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I had the pleasure of co-leading a workshop at the recent AIGA Gain Conference in NYC along with the amazing Mateo Neri. As promised, here are some references related to the remarkably rich and dynamic discussion we had that day—special thanks to all in attendance for your great contributions!
- The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki
- The Design Entrepreneur by Steven Heller and Lita Talarico
- Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky
- AVC: Musings of a VC in NYC by Fred Wilson
- 30 Second MBA on FastCompany.com
- The New Entrepreneur on BusinessWeek.com
3 Twitter “Follows:”
3 Random Resources
Here’s an assortment of items from my inbox.
When is the Right Time to Start a Business? Now.
“When is it a good time to start a company? When you have a good idea!” Rob Hayes writes in this article for FastCompany.com, echoing much of the thinking I’m seeing around this question. Hayes, a veteran venture capitalist, observes that before the recession he was seeing a high rate of “FNACs” or Feature Not A Company business concepts, but he notes that the recession has had a positive effect by thinning the number of these pretenders. “While the venture capital spigot is not as open as it was last year, the investment dollars out there are flowing disproportionately to the obviously great companies.”
Thirty Conversations on Design
Little & Company is celebrating their thirtieth anniversary in business this year. The Minneapolis-based firm has steadily established itself as a force on the national design scene. In recognition of the anniversary, L&Co has produced Thirty Conversations on Design, a video compilation of short conversations with global design leaders. Massimo Vignelli, Erik Spiekermann, and Paula Scher are all featured.
Bruce Nussbaum Speaks with Tim Brown and Roger Martin in NYC
BusinessWeek contributor Bruce Nussbaum will serve as moderator for what looks like it will be a fascinating conversation on design and design thinking with two giants in the field—both of whom have new books out (I wrote about Brown’s book in this October 9th post). The event is November 11 at 4:00 at the Thomson Reuters Building on Times Square in New York. It’s sponsored by the Rotman School of Business in Toronto (where Roger Martin serves as dean). To register, click here.
Since my post earlier this week about Service Design, I’ve been bombarded with content on this topic. Here are a few follow up notes to continue the conversation. Have a spectacular Labor Day weekend!
More on the INDEX Winners
In her post for the Fast Company design blog, Gadi Amit continues the conversation about the recent INDEX award winners that I wrote about earlier this week. Amit adds some interesting analysis by asking “Is any idea, whether it’s an initiative for social progress or a clever way to market movies, enough to be declared a work of design?”
And Still More on Service Design
Earlier in the summer I wrote about Winterhouse and Project M coming together on a collaborative summer program (May 22, 2009). These two organizations are among the emerging forces who are challenging the parameters of design, and I speculated in my post that their union would result in some surprising and exciting results. Click here and judge for yourself (I must admit, I was hoping for something more than a well-intentioned pizza party).
Yep, You Guessed It…
The Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia was established in 1978 and has experienced phenomenal growth and expansion over the last three decades as Alissa Walker describes in her recent Fast Company post introducing SCAD president Paula Wallace. Now with more than 9,300 students and 1,500 faculty and staff, SCAD is gaining prominence nationally and internationally, as a leading force in design education. In her guest blog for FC, Wallace jumps right into the Service Design conversation with her excellent post entitled “The Architect of Experience: Conversation With a Service Designer” which profiles SCAD instructor Peter Fossick.
It’s not exactly breaking news to state that sustainability is THE business challenge (and opportunity) of our time. Developing businesses around an eco-friendly mission and integrating sustainable practices into existing businesses will become common practices over the next decade. In fact, businesses that fall behind this trend will undoubtedly lose out as consumers become more savvy about their purchasing practices.
Of course, designers and creative thinkers are well positioned to be leaders in this trend, given that it contains the ingredients of a classic design problem: opportunities and limitations. But acting on this potential is easier said than done, and lately I’ve been collecting resources that illuminate openly the challenges that businesses face in following through on their sustainability mission.
This NY Times essay by Vindu Goel entitled That Long, Long Road from Idea to Success, tells the story of GreenPrint, a software product that helps reduce waste in the office printing process. Goel quotes Scott D. Anthony, president of consulting firm Innosight: “The gulf between invention and innovation is often a huge one that many entrepreneurs can’t cross.” The GreenPrint proposition is built entirely on a sustainability
In this video from Fast Company, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard discusses his decision to eliminate the packaging used for Patagonia’s long underwear and the surprisingly profitable outcome. In a second video, (linked here), Chouinard makes the case that, for certain commodity products, a company’s sustainability commitment will soon become a key point of differentiation.
I’m not sure why this is the case, but designers have a hard time discussing finances. Sadly, this is probably a big reason why there are not more designers launching really bold entrepreneurial businesses. If the scope of your entrepreneurial idea is modest, like publishing a book, or producing a line of gift items, your need for outside investment in order to bring the concept to market will probably be correspondingly low. But what if you’ve got an awesome idea that will take a million dollars or more to launch? Most of us wouldn’t even know where to begin to look for that kind of money.
As you may know, the traditional types of venture funding fall into three general categories: angel investors, venture capital, and bank loans, each of which has a long list of pros and cons. In previous posts, I’ve discussed the trend of microfinancing (March 28, 2009) that has added an exciting energy to this mix—but microfinancing is in its infancy and really hasn’t matured yet into a viable alternative for most entrepreneurs. Likewise, business plan competitions are worth keeping tabs on, but the amount of money available is usually relatively small and the timing is rigid.
I’ve been coming across some interesting resources that can help educate designers about the possibilities for capital funding. Fast Company has been running an occasional series by writer Karen Post which follows, first hand, the development of a social networking start-up called Oddpodz (ironically the social network is entrepreneurship-focused). In this article, titled “Finding Funding for your Infant Brand,” Post focuses on funding and describes the process of securing the second round of funding for the concept. She does a great job of laying out the struggles, challenges, and lessons learned.
Not surprisingly, the once-veiled world of venture capital is becoming more transparent, and The Funded is an excellent example of this trend. Here you will be introduced to a complete line up of VC firms in a range of categories—and you can see the ratings and comments of entrepreneurs who have worked with them. This is a great way to glean information about the VC process.
As the business world evolves, a new breed of venture capitalists is beginning emerge exemplified by Y Combinator, which specializes in early stage start ups in the tech area. What’s intriguing to me about Y Combinator is that they not only dole out money, but they also conduct workshops and seminars that nurture and educate young entrepreneurs.
The recent BusinessWeek article “So You Want to Get Funded?” surveys recent venture capital activity and presents some interseting findings. Among them is that 14.3% of VC funding went to a category called “consumer internet.” I’m not sure how they define that category, but it appears to be an area that designers are active in.
There seems to be an endless stream of news stories and blog posts about how eBooks like the Amazon Kindle will revolutionize reading and writing (here’s one from the Wall Street Journal). In keeping with one of the themes of this blog—upheaval and uncertainty breed opportunity and innovation—it’s not surprising that I’ve been coming across examples of some really cool new thinking in the publishing industry. My post a few weeks back about MagCloud, the magazine micro-printer is one example, and Fast Company has a couple other interesting stories in their May issue.
HarperStudio is a new spin-off of publisher Harper Collins that audaciously will offer authors a 50/50 cut of the profits on sales of their book. They will accomplish this by shaking up the publishing business model—instead of pushing out as many books as possible, HS will only publish two books a year, choosing instead to offer a multimedia platform of exposure for their stable of authors, including blogs, DVDs and eBooks with the intent of building readership in a new way.
In another intriguing story, Scholastic sold 2.5 million copies (and the movie rights) to The 39 Clues, a children’s story that strings through 10 books, an online game, and trading cards.
The key to these surprising successes seems to be that publishers are beginning to think of the book as part of a broad, multi-faceted experience for their readers. I see this approach syncing up with tactics being applied by the social media marketers profiled on Merge—like Ria Sharon, who is creating “live” online events like her recent Pajama Party to augment and fuel the conventional online experience of MyMommyManual.com (check back soon for Part 2 of my conversation with Ria).
Publishing is clearly an industry that is desperately trying to redefine itself, and with our strong historical connection to the print world, this seems like a natural area for communication designers to play a valuable role.
In a related note…
I noticed a posting on the NY Times Gadgetwise blog about Amazon acquiring Stanza, the iPhone eBook app. This dovetails with my recent conversation with Terry Anderson about iPhone app development in which Terry commented that we will begin to see the big players in technology, media, and gaming (with their big marketing budgets) entering the iPhone app market soon. I would indeed call Amazon a big player. It will be interesting to see Amazon’s strategy for this acquisition—are they interested in catching a ride on the iPhone wave, or squashing it like a bug?
Follow up to an earlier post
Last month I wrote about Hilary Cottham and her groundbreaking London firm, Participle (post 3/20/09), and yesterday I found this post on the Frog Design blog DesignMind that highlights one of the signature Participle projects. Ironically, it’s a project that has a lot of synergy with the original Type1Tools products that Lisa and I created (the predecessor to HealthSimple).