The Project Entrepreneur Does Not Sell Out Soon


“Dropbox founders, Arash Ferdowsi, left, and Drew Houston, won Best Overall Startup at the Crunchies in San Francisco earlier this year.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. B6) Arash Ferdowsi was a Massachusetts Institute of Technology student when he met fellow MIT student Drew Houston through a mutual friend.

The pair collaborated, working from a Cambridge, Mass., apartment, to solve a modern-day problem.
They created a virtual file cabinet that would make it possible for users to access piles of documents, spreadsheets, photos, music and videos from their laptops, tablets or personal devices.
After launching Dropbox Inc. in June 2007, they relocated to San Francisco. Mr. Ferdowsi dropped out of MIT.
. . .
WSJ: Before Steve Jobs of Apple Inc. died, he approached you with a buyout offer. Why did you turn it away?
Mr. Ferdowsi: The problem that we’re trying to solve is a problem that only an independent company can solve. We want to let you use a Mac, or Windows PC, or iPad, or Android, without having to think about any of the technical details. It isn’t a problem any of those larger companies is going to be as inclined to solve in the same way we are.

For the full interview, see:

ANGUS LOTEN, interviewer. “HOW I BUILT IT; Dropbox Seeks Big Solutions.” The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., March 15, 2012): B6.

(Note: ellipsis added; bold in original.)
(Note: the online version of the interview is dated March 14, 2012.)

Most Articles in Top Two Economics Journals Receive Zero Citations in First Five Years

Journal quality is often used, or suggested, as a proxy for the quality of articles. It is a very poor proxy.
Economist Robert H. Frank writes that:

(p. 3) The economist Philip Cook and I found, . . . , that in the first five years after publication, many fewer than half of all papers in the two most selective economics journals had ever been cited by other scholars.

For the full commentary, see:

ROBERT H. FRANK. “ECONOMIC VIEW; The Prestige Chase Is Raising College Costs.” The New York Times, SundayBusiness Section (Sun., March 11, 2012): 3.

(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary is dated March 10, 2012.)

I assume, but have not verified, that the above finding is reported in:
Frank, Robert, and Philip J. Cook. The Winner-Take-All Society: Why the Few at the Top Get So Much More Than the Rest of Us. New York: The Free Press, 1995.

Diamond to Teach Economics of Entrepreneurship in Fall 2012


Some Questions to Be Discussed:

• How can policies encouraging innovative entrepreneurship help us recover from the current economic stagnation?

• Are innovative entrepreneurs smarter, or less risk-averse, or more intuitive, or more determined, or more frugal, or nobler, or greedier, than the rest of us?

• Can economic historian John Nye defend his claim that successful entrepreneurs are “lucky fools?”

• What is the role of entrepreneurship in the process of creative destruction, and what is the role of creative destruction in making our lives longer and better?

• Would labor be better off in an economy in which innovative entrepreneurship is encouraged?

• Why does economist Will Baumol believe that too much higher education can discourage successful innovative entrepreneurship?

• What are the most promising sources of financing for successful innovative entrepreneurship?

Lasseter’s Success Came from Seeing How the Details Affected the Storytelling

(p. 138) “I had no reason to think it would be any good,” recalled Barzel, who was then a recently minted California Institute of Technology Ph.D. on the lighting team. “I knew John was absolutely brilliant as a animator of shorts. But I’ve read authors who write good short stories and crummy novels; I figured it’s a different skill. I had no reason to think John would have the skill to pull off a full-length movie.”
He expected something that animators and animation buffs might find interesting, but that probably would not have a particularly wide audience.
“I joined because I wanted the practical experience,” he said, “I thought, Well, it’s going to be the first full-length [computer-animated] movie, so it’ll be a fun thing to have been associated with, however it turns out.”
What finally made Barzel a believer was watching Lasseter at work. He found that Lasseter had an uncanny ability to shift between the macro level of the entire film and the micro level of whatever detail he was dealing with at the moment. “Looking at an individual frame — it’s meticulous work– he would always be aware of its role in the larger context of storytelling,” Barzel recalled. “He’d say something like, ‘This is the first time this character responds to that situation; it’s really important that he get the right glint in his eye.’ ” Barzel started to think, John knows what he’s doing. This movie could be really good.

Price, David A. The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008.
(Note: italics and brackets in original.)
(Note: my strong impression is that the pagination is the same for the 2008 hardback and the 2009 paperback editions, except for part of the epilogue, which is revised and expanded in the paperback. I believe the passage above has the same page number in both editions.)

Lean Start-Ups “Ruthlessly Cull Failures”

eric-ries-lean-startup.jpgEric Ries and his book. Source of photo:

(p. D3) “What’s different in the Valley is that we’ve found a quasi-scientific method for reinventing businesses and industries, not just products,” said Randy Komisar, a partner in a leading venture capital firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and a lecturer on entrepreneurship at Stanford University. “The approach is much more systematic than it was several years ago.”

The newer model for starting businesses relies on hypothesis, experiment and testing in the marketplace, from the day a company is founded. That is a sharp break with the traditional approach of drawing up a business plan, setting financial targets, building a finished product and then rolling out the business and hoping to succeed. It was time-consuming and costly.
The preferred formula today is often called the “lean start-up.” Its foremost proponents include Eric Ries, an engineer, entrepreneur and author who coined the term and is now an entrepreneur in residence at the Harvard Business School, and Steven Blank, a serial entrepreneur, author and lecturer at Stanford.
The approach emphasizes quickly developing “minimum viable products,” low-cost versions that are shown to customers for reaction, and then improved. Flexibility is the other hallmark. Test business models and ideas, and ruthlessly cull failures and move on to Plan B, Plan C, Plan D and so on — “pivoting,” as the process is known.

For the full story, see:
STEVE LOHR. “Looking Backward to Put New Technologies in Focus.” The New York Times (Tues., December 6, 2011): D3 & D4.
(Note: the online version of the story is dated December 5, 2011.)

Ries’ recent book is:
Ries, Eric. The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses. New York: Crown Business, 2011.

Blank’s books are:
Blank, Steve. Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost., 2010.
Blank, Steven Gary. The Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Products That Win. 2nd ed:, 2005.
Blank, Steve, and Bob Dorf. The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-by-Step Guide for Building a Great Company. K & S Ranch, 2012.

Another relevant book is:
Maurya, Ash. Running Lean: Iterate from Plan A to a Plan That Works. 2nd ed. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media, 2012.

Millennials Wiser on Environment than Gen Xers and Baby Boomers

(p. 6A) “I was shocked,” said Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University who is one of the study’s authors.
. . .
Researchers found that, when surveyed decades ago, about a third of young baby boomers said it was important to become personally involved in programs to clean up the environment. In comparison, only about a quarter of young Gen Xers – and 21 percent of Millennials – said the same.
Meanwhile, 15 percent of Millennials said they had made no effort to help the environment, compared with 8 percent of young Gen Xers and 5 percent of young baby boomers.
. . .
The analysis was based on two long-term surveys of the nation’s youth. The first, the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future project, is an annual survey of thousands of high school seniors, from which data from 1976 through 2008 was used.
Other data came from the American Freshman project, another large annual national survey, administered by the Higher Education Research Institute. Those responses came from thousands of first-year college students, from the years 1966 through 2009. Because of the large sample sizes, the margin of error was less than plus-or-minus half a percentage point.

For the full story, see:
MARTHA IRVINE. “‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ Not a Mantra for Young People.” Omaha World-Herald (Sat., March 17, 2012): 6A.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the article was dated Thursday March 15, 2012 and had the title “Study: Young people not so ‘green’ after all.”)

“Being Able to Work on a Great Project”

(p. 133) Recruiting was brisk; the magnet for talent was not the pay, generally mediocre, but rather the allure of taking part in the first fully computer-animated feature film. “Disney gave us a very modest budget [$17.5 million] for Toy Story,” Guggenheim said. “Although that budget went up progressively over time, it didn’t afford for very high salaries, unfortunately. We tried to make the other working conditions better. Just the enthusiasm of being able to work on a great project is as often as not what attracts artists and animators.”

Price, David A. The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008.
(Note: italics and brackets in original.)
(Note: my strong impression is that the pagination is the same for the 2008 hardback and the 2009 paperback editions, except for part of the epilogue, which is revised and expanded in the paperback. I believe the passage above has the same page number in both editions.)