Monthly Archives: September 2014

Week Five Reading Reflections

For this week, in addition to the Facebook post assignment I mentioned in class:

How do you think you might go about deciding what goes into an MVP?

How do you think you could apply basic entrepreneurial principles such as those we discussed and you read about in an established media organization?

Name one other thing you found interesting or relevant from the readings.

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Entrepreneurial Landscape in Athens, Georgia

By Nicholas Beshiri

A small college town an hour outside of Atlanta, Georgia, Athens has a great entrepreneurial landscape. Having the University of Georgia present brings people from all walks of life with new ideas and plans to start their own businesses.

Researching UGA, I found that they do a great deal to help the landscape, the main contributor being the Entrepreneurship & Innovation Club. This club is run through the Terry School of Business and offers great opportunities throughout the year. The club offers monthly “Lunch and Learns,” which give students the opportunity to collaborate with one another and hear successful entrepreneurs from around the state speak. They also participate in Venture Atlanta, which is the largest event for entrepreneurs and venture capitalists in the state, as well as the Silicon Valley Trek each spring, which gives students the opportunity to meet experienced venture capitalists and entrepreneurs and tour large companies in the valley such as Google.

Athens also has its own local tech incubator, Four Athens. Their mission statement reads, “Four Athens was formed to discover startups, build community, connect creativity, accelerate growth and invest in success.” Four Athens is very well respected throughout the community and has helped many local businesses with branding problems like Hackyard, a  computer hardware startup, and Partner Software, a software and app developer. Four Athens has also partnered with organizations like Next Top Entrepreneur and Athensmade, in order to seek out upcoming entrepreneurs and help their ideas come to life.

Overall I believe that Athens, Georgia has a very strong entrepreneurial landscape that will continue to grow in the future.

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Entrepreneurial Landscape in West Memphis, Arkansas

By Shelby Jo Fenter

I recently finished my undergraduate degree at The University of Mississippi and returned to my hometown of West Memphis, AR, in May of 2014.  I immediately began working for my brothers company, Fenter Physical Therapy, doing marketing and public relations.

Through this experience, I have attended many events within the community and been exposed to our “entrepreneurial scene.”  Our local Chamber of Commerce recently had a workshop, “Saving Your Small Town: Homegrown Community and Economic Development.”  This event brought in speakers to discuss entrepreneurship in our area. The first thing I noticed about our entrepreneurial scene is that our people are very eager. There were about 50 people at the workshop, anxious to engage and learn about ideas for our community.

A focal point of the workshop was youth entrepreneurship.  They strongly encouraged older, wiser business people to find a youth and mentor them through their entrepreneurial experience. Funding opportunities for young kids excites them.The kids begin to make a little money and then they progress to get their friends involved. Our local community college, Mid-South Community College, has had several speakers on this topic.  They are continually finding ways to get young kids involved in business opportunities.  The have also developed a very popular BOSS club, Business Opportunities for Student Success.  Youth entrepreneurship is on the rise in our area.

Each week our Chamber also partners with a different business within our community to host Business After Hours.   This is a more relaxed environment for business owners.The majority of business owners routinely come to events such as these to network and support one another. I am very impressed with our local Chamber of Commerce.

Another example of progressive entrepreneurship within our area is our local arts council’s “Carnival” production.  Each summee, Delta Arts broadcasts a televised auction. Businesses sponsor a board and auction off local services and products. The local Junior Auxiliary volunteers their time to answer phone calls and bids. I have participated in this event for the past five years. It is an awesome model of our community, encouraging our citizens to shop local.

One issue that I have realized is that being so close to Memphis is a blessing and a curse. The goal of developing a product or service on this side of the bridge is very present. However, we have to find more ways to encourage people to spend a little more money using local services rather than taking their business to bigger, maybe cheaper companies in Memphis.

Essentially, I believe that our community is heading in the right direction with our entrepreneurial scene.  It is very active and present and continually looking for ways to improve.

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Entrepreneurial Landscape in Houston

By Kimberly Exford

The entrepreneurial landscape in Houston is absolutely booming. According to the University of Houston website, as of 2013 more than 3,500 of its alumni own or run a business, and 63 percent of all alumni live and work in the city of Houston. The university works very hard to foster and reward the entrepreneurial drive of its students and offers a variety of opportunities to those who wish to take advantage of them. Maybe the most important tool that the students have is access to the Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship at the C. T. Bauer College of Business, ranked #2 on The Princeton Review’s 2013 list of leading undergraduate entrepreneurship programs in the U.S. Entrepreneur magazine.

Within this college, they offer the following:

  • Cougar Pitch – A way for students that already have ideas to pitch them to a panel of business experts who will tell them if the idea is a good one or not. Top winners earn cash and prizes, including free work space, and mentoring sessions with the Wolff Center’s associate director.
  • 3 Day StartupPprogram- this program challenges students to start a technology company in just three days. The program recruits 40 students from all backgrounds and provides them with a work space and food for the entire weekend. Then they invite top-notch entrepreneurs and investors to then judge the prototypes at the end.
  • RED Labs – This program takes teams of students with good ideas and provides them a space on campus and connects them to relevant mentors and resources to help them grow companies that will help solve a need in the community.
  • U of H also offers an Entrepreneurship for Engineers class as well as an Intellectual Property and Entrepreneurism series for engineering faculty and staff.

Rice University also has the Rice Alliance, which has assisted in the launch of more than 250 startups since its inception only 14 years ago. They offer an annual business plan competition that helps to get new businesses started.

Outside of the university, the city offers a few tools for its residents. The Houston Entrepreneur’s Forum was organized in 1985 and meets the last Tuesday of every month. It provides opportunities to network with others but also to hear successful entrepreneurs share their experiences.

Houston has a huge oil and gas industry, and thus, it didn’t suffer as much as many other cities during the recent recession. With its longstanding history as an energy hub, it is not surprising that a good deal of its startup activity is focused on energy services and clean energy. The wealth created by this industry has bubbled over to others, including education, the arts and healthcare. In addition, The Texas Medical Center is the largest medical center in the world, and is a hub for research and healthcare ventures.

As far as funding is concerned, Houston has a few options: The Mercury Fund, focusing solely on seed and early stage ventures, and the Houston Angel Network (the largest in the state) providing options for members and sponsors.

With Houston’s cultural diversity, relatively low cost-of-living, and favorable tax environment, it is a prime spot for people to settle when they are considering a startup.

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Week Four Reading Questions: Organizational Change

Describe, briefly, one reason organizational change is challenging.

Give an example of dysfunctional or at least “less optimal” forms of leadership and how they can negatively affect an organization’s ability to innovate.

Anything else you found interesting or relevant, feel free to share!

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Cookeville Tennesee Startup Scene

By Lori Shull

For a small town in a relatively isolated region of Tennessee, the entrepreneurial landscape in Cookeville is more dynamic than might be expected, though it is hardly cutting-edge.

Probably in large part due to the presence of an engineering-focused university with a strong business school, the environment seems to be becoming more friendly to people who want to start a business of their own.

 A change in leadership at Tennessee Tech University has resulted in a greater focus on creativity and the entrepreneurial mindset. Though the university for years has had a Tennessee Small Business Development Center, which offers free and confidential business counseling and seminars on social media marketing, entrepreneurship and start-up finances, it also is building more partnerships with area incubators. The positions of vice president of research and economic development was recently created and the first person to hold the position is actively working to bring new industry to the area, especially by using his connections in India and Birmingham, Alabama.

The university also recently opened a Center for Healthcare Informatics, which is developing new ways to analyze and find connections in healthcare data and to create and spin-off new businesses. One, Cumberland Health Analytics, is already up and running. The university is also in the process of setting up a Rural Policy Institute, which may have an interest in rural economic development.

Outside of the university, the community has other initiatives, some of which have been around for several years, to help bring business back to Cookeville and the surrounding region.

CityScape is a downtown redevelopment initiative that gives grants to businesses in the downtown Cookeville area and helps to keep the streets attractive and friendly through a variety of annual events that double as fundraisers, including installing street lamps and parking signs. It has been around since the 1990s, and in the three years I have lived in Cookeville, I have seen many vacant storefronts reopen in the area CityScape is most active.

The BizFoundry is a start-up incubator that opened within the past two years. It partners with a variety of organizations, including the university, to offer a short-term, intensive boot camp to help would-be entrepreneurs write a solid business plan and build a decent product. It also has a co-working space to allow entrepreneurs to work in a space that is lower cost than setting up their own office space immediately. This is an idea that is taking off nationally.

There is also an organization called Leadership Putnam, which invites people who are gaining prominence in the small town to a series of seminars. It seems to be mostly a networking opportunity.

Many of the entrepreneurs in Cookeville are part of the service industry: there are many florists, salons, restaurants, boutiques and small gyms, especially with a focus on Cross Fit. There are also some engineering and architecture firms and medical offices. There do not seem to be many that are focused on technology.

The media environment in Cookeville is fairly weak and though there are a few entrepreneurs active, they do not seem to be highly profitable and are focused on using the old media model. There are two or three magazines that opened within the last few years. One is based on the culture of the region and I know that several on its small staff are actively looking for other jobs. The other publishes two biannual magazines based on wedding planning and raising a family in the area. Those two publications are run by a photographer and graphic design company and used primarily as a marketing tool. The publications are available free and is supported exclusively by advertising.

Cookeville, especially its chamber of commerce and the university, seem to be more focused on bringing industry to the region. Cookeville has a long industrial past, and when the factories left 15-20 years ago, it took a toll on the region. With the creation of a business park, the region seems committed to bringing that past back to life. Recently, TTI Floor Care, which makes vacuums, announced an expansion to the Cookeville plant that is forecasted to create more than 200 jobs. Academy Sports and Outdoors also announced this summer that it would bring a distribution center to the park, creating more than 700 jobs in the course of the next eight to 10 years.

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Legacy Media Case Study Assignment Due 9/16

Choose a traditional media organization (PR firm, news organization, ad agency, etc.). What has this organization’s response been to the changing media landscape? Do some research, and if possible (STRONGLY recommended), interview somebody from that organization, and ask them what lessons they have learned as they work to adapt.  What kinds of opportunities did they take…or miss…. to grow audience or build new revenue? What specific challenges did they face? This does not have to be comprehensive, but will hopefully get you thinking.  Due next class and be prepared to discuss.

Email this to me as a Word Doc. Please feel free, and indeed you are encouraged, to embed links as relevant.

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Week Three Readings

Easy question for this week since you are working on the legacy media case studies. Just tell me one thing you found interesting or relevant about the readings for this week.



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Assignment: Survey Your Entrepreneurial Landscape

For next week, do a little research on the entrepreneurial “scene” in your community. You can search the web, make some phone calls, and/or see what kinds of info your local library might have. What kinds of resources are available in your community to support entrepreneurship? Is the entrepreneurial community in your town known for anything in particular? Do they regularly host events, offer opportunities to pitch investors, etc? Any examples of especially successful startups? Write up a brief blog post about what you learned to share with the class.

You can email these to me and I will post them on the blog as their own posts. Makes it easier to read. 

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Questions on Readings Week Two 9/2

Please answer the following questions in a comment on this post before our next class on 9/8:

1. As succinctly as you can, describe your key takeaway from Paul Graham’s piece on how to get startup ideas.

2. What do you think about Clay Shirky’s argument about the new news environment? Do you agree?

3. Describe a way in which you might use design thinking techniques in your current or future work

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