Archive for Wisconsin


Wisconsin Innovation and Entrepreneurship Event: NEW END, June 22, 2011

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On Wednesday, June 22, 2011, hundreds of entrepreneurs will join together in a one day event to celebrate innovation and job creation in the “New North” of Wisconsin. Northeast Wisconsin Entrepreneur Networking Day—or NEW END—takes place at Fox Valley Technical College, Appleton, WI. The event is dedicated to the specific needs of entrepreneurs and small business owners by packing networking, education, and collaboration into one day.

This is the seventh year for the influential business meeting which has been attended by hundreds of entrepreneurs annually. NEW END features nationally known author, speaker and entrepreneur, Barry Moltz, who will conduct a workshop specifically designed to get business “un-stuck.” Moltz has been a featured speaker at NEW END in the past, but this year’s event will provide more one-on-one learning with Moltz.

“Entrepreneurs are not used to taking the easy path,” Moltz said. “But when they get stuck either in an existing business or a new venture, sometimes they just need to change perspective—that’s what this workshop will do,” Moltz said.
NEW END is sponsored by the FVTC Venture Center, the leading entrepreneur center in Northeast Wisconsin. In the last five years. The Venture Center has helped launch more than 200 businesses through the E-seed and Pro-Seed programs. Executive Director Amy Pietsch says this event is not only popular with entrepreneurs, but is a critical element of their business plan.

“For years, one of the most popular events at NEW END has been the ability to network in person with other entrepreneurs and business resources,” Pietsch said. “Entrepreneurs who attend will connect with the people and information they need to be successful.”

New for NEW END 2011, the “Pop-up-Pitch.” Entrepreneurs may register to be part of this competition in which they could win $2500 by telling a panel of judges in only 60-seconds who they are, what their business is, and how they will use the $2500 to advance their enterprise. Entrepreneurs are encouraged to come prepared for the “Pop-up-Pitch”. A limited number of registrants will be presenting their ideas in front of the entire NEW END conference and are urged to register early.
“Start-ups are constantly pitching their business idea to investors, partners or lending institutions,” Pietsch said. This is a fresh, creative way for them to hone their pitch into a short, specific message.”

In addition to the Pop-up-Pitch, NEW END 2011 will feature:

  • Day long workshop with Barry Moltz
  • Afternoon Networking session with business owners and other entrepreneurs
  • Taste of Entrepreneurship featuring area food entrepreneurs and their finest fare

Cost for the day-long workshop with Barry Moltz is $100/person; attendance is limited. Cost for the evening NEW END networking, Pop-up-Pitch and Taste of Entrepreneurship event is $39/person. To register, please visit or

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Barry Moltz is available via phone for personal interviews. Visit his website for more information

The Venture Center can provide interviews with regional entrepreneurs who have been involved in NEW END.

For more information, contact Mary Schmidt, mkschmidt at, 920-284-7165

(This information is cross-posted at (Sharp Innovation).

Categories : Wisconsin
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In May 2010 I was invited to speak at a conference of WTA (the Wisconsin Telecommunications Association) about innovation lessons for the telecommunications industry from our recently published book, Conquering Innovation Fatigue (John Wiley & Sons, 2009). Here is a condensed version of the presentation. I’ll do another Pixetell soon with some additional content.

Can’t help mentioning this: I had a technical problem with the above Pixetell and sent an email to their tech support team. I had a response within minutes. In fact, I had a phone call – the kind that takes real people using real time – and the quickly helped me troubleshoot the problem and get this post working. Wow! Miracles still happen–or at least great customer service. Love Pixetell. Great way to turn PowerPoints or whatever you have on a computer plus your voice into a recorded presentation that you can share with a URL, embed into a blog, or save as a movie. Pixetell is a product of Ontier, Inc.

The lifeblood of innovation is capital. Investment of capital is the primary difference between great ideas and great teams that go nowhere and those that change the world. From the airplane to the iPod, from wonder drugs to wonder software, innovation requires invested capital to bring concepts to commercial reality. Angel investors play a crucial role in the ecosystem of invention, but they may soon be shut down by Congress in their efforts to “protect” Americans from financial risk.

Risk is a dirty word for those who don’t understand business. Wouldn’t it be nice if government could just protect us from the risk of failure and ensure that we are always safe? But this kind of thinking means stagnation, captivity, and the death of innovation, for the opportunity to succeed inevitably is shadowed by the risk of failure. If success is guaranteed, why put forth the effort to create and innovate? If a venture is protected from failure, we are also protected from the kind of success that inspires innovators and their backers to undergo risk.

Tom Still of the Wisconsin Technology Council has boldly and bravely weighed in on Congressional plans to protect us from risk, plans that would give them even more control over the things they seem to understand least while making it more difficult than ever for innovators to succeed. Tom Still challenges the financial reform legislation proposed by Senator Dodd and points out that his efforts to protect us will crush angel investing, which in turn will stop many innovators from having a shot at success. Ultimately, Dodd seeks to “protect” people from investing their own money the way they want to, and the unintended consequence will be a painful blow to innovation. Tom Still’s article is “Angels on the head of a sharp pin: Financial reform bill poses threat,” published April 21, 2010 at Inside Wisconsin by the Wisconsin Technology Council. Here is an excerpt:

The financial sector reform bill being pushed by U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., takes direct aim at the wings of angel investors for reasons that defy explanation. If passed, this “Washington-knows-best” attempt to regulate some of the nation’s most productive risk-takers could destroy the entrepreneurial economy.

Angel investors are often entrepreneurs who hit a home run in their own start-up businesses and who want to reinvest in other young companies. Angel investors are generally strong business executives with an eye for innovation, and they’re not afraid to take a calculated gamble on companies that are too new to get financing from venture capitalists or too risky for banks.

They usually invest close to home and most often as individuals or within a family, but increasingly angels invest as members of angel networks or angel funds that offer some safety in numbers and more partners to screen potential deals.

In Wisconsin, angel investors have been in the vanguard of fostering the state’s early stage economy. Five years ago, there were only a handful of angel networks in Wisconsin. Today, there are nearly two-dozen networks and funds – and they’re not shy about rolling the dice on Wisconsin companies in sectors such as biotechnology, information technology, medical device, advanced manufacturing and “cleantech.” …

But if Dodd has his way, these individualistic investors will be regulated out of existence.

The Restoring American Financial Stability Act, of which Dodd is the chief sponsor, would tighten regulation of the nation’s financial system in ways large and small. It contains three provisions that would effectively kill angel investing in the United States:

  1. It would require start-up companies to register with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission, and wait at least 120 days for SEC review, before trying to raise money. Currently, fledgling companies can raise money from accredited investors without regulatory approval. Four months is an eternity in the life of a start-up company, and most would die in the vine before they ever get a chance to grow.
  2. It would redefine who is an angel. Accredited investors, who are people deemed wealthy enough to invest in start-ups, would be limited to those individuals with more than $2.5 million in assets (up from $1 million today) or a personal income of $450,000 per year (up from $250,000). This will dramatically decrease the supply of angels, which the University of New Hampshire’s Center for Venture Research estimated at 259,000 in 2009. Those angels invested $17.6 billion in about 57,000 deals.
  3. It would subject investors and start-up companies to state-by-state rules versus a single set of SEC standards. Along with the new SEC filing requirement, that would add red tape, time and cost to the investment process.

In its frenzy to clamp down on Wall Street, Congress is threatening an investment community that fosters innovation, mentors young companies and generally cares about how the economy is faring where they live. Angels have helped to create some of today’s biggest companies – Apple, Amazon, Google and many more – usually without putting anyone’s money at risk other than their own.

Angel investing isn’t perfect; the average return on investment proves that. But it’s precisely the kind of bottom-up, largely self-regulated economic activity the nation needs as it struggles to create new companies and jobs. Only those federal lawmakers intent on a top-down, command-and-control economy would think otherwise.

We have enough innovation fatigue factors on our backs already. Clamping down on one of the major arteries that provides capital to start-ups and entrepreneurs is not going to enhance circulation in the atrophying limbs of this economy. We need to back down and let the private sector thrive on its own, taking on both risk and failure, and when we fail, let us fail instead of taking from those who succeed to prop up failures deemed “too big” to fail. The free market offers powerful solutions to some of the problems we face and powerful incentives for innovation, if we can stay out of the way.

Kudos to Tom Still for his insights into the risks Dodd’s bill poses.

One of the lessons of Conquering Innovation Fatigue is that the choice of metrics business leaders use to track and drive innovation can contribute to innovation fatigue when the metrics drive bad decisions and poor behavior. A recent example of how metrics can actually achieve the opposite of the intended results comes from a Wisconsin grocery chain, where a friend employed there explained the unintended consequences of management’s good intentions. Management is now pushing for higher levels of IPM, items per minute, as a metric for the performance of cashiers. This is a measure of how many items per minute the cashier processes, and sounds like a valuable metric for productivity. Faster checkout means happier customers and shorter lines–of course we want IPM to be high.

However, as with all metrics, the details of how IPM is calculated come into play and may bring unintended consequences. For IPM, the clock doesn’t tick when a lane is closed or, more specifically, when the cashier’s terminal is in “secure” mode. Shut down the terminal to the “terminal secure” state and the clock stops, something that some cashiers use to their advantage while checking out a customer. A new manager at one store is pushing for IPM scores of at least 30 for all cashiers, but as one cashier explained, the only way that you can achieve that high of a score is to routinely go to “terminal secure.” If the cashier has to help with the bagging or do other tasks that reduce IPM, they can secure the terminal and then reactivate it before they continue scanning goods. That gives a higher IPM score, but the back and forth of securing and reactivating the terminals actually SLOWS DOWN the real work because it involves extra steps that eat up valuable time. By focusing on IPM as a proxy for productivity, productivity can actually decline.

A further consequence of securing a terminal is that the customer may need to swipe his or her credit card a second time. The card readers in each checkout lane allow customers to swipe their credit card during the scanning of goods, but when the cashier switches to terminal secure mode, the swiped credit card information is discarded and the customer will have the annoyance of having to swipe a second time. By focusing on IPM as a proxy for customer satisfaction, the annoyances to the customer and the time to check out actually increase.

Unintended consequences of metrics can easily follow similar patterns when it comes to innovation, intellectual assets, and new product development. Leaders need to step back and observe the impact of their metrics on those in the ranks and on the actual performance of the company. A carefully selected basket of metrics with frequent reality checks are needed to avoid hindering real productivity and innovation with your good intentions.


Dr. Sangtae Kim on the Morgridge Institute

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Dr. Sangtae Kim, the visionary leader of the Morgridge Institute for Research that is the private arm of the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, discusses he Morgridge Institute in the video below beginning at about 4 minutes into the program. His comments are related to my previous Pixetell video presentation on the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery and to my presentation in Singapore last year on the parallels between the innovation experiment in Singapore and that of the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery. Thank, Dr. Kim!

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I’ve condensed my lengthy presentation on the innovation parallels between Singapore and Wisconsin, now resulting in a 17-minute Pixetel presentation freshly recorded. This can be used instead of the longer video recording of my Singapore presentation at Biopolis for Innovation and Enterprise Week 2009.

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In late 2009, I was invited to speak at Singapore’s Innovation and Enterprise Week 2009, an event held at Biopolis and sponsored by A*STAR, the world-class research organization of the Singaporean government, in collaboration with Exploit Technologies, the tech transfer arm of A*STAR. While I enjoyed the opportunity to discuss our book, the important thing to me was the opportunity to learn more about that amazing country and their bold approach to promoting innovation and technology. In my presentation for the large crowd at Innovation and Enterprise Week, I discussed the fascinating parallels between the Singapore experiment and the evolving experiment in innovation in my state of Wisconsin, where the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery represent a brilliant approach to combining the best of public and private innovation.

Below are three video segments from my presentation. A couple of friends in Singapore took the video. There are a few gaps in sound and so forth, but I hope you can understand it. Don’t miss my lame magic trick in segment 3. They seemed to like it–proof again of the great courtesy that one finds in Singapore. In all seriousness, I think there are important lessons about innovation that can be gleaned by inspecting both the Singaporean system and the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, which include the Morgridge Institute for private sector research and the public Wisconsin Institute for Discovery. Madison and Singapore are on opposite sides of the world, but on the same side of the innovation spectrum, at the leading edge.

Update: On April 24, I posted a newly recorded and shortened Pixetell presentation covering the basic information I shared in Singapore, without the magic or other excursions.

I am deeply grateful to the many people who kindly shared their time to help me prepare for the presentation, including Sangtae Kim, John Wiley, Charles Hoslett, Carl Gulbrandsen and Janet Kelly from the Wisconsin side (Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery and WARF), plus Boon Swan Foo, Seito Wei Peng, and Sze Tiam Lin at Exploit Technologies in Singapore.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:


Missing the Green Light of Opportunity During the Economic Chill?

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A Wisconsin stoplight in our last snow storm.

During our last snowstorm in my part of Wisconsin, I took the photo above of a traffic light whose traffic signals were largely hidden by snow. I saw it as a metaphor for what happens when times of economic chill blind entrepreneurs and businesses to the opportunities around them. A downpour of discouraging economic data and fear can pile up like snow on a traffic light and obscure the green light of opportunity that otherwise could be telling you to move ahead. The lesson is not to just plow ahead, nor is it to remain at a standstill until the chill ends, but to learn to look for the fainter clues that show the true color of the largely hidden glow.

This may be the right time to move ahead for the opportunity before you. Indeed, many great companies have their roots in times of economic recession. While others are cutting back on innovation and preparing to put their companies permanently in park, those who invest in innovation now will have the decisive advantage and be miles ahead of the competition when the chill ends. Look closely – there may be a green glow under all that snow.

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Here is a condensed version of a recent presentation I gave on getting more from university-industry relationships, a vital source of innovation. I review some of the innovation fatigue factors that can hinder effective collaboration with universities, cite the impressive example of the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, and give some tips for better university-industry collaboration.


Innovation Fatigue in University-Industry Relationships

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One of the nine major innovation fatigue factors that we address in our book is the problem of effective university-industry relationships. I’ve been on both sides and understand some of the frustrations and barriers to innovation success in these relationships. This was a topic I addressed in a couple recent presentations, one in Singapore at the kind invitation of leaders in A*STAR who had me speak during their Innovation and Enterprise Week in October. The other presentation was given at the AIChE (Amer. Inst. of Chemical Engineers) Annual Meeting in Nashville, Nov. 2009. A subset of the material is presented in a twenty-minute overview, “Conquering Innovation Fatigue in University-Industry Relationships,” using the Pixetell screen recording service. The short URL is

Inventors in universities sometimes face disappointment in seeing their work get into the marketplace or implemented by industrial partners. Several innovation fatigue factors, discussed in detail in Conquering Innovation Fatigue, need to be understood to realize success in working with corporations. Corporate personnel also need to understand the pressures and expectations of universities when it comes to successful open innovation. Sticking points such as IP rights can be handled fairly if you know what you’re doing and pick your partners carefully. UC Berkely, for example, is a great example of a university finding ways to be a great partner for successful collaboration with industry.

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Our Mission is the official blog for the new book, Conquering Innovation Fatigue. Here we provide supplementary innovation, news, tips, updates, and, when needed, a correction or two, to keep those who are using the big on the inside edge for innovation success.