Entrepreneur helps fight cancer with “hedge fund”

A tree nursery owner in Belgium has set up a nationwide recycling program to collect hedge trimmings used for cancer-fighting drugs.

Image: REUTERS/Screengrab

from Felix Salmon:

Annals of dubious statistics, crowdfunding edition

Are crowdfunding statistics the new counterfeiting statistics? Certainly they seem to have become a meme. If you know that crowdfunding is a big deal, it's probably because you read all about it in TechCrunch, in May ("these portals raised $1.5 billion and successfully funded more than 1 million campaigns in 2011"), USA Today, a few weeks later ("About $1.5 billion was raised in 2011 by about 450 crowd-sourcing Internet sites worldwide"), or maybe the Economist, a week after that ("$2.8 billion will be raised worldwide this year, up from $1.5 billion in 2011"). More recently, Forbes upped the ante even further: "This year alone, an estimated $3.2 billion dollars is expected to be raised through donation-based crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter".

All of these statistics, you won't be surprised to hear, come from the same place: a May report from Crowdfunding.org and its research arm, Massolution. The report lists -- by placing their logos on five successive pages of the report, so that their names can't be searched -- 135 different "participating companies", starting with Lending Club and Kiva, and ending with… um, hang on a sec. Lending Club and Kiva? Since when are they "crowdfunding platforms"?

It turns out, if you look at the definition of a "crowdfunding platform" that the report uses, it's incredibly broad: "an operator of a funding platform that facilitates monetary exchange between funders and fundraisers." Which turns out to include not only peer-to-peer lenders but also FirstGiving, a website which non-profits use to accept donations, and which claims to have moved $1 billion of funds through its system. For that matter, the definition doesn't even say that the crowdfunding platform needs to be online: I reckon that if anybody hosting a political fundraiser probably counts as a crowdfunding platform under this definition. Hell, the New York Stock Exchange would even qualify.

IDEO’s Tom Hulme on visualizing your business model

In this video, Tom Hulme, Design Director at IDEO and founder of OpenIDEO, introduces a tool that IDEO and HackFWD designed to help founders design and build startups. Although the focus is on tech startups, non-tech entrepreneurs will likely find some applicable lessons from Hulme’s 12-minute talk, including strategies to identify the “backbone of your business,” marketing and how to refine your business model.

HackFwd: Visualize Your Business Model in 15 Minutes Flat from IDEO on Vimeo.

Q & A with Greg Damerow, athlete and adaptive bicycle builder

Greg Damerow is an athlete and small business owner. Damerow, based in Ohio, is the owner of Personalized Cycling Alternatives, which builds custom adaptive bicycles. He was attracted to handcycling after he became ill with ankylosing spondylitis, a severe form of arthritis that affects the body’s joints. The Hartford recently awarded Damerow with a small business grant, and he spoke with Reuters about competing and running a small business.

First off, can you tell me about your disability?

I was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis at 18 years old. It causes inflammation of the major joints. It’s a form of arthritis. It affects knees, ankles, shoulders. It was a very painful time for me. There are two forms that the disease can take. One is chronic and you lose function over years. The second form moves rapidly. This was the form I had and so I lost function over a matter of months. The major part of the disease burned itself out after about two years time. I was spared. I was essentially bedridden for two years time and as the major symptoms of the disease dissipated finally, I didn’t have any movement in my hip sockets and much secondary damage in the spine. I have limited neck rotation. Out of that experience I learned how to walk again using my knees and ankles.

Can you tell me about how you started your business? What was the attraction of the bike?

Tech Tonic checks in with HealthTap

HealthTap wants to make visits to the doctor’s office a thing of the past. Anthony De Rosa talks with HealthTap founder Ron Goodman about his new app that allows users to ask doctors questions without ever leaving home. But is less face time actually a good thing?

As video chat becomes easier, text chats still rule

Sean Parker and Google are both pushing group video chat products pretty hard right now. Parker’s latest product is Airtime, and Google’s is the Google+ Hangout. The idea, it seems, is that video conference calls offer a better, more social experience.

But based on my totally unscientific research and observations about how I communicate with friends and family, phone calls are pretty much out, as are video chats. Text messaging is the preferred method of communication; I really only video chat with friends and family who are abroad, and because of time differences, these happen pretty infrequently. Phone calls, and voicemail especially, are seen as almost rude impositions among my friends. So I have serious doubts about Airtime and Google+ Hangouts.

But the main reason I’m skeptical that my peer group will adopt video chat is because of an app called I’d Cap That, which my friends have wholeheartedly embraced. The app adds a random sort of edgy, and perhaps NSFW, caption to a user’s photo. (The new paid version, released today, allows for custom captions.) See the I’d Cap That Twitter page for a sampling of captions.

from Paul Smalera:

Brad Feld’s four ingredients for thriving startup cities

BOULDER, Colo. -- One of the most resonant talks I heard at last week's Big Boulder conference was also one of the shortest. In about twenty minutes, Brad Feld, who is without exaggeration the godfather to the Boulder startup community, explained exactly why it is that Boulder feels like a town on the verge, and why it's teeming with startups. A lot of it has to do with Feld himself.

It's not just that Feld is a co-founder of Techstars, the nationwide startup incubator that got its start in Boulder, or that the college kids -- and lately, mid to late twenties startup veterans -- flock to Boulder in hopes of getting a few minutes of his time to discuss their ideas. It's not just that Feld's Foundry Group scored big with an exit on Zynga, though that credibility certainly helps. And it's not just that he picked Boulder as some magical perfect place to be a startup Mecca. In fact when I asked him why he moved there from Boston, he said, laughingly, it was because, "my wife told me she was moving to Boulder." He figured he had better go along.

"Happy warrior" is usually a phrase reserved for politicians on futile crusades, but the four principles that Feld talked about that make Boulder a burgeoning startup locale are ones that he seems to embody, not just talk about. And as to my earlier post, wondering where and whether Boulder needed a billion dollar startup (or founder) to justify itself, Feld more or less shrugged it off. If that outcome is a natural result of the principles Feld sees as key to keeping Boulder a great place to found a company, then great. If it's not, I get the sense no one, he least of all, would mind very much.

from Paul Smalera:

Startups are big in Boulder, but where are the tech billionaires?

"I'm not interested in working on this unless it's going to be a multi-billion dollar idea. If I thought this would be a hundred million dollar company -- what's the point?" - Anonymous entreprerneur discussing his startup. Overheard in front of Ozo Coffee, Boulder, CO.

I'm in Boulder, Colorado for a few days this week to attend Big Boulder, a conference devoted to the social side of "big data." Gnip, the company hosting the conference, is one I've written about before. They're doing the plumber's work of connecting all the firehoses of raw, public user data from social media companies like Twitter and Tumblr up to clients that want to derive insights from the wisdom of these online crowds.

A quick note on the definition of "big data." Generally speaking, it's the sort of data set that's so huge, even running a simple report on it won't tell you anything interesting. For example, if you could ask the IRS for a list of all the 25-30 year olds in the U.S. that paid taxes last year, you'd get back a list, alright. But what would be useful about it? On the other hand, if you could filter that list by several other factors: did they pay capital gains, did they owe over six figures in taxes, what is their self-reported job title, and so on, you might end up with a list highly correlated to young, dot-com millionaires and billionaires, like Mark Zuckerberg. And you might cross reference that list against all the other data sets you can find on them: where they live, where they shop, where they travel, what they watch, eat and listen to. It's all out there.

from Felix Salmon:

Why Kickstarter’s great for tax revenues

Matt Yglesias has a very odd piece at Slate entitled "The Kickstarter Recession". In a nutshell, he seems to think that a crowdfunded economy would run on less money than the current economy, and therefore produce less in the way of much-needed tax revenues. He's wrong on both counts, I think.

Kickstarter, when it works well, is a disintermediation tool for creative projects. Films get made, albums get recorded, art projects get realized which would otherwise never have seen the light of day -- because the people who love those things are sending money directly to the creators, without production companies or record labels or art galleries feeling the need to veto any project where they can't make money themselves. When the inefficient intermediary is cut out, many more projects become viable, and the cultural economy expands rather than contracts.

Up until now, the cultural world has been reliant upon intermediaries to the degree that it was basically impossible for a creative person to be successful unless and until they could support not only themselves but also a pretty large number of professionals whose job it was to help package and sell whatever it was that was being created. The result was a heavy artificial dampener on the creative economy. With Kickstarter, that's changing: while professional packaging and selling still has its place, it's no longer the determinant of whether something gets the opportunity to generate money or not.

from The Great Debate:

‘The only crime that I committed’

Editor’s note: This week, Reuters Opinion is publishing five excerpts – one each day – from D.W. Gibson’s new book, Not Working, an oral history of the recession. Gibson spent months traveling across America talking to people who had been laid off.

Today’s story is Christine Zika’s. Christine is a veteran and small-business owner mostly from St. Louis and the surrounding towns. She is 40 and married to an electrical engineer.

Years ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I had an expectation of the life I was going to lead. And that life included being in public relations and communications. Instead, I went into the Army National Guard. After two years in college, I went there, and I served 13 years total, having served three deployments at different times. I served in Desert Storm. I also served during Operation Joint Endeavor, which was the Bosnian conflict, and then I also went to Kosovo.