PhD-Plus Course @ UniPi

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Apr 4
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Would you hire yourself?

The first exercise in the program is to answer the following questions and be prepared to introduce yourself to others who share an entrepreneurial aspiration.

Who are you?

Where did you come from?

What is your business concept?

Why are you the best 1st person to hire?

How will you start the business?

When will it need a team?

Will it change the world?

If the above questions are not clear to you don’t worry, think about the answers, make something up to start with even if you are not comfortable with the answers, them try them out on others you know to see how they react.  Use the feedback to refine your answers until you feel more confident with them.  Then realize that these will change as you discover you entrepreneurial path.

If you do not yet have a business concept then find an existing business you like and try and replicate it for now.   Use your current competencies as the area to focus on first.

The remaining sessions will build upon this basis in self-understanding.

Apr 4
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Causes of Failure

This website does research on failure and its causes, they also have a chart with the results of failure.  It is worth studying failure, how to recognize, overcome it, and prevent it where possible.   

Apr 4
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Making Meaning

John Doeer talk on making meaning at Stanford.  He is one of the leading Venture Capitalist in Silicon Valley.  He has a personal bias that may come from his Buddhist beliefs, nonetheless it is interesting to hear what he lots for in founders.  It is not what one would think.


Apr 4
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The Importance of Self-Assessment and Self-Reflection

By Jeff Cornwall on October 28, 2004

Here are some of the questions all active entrepreneurs should think.

What gets you excited, gives you energy, and motivates you to excel?
What do you like to do with your time?
What drains energy from you in your work and in your personal relationships?
How do you measure success in your personal life?
What do you consider success in your business/career?
What are your specific goals for your personal life?
What are your goals for your business/career, including income, wealth, recognition and impact on your community?
What do you want to be doing in one year? In five years? In ten years? At retirement?

What are the major reasons you want to start a business?

How many hours are you willing and able to put into your new venture?
How would you describe your tolerance for uncertainty and risk?
Do you easily trust other people working with you on a common activity? Why or why not?
How much financial risk are you willing to take with your new venture (personal assets, personal debt, etc.)?
Assume you decide not to start your business. A short time later, you see that someone has started the same business and is doing well. How would you feel? Why?
What are the non-financial risks for you in starting a new business?
How do you react to failure?
How do you react in times of personal stress? How do you deal with stress in your life?
How much income do you need with your current lifestyle?
How long could you survive without a paycheck?
How much money do you have available to start your business?
Which of your personal assets would you be willing to borrow against, or sell, to start your business? 
Whose support (non-financial) is important for you to have before starting your business (family, spouse, etc.)?

Apr 5
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PEST Analysis

This is one of several ways of looking a business concept and understanding all the implications.  It asked to view it from various perspectives, Political, Economic, Societal, and Technical.

Apr 5
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Empathy Map

For information on how to apply an Empathy Map to your business concept see this link.  Humanize the customer, what and observe.

Apr 7
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Porters describes the Five Forces model he promotes as one way to understand the industry forces.   A basic understanding of these forces can help make a quick assessment of a business concept and uncover the landscape of issues one may need to research.  The video is promoting the concept and not explaining it but it is enough to get the basic idea.

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Research in Italy, Land of Hidden Gems

How and Where to Invest in Italian Scientific and Technological Excellence: Spin-offs and Start-ups for VCs and Corporate VC.

- Italian main innovation and research “incubators”: technology parks, research centers and universities. They host researchers and therefore ideas, functioning as innovation accelerators and fostering the formation of spin offs and start-ups. In this section, a special attention will be given to Technology Parks and Business Incubators, able to create a dynamic interaction among companies, research, finance and the authorities, thus contributing to the creation of a growth oriented business environment.

- Spin offs and Start ups: a growing number of spin offs and start ups are being created in Italy as a sign that entrepreneurship among scientists and researchers is increasing. In the last few years more than 700 start ups were created. This report provides VCs and investors willing to explore this “hidden treasure” with a list of 25 among the most innovative Italian companies.

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Eurobarometer Survey on Entrepreneurship

The survey on entrepreneurship is about peoples’ entrepreneurial mindset. It examines the motivation, choices, experiences and obstacles linked to self-employment.

Men generally express a stronger preference for self–employment (51%) than women (39%) and young people are more inclined to start a business than older citizens. A good education promotes the desire for self-employment as does living in an urban area. The occupation of the parents is another strong indicator for the occupational preferences of the children. Of those whose one of parents were self-employed 56% would like to be self-employed too. Where both parents were employees only 42% of the children declare a preference for self-employment.

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Industry Cluster Specialization

Article on Innovation clusters and how they increase productivity and efficiency.  This is important for any startup to understand so that they are located in the regions where they have access to others within the clusters to help form the relationships needed to work with suppliers and buyers.  Proximity matters, starting a company in the an area where access to the necessary relationship will present a greater challenge they locating where the activity is.

This is also true for information products and is the reason why NYC and Silicon Valley exist as innovation clusters.   It takes certain conditions for this to occur in a region and over the course of many years.

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Making Sense of Clusters: Regional Competitiveness and Economic Development

 An industry cluster is a group of firms, and related economic actors and institutions, that are located near one another and that draw productive advantage from their mutual proximity and connections. Cluster analysis can help diagnose a region’s economic strengths and challenges and identify realistic ways to shape the region’s economic future.

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Business Culture - Italy

The site has a profile of business culture for many countries.  Look up Italy and see if it matches your experience.  They state many assumptions about how Italian business works and what are the preferences.  Do you recognize any of these in your own behavior?  How might you expand your experiences to be better prepared to work globally across cultures so that you can enroll resources from the anywhere?

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Clay Shirky talks about “cognitive surplus”, what can your business do to tap into this abundance of human capacity to crowd source work?   People are the most expensive resource for many businesses but they can also be the cheapest if you can figure out a business model that harnesses work capacity that is mutually beneficial to the person doing the task as well as the company providing the task.  Look up CATPCHA as one example of how a company solves a hard problem by using Human computation.

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Technical Consulting

Several researchers in the UniPi PhD Plus program have asked about starting a consulting business based on the expertise they have.   This is a good way to bootstrap and company but it requires that you expand your skill to include managing client expectations.  You still need a business model and understand your customers.  A consulting business is a services business and therefore isn’t much different than starting any company.  Read the article link to get a few tips on what makes a good technical consultant.

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BarCamp events, the unconference

BarCamp is an international network of user-generated conferences. They are open, participatory workshop-events, whose content is provided by participants.   It has a few simple rules, everyone needs to be an active participant, no passive spectators please.

The participants in the UniPi PhD Plus program should consider organizing one of these types of events to continue the presentations, evolve the business concepts, and get feedback from the group.  These events have surprising outcomes where people can find hybrids that cross domains and new innovations might emerge that would otherwise not happen.

We have a broad range of researchers, from fMRI to Soil to Remote Sensing systems to Journalist to sport video to green software and everything in between.  It is a rich and diverse set of ideas and experiences to draw upon.