Archive for the ‘ leadership ’ Category

Entrepreneurship Talent + Opportunity : The Unmet Promise

The TiE Boston Software SIG had a unique networking event last night at a restaurant, with ‘family-style’ appetizers. No hot chai, though.

One engaging topic of conversation (amongst a few of us) was about making the startup market more efficient and effective …  more so around matching talent and opportunity. The Boston region has over 140 organizations catering to startup needs and interests. Yes, that is over 140! I did a market and product analysis involving 14 organizations, and found that most of them tend to overlap in terms of services and promised value-add.

There barely seems to be a month when there is not another startup-facilitation organization brewing.

Yet, you have what essentially is a market with a finite number of players that in the startup ecosystem at any given time. There is bound to be a point in time when we hit the problem of plenty.

So, instead of starting yet another startup oriented group or networking event … how about these 3 ‘obvious ideas’? (everything is obvious … after the fact) …

1) Find a way to identify Top 3 current pain-points and needs within existing funded ventures … and publish those ‘open source’ to invite other ventures / entrepreneurs / people that might have an interest and ability to address those needs. A healthy partnership and alliance strategy can go a longer way in creating synergies than more networking meets and events.

2) Find a way to socialize Top 3 goals and gaps within existing growth companies with over $10M revenue … and offer early stage ventures an opportunity to bid for real business with the potential to generate real revenue. A real customer with a real need met leading to revenue is more valuable than more idea-meets and products being developed without market validation.

3) Make a promise to ourselves that we wont just “talk the endless entrepreneurship talk” with a hue of ideas and promises, hoping to randomly find someone in networking events that could somehow, somewhere, someday add value. Believe me, I believe in the power of networking and mutual value add … yet, there is bound to be a point where you hit the problem of plenty.

This is really about finding focus … what do you think?



Is this my Billion $ idea? Desh Deshpande @ TiE Launchpad

TiE Boston, part of TiE, the world’s largest non-profit dedicated to entrepreneurship hosted Gururaj ‘Desh’ Deshpande last week as part of TiE Launchpad.

TiE Launchpad is a program that I co-chair, dedicated to helping first time entrepreneurs make the journey from an idea to a venture. Through a series of 7 – 10 workshops, TiE Launchpad will help leaders transform promising business ideas and technologies into commercial ventures.

Check out the Billion $ Idea Top 50 Takeaways DESH DESHPANDE file … for a crowd-sourced collection of take-aways collated within 24 hours of the event.

What do you think? How have you transformed an idea into a business venture? What lessons learned are you willing to share? Go ahead, join the conversation …



Startups … not bailouts

You can count on Thomas Friedman to write a punchy piece. In today’s New York Times article, he advocates that startups create more high quality jobs than bailouts of big car companies or road construction projects. Makes total sense. Of course, one could get into a Keynesian argument supporting higher government spending in toto. However, fact remains, that startups are the engines that create economic growth, prosperity and net new jobs. Think Google or Sun Friedman says.

Immigrant founders + free markets = Innovation.

I spend quite a bit of time in the Boston area startup community. Whether its a 15 year old in a TYE Startup competition from TiE-Boston or a first time entrepreneur, or a serial entrepreneuer, the optimism, energy and vision seems boundless. Everyone wants to change the world. One startup or venture at a time. There is no sense of self-pity or entitlement.

Yet, the single biggest roadblock is source of quality funds. I am not talking big numbers. I am talking $50K to $500K to take a shot at starting the next innovative venture. I am talking solid business models with working technology and passionate teams.  Yet they are caught in a bind … unable to access capital at costs and dilution-levels that can continue fueling their passion.

So, here are my …

3 obvious ideas:

a. First-time venture fund: If we can have a first-time homebuyer tax credit, why not a first-time entrepreneur fund? where the government sets aside $50000 per year for 2 years for each first-time founder of a startup. not as a bailout. but as investible angel capital from the government of the usa. why not? If Techstars or Y-Combinator can do it, why not the tax-funded entity called the GOTUS? $50K is enough to feed a family in most cities, while keeping the entrepreneur hungry enough to want to start a company.

b. Tax-cut for entrepreneurs: Why not? In addition to ‘increasing G’ why not ‘cut T’? Mix the left and right here. For the same 2 years, give the entrepreneurs a deep tax cut so that there is incentive and ability to reinvest for growth. Growth that can create real jobs that in turn pay taxes. Neat, eh?

c. Startup-competition: If the GOTUS can fund primary research in leading universities, why not have a true startup competition where funding can be allocated as advocated above? Mix funding with classical financing stage gates, to ensure that even this $50K is allocated based on real outcomes. No vanilla bailouts.

Why not? If innovation means truly socially disruptive practices, and these ideas are disruptive, then so be the spirit of innovation … thoughts? Comments?



business value alignment … keeping it simple

i cant but help think about what the world might have looked like about 50 to 100 years ago.  before we had alphabet soups and tons of buzzwords.  when the world was a much simpler place.  yet a place that saw tremendous transformation. 

first commercial flight.  first radio broadcast.  why…. even first cup of instant coffee.  we went through so much change as a human race, yet were not bombarded with noise about the change.

organizations typically go through change all the time.  whether they acknowledge it or not, there is always an undercurrent of organization change and transformation.  some of course, are more pronounced or planned than others.

so, why do we generally approach this topic with a mix of trepidation and trite proclamations?  why do we start with the typical notion of “here is the change cycle… you go through denial, acceptance, … etc etc.”?

shouldnt the conversation really be about business value alignment?

in lieu of the 3 obviousideas, check out my interview on pmopodcast – the Business Value Alignment™ firm, linking Strategy | Organization | Execution

teachable moments … in technology leadership

the world of technology leadership is long overdue for its share of ‘teachable moments’.  i was going through some old trade rags and business mags that seemed to have escaped the eventual journey to the recycle bin … for about 7 or 8 years!  i was struck by how the topic of ‘business-IT’ alignment seems to have barely progressed in the last half decade or so.

the pain points, promises and pontifications on business-IT alignment have not seemed to change a lot.  indeed, that is depressing.

i would have hoped to see the dialog progress in some direction.  hopefully progressive, not regressive.  but status-quo is dangerous.   even disastrous.

3 obvious ideas:

a. from buzz to business-need: we need to step back from the din of new buzzwords and tech, and ask ourselves a fundamental questions: “what do we want to achieve with technology?” “what are we able to?” “what are we not able to?”

b. from cost to competency: we need cio’s to move away from a focus on cost-containment to one on organization competency-creation.  “what can we do with technology to enable business value creation?”

c. from staffing-for-operations to staffing-for-success: we also need cio’s to shift their staffing from a vertical domain-orientation to a horizontal competency-orientation.  while engineering and operations oriented teams will still be needed, we will need to see more artistic analysts and creative consultants within the cio organization.

what do you think?

project portfolio management summit … in sunny CA

i just returned from california, where the nice folks @ ‘everything channel’ hosted me for 3 days to attend the project portfolio management summit.  it turned out to be a great networking event with executives and vendors that came together in the common cause for better business decision making through project portfolio management.

so, how would one explain ‘ppm’ to one’s grandmother?  simply put, project portfolio management provides organizations with a structured approach to make management decisions around which projects they should be investing in. 

given that much of the richness of decision sciences is abstracted in the general platitudes of ppm, the reality is that there is no single definition that would accurately capture the breadth and depth of human decision-making.  more so, in business environments with incentives skewed in terms of frames of reference, time frames and financial rewards … ppm can at best be defined as a set of structured approaches to enable data-driven decision making.  it does not even attempt to model and capture the behavioral and cognitive diversity of making complex decisions in constrained environments.

back to earthly things.  there were 2 kinds of software vendors with many kinds of promises: vendors that promised to install software that can ‘do it all’ and those that offered remote hosted software that can ‘do it all’.  somehow surprisingly, not a single vendor invoked the “cloud” word … for a change.

here’s a shout out to mark price perry who gave 3 extremely provocative and practical presentations … check out

3 obvious ideas:

a. dont forget core strategy: decision making with ppm is a dance around campfires … where s’mores and singing about priorities / resources / goals / money cannot come in the way of the greater purpose of the organization.  before you get into the many means and mechanics of ppm, focus on the organization’s core strategy — how does it uniquely create and capture value compared to its competition?

unfortunately, no one seemed to address this core context within which ppm needs to exist.

b. planning and budgeting are key: most organizations have some means or methods to conduct a budgeting ritual.  this cannot be ignored during ppm conversations since most funding is routed through the budgeting route … and it ends up being an upstream influencer of how $’s are allocated. 

again, didnt hear a lot about this symbiotic synergestic reality.  a set of simplistic alternative suggestions that merely ignore budgeting are simplistic at best and can be dangerously misguiding at worst.  caveat emptor.

c. organization change management is a reality:  given the inherent design of organizations, changes to decision-making structures and approaches come with the realities to cater to organization change management.  organizations that start off with little to no ppm culture, have the biggest chasms to cross in terms of organization change management.  it would behove of ‘hosted players’ to recognize that going to a hosted model from ground-zero can actually be harder due to the realities of organization change.

again, scarcely was a word spoken about this very critical component of going ppm.

that said… the event overall was extremely useful given the scope of content that it covered.  i am pleased to accept katherine busey’s ( managing director cio programs) offer to help strategize and plan the 2010 event.

organization change … lessons from the talladega speedway

what a nascar weekend!  carl edwards went flying in the air, on the very last lap of the nascar sprint series race … literally in sight of the finish line.  after flipping over 15 feet in the air, edwards survived!  7 fans were hurt, luckily no one died. 

organization transformation can be like this final lap.  given the numerous moving parts and pieces of an organization and the permutational possibilities amongst them … it is not uncommon for the outcome of two or more changes to collide at high speeds and cause a wreckage.  unlike this race however, some of these collisions can go completely unnoticed … hence not offering an opportunity to literally course-correct and move towards the finish line.   also, watch how the other drivers course correct at high speed with split-second reaction time!

3 obviousideas

a. when you have at least 2 moving parts in a system such as a changing organization, expect some collisions to occur … the laws of physics and statistics might decide to meet and leave a memorable impression.  in fact, if you do not see some creative tension in the system, ask yourself if change is really occuring.  of course, i do not condone destructive conflict under the guise of change.

b. do not jump to conclusions to blame one driver or the other … the unexpected and uintended might decide to meet.  have faith in your change leaders and change agents … and support their right intentions with the right actions.  watch carl edwards jump out of a flaming car and trot towards the finish line.  empower and enable your change agents to leave the wreckage and recover for the next race.

c. reinforce the culture and spirit of change using every crash as a learning opportunity. the nascar system has constantly become better by incorporating lessons learned from such horrible crashes.  the crash barriers worked.  they will only get better.

remember, if it can happen on lap 499 of 500, it can happen anytime!  so, let us fasten our seatbelts and keep our eyes on the road ahead … leading and sustaining change in the world around us.