursday. Granted Yahoo stock has dropped 46% over the course of the last 3 months (high of $34 in October). Speculation was rife last May that this deal would go down (see SearchEngineJournal post or this Friday Traffic Report blog). There was talk of such a deal in 2006 as well…(see here at Scobleizer).
Google versus Yahoo?  Coming out of the garbage
The Yahoo stock performance and, more importantly, Google‘s continuing dominance obviously have created an environment where this deal would make sense. At 62% above the last close, the premium would look hard to reject from the Yahoo board’s perspective, especially after CEO Jerry Yang had just announced that 1000 people would have to be laid off.

My immediate analysis would be:
– obviously need the anti-competition authority’s approval on this one
– Yahoo’s corporate culture will take it on the chin
– some intelligent cross-fertilization would likely make the combined entity a viable competitor to Google (which would be a good thing), but they will need to find and communicate a real point of difference. How will they manage to compete better in China?

And in case that deal falls through, I invite you (and/or Microsoft) to peruse this site which considers the Top 100 alternative search engines available. What’s interesting is the churn in and out of that top 100 list… And I have been turned on to the KoolTorch search engine which provides a kind of mind-mapping result to your searches. Quite Kool indeed — and a nifty educational aspect (if you enjoy categorization!).

Your thoughts? If you want an interesting thread on the topic and the potential impact to open source work, go visit LinuxJournal. There’s lots of commentary to read through there…

China steps up efforts on Ecology

Not a Plastic BagChina bans free bags! In a second post (“Getting rid of Plastic Bags” May 2007) on the topic, I read in the Herald Tribune with a mixture of satisfaction and curiosity about China’s intended policy to ban the giving out of free plastic bags in shops (effective June 1 2008). What caught my eye in a Figaro article (Jan 10, 2008 Economie section) on the same subject, was that China evaluates its plastic bag consumption at (“at least”) 1.75 billion per year. With some rough maths, that means that each Chinese person uses less than 1 1/2 plastic bags per year. Either the Chinese are adept at reusing those flimsy bags China Going Green?(because they buy so little?), or that is a somewhat understated consumption number. Judging by this photo (from AFP) in Beijing, there may be room on the upside.

Per the site, Clean Green Bag, the USA uses 100 billion plastic bags in a year. For frame of reference via Inhabitat, “Australians currently use about 6 billion plastic bags a year, with an average use of about 16 bags per person per week.”

From another Inhabitat post, I garnered these facts: there are 4 to 5 trillion
non-degradable plastic bags used worldwide annually. 430,000 gallons of oil are needed to produce 100 million non-degradable plastic bags. And, from an MSNBC article, I quote the following “The Sierra Club estimated that if every one of New York City’s 8 million people used one less grocery bag per year, it would reduce waste by about 5 million pounds.”

It should be noted that the plastic bag ban in China goes into effect just before the Olympic Games in Beijing… Good timing!

If you want to do an “ecology” tour in China, that is also available… But don’t expect to visit their landfills or meet with the Ecology Minister… It’s more about a pleasant visit of the China wildlife and fauna.

Yet, for having banned plastic bags, there remains the question of the paper (as in from trees) bags. Action is needed on that front too. For the best solution, bring your own canvas bag (see here for Yahoo answer from NZ). And for more informative solution, read here via Clean Green Bag Alternatives.

The China ban is following in the footsteps of many countries or cities around the world, including Melbourne, Israel, Bangladesh, South Africa, Ireland and even 30 towns in Alaska. Last year, San Francisco went one step better than the levying of a fee for plastic bags by banning them altogether. In so doing, SF is setting the trend for the US. Read more here via TreeHugger.

For more viewing on the topic, check out the Plastic Bag exhibit that was staged in London. See here courtesy of Inhabitat. And here I found a great Green Glossary, from Green is Universal blog, courtesy of NBC.

Internet Disconnection and Missed Communications

Internet Disconnection Means No EmailsAfter a week of being disconnected from my computer and the Internet, I can truthfully say that I felt good about it. No email or blogging withdrawal symptoms, albeit a few other symptoms that come with visiting Egypt (more about the trip in another post).

Having been away for exactly seven days, I was able to assess what one-way flow of personal (i.e. not work related) communications I receive in a week.

It goes like this:

Hotmail (joint account with my wife) had 153 emails of which 13 were in the junk inbox (but I would add that the junk filter caught one legitimate mail). 30 were “forwarded” messages (jokes, chain letters, etc.); 30 were newsletters (for which I have opted in); and 20 were from the kids’ school. Eight were notifications of one or other site (just four comments on the blog). And the remainder were more or less personal communications. (Note that a 2006 ‘Yahoo Asks‘ post suggests that there are in excess of 62 billion emails per day worldwide).

Facebook Ancient VampireFacebook: 18 notifications, 9 new friend requests, 6 mails in the inbox and 6 other requests (group, new app…). I also am happy to say that my “Ancient Vampire” (left) recruited a net of 3 new accolytes (+4-1).

Linkedin: 14 messages and 1 new connection.

Twitter: just over 400 hundred of messages from my 56 followees. One new follower request. My sms notification has been switched off (not sure why).

Plaxo: 2 messages.

: 0

Marzar: 2 new connections.

This Blog: average number of site visitors dropped to 20 from 30 per day. RSS feed is holding consistently at 32.

Including the barrage of Twitter (I am not going to count Jaiku or Orkut), I received a total of 611 messages. This means that I received 87 “messages” per day or 3.6 per hour. Per my calculations, this would mean that over 3/4 of the messages were not directed personally to me. If I remove the Twitter messages from the calculation, the ratio of “personal” messages moves back to what appears to be a reasonable 47%. But, the question is whether that is a good level considering the filters and CRM capabilities that are now available?

Had I had an outgoing “long absence” message, this might have meant I received a few less messages. On the other hand, since I didn’t reply to any of the messages, this number was a little restrained (for those of you who know me, I am typically a rapid fire responder).

What strikes me is that, today, the number of sources of messages has mushroomed and, if Twitter-type communications is included, I have only 1/4 of my messages coming via traditional emails (i.e. via hotmail).

Which bright young entrepreneur will create a site to do the above communication aggregation for me?

Google my rights – privacy beats piracy

In preparations for the CNIL (Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés) meeting 24 September, in Montréal, Google’s Keeper of the Data, Peter Fleischer, has been on the bandwagon for a worldwide protocol for the protection of private data on the net. Fleischer spoke, on 14 September, at a conference in Strasbourg, organised by UNESCO, on the subject of “Ethics and Human Rights in Today’s World of Information.” (Figaro article, “Google soigne son image de défenseur des libertés“). See BBC report.

Attempting to corral its competitors around this protocol, Google is on a mission with a vision, as leader, to curtail the tail (see Mitch Joel’s great post on the risks of the long tail). One can only imagine the internal wranglings at Yahoo and MSN centred around technological limitations. The bulk of the discussion is based around the longevity and selection of rather ‘delicate’ information, including name, addresses, bank details, photos… Google is proposing an 18 month lifespan — a substantial improvement over infinity, but enough to continue to render one nervous about ‘what’s out there.”

In addition, Google has evidently (it’s hard for me to check) already cut the lifespan of a cookie to two years, unless the user chooses to prolong. Previously, all Google cookies were programmed to live through 2038 (you must wonder how they came up with that year…50 years on?).

I was very curious about Fleischer’s remarks that Asia-Pacific has pioneered in this area. He mentions Australia and Vietnam. No mention of China. Clearly, if China is not on board, it would seem mildly dilutive for Google to search (dare I say googlise) for a worldwide solution.

Meanwhile, our blogs and comments will likely continue with their waggly tails. Writers looking for posterity have their ideal platform. Only challenge is whether they knew what they wanted. What we say or want today may not be true for the future. I can only imagine the potential carnage for future politicians whose acne-prone keyboard inspired one too many confessions.

Of course, 18 months for my bank details actually still seems like a long time to allow a hack or a pirate to play with my moolah.