Entrepreneurship Weekly Roundup: 2/24/17

Weekly Roundup is a McNair Center series compiling and summarizing the week’s most important Entrepreneurship and Innovation news.

Here is what you need to know about entrepreneurship this week:


Austin’s Venture Capital

Eliza Martin, Research Assistant, McNair Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation

In her latest post for the McNair Center, Martin follows up on her previous analysis of Austin’s booming entrepreneurial ecosystem. Martin highlights Austin’s decreases in VC investment and deal closures from 2016 as signs of a slowing in growth. According to a report released by PitchBook, 2016 brought substantially fewer deal closures than 2015 for Austin startups. Martin suggests that increased perceived risk among investors and a recent decline in startups are byproducts of an over-investment into Austin startups in previous years.

Still, Martin remains optimistic about the health of Austin’s entrepreneurial ecosystem going forward, predicting that the city “ will see investment increase again after VC investment balances out.”


Big Food Looks to Startups for Ideas, Innovation

Annie Gasparro, Reporter, Wall Street Journal

When the Kellogg’s and General Mill’s of the food industry realized that they couldn’t quell rising consumer obsession with healthy and unprocessed products, they started investing in food startups.

In recent years, many prominent names in the food processing and consumer goods industry began creating VC funds to invest food startups. According to CircleUp, a company that acts as an investment marketplace for food startups and PE firms, big players in the consumer good industry saw roughly $18 billion of their market share swept away by smaller competitors between 2011 and 2015. These partnerships are also mutually beneficial. Emerging food startups gain access to resources and credibility, and larger corporations receive valuable insight into the successful marketing strategies and recipes of their new competitors.


Why Some Startups Succeed (and Why Most Fail)

Patrick Henry, Founder and CEO of QuestFusion, Contributor, Entrepreneur

In his article for the Entrepreneur, successful entrepreneur and startup consultant, Patrick Henry, analyzes startup failures and successes. Henry reinforces the relevance of his post by citing an article by FastCompany, which states that 75% of venture-backed startups fail. Henry frames the question in two ways: what makes startups fail, and what makes startups succeed? Citing studies from StatisticBrain, CB Insights and Compass,

Henry attributes most business outcomes to company leadership. More often than not, successful startups have CEO’s or c-suite members with general and industry-specific business knowledge. Think Google’s Eric Schmidt, Ebay’s Meg Whitman or Apple’s Steve Jobs. Commons reasons for startup failures, such as raising too much capital too quickly, running out of cash or ineffective marketing, signal poor decision-making at the management level. Company founders should consider adding “seasoned” business veterans who the possess “domain expertise” to best support their strong technical team and existing product design.

According to Henry, startups should not undergo more than two pivots. Pivots are changes “in course of direction that result in a material change in the product-market strategy.” While young businesses should be equipped to adjust to market fluctuations, they should avoid being so flexible that they lose sight of their founding mission.


The Megatrends of Entrepreneurship are Key to Job Growth

Wendy Guillies, Contributor, Forbes

Wendy Guillies, President and CEO of the Kauffman Foundation, discusses the megatrends of entrepreneurship.

The first major trend involves demographics. Despite America’s growing diversity, the country’s entrepreneurial population has remained largely stagnant. Women and other minorities remain largely underrepresented in business ownership. According to Kauffman Foundation data, minorities and women are half as likely as their counterparts to own a business that employs people.

The second key trend focuses on geography. Entrepreneurial activity is becoming increasingly concentrated in urban centers. According to Guillies, this phenomenon is largely a function of population shifts, as more and more people relocate to cities. From the 1980s to 2017, the share of small businesses based in rural communities dropped from 20 to 12 percent. “Increasing urbanism” also has spurred the spread of entrepreneurial activity from the major coastal hubs, “ driving geographical equality.”

The third trend involves job creation and technology. According to Guillies, “in the past, as companies scaled their revenue, jobs scaled in an almost linear fashion.” Now, this is no longer the case. For example, in 1962, when Kodak reached $1 billion ($8 billion today) in sales, the corporation employed over 75,000 people. When Facebook surpassed similar sales targets in 2012, the company employed a mere 6,300 workers. Despite promoting capital efficiency, digitization has slowed job creation from the startup sector, However, there is a significant upside to these web-based technologies: such platforms lower many of the barriers to market entry for small businesses.

According to Guillies, “these three megatrend…are sources of both concern and optimism.” If entrepreneurs and policymakers can better understand and take advantages of these trends, they can “enhance job opportunities for the benefit of us all.” For instance, if minorities alone started as many businesses as non-minorities, the economy would add more than 9.5 million jobs.


QA with Jared Bakewell on the 2017 Annual State of Entrepreneurship Address

Silicon Prairie Team, Silicon Prairie News

The 8th Annual State of Entrepreneurship Address took place this past weekend in Washington D.C. Jared Bakewell, CEO and Co-founder of Proseeds, an Omaha-based startup, recently sat down with the Silicon Prairie Team to discuss the event’s key takeaways. The Kauffman Foundation’s Guillies delivered the address,and she focused on the three major trends of entrepreneurship.

In the interview, Bakewell stressed a general consensus among the event’s attendees, which included entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and politicians: government policy should remove early barriers to success for startups and small businesses. For entrepreneurs in the midwest and rural areas, access to capital is a concern.Currently, most of the nation’s VC flows toward the coastal hubs. Additional concerns for startups looking to expand operations are instabilities in both healthcare and immigration policy. Bakewell optimistically concluded the interview, adding that many of the attending politicians appeared open to the suggested solutions to these challenges.


IBM Watson joins Indiegogo to back a crowdfund-to-production service for entrepreneurs

Khari Johnson, Reporter, VentureBeat

Last week, IBM Watson and Arrow Electronics announced a new partnership with crowdfunding website, Indiegogo. IBM spokesman Deon Newman shared with VentureBeat that the partnership will expand Indiegogo’s operations from purely fundraising to also incubating and accelerating startups.

Indiegogo cofounder Slava Rubin reiterated the strategic shift, telling VentureBeat that the company plans on evolving its platform into “a springboard for entrepreneurs.” All startups that participate in the partnership’s services will gain access to IBM Watson’s Bluemix. Bluemix, along with IBM Watson’s other AI services, will offer smaller companies the opportunity to apply machine learning processes to their existing infrastructure. Some successful participants will even participate in Bluexmix’s global entrepreneur program and receive $50,000 in capital from Arrow.


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