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Entrepreneurs: A Lesson From IDEO

Thursday, January 29th, 2015


How would you respond to the following?

  • Would you hire a woman?
  • Would you hire an old woman?
  • A really old woman?
  • Could such a woman contribute significantly to a project?
  • What could she teach your hot, young engineers?

While most founders would answer ‘no’ or ‘nothing’, IDEO thinks differently.

The company recently hired Barbara Beskind and both she and IDEO consider her 90 years a major advantage.

She applied after seeing an interview with IDEO founder David Kelley, who talked about the importance of a truly diverse design team and hires accordingly.

The aging Boomer market has companies salivating and hundreds are developing products for them.

The problem, of course, is that younger designers have no idea what difficulties older people face; not the obvious ones, but those that are more subtle.

Beskind does.

For example, IDEO is working with a Japanese company on glasses to replace bifocals. With a simple hand gesture, the glasses will turn from the farsighted prescription to the nearsighted one. Initially, the designers wanted to put small changeable batteries in the new glasses. Beskind pointed out to them that old fingers are not that nimble.

It really caused the design team to reflect.” They realized they could design the glasses in a way that avoided the battery problem.

It’s the little things that make or break products and the knowledge of the little things comes mostly from having been there/done that.

That kind of insight is priceless.

Now how would you answer those questions?

Image credit: jm3 on Flickr

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Entrepreneurs: Wind And Water

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

Are you green? I love green, so today I thought I’d share two terrific super-green startups with you.

One targets energy and the other water.

One is from France and the other from Washington State.

Neither is one of the over-hyped hotbeds of innovation .

I adore the French approach to wind power, because it’s relatively small and draws its inspiration directly from the natural world.

Designer NewWind R&D has created a “silent” turbine called the Tree Vent that is supposed to blend into the landscapes which house it. It’s a 36ft-tall structure made of steel with 72 artificial leaves.

Pretty cool. In fact, I’d love to have one in my yard.

Next is Washington State startup Janicki Bioenergy; the company with the viral video of Bill Gates drinking water — water made from human poop. Its called an Omniprocessor.

The machine extracts water from sewage that’s piped in or delivered to the facility. The dry sewage is then incinerated to generate steam, which powers the entire machine.

And self-powering is what makes it perfect for entrepreneurs in emerging countries to start businesses.

Do you know of other radically super-green startups? Please share.

Image credit: Edip YALTIR and thegatesnotes

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Entrepreneurs: Tech vs. Responsibility And Accountability

Thursday, January 8th, 2015


Entrepreneurs are notorious for ignoring security — black hat hackers are a myth — until something bad happens, which, sooner or later, always does.

They go their merry way, tying all manner of things to the internet, even contraceptives and cars, and inventing search engines like Shodan to find them, with nary a thought or worry about hacking.

Concerns are pooh-poohed by the digerati and those voicing them are considered Luddites, anti-progress or worse.

Now Edith Ramirez, chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission, voiced those concerns at CES, the biggest Internet of Things showcase.

“Any device that is connected to the Internet is at risk of being hijacked,” said Ms. Ramirez, who added that the large number of Internet-connected devices would “increase the number of access points” for hackers.

Interesting when you think about the millions of baby monitors, fitness trackers, glucose monitors, thermostats and dozens of other common items available and the hundreds being dreamed up daily by both startups and enterprise.

She also confronted tech’s (led by Google and Facebook) self-serving attitude towards collecting and keeping huge amounts of personal data was the basis of future innovation.

“I question the notion that we must put sensitive consumer data at risk on the off chance a company might someday discover a valuable use for the information.”

At least someone in a responsible position has finally voiced these concerns — but whether or not she can do anything against tech’s growing political clout/money/lobbying power remains to be seen.

Image credit: centralasian

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The Wonder of ISS

Monday, December 8th, 2014

Rather than writing today I thought I would share my wonder and show you something amazing.

It’s the stuff of human dreams since time began.

The stuff that fires the imagination of anyone who sees it.

It’s a real-time view of Earth from the International Space Station.

Commentary and explanations from Business Insider.


Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

And in case you are a reader, here’s a link from KG to The Best Science Books of 2014.

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Entrepreneurs: David Kelly’s Mind Map

Thursday, December 4th, 2014


Brainstorming is as vital to disruption and innovation as pizza is to all-nighters.

But what if you have no one with which to brainstorm?

IDEO’s founder David Kelly brainstorms on his own; here’s how he does it.

“When I want to do something analytical, I make a list. When I’m trying to come up with ideas or strategize, I make a mind map. Mind maps are organic and allow me to free associate. They are great for asking questions and revealing connections between seemingly unrelated ideas. I start in the center with the issue or problem I am working on and then as I move farther away I get better and better ideas as I force myself to follow the branches on the map and in my mind. The cool thing is that you allow yourself to follow your inner thoughts, which is different than making a list where you are trying to be complete and deal with data.” Bloomberg Business Week

Here’s an example of how it works.


Image credit: IDEO and servicedesigntools.org

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Shodan and the Internet of Things

Monday, December 1st, 2014


Over the holiday weekend “Eric” canceled his email subscription and the reason given made me smile.

He said my post about the potential for hacking the “Internet of Things” was more fear-mongering than fact, so he was, as I always recommend, “voting with his feet” and unsubscribing.

Granted, I should have referenced my proof, but it’s hard to remember every article I read and this one dates back 15 months.

It’s an article about a search engine called Shodan — the Internet of Things’ worst nightmare.

Shodan crawls the Internet looking for devices, many of which are programmed to answer. It has found cars, fetal heart monitors, office building heating-control systems, water treatment facilities, power plant controls, traffic lights and glucose meters. (…) “Google crawls for websites. I crawl for devices,” says John Matherly, the tall, goateed 29-year-old who released Shodan in 2009.

Shodan wasn’t built for nefarious purposes, but intent has very little to do with actual usage.

Currently, Shodan is the only device search engine with public search results, which is, obviously, a boon to hackers.

However, I agree with Matherly, because if he hadn’t built it someone else would have.

“I don’t consider my search engine scary. It’s scary that there are power plants connected to the Internet.”

And, in case you are wondering, yes, I sent the article URL to Eric.

Flickr image credit: centralasian

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The Future Joys of “The Internet of Things”

Monday, November 10th, 2014


Have you been hearing about the “Internet of Things?” Hearing how everything you use, everything you own will connect to the Net?

And I mean everything! Bill Gates is even funding development of a Net-enabled woman’s contraceptive.

Google is building Net-enabled, smart, self-driving cars.

The media claims that the Internet of Things will be world-changing.

Are you excited?

Some things are already available.

Whirlpool’s “smart” washing machine boasts Wi-Fi and a colored control screen, can be started from an iPhone app, and will text or email you when your clothes are ready to dry…

And there’s more excitement coming in the next few years.

Whirlpool said its “kitchen of 2020″ would be piled high with not-exactly-necessary whirligigs: stove-tops that display the weather, Facebook photos and Pinterest recipes; music-playing refrigerators; oven burners that flame up via voice command.

There’s just one teeny-tiny, minor problem that I rarely see mentioned in all the news, excitement and hype.


Every system currently in existence has been or can be hacked.

What makes anyone think that the things of the Internet of Things won’t be hacked, too?

Flickr image credit: centralasian

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Entrepreneurs: Disrupting Healthcare

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

If any consumer industry is ripe for disruption it’s healthcare—not just its recordkeeping.

Yet it would be hard to find any industry in which the established players are more resistant or just plain obstructive.

But thanks to people such as Elizabeth Holmes, founder of Theranos, and Dr. Isaac Yonemoto, founder of open-source IndySci, real disruption is happening.

Eleven years ago at 19 Holmes decided that she would spend her Stanford tuition on changing the healthcare status quo, which she did by upending one of the oldest, most expensive, completely ubiquitous, and least changed diagnostic tools—blood testing.

The new tests can be done without going to the doctor, which saves both money and time. Most results are available in about four hours, which means that you could swing by a pharmacy and have a test done the day before a doctor’s visit, and then the results would be available for the physician.

Each test costs less than 50% of standard Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates. If those two programs were to perform all tests at those prices, they’d save $202 billion over the next decade.

As an example of how helpful that can be, Holmes told Wired that Theranos charges $35 for a fertility test, which is usually paid for out-of-pocket and costs up to $2,000.

Those who aren’t partial to needles and vials of blood (most of us) should note that the Theranos test requires only one drop of blood from a prick of the finger.

Last year the company cut a deal with Walgreens to roll out Theranos Wellness Centers inside each of its 8000-plus pharmacies.

Dr. Isaac Yonemoto is used crowdfunding (campaign ended October 28) to finance Project Marilyn to create open sourced, patent-free cancer drugs.

The global market for these drugs surpassed $1 trillion this year. The average monthly cost of a brand-name cancer drug in the U.S. is about $10,000, according to the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. (…) “The big picture is we’ll be trying to solve the problem of expensive pharmaceuticals by releasing drug candidates that put downward pressure on price through competition.”

Elizabeth Holmes’ one-drop blood test is the start of true disruption and if Dr. Isaac Yonemoto’s Project Marilyn is even half as successful as Linus Torvalds’ Linux they will change the face of medicine and the pharmaceutical industry forever.

YouTube credit: DNAutics

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John Chen and Blackberry

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

10679597884_0faee4d327_mRemember Blackberry, better known as the crackberry?

Remember the almost universal predictions of its imminent demise last year?

To paraphrase Mark Twain, “The reports of its death were greatly exaggerated,” and it’s moving towards turning around.

What changed?

The boss and the culture.

When John Chen took over as CEO his workforce was demoralized—no positive news and a constant focus on the problems the company was facing.

And that’s what Chen set out to change.

Instead of a culture focused on challenges, AKA, also known as problems, he crafted a culture of innovation by doing the following (read his post for the details).

  • Create a Problem-Solving Culture
  • Maintain the Sense of Urgency (As discussed last week.)
  • Take Care of your Company like it’s your Home
  • Know Thyself
  • Empower Employees to Take Risks
  • Everyone has a Role

Although Chen is focused on turnarounds, his approach and execution is applicable to any boss who wants a culture that attracts good people, motivates them to become great and retains them because they believe in the vision, as well as enhancing innovation and juicing initiative.

As Chen says at the end of his post,

All in all, a turnaround culture is one that enables everyone to pitch in to get things done. That requires focusing on a goal, and empowering employees to take risks and go the extra mile.

That’s how you win.

Actually, that’s how you win—period.


Flickr image credit: San Churchill

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I Want One!

Friday, September 19th, 2014

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mRarely do I see new products that I really want.

Most are in the category of ‘nice, but no big deal’—but now and then…

I see something I would love to have, as I did on BI earlier this week

Image credit: HikingArtist

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