Hiring Ex-Offenders

I know that one of the groups mentioned hiring ex-offenders as employees for their solar initiative, and this article agrees with the strategy. Eurest, a food-service and hospitality firm in Chicago is working with a nonprofit in order to begin a culinary-skills training program for their new employees, who all will have had a criminal conviction in their past. The article notes that this move was not merely for philanthropic reasons, “With the U.S. unemployment rate at 4.1 percent and 6 million jobs unfilled nationwide, hiring people with criminal records, even those who have served jail or prison sentences, has moved from corporate kindness to corporate necessity.” Hopefully, tapping this new source of employees can continue to fuel economic growth in our country.

I was particularly intrigued by the fact that Eurest will be hiring citizens with past jail time. I believe this is a smart call, as some jail sentences could be the results of strict sentencing guidelines, and may not always correspond with the severity of the crime committed.

Columbia Helps the Homeless

Tim Boyle, the CEO of Columbia, has provided the funding for an innovative homeless shelter in Portland. Unfortunately, the homeless shelter was not built to simply help the homeless in Portland. It was created when employees expressed concern about the safety of both employees and customers being harassed by homeless people at the downtown store location. It’s intended to attract more Columbia employees to work at the Portland location.

EDIT: It’s probably not genuine, and just feeds into the corporate mentality. But it does have a great outcome!


Plastic Eater

This article talks about the recent discovery of a plastic eating enzyme that could revolutionize recycling. I’m interested to see how this will used in the commercial context!


Law Enforcement Drone Use Around the World

Building off of our presentation this past week, this article takes a broader view by looking at how police departments around the world are using drones.  It is interesting to see that multiple nations are in agreement that at least some form of drone use can be beneficial to law enforcement, but obviously different nations will disagree on the boundaries of use.  The article linked about discusses how police in England have started to use drones to monitor soccer games and identify troublemakers.  The article also discusses how Australian police are looking to fund a large drone project that would include 100 drones and 60 new drone operators.  These examples seem to show that law enforcement drone use will be something we have in the future, and the big debate will then be on the limitations lawmakers put in place.

Facebook and Apple Embody New Tech Divide

In the ongoing conversation about regulation of the tech industry, Barron’s has a wonderful article about the differences between revenue models used by companies such as Apple and Facebook. These differences, the article suggests, have tremendous impacts on data collection and ensuing regulations.

Why do start-ups fail?

I came across an article that talked about the top 4 reasons why start-ups fail. The four are: inadequate testing, incompatibility of team members, lack of persistence, and a catch-all category—everything else (which includes greed and lack of proper tools).

The article reminded me of our discussion on Saravathy—where we talked about how the effectual model is more closely associated with start-ups and that failures are baked into start-ups—and our discussions on the limitations on innovation. Even with the information from this article, it seems like start-ups will continue to struggle (especially since these 4 reasons are hard to “bake in”).

Earth Day, Environmental Initiatives, & Clean Energy

This article draws an interesting connection between the talk we heard two weeks ago from the “solar group” and the need for major companies to listen to customers reports about how they allocated resources and choose initiatives. The article points to a survey done by Unilever which polled 20,000 people to figure out how much sustainability played into the decision making process for buyers. “33 percent said that given the option, they would choose to buy from brands that are focused on sustainability.” Apple’s recent announcement that it now runs all of its facilities, worldwide, off clean energy should not only help the environment, but also its bottom line as it positions itself as the “clean” tech company. It doesn’t hurt that they already imbibes cleanliness through the sleek design of their products and bright, inviting stores. Even before hearing this announcement, I thought of Apple as a “clean, bright, earth friendly company.” Clearly this is by design and I’m just happy to see some companies take steps to be environmentally conscious. Apple also announced plans for solar and wind farms in Nevada and China. Will be interesting to see if Apple disrupts the clean energy field when it applies its entrepreneurial and inventive juices to these projects.

How Entrepreneurship Might Save Puerto Rico

This article describes the interesting story of Jesse Levin who went to Puerto Rico after the Hurricane Maria raked the State. I think, it draws a multifaceted picture of him, which illustrates that the boundaries between social entrepreneurs, policy entrepreneurs and so forth are, if actually there, at best vague and that the different concepts may often overlap. The article enforces, however, various points we made during discussions we had in our course this semester. It shows, for example, how important it is to get feedback from your potential customers as soon as possible. For example, the fact that Jesse, by actually being at the location of the disaster and by talking with he affected people, was able to identify not lack of food but lack of connectivity as the real issue why people were not able to buy food, illustrates well the relevance of the lean start-up approach even in the context of social entrepreneurship. It also demonstrates, as indicated by the movie “Poverty, Inc.,” that fostering local entrepreneurship might be one, if not the, most effective form of both foreign aid and disaster relief.

Strategies for Entrepreneurs

I found this article very helpful for the development of our business venture and the strategy for the commercialization of our idea. It gives a very useful overview over different approaches and their individual strengths and weaknesses. The article, for example, points out that entrepreneurs sometimes just go with the first strategy they see practical. This might to some extent be consistent with the lean start-up approach and, furthermore, has famous supporters such as Richard Branson, who has famously claimed, “In the end you [have] to say, ‘Screw it, just do it’ and get on and try it.”

However, as the article also points out, this approach might have some disadvantages. First, such an experiment, even when requiring just few resources, might leave a business vulnerable to competition. Second, investors might be more confident and more easily convinced when the entrepreneur can (theoretically) prove an idea’s potential in various different strategies to its commercialization. Thus, the article suggests a rather cautious approach, compared to, for example, the lean start-up concept.

To help find the balance between cautiousness and bringing the idea to market as soon as possible in a practical way to gain valuable feedback, the article presents an “Entrepreneurial Strategy Compass,” outlining four different approaches:

The Intellectual Property Strategy: Focus lays on collaboration with incumbents and idea generation and development and avoids direct customer contact as much as possible.

The Disruption Strategy: Focus lays on confrontation with incumbents, rapid market share, and quick commercialization of the idea.

The Value Chain Strategy: Focus lays on commercialization and day-to-day competitive strength, success stems primarily from competence rather than aggressive competition.

The Architectural Strategy: Most difficult approach, focus lays on designing an entirely new value chain and then control the key bottlenecks in it, examples: Google and Facebook.

Homeless Entrepreneur

My homelessness hunt also led me to this website which aims at connecting those who are homeless with those who desire to help. This was emphasized in the presentation earlier today. The charity currently operates in Spain & Pakistan, but is actively looking to expand with the goal of eliminating homelessness. I really liked their emphasis on leveraging the skills that homeless individuals already possess to help them get on their feet again. Their homepage states, “Having an entrepreneurial spirit is the best way to become an active citizen again!” Once again, it would be great to hear what the team that presented on homelessness thinks about this approach as they are much more well versed in this area than I am.