How to “Startup America”

– Daniel Isenberg is Professor of Management Practice at Babson Global and founding executive director of the Babson Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Project. Dr. Isenberg has been an entrepreneur, venture capitalist, consultant, and educator, having taught at Harvard, Columbia, Technion, INSEAD, and Reykjavik. –

The White House recently convened an unprecedented consortium of public and private entities to announce the launch of Startup America. The purpose was to galvanize a coordinated effort to define and implement President Obama’s vision and strategy to foster entrepreneurship and provide more push to the United States’ economic development.

Startup America has a lot going for it: a broad group of influential entrepreneurship stakeholders, real entrepreneurs at the heart of the dialogue, a sincerely committed president and an independent convening S.W.A.T. team who are making entrepreneurship a top priority and a powerful, well-connected, smart board with a smart-looking interim CEO. In my book, Startup America has gotten the basics right; I don’t take this lightly – my observations of more than two dozen countries is that very few have done even this.

But like most entrepreneurial ventures driven by ambition and a strong sense of purpose, this one has a very long way to go. As plan and reality diverge, like most startups, Startup America will need to revise its business model, change or enhance its leadership, and deal with disappointments, and an ever-changing landscape.

So the launch on January 31, 2011 was just the opening shot: to turn this initiative into real results, a lot more has to happen. Here are a few suggestions:

It’s not a bubble, people; It’s a pyramid scheme

– Connie Loizos is a contributor for PE Hub, a Thomson Reuters publication. This article originally appeared on PE Hub. The views expressed are her own. –

Mark Cuban knows a thing or two about bubbles, having profited handsomely from an earlier Internet boom. But ask him if we’re seeing Bubble 2.0 and he’ll give you a different theory.

“It’s almost the 2011 version of a private equity chain letter,” said Cuban, who sold Broadcast.com to Yahoo in 1999 for $5.7 billion and went on to buy the the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks.

Koofers develops virtual study hall

Koofers, which refers to itself as a “social learning company,” has developed a platform that creates a virtual study hall for college students.

The Reston, Virginia-based startup, bankrolled by $7 million in venture funding including support from AOL co-founder Steve Case, is tapping into cutting-edge trends in higher education centered on online resource sharing. Koofers facilitates student interaction in virtual space by providing free digital resources such as online access to coursework.

“We provide an online platform for college students to collaborate with each other around academics – connect with each other, share past exams, study guides, notes,” said Koofers CEO Gio Hunt. “We’re really tied into the way students are thinking about content.”

Selling pickaxes during a gold rush

– Chris Dixon is co-founder of Hunch and founder of Founder Collective, and an investor in many early-stage companies like Skype and Foursquare. Previously he co-founded Siteadvisor, which was acquired by McAfee. This blog originally appeared on cdixon.org. The views expressed are his own. –

There is a saying in the startup world that “you can mine for gold or you can sell pickaxes.”

This is of course an allusion to the California Gold Rush where some of the most successful business people such as Levi Strauss and Samuel Brannan didn’t mine for gold themselves, but instead sold supplies to miners – wheelbarrows, tents, jeans, pickaxes etc. Mining for gold was the more glamorous path but actually turned out, in aggregate, to be a worse return on capital and labor than selling supplies.

Venture capitalists are not your friends

– Steve Blank is a teacher, writer, and serial entrepreneur. He teaches at Stanford University, U.C. Berkeley’s Haas Business School and at Columbia. He is the author of “The Four Steps to the Epiphany” and “Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost”. This article originally appeared on www.steveblank.com. The views expressed are his own. –

One of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make is not understanding the relationship they have with their investors. At times they confuse venture capitalist’s with their friends.

At Rocket Science our video game company was struggling. Hubris, bad CEO decisions (mine) and a fundamental lack of understanding that we were in a “hits-based” entertainment business not in a Silicon Valley technology company were slowly killing us.

Startups – so easy a 12-year-old can do it

– Steve Blank is a teacher, writer, and serial entrepreneur. He teaches at Stanford University, U.C. Berkeley’s Haas Business School and at Columbia. He is the author of “The Four Steps to the Epiphany” and “Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost”. This article originally appeared on www.steveblank.com. The views expressed are his own. –

Maybe because it’s a company town and everyone in Silicon Valley has a family connection to entrepreneurship. Or maybe I just encountered the most entrepreneurial 12-year-olds ever assembled under one roof. Or maybe we’re now teaching entrepreneurial thinking in middle schools. Either way, I had an astounding evening as one of the judges at the Girls Middle School 7th grade Entrepreneurial night.

In this school every seventh-grade girl becomes part of a team of four or five who create and run their own business. The students write business plans, request startup capital from investors, receive funding for their companies, make product samples, manufacture inventory, and sell their products to real-world customers. This class is experiential learning at its best.

Obama should help small business, but not too much

P. Griffith Lindell is a veteran business consultant, speaker and author. His newest book is “Struggling With Your Business? Ten Questions to Consider Before Investing A(nother) Dime“. The views expressed are his own. –

President Obama focused part of his State of the Union address on the need for “government (to) create the conditions necessary for businesses to expand.” I applaud and agree with him. The lifeblood of America must flow through micro and small-business veins.

It’s going to take more than political pronouncements, however, to produce the revenues and profits that will change the rules of the current economic game.

Taking the entrepreneurial plunge

– Jeff Bussgang is a partner at Flybridge Capital Partners and the author of “Mastering the VC Game” and the blog “Seeing Both Sides“. The views expressed are his own. –

When to become an entrepreneur is a common quandary for many. For whatever reason, this issue has come up a great deal recently (recession-driven workforce dislocation?), so I thought I’d share a few thoughts that might help frame this critical decision.

I have concluded that being an entrepreneur is an irrational state of being. If human beings were purely rational, evaluative, value maximizing individuals (see Harvard Business School professor Michael Jensen’s paper on self-interest and human behavior), they would not start companies. If they sat down and did the expected value calculation by laying out the probability weighted outcomes of being an entrepreneur as compared to taking a safe job, it would not pencil out.

Can VCs serve the medical device market?

– John Lonergan is the managing member of Mach Ventures. This article previously appeared on PE Hub. The views expressed are his own. –

Traditional venture capital firms are struggling to remain relevant to new company formation, the development of new technologies, and the capability of bringing new medical device technologies to market. Although my comments are specific to medical device venture investing, my friends in Silicon Valley will agree, if even only in a quiet moment of reflection, that the same applies in biotechnology and general technology investing.

There are four reasons the traditional venture capital model has failed with regard to backing medical device companies.

Super angels and the startup bloodletting of 2011

– Mark Boslet is a contributor for PE Hub, a Thomson Reuters publication. The views expressed are his own. –

Super angels have been super active over the past year. Now their business models will be put to the test, and a bloodletting of startups may be on the way.

Both they and the new crop of micro-cap funds actively pursued seed and early stage opportunities in 2010. They funded scores of companies, including many in the Internet space, where shoestring startup costs make business plan experimentation relatively painless.