Feb. 28, 2007 SDF Entrepreneur Week

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On Wednesday Feb 28, 2007 at the Martin Luther King Library, SDForum and San Jose State University hosted an event on Entrepreneurship in the Global Economy. Speakers were San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, IBM’s Gina Poole and Roamware’s Kevin Nix.

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Mayor Chuck Reed talked about the unique position of San Jose and Silicon Valley in the global economy. Many entrepreneurs in here are immigrants willing to take a chance on the American Dream. He wants the city to continue to be the destination for creating new business and technology. It shouldn’t matter who you are or where you are from, you should be able to start over here and build a future. The results so far have been spectacular. Much innovation in the global economy originated here.

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Gina Poole, IBM’s VP for Innovation and University Relations, thinks innovation is about creating value from an invention. She sees opportunities in improving business processes. IBM takes a longer view of the big picture. She talked about the global historical demographic shift in the percentage of people from working in agricultural or manufacturing to service industries. A service is a non-durable good. Anything you can’t drop on your foot is a service. The technology jobs working in isolated labs will be replaced with jobs requiring interaction with customers. She advised students to broaden their studies beyond simply mastering technology to understanding business processes and people skills.

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Kevin Nix, previously known for his breakout work at Siebel Systems is now going full steam ahead with Roamware. His company supplies value added services to over 200 million cell phone customers in over a 100 countries. Cell phone companies are constantly looking for a killer app that will run on their phones for extra revenue. If you can develop that application, you can offer them a piece of the revenue stream and still make money.

Nix gave great advice on starting a company and getting past revenue barriers. Making plans is a good idea, but your plans will always change. It is most important to execute, to do the things you said you would do. Customers want that above all.

The first 10 million dollars is easy because your company is small enough and your product is for a specific audience. Challenges are greater getting past 100 million, because you may have too many products or can no longer customize for customers. You must get control of your business processes and get repeatable success with every customer. To get to one billion, you must worry about becoming a commodity in the global marketplace. One solution is to find out and focus on your core competency. If you make widgets, don’t buy an airline, become the market leader in widgets. It’s not worth it to be number two or three in a market. As for running a global company, he thinks San Jose is the place to headquartered if you want to be taken seriously as a technology company. It is the place to develop the personal networks with venture capitalists, technologists and entrepreneurs. You must be here to succeed here.

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Among the people who helped organize this event at were SDForum’s Randa AbuZayyad, IBM’s Pasha Ray, and SJSU’s College of Business Anu Basu.

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I ran into two bright young SJSU MBA students researching why and how organizations successfully promote innovation and entrepreneurship. If you see Sabrina Ho or Hein Hoang at one of these events, give them a big welcome. I’d be fascinated to hear their findings.

Copyright 2007 DJ Cline All rights reserved.