Random Thoughts And Printers
Apr 5 2012

For some reason today was a weird day.  It started out with me dragging myself onto the treadmill at 6:00 a.m.  Then I sorted through a bunch of email and set up some meetings.  I had a good meeting with one of my clients.  I even had a good lunch with a potential client.  Then it got mixed up in a few ways that illustrate the complexity of us humans and machines as follows:

  • I called my insurance agent to discuss car and homeowners premiums. Given I’ve had my car almost 11 years and it has over 135K miles on it, I felt like I was paying way too much.  I was right and I ended up saving hundreds of dollars per year.  I got irritated knowing that if I had called a year ago, I could have saved more money.  I hate wasting money.  So it was a bittersweet sensation.  I hope they are glad that I didn’t call Geico (darn gecko) first!
  • As I was on the phone with the agent, my Epson printer freaked out and stopped printing.   I had the printer 3 1/2 years and it decided to crash today…just as I needed to print and scan back docs to the agent.  It was cheaper to buy a new printer than figure out how to get it to San Antonio to fix it.  Needless to say, I spent a significant portion of what I was about to save on reduced insurance premiums on a new printer.
  • I called the cable company a few months ago and discovered I could spend 1/2 of what I was spending on cable & internet and still get basically the same service.
  • I wonder how much revenue these companies collect because people like me are too busy to call and figure out what the less expensive, still viable options are.  What if it was 20 or 30% of their revenue?!  That means they are relying on our laziness, busy-ness, and stupidity for a significant portion of their revenue.
  • I wonder if someone can invent an app that scans all your bills periodically and lets you know if you made this change or took advantage of this new package, you could save hundreds of dollars.
  • I stopped at Office Depot before and after a happy hour for the Austin Technology Incubator and received $50 credit for my old printer for a trade in on an HP printer that supposedly has more capacity and features.  I’ve already set it up and like the scan-to-email feature.  Thank goodness for auto setup on devices these days!
  • Grey’s Anatomy is a very good TV show.  Mad Men displays sexism and the male dominated advertising firm life in the 60’s very well, but sometimes I can’t follow their conversations easily.
  • Matters of the heart, head, and machine are not so easily resolved no matter how hard we try.  They all seem to result in the sensation of wanting to punch something or someone or cry when you can’t get them to work like they should.
  • How do 9 year old boys play 4 games of soccer in one day without falling over.  We will soon find out.
  • I’m thankful I live in the United States where I can create opportunity where none would usually exist as well as buy a new printer on short notice.  I’m also thankful that I saved for “rainy days” and live in a place that usually has less rain than other places.
  • I’m thankful for good health.

I have so many more thoughts, but most are not very useful to the general public just like half of the above aren’t either, but I hope it results in a few of you saving some money.

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Why Every Small Business Should Have Inventory Management Software
Mar 8 2012

Following is a guest post by a writer for Ordoro, a company I used to work with while I was at the Austin Technology Incubator.  When she reached out to me to see if I would accept a guest post, I chuckled and thought what a small world it was.  I like the team at Ordoro.  They are doing great things and making a difference for small businesses.

Carolyn is a guest post writer on the subjects of small business management, small business tools, and inventory control. She believes that the right software is an essential part of what it takes for startups to succeed.

Why Every Small Business Should Have Inventory Management Software

Inventory will hog all of your company’s cash if you allow it to do so. Think about it. You pay your suppliers, and you wait for them to ship goods to you. Then you wait for your employees to turn those goods into finished products you can sell. Once the products are ready to sell, you have to wait for customers to buy them. As you may have noticed, turning inventory into cash involves a lot of waiting. That’s why it’s essential that you do everything you can to increase your inventory turnover rate as much as possible. When it comes to inventory control, one of the most effective tools a small business owner can take advantage of is inventory management software. Here’s what inventory management software can do for your small business:

  • Inventory control software helps you identify what you need to order from suppliers at any given time. This kind of software gives you a clear picture of your inventory levels. If your bestselling product is almost sold out, it’s probably crucial that you order more of it as soon as possible. If you aren’t using software that allows you to monitor your inventory levels easily, it’s much more difficult to order what you need when you need it.
  • Small business inventory software helps you identify slow-moving products. If you analyze the data provided by inventory management software, it will be more simple and efficient for you to identify products that are slow-moving. Once you know what isn’t selling, you can order less of it from your suppliers and ultimately have more cash freed up to purchase other inventory that is selling well.
  • Tracking inventory shipments from multiple suppliers can be difficult, and inventory management software can help. It’s crucial that you know when inventory is going to arrive, so you can plan your sales efforts accordingly. Inventory management software is probably the best tool to use if you want to track your orders and shipments from different suppliers.
  • If you’re an e-commerce merchant, inventory management software like the software offered by Ordoro will help you keep track of your inventory across multiple webstores. It’s no small feat to keep track of what’s being sold where and what’s in stock overall as a result. That’s why it’s generally a good idea for e-commerce merchants to enlist the help of some quality software, especially if they’re trying to run a small business without much help from anyone else.

Inventory management software is hardly ever expensive, especially when you consider the ROI. With this type of software, you’ll be able to increase your inventory turnover rate by ordering what you need, halting orders of what you don’t need, getting the most out of your relationships with suppliers, and staying organized no matter how many stores or webstores you own. So, why make things harder on yourself without this integral software tool?


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Timing Is Everything…
Jan 31 2012

Most of us know that timing has a lot to do with things turning out as desired or not.  If you try to bring a product to market before it’s time (e.g., anything similar to the iPad that came out before the iPad), you often fail.  If you take too long, you can miss the proverbial boat.  This is true for a) your career, b) relationships/love, c) start-ups, or d) teaching your kids to ride a bike.

My daughter just started riding a bike this weekend.   Her brother learned when he was 5 1/2 and she’s almost 7 (2nd child with parents who are crazy busy).  I knew she had good balance given she rode her scooter around the house and on the street & sidewalks with ease.   So this weekend her dad put her on the bike we got her last Christmas and on the first try she was riding easily.  She was ready and the timing was right!  I think it was partly because we didn’t make a big deal of it or try to make it happen before she was ready.

If you had given me chocolate mixed with salt 5 to 10 years ago, I would have probably spit it out or not even tried it, but Dark chocolate with a touch of sea salt is remarkably yummy.  Timing.  I’m still not fond of chocolate mixed with peanuts, but maybe in 5 more years…

I haven’t blogged too much about my career recently because the company I went to work for after I left the Austin Technology Incubator back in August 2011 prohibited employees from mentioning on their blogs that we worked there.  Needless to say, I did not know that before I joined and I’m no longer there.  So the timing seemed right to hang up my consulting shingle for a while.  My current, not very creative name, is ASG Consulting (LinkedIn).  I just completed a  project for a company in the clean energy/smart grid space and may do some more work for them in the future.

So here I go again attempting to create something that didn’t exist before, but now instead of a hardware or software product, I’m selling my time & expertise.  I feel fortunate to live in a time, town, and space where I’m well connected and opportunities are like hidden Easter eggs waiting to be found.  Who knows…one of these consulting jobs might end up in a full time job if the fit (skill match, culture, location, etc.) is right.

If I can help your company or someone elses you know with operations, strategy, and/or business development (particularly partner/client management), please ping me and let’s talk.  Next up, I have to get some business cards…

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Time Keeps On Slipping…
Jul 26 2011

Where does it go? Time Keeps On Slipping Into the Future… (you tube).  So much going on but so little time to write about it.  My daughter lost her first tooth when she was almost a year older than when my son lost his and the tooth fairy came to visit.  I know this because I did a blog post about it and if I hadn’t, I’m not sure I would have remembered when he lost it.  Thank goodness for blogging!  She was in Mexico when it happened visiting her cousins and apparently instead of a tooth fairy, the tooth mouse visits and she got pesos instead.

Check out Beat the Heat Happy Hour – July 20 and Sales & Business Development Lunch & Learn – July 13, 2011 for posts written by the Austin Technology Incubator marketing intern, Kirsten Frazee, on two recent events I coordinated for our member companies.

Check out our highly non-publicized facebook page called Metaphor Mania for info on our songwriting endeavors that are moving at the snail like pace of the silvery, slimy trail in between our busy lives.

The kids are in summer camp with varying degrees of happiness depending on the day and if there is a cool field trip involved.  They are learning social survival skills, and I’m learning skills on how not to worry when I leave my daughter in a room full of unknown kids with teenage camp counselors.

Hopefully in the next few weeks, I can blog about another shift in my life…a very good one

Until then, I’ll be breathing deeply and trying not to drink too much red wine.

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I’m Speaking at IBM’s Smart Camp on May 18, 2011
May 15 2011

I speak on many panels and serve as a judge at many competitions, and I wish I had time to write more about them.  I just got back from a conference put on by one of the Austin Technology Incubators funders, the Economic Development Agency, held in Albuquerque.  I was on a panel and served as a discussion moderator at one of the round tables they held.   I’ll be writing about that one in the next week or so.  I recently wrote on the Austin Technology Incubator blog about an upcoming event I’m speaking on at IBM’s SmartCamp here in Austin, Texas.

I will be serving on a panel sponsored by SharpSkirts with other key executives from IBM and the Dachis Group on May 18, 2o11.  ATI will be offering  part of the University of Texas at Austin prize consisting of a package of strategic consulting services and office space to the winning team.

Scott Case, CEO of Startup America, will speak about Startup America and share his views for the Austin entrepreneurial community.  Scott will be joining from Washington DC via an interactive webcast.

Jim Corgel, IBM General Manager of ISV & Developer Relations, will speak about what IBM SmartCamp is doing for the local and global community and what the new IBM Global Entrepreneur initiative offers start-ups.

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SXSW Interactive – 2011
Mar 11 2011

It’s that time of year again.  The time in Austin, Texas where South by Southwest and Spring Break combine.  Thousands of people descend on Austin for SXSW Interactive, Film, & Music.  I think the attendees for Interactive surpassed that for music last year.

I’m approaching the experience in a more zen like fashion this year and seeing where the tides pull me.  I know I’ll be at the Entrepreneur’s Lounge, co-hosted by The Austin Technology Incubator (where I work) a few times this week and a few other events including Ignite Austin this evening thanks to the Entrepreneur’s Foundation of Central Texas.  I plan to attend some panels and meet up with people I haven’t seen since last year.

Some of you may remember that I coordinated a panel a couple of years ago called Building A Web Business After Hours.  My advice is don’t do it unless you have a clear path to get out of your day job, don’t have young kids, and aren’t going through personal turmoil.  So this year I’m going to float and see what happens.  I haven’t even uploaded my picture online for my badge so I’ll get an on site picture if I can find parking this afternoon.

Thankfully, the weather is gorgeous with high’s in the upper 70’s predicted for most of the week.  I hope to see some of you (my readers) during my floating around…

Author: | Filed under: austin, austin technology incubator, conferences, entrepreneur, entrepreneurship, networking | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Entrepreneur’s Foundation and I2P
Nov 7 2010

Time to write is scarce these days.  My days are full with work, kids, homework supervision, music, house stuff, friends, and movies.  The kids and I saw Megamind in 3D today. 🙂   So that means less time for me to write on the blog, but not to worry I am still getting my creative outlet through song writing.  My new music writing partner and I now have 5 prototype songs done.  They are still works in progress but for the few people I have played acoustic/rough cut recordings to, they seemed to like them or they did a good job at acting they liked them!  My favorite one so far is based on lyrics inspired by my daughter.

This past week, I had the chance to participate in two really neat entrepreneurial related events in Austin.  One was the Entrepreneur’s Foundation of Central Texas (EF) annual fundraising Texas Hold ‘Em poker night event.  The Austin Technology Incubator, where I work, partners with the EF to handle our company’s equity donations to The University of Texas at Austin.  The organization was co-founded by one of my friends, Randi Shade, who is currently an Austin city council member.  This was my third year to go and I always have a blast.  Each time, I’ve made it past the initial table to the 2nd table.  One year I think I made it past the 2nd table, but this year I was out at the 2nd.  It’s a fabulous networking event with the who’s who of Austin entrepreneurs and investors in attendance.   Last year, they had celebrity guests, one of whom was Heather Graham.  I got a picture with her and yes she is as beautiful in person as she is in the movies!  She even gave me a stick of chewing gum.  The EF provides a great service to our community by helping facilitate donations when companies have a liquidating event to charities of their choice.

The other event was the Idea to Product Competition (I2P).  I have judged and served as a feedback judge at I2P for several years now.  I remember being part of the early formation discussions of the competition 10+ years ago.  I really enjoy participating in this competition for many reasons.  The student teams seem to get better every year.  I’m always fascinated with the life science companies and this year is no exception.  One company had invented a tiny microscope to help detect diseases in blood samples via enhanced imagery.  I don’t want to go into too much detail because our advice to them was to really get a clear understanding of their intellectual property ownership.  Another had an at home device for testing for certain sexually transmitted diseases.  The topic makes me cringe but apparently there is a large and unfortunately growing market.  The entrepreneur in me gets excited to see these students interested in commercializing technology they have either created or intend to license from a university.  It also reminds me of when I was a student presenting my first company in front of a panel of judges in one business plan competition after another.  I can relate to the nerves/anxiety but the thrill of selling the concept kept me going.

As I think I’ve mentioned before, there are many really neat things happening in Austin in the world of high-tech entrepreneurship, and I only wish I had time to write more about them.

Author: | Filed under: austin technology incubator, competition, entrepreneur, entrepreneurship | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

Happy Halloween, Pirates and 3 Day Startup
Oct 31 2010

And now for a really quick post…Happy Halloween!  My kids dressed up as Super Girl and something called a Metal Skull Rider and went trick or treating with their dad.  I didn’t dress up, but at my son’s soccer game today I asked one of the mom’s to spray gold glitter in my hair so my daughter would try having some in her hair.

This weekend I showed up to help advise companies that are part of a program called 3 Day Startup hosted by the Austin Technology Incubator (where I work) and coordinated by our wireless/IT director, Bart Bohn.  Check out the ATI Blog for an update on the students that were involved and the companies that emerged from the weekend lock-in.  Three teams presented tonight to a panel of judgest so that’s where I spent my Halloween evening…with glittery hair.

Check out this post by Michael Arrington on TechCrunch to find out if you are a Pirate (a.k.a. entrepreneur in search of adventure because finding that pot of gold is rare).  He says, “Entrepreneurs, though, are all screwed up. They don’t need to be rewarded for risk, because they actually get utility out of risk itself. In other words, they like adventure. The payouts for starting a business are just terrible when you account for risk. A tiny minority of entrepreneurs ever get rich. And the majority of entrepreneurs would probably make far more money, and have more stable personal relationships, if they just worked for someone else.”

Author: | Filed under: austin technology incubator, entrepreneurship, holiday | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

What’s Love Got To Do With It? – Live Life Like You Mean It
Jul 3 2010

What’s love but a second hand emotion.  Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken.”  So go the lyrics of Tina Turner’s famous song What’s Love Got To Do With It (wikipedia link).  Check it out on YouTube if you haven’t heard it in a while.  I kept thinking of that song when I was reading a book recommended to me by someone, who I’ve come to respect greatly, with decades of experience in the field of psychology.  The book is called Living Like You Mean It: Use the Wisdom and Power of Your Emotions to Get the Life You Really Want (Amazon link) by Ronald J. Frederick, Ph.D.

It’s a valuable book for any manager/leader/entrepreneur to read because it discusses in simple terms how many of us have challenges processing our emotions and using them as tools to get a better understanding of what is happening inside of us and outside of us.  So many of us have been trained not to fully feel our emotions or stop them because we have been judged, place judgment on them, or simply feel we can’t deal with them right now.  We are a bundle of feelings and they surface, just like thoughts, to give us data points to help us navigate this crazy world.   I was speaking to one of our entrepreneurs at the Austin Technology Incubator recently and he said something like “I don’t have time to feel right now.”  I could relate to that statement because when I was running my companies, I put many things on the back burner and one of those things was my feelings.  The same thing happens when you are parenting little kids who take so much of your mental and physical energy…you feel like you have to keep up a front of having it all together so the kids don’t see what you are processing.  But you know what?  Even if they don’t see it, they feel it.  Of course your ‘gut feeling’ is always right there but sometimes we ignore it and defer to the ‘powers that be’ when if we had only listened to it earlier we might have taken action earlier and ended up in a better place earlier.

Dr. Frederick used very powerful examples based on his client’s stories that many people can relate to.   It’s hard to summarize this book, so I’m just going to highlight some key quotes/takeaways:

He says that “in general the spectrum of our emotions is actually made up of eight primary feelings and their related shades and combinations,” which are Anger, Sadness, Happiness, Love, Fear, Guilt-Shame, Surprise, and Disgust. (p. 54-55).  He lumps Guilt-Shame together as one category but makes a distinction that I found very enlightening.  Guilt is feeling bad about something you did and shame is feeling as if you are a bad person.

The fear of feelings is apparently common.  “In fact, most of us are afraid of our feelings.  We’re afraid to feel the full extent of our emotions and afraid of being emotionally alive and present with others.  We’re afraid of being vulnerable, of drawing attention to ourselves, of looking like a fool.  We’re afraid of being overwhelmed, of losing control, of getting out of hand.  We’re afraid of being seen for who we really are.”  So “We distract ourselves, push our feelings aside, stuff them back in, and hope they’ll go away.  But they don’t.  They keep trying to get our attention, to be heard, to be responded to — that’s their nature.  They reemerge as the sense that something is off, odd, or not right; as worry, irritability, restlessness, anxiety, or depression.” (p. xiv-xv).

In the last few years there have been many studies on emotions leading to a better understanding of how the brain works.  “We now know that emotions can play a more powerful role than thoughts in bringing about well-being and lasting change.  Our feelings can arise much faster and be more intense than our thoughts.  At times, no matter what we do to suppress them or how hard we try to control them, they’ll have the edge.  In addition, recent discoveries in the field of neuroplasticity…reveal that emotional experience actually has the power to rewire our brain!” (p. xvii).  “In recent years, technological advances have enabled scientists to understand more precisely just how the brain functions.  Joseph LeDoux, in his fascinating book The Emotional Brain, clearly illustrates how the neural connections that run from the emotional parts of the brain to the thinking parts of the brain are actually much stronger and more numerous than the connections that run in the other direction.  This helps explain why at times emotions are able to overwhelm our thoughts and dominate our thinking and why it can be difficult to control strong emotions through rational thought alone.” (p. 18).

There are so many ways we avoid our feelings that I can’t type them all here but I recognized myself in many of the descriptions including things like “Overthinking issues, getting ‘stuck’ in your head. Having to be in control or being overly self-sufficient (otherwise, your strong facade might crack and allow your emotions to come through).” (p. 78)

The amygdala is a cluster of neural circuitry deep inside our brain and is a storehouse for significant emotional memories.  It also gauges the emotional significance of events and it’s the place where fear originates so it has the ability to overwhelm rational thought and overlook reality.  It has the ability to hijack the brain.  (p. 90).

He discusses letting yourself actually feel the emotion through it’s entirety.  When you don’t, it never gets really dealt with and you keep reliving it instead of letting the emotion come through like a wave to its natural conclusion.  It’s a process and doesn’t happen overnight.  Attaching a label to a feeling (e.g., anger, sadness, etc.) dampens the fear response and decreases emotional distress. (p. 94).  He also gives tools to help you name and process the feeling.

As a business person and a parent, understanding and paying attention to your feelings about situations can help you make better decisions in all aspects of your life.  I know so many entrepreneur’s who look back and wish they had listened to their ‘gut feelings’ during critical times but they were too afraid to do so.  I’ve been there and done that!  The maternal (parental) instinct (based on feelings) is strong and I’m not sure if there have been any studies done but I’m guessing that instinct has saved many a baby’s life.

We shouldn’t be afraid of our feelings because they “1. Impart information.  2. Provide insight.  3. Give us guidance.” (p. 135)

Here’s to your emotional health and well-being!  I’ll end this post with a quote the author has on p. 131 that starts Chapter 7 of his book: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk to bloom.” – Anais Nin.

Author: | Filed under: book review, entrepreneurship, parenting | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Streets of Barcelona
Jun 6 2010

Pigeons in BarcelonaI just got back from Barcelona, Spain, and I don’t recall another time in my life where I’ve had the time to sit, think, write and let the words come without having some daily routine distraction.  I was in Barcelona visiting my cousin, Ashan Pillai (a true Outlier) on my way back from a business trip to Portugal.  After getting all the gifts for my kids (couldn’t forget the Spanish team soccer/futbal outfit), I sat in a plaza near the famous Ramblas shopping area in Barcelona with a notebook, listened to the people, listened to the street noises & pigeons, and waited for the words to appear.  I had a lofty goal of writing 7 song lyrics.  I should have gone with the goal of 3 that Brett Wintermeyer, our courier at work and also band member of The Sophisticates suggested, but I have an ‘eyes bigger than stomach’ tendency.  I wrote 3 lyrics and started 2 others.  I wrote 5 poems and started 2 others.  Many more started and swirled around my head but never made it to paper or computer.  I still have no idea if my lyrics are any good as I haven’t yet put them to actual music.

The thing with poetry that I’ve discovered over the past year or so is that sometimes its meaning is different between the writer and the reader.  Who or what the poem is about becomes about the readers personal experience or interpretation of the words.  As a writer I know that I often write things that have double meanings which are both true but the degree to which one is truer can only be fully known by the writer and possibly specific readers close to the writer.

The meaning can also slightly change depending on how it’s read out loud…the rhythm of the reading can affect someone in ways unknown.  If you are a poet, this is probably not news to you. I suppose that’s the point…if it can touch someone even if it’s different than intended then it would have served its purpose.  I wonder how many poems/lyrics go unread by others because there are so many writers out there who write for themselves as they struggle with their humanity.  I suppose the really famous writers have their poems discovered after their death and people are left to interpret them best they can, but for us mostly unknown writers they probably disappear into oblivion.

I have never shared my poetry on this blog…well not the serious ones anyway but after being inspired by Shaku letting me post her Icarus In Flight poem on my blog, I thought I’d share just one.  On a side note, in addition to me knowing Shaku through a non-profit organization, she also worked for an Austin Technology Incubator (ATI) company called Webify that was bought by IBM.  It’s a small world considering I work for ATI now.

I wrote the following poem in my cousin’s neighborhood (the day before I went to the Ramblas) after hearing a song in a video my aunt was playing for me that evoked many juxtaposing emotions that compelled me to escape outside.  Fortunately, the weather is gorgeous in Barcelona this time of year.   This poem is a mixture of recent stories…a little bit of mine, a little bit of his, a little bit of people who changed our lives.  He is in the middle (or shall I say the beginning) of an experience no new father should ever have to go through.  So without further ado…

Streets of Barcelona

On the streets of Barcelona
I wander with ancient tears in my eyes
Thinking of you and nights all alone
At Last the song with many sighs

A translucent marriage to a soul
Recently departed to a sully sea foam world
Because one could not wait to grow old
Afraid to take comfort in touches never know’d

The blustery city noises and a pigeon’s soft coo
Might wash out the pain of consequence ridden choices
And obliterate irrelevant, life altering feelings taken by you
While holes you exposed must be filled with clear voices

True sadness eludes me because fear
Overrules the quixotic, addictive emotion of love
But steely sharpness of knowledge shall bring forth to bear
Wavering courage to continue onward from Above

© May 30, 2010 Aruni S. Gunasegaram

Author: | Filed under: father, marriage, parenting, poetry, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Idea to Product Competition April 2010
Apr 29 2010

With about 1,000 things to juggle I can’t seem to find the time to write blog posts, let alone read which spurs some of my ideas on what to write about.  After I get home get the kids fed, bathed, homework-ed, piano-ed, put to bed and caught up on emails, it’s almost 10:00 pm and I’m sapped or is that zapped…oh whatever.  So here’s a copy of what I wrote for the Austin Technology Incubator blog on the Idea to Product Competition I judged last weekend:

Idea to Product Competition April 2010

I had the privilege of serving as a judge in the final rounds of the Idea to Product (I2P) competition this past Saturday, April 24, 2010.  I always enjoy judging this competition and seeing how many interesting technology concepts the students either invent or enhance based on an existing technology.  This year marks the 10 year anniversary of I2P and I remember being part of the early discussions when the competition was forming.

The Idea to Product® UT Competition is an early-stage technology commercialization plan competition, hosted by the Murchison Chair of Free Enterprise, which was started at UT in 2001.  In the Idea to Product® Competition students create links between emerging technologies and market needs required to support later stages of commercialization. The I2P® Program educates students about creating viable products and services from technology, and has served as a stepping stone for entrepreneurship. Previous teams have produced work that has increased research funding, licensing of technology, and creation of new ventures. The competition has also served as a commercialization forum for faculty and members of the community.  Faculty have been able to consider societal needs of technology and members of the community have been given an early preview of cutting-edge technology. The competition is sponsored by the Cockrell School of Engineering, the College of Natural Sciences, several engineering departments, along with several student organizations.  Supporters of the event include the National Science Foundation, NCIIA, MOOT CORP, the Austin Technology Incubator, the Office of Technology Commercialization, Fish & Richardson, P.C., and the Herb Kelleher Center for Entrepreneurship.

The winners of this year’s University of Texas competition (the global competition happens later in the year) were:

  1. Digital Proctor
  2. CoolCore Technologies
  3. SpectraPhase

It was a really tough decision choosing the top 3 because in all the years I’ve been judging the competition, these were some of the best presentations I had seen.  It was obvious the students worked very hard and were probably up many a late night!  Check out the http://www.ideatoproduct.org/ut/ site to see videos of the presentations.

Digital Proctor helps online universities assess whether someone might be cheating using unique keystroke identification technology.  They even have paying customers!  CoolCore Technologies has access to technology that rapidly reduces therapeutic hypothermia after a heart attack, stroke, or traumatic brain injury.  Most brain damage is done within 90 minutes of an incident and cooling down the body can significantly reduce death and long term brain damage.  SpectraPhase has technology that is a real-time glucose monitoring catheter for inpatient care usage.  It gives continuous, ultra-high accuracy readout of changes in patient blood glucose levels.

We at ATI wish them great luck in pursuing commercialization of their technologies (if they choose to do so)!  I2P is a great way for students to get feedback on the commercial viability of their technology and product ideas, and I look forward to serving as a judge again.

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Apr 17 2010

Back late last year (November 21, 2009 to be exact) this quote fell into my in box from Jeffrey Fry’s daily quote email list: “The spirited horse, which will try to win the race of its own accord, will run even faster if encouraged.”  –Ovid. I think I’ve met Jeffrey (also an entrepreneur) twice, but we’ve exchanged several emails about our life’s journey’s.

That quote hit me for some reason.  And I just now realized that quote came in almost exactly a year after I stood at the Entrepreneurial Ledge (I wrote that post on November 20, 2008 with tears in my eyes) after having heard that the first company I founded had gone out of business.  I subsequently heard that the assets had been sold to a manufacturing company and some of the people went to work for that company so the technology in some form has survived.  I know that some people might find it cheesy or maybe even ‘girly’ to be so affected by such news because after all, it’s just a company.  But to me it was like a baby.  The people were important to me and I cared about them.  I have heard many of my entrepreneur friends refer to their businesses as their baby.  They equate the experience to one of giving birth to and nurturing it as best they can.  Starting a business is a wild financial, emotional, and physical ride very much akin to rearing kids!

At any rate, after letting that quote sit in my Outlook Inbox for a few days or weeks…I can’t really recall, I sent the following email to my fellow Director’s at the Austin Technology Incubator.

I think this [encouragement] is an important part of what we do.  As an entrepreneur (spirited horse) you have so many forces trying to bring you down, being critical, double guessing you, etc. that even the slightest amount of encouragement can keep you going and running faster.

Because our incentives are not set up like most investors/VCs, we can be liberal with our encouragement which I think is a huge intangible benefit we offer towards the success of our companies/entrepreneurs.

Giving someone (or a group) positive energy helps them see things they might not have been able to see or better said makes it easier for them to see things because they don’t feel threatened by criticism/limits.  I’d say a good example of this is what’s happening with [XYZ Company] with their big business model change.  But I can point to a few more companies as well who when encouraged and highlighted have increased their odds of success.

But that’s just me.  I believe in energy flows/vibrations at the sub atomic level and if you’ve noticed scientists have been proving and writing about this phenomenon.  And as someone who broke her arm at the age of 13 riding a big, black ex-race horse (whose name I think was Jude) who was inadvertently encouraged to run faster by another horse, I speak from experience.

I do believe that encouraging someone can go a long way to the success of that individual and/or the company.  Of course, encouragement has to be tempered with reality.  I don’t believe in the “let’s all win a medal for lifting a cup to our mouths” encouragement that some kids are subjected to because I think that sets them up for huge disappointment later.  As we all know, we don’t get medals just for showing up to work.  In fact, I like playing board games with my kids because someone has to lose and they have to realize that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose and in many cases the person who wins is determined by who draws the first card (e.g., Candy-land)! Plus when one of them starts to say ‘that’s not fair,’ it’s prime teaching time to let them know many things don’t seem fair in this world but they just have to deal with it.

But the right amount of encouragement, with a nice side helping of humorous perspective, can help someone (e.g., an entrepreneur) immensely especially during times when it seems like the rest of their world (investors, board members, employees, family) is pulling them down or doesn’t see or feel what they do.  I think the mere act of believing in someone, helping them focus on their strengths, and being there for them during a tough time, can have a huge impact on their ability to reach their full potential.

As usual the gorgeous photo is by my good friend Sandy Blanchard. When I look at it, I see a flower that was encouraged by the right amounts of sun, rain, and nutrients to open up and present such stunning beauty to the world…

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3 Day Startup in Austin – April 2010
Apr 11 2010

This weekend the Austin Technology Incubator is hosting 3 Day Startup (3DS).  Bart Bohn, Wireless/IT Director, is the guy at ATI who facilitates and oversees this really cool event.  3DS is where 40+ University of Texas at Austin students from all different colleges get locked in to ATI and have to come up with a business.  They work hard to flesh out ideas, build pitches, create prototypes, and sell their ideas.  I dropped by yesterday (Saturday) late afternoon and stayed through evening to see what companies were forming and to ask questions and give them some advice.  It’s great to feel the energy in the building as these budding and wannabe entrepreneurs use their creative juices to come up with what could be viable business opportunities.  Some were interesting and others were well let’s just say a bit off the mark.

Tonight (Sunday) they presented their ideas in front of a panel of investors and entrepreneurs to get additional feedback.  I was really impressed with the progress some of these teams made in their presentations from last night to tonight.  Some of them were awake for close to 60 hours!  I was never one for all nighters.  In fact, I only pulled an all nighter once in my entire undergrad and grad years and it wasn’t even for a class.  It was for some dumb consulting challenge in graduate school where about 1/3 of the night I was laying on the sofa exhausted and annoyed that we were working on something that seemed futile.  I always figured that if by 2 or 3 a.m., I didn’t know the material, I wasn’t going to know it, and I just hoped that the answers would come to me when test time rolled around.  Fortunately, enough them usually did because I wasn’t a crammer and usually paced my studying.

For a more official post on 3DS, check out the ATI blog post at ATI Hosts Spring 3 Day Startup 2010 for Student Entrepreneurs.

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SXSW Interactive Days 2 and 3
Mar 14 2010

Although I didn’t get in too late last night, I figured I’d wait until today and do a post about both days.  For those who know me, I’m usually all about ‘the plan.’  I like to have a plan, know the plan, and resonate with the plan.  Not having a plan heightens my anxiety level above its usual anxious state.  But for SXSW Interactive, I had no real plan other than to show up and see what happens and that’s what I’ve been doing.  To every rule there is an exception and that exception was attending Austin Technology Incubator‘s Entrepreneurial Lounge the last three evenings.  And quite honestly, that event has evolved into the ‘place to be’ for entrepreneurs at SXSW Interactive!  Bart Bohn did a post about the Entrepreneurs Lounge for the ATI blog at  Entrepreneur’s Lounge at SXSW Interactive – March 13, 2010.

I attended a Porter-Novelli (PR firm) event, crashed a Women in Tech Digitini event at the top of the tallest building in Austin, and attended a couple of parties but didn’t stay too late.  I hung out at the blogger’s lounge sponsored by Microsoft with the irony being that 80% of the people in there had iPhones.  At the blogger’s lounge there was a woman giving out free jewelry and she gave me a nice turquoise bracelet from Charming Charlie (there’s a location in Austin’s Domain) that matched the shirt I was wearing.  I’m just not a late night bar hopper kind of person.  Now if there was dancing involved, I’d be more interested.  One party sponsored by Microsoft/TechSet had two women dancing in what looked like black/red lingerie near a guy who was playing the guitar.  Just goes to show you how male dominated the tech industry still is.

Today, I went into a SXSW Film panel where Jeffrey Tambor was giving an acting class.  He and two amateur actors were on stage with him.  He was coaching them through a scene where this man and woman were broken up but the man wanted her to pretend they were still together while they had dinner with his brother.  She refused and he was supposed to try to get her to do it.  It was a marked difference between how they first did the scene and how he pulled out the emotion in them to show the scene in a different more touching way.  The actress, in my opinion, was much better than the actor.  The actor wasn’t convincing when he tried to get her to pretend to stay together.  It was like he was trying to get her to do something more out of fear rather than love and because of that the actress reacted accordingly.  He was so non-believable, no woman would have been convinced by him.  It’s obvious he didn’t feel it.  Jeffrey tried to get him to be more playful to pull out the residual love the actress still felt.  It was a fascinating workshop because I could see how you could apply his same techniques to people management/coaching.

The weather has been gorgeous here.  California weather.  Tonight was especially nice.  I thought briefly about staying out longer but as I was walking back to my car from the convention center, I breathed deep and was glad I was going home to see my kids, do some laundry, have some quiet time to finish writing this post, maybe watch Grey’s Anatomy, and then go to bed.

Only two more days left…

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SXSW Interactive Day 0
Mar 11 2010

This evening I went down to the Austin Convention Center to pick up my badge for South by Southwest Interactive and check out the Big Ass Twitter Happy Hour at Frank Hot Dogs and Cold Beer.    I got the Chicago dog and a cranberry vodka because I don’t drink beer.  The hot dog was pretty good but the drink tasted well nothing like cranberry or vodka.  I got there kind of late and realized that since I’ve been so out of the social media scene this past year and rarely tweeted, that I really didn’t know a whole lot of the new twitter crowd.  There were a few of us early adopters there, and I caught up with them before getting my badge. I thought briefly about going to the Austin High Tech Happy Hour but by the time I drove by where it was, the crowd had thinned so I drove on by and came back home.  It was an early night.

SXSW interactive doesn’t officially start until tomorrow, but they opened registration up tonight and it’s a good thing because the line was already quite long.  So it was an uneventful Day 0.  Tomorrow should be more interesting since I have some business meetings set up for the morning, more people I know would have flown in, the bloggers lounge should be open, and I will get to drink a caipirinha and eat some cheese bread on the roof top of Fogo de Chao (Brazilian Churrascaria), where the Austin Technology Incubator hosts the invite only third annual Entrepreneur’s Lounge.

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