Sunday, April 24, 2005

What did you think about InnoVenture 2005?

If you participated in InnoVenture 2005, please leave a comment about what you thought of the event.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Leave a comment about what Swamp Fox should address?

We are currently planning to reposition this summer the Swamp Fox: News of the Knowledge Economy in SC web site, as well as this blog. We are interested in what you are most interested in. In particular, we'd like to stimulate some interactive discussion among our readers.

So, please take the time to leave a comment about topics you think are important?

Your input will be very helpful in producing the most useful and interesting Swamp Fox site for you.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Why don't we have an InnoVenture for Primary Education?

When I started InnoVenture, one of the challenges I saw in South Carolina is that many of the most talented people here work for large companies and do not have an infrastructure on which to spin out and start high-impact companies. Most entrepreneurs here have never met a venture capitalist or even really know what venture capital is. So as InnoVenture gets investors to Greenville, it encourages entrepreneurs to build relationships with those that can help them get new companies off the ground. Over time this should stimulate the number of wealth creating, high-impact companies we have here.

Even before InnoVenture, someone in a large company who has a idea for a new product their company does not want to pursue can leave and start a new company. If the entrepreneur can find customers to buy the new product, then the new company attracts more resources and gets to serve more customers.

Most school teachers work for a large organization too. But an entrepreneurial teacher who has a great idea for serving students not well served by the status quo does not have the same opportunity as someone in business, because the students she is targeting have no way of diverting the resources spent on their behalf to the entrepreneurial teacher.

Usually the school choice debate gets bogged down in funding, and too often it seems like an attack on public school teachers. They are as much as victim of the system as parents and students are. So why don't we turn the debate on its head and make heros out of entrepreneurial teachers with innovative ideas about how to better educate students not well served by the status quo. Let's have an InnoVenture for Primary Education in the fall.

By encouraging entrepreneurial teachers that there are community leaders willing to step up and support them, some of these teachers will be willing to step out just like entrepreneurs in big companies do. Once we identify a deal flow of outstanding education talent and ideas, then we can work on how we get them funded.

Anyone interested in working with me to put together InnoVenture for Primary Education? Contact me if you are.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

More thoughts about InnoVenture: A change in values?

As mentioned in the previous post, InnoVenture 2005 was a smashing success. Mary Ann Pires wrote an interesting editorial about InnoVenture 2005 in the Greenville News, which spurred a few thoughts of my own.

Mary made the observation, "the state's "progressives" ... [must] get finally together and affect the values change necessary to dominate more regressive elements."

We do need to create a deeper culture of innovation here, which pervades the community, from businesses to universities to government to public education. There are some who will have to be dragged along kicking and screaming.

I'm not sure what "regressive elements" are, but a big challenge is people and institutions that benefit from the status quo either seeing it in their interest to change or facing some outside pressure that forces them to change. Typically people and organizations do not change until they have to.

This is the most important reason we need to foster an environment where entrepreneurs can create new institutions targeting people not well served by the status quo, whether this is emerging high impact companies or charter schools. I am very encouraged by the blooming of innovation that is occurring all over the state.

As Michael Porter says, this is a marathon, not a sprint. We're making progress.

Something I feel very strongly about is that, while we need to study best practices in more highly innovative communities, we have to create a culture of innovation that fits the character and values of our community, not San Francisco or Austin or anywhere else. We will fail it we try to be a clone of somewhere else. We have to be globally distinctive.

Thoughts about InnoVenture: A bad day for Luddites

InnoVenture 2005 was a smashing success. The energy in the room was electric. But then I am biased.

It is always good when others who are more objective comment on your work. Mary Ann Pires wrote an interesting editorial about InnoVenture 2005 in the Greenville News. Her comments are very complementary about InnoVenture, for which I am very grateful. Her thoughts did spur a few thoughts of my own.

Mary observed that InnoVenture was "A Bad Day for the Luddites." The historical Luddites were not wrong to be very concerned about the Industrial Revolution. There are winners and there are losers when economies shift, and the Luddites knew that they would be losers and fought hard to resist it. Who can blame them?

If you are a 55 year old textile worker with a high school degree, today's Luddite, you have a real problem and what is occurring is very scary. Going to Greenville Tech and training to become a nurse practitioner is probably not a real appealing option.

It is easy to say that the economy as a whole will benefit from change, especially if you personally expect to benefit from that change, but one of the real challenges we have to acknowledge and deal with is the transition for people that otherwise will get run over. One of the main issues that derails the discussion of having more innovation in public education, for example, is the challenge of those least likely to benefit, who are likely those who are already the least fortunate. We will not make progress as a community unless we find ways that no one gets left behind.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Bill Gates says American high schools are obsolete and system fundamentally flawed

The following is from a speech Bill Gates gave to the National Education Summit on High Schools.

America's high schools are obsolete.

By obsolete, I don't just mean that our high schools are broken, flawed, and under-funded - though a case could be made for every one of those points.

By obsolete, I mean that our high schools - even when they're working exactly as designed - cannot teach our kids what they need to know today.

Training the workforce of tomorrow with the high schools of today is like trying to teach kids about today's computers on a 50-year-old mainframe. It's the wrong tool for the times.

Our high schools were designed fifty years ago to meet the needs of another age. Until we design them to meet the needs of the 21st century, we will keep limiting - even ruining - the lives of millions of Americans every year.

Today, only one-third of our students graduate from high school ready for college, work, and citizenship.

The other two-thirds, most of them low-income and minority students, are tracked into courses that won't ever get them ready for college or prepare them for a family-wage job - no matter how well the students learn or the teachers teach.

This isn't an accident or a flaw in the system; it is the system.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Why didn't African-Americans show up?

InnoVenture 2005 was a smashing success. 450 people attended. Major organizations from Clemson to USC, from Savannah River National Lab to SPAWAR, from BMW to Michelin, had displays of their innovations. Fifteen emerging companies presented their business plans to investors. The energy in the room was electric.

When we began planning for InnoVenture 2005 last summer, we invited African-Americans to join our planning committee (though they later dropped off). We went on a black radio station, and reached out to the Upstate Urban League Young Professionals. We invited an African-American keynote speakers (well we really invited a Harvard MBA who is an expert in innovation who happens to be an African- American).

That is addition to all the other promotion we did. We had an intensive e-mail campaign. We wrote editorials. We advertised on Mike Switzer's South Carolina Business Review on SC Public Radio. We had several people interviewed by Mike.

18% of the population in Greenville County, and 30% of the population in South Carolina is black. So why were less that 1% of the 450 people who attended InnoVenture black?

We will not have the most innovative economy we can unless people who have diverse experiences and perspectives are at the table. So what can we do to attract more blacks, Hispanics, and other minorities to InnoVenture 2006?

I'm open to any and all suggestions.