CEA Chief Economist Shares What To Expect at CES 2015 PDF Print E-mail

Hannah Veith

Written by Hannah Veith   

With more than 2 million net square feet of exhibit space, over 160,000 attendees and an entire show floor, awards ceremony, and conference program dedicated to the innovation ecosystem, the International CES® continues to prove why it’s one of the most relevant innovation and technology shows in the world.

This year, NVCA has partnered with CES to provide complimentary conference passes for our members. All NVCA members are invited to attend our VC-only reception at CES on January 6th. To register for CES and our reception, please click here.

We spoke with Shawn DuBravac, Ph.D., Chief Economist at the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)®, the organization behind CES, for his insights on what to expect at CES 2015. He is also the author of CEA’s third book, Digital Destiny: How the New Age of Data Will Transform the Way We Work, Live, and Communicate(Regnery, 2015), which focuses on the massive shifts coming from the digitization of information and human interaction. In Shawn’s role as CEA’s chief economist, he is charged with forecasting and analyzing the technology trends that impact individuals and industries.

NVCA: Technology influences lives at an individual level and through the adoption of technologies on a macro scale by creating efficiencies in industries. What are some of the societal challenges and opportunities created by new technologies?

DuBravac: Technology creates many new challenges while solving others. It shifts our energy to something new. For example, as we move toward self-driving cars, our focus will shift away from the act of driving, or even where we live so we don’t have to drive as far each day. Instead, our focus will shift to working, or eating, or anything else. The challenge will be how we adapt to these new technologies as they shift the way we live our lives. There’s no end to what challenges technology will address.

Venture capital investors play a key role in working with entrepreneurs to grow companies that transform individual lives and the economy as a whole.  At the same time, venture capital – like so many other industries – is driven by human relationships between investors and entrepreneurs. How do you see technologies supporting the human-centered connections that are critical to building and growing businesses? What changes can we expect to see, in the venture industry, in the next twenty years?

Communication has changed significantly as a result of digital technologies, which has an impact on all industries that depend on human interaction and relationships. For example, the medical industry is changing – for the better – to incorporate technologies that enable doctors to interface with patients via mobile devices for diagnosis, check-ups, etc. 

VC is heavily influenced by geography – so we will start to see a shift from VCs who prefer to invest in companies that are geographically close (particularly in early stage) because of the necessary human-centered connection needed in those early stages of building a company. Technology will help remove the physical barrier of distance and open up VCs to more start-ups than ever before. Technology is also changing how we discover things – Kickstarter is a great example. It allows anyone to view new ideas, projects, companies, etc., that previously you would need to have a human connection.

How we look at an investments today will also change. In addition to our knowledge of a product categories and markets, we will be able to use previously unquantifiable metrics (excitement, nervousness, etc.) as a way of assessing entrepreneurs.  If an entrepreneur has a wearable on and their heart rate is being measured for signs of stress, anxiety or nervousness, we can start to quantify the qualities of our entrepreneurs. This will create new challenges and new questions for the venture capital industry.

What trends in consumer technology can we expect to see at CES 2015?

What can we expect not to see?! This year, there’s more to see than ever before. There’s 50 years of history here at CES. In particular, digitization, sensitization and connectivity of diverse companies that people might not have viewed as CES exhibitors historically but now feel the digital world collide with their world. L’Oreal, for example, will be at CES for the first time in 2015. They have not historically been there. Typically, skincare and cosmetics is an “analog” industry, but now their world is immersed in digital. Before, the question used to be “Is it technically possible?” Now it’s “What new technology integration are we adding today?”

What are some must-see stops for NVCA members at CES?

Three things. First, Eureka Park to discover the international breadth of budding entrepreneurs and home-grown innovation from fledgling prototypes to progressing startups, spanning the entire consumer technology spectrum. Second, Marketplaces. And third, of course, serendipity – many people come to CES with a tight agenda. I would advise some time to simply walk around and take in all that CES has to offer. Wander the show floor, check out the startup stage or explore the conference programming.

To that we would add, attending the VCs at CES reception on January 6th!

Last Updated on Friday, 12 December 2014 10:33




View from Ohio on Increasing Diversity in the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   

Based in Independence, Ohio, MainStreet Inclusion Advisors (MSIA) is a national consultancy and entrepreneurial development firm specializing in connecting historically disconnected and underserved populations. Whether entrepreneurs or investors seek deal flow, capital or talent, MSIA focuses on building bridges between minority communities and mainstream communities.  

We connected with Darrin Redus, the President & CEO of MSIA on their strategic initiatives to advance inclusion across the ecosystem. Redus and his organization work at the intersection of job creation, economic development and entrepreneurship. Together they work to bring more minority entrepreneurs and investors into the process of creating high-growth companies that benefit the entire community.

Redus shared the vision behind the mission of MSIA, “At its core, when I unpack the day to day activities of incubators, commercialization offices, and venture capital firms, the work revolves around relationships. When it’s time to call who you normally call to identify new sources of deal flow, you rely on your existing network. What does it take to disrupt every day behaviors in a way that influences long term change? How do you connect mainstream networks with strategically aligned, but disconnected minority organizations to bring them into mainstream networks? If the day to day relationships don’t change, then the outputs of the ecosystem won’t change either.  We want to increase deal flow, access to capital, talent and growth.”

At NVCA we share in the belief that attracting the best people to work on the most promising ideas means ensuring that talented men and women of diverse backgrounds have the opportunity to build companies. We launched the NVCA Diversity Task Force to contribute to the all-hands-on-deck effort of implementing real solutions to achieve the goal of greater inclusion.  

To join the dialogue on entrepreneurship and inclusion, NVCA invites you to participate in MSIA’s webinar on December 15 focused on high growth entrepreneurship and its support structures. The discussion will review the strategies and policies that must be reexamined to produce a stronger, more diverse entrepreneurial ecosystem.  Register here

Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 December 2014 09:09




Global Entrepreneurship Week: Social Innovation in the City of Gaudi PDF Print E-mail

Jessica Straus

Written by Jessica Straus   

As part of our series featuring leaders in innovation during Global Entrepreneurship Week, we spoke with Eric Hauck, the Director of Impact Hub in Barcelona, Spain. Impact Hub is a global network of social innovation incubators with 7,000 members in more than 60 cities worldwide. In Barcelona, the Impact Hub is based in the Plaza Real amid the city’s historic gothic quarter, which is the cultural heart of one of the world’s most visited destinations.  

For a city known for its architecture, food, art, and its fierce political and cultural independence, Hauck provided his perspective on the global events over the past two decades that have shaped Barcelona into something new — a center for social impact and entrepreneurship. As Hauck explained, “In the last weeks and months, many people from Berlin, San Francisco, London, Singapore — cities that are more developed in terms of social impact ventures — are turning their heads toward Barcelona. Barcelona is a good place to seed a startup, because we have a creative atmosphere that creates a kind of color that attracts social innovators.”

In many ways, the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona catalyzed the city's status as a world-class cultural center and destination. The wide-scale development of new infrastructure for the Games enabled the city to begin welcoming more visitors, a figure that now stands at over seven million visitors annually. For Hauck, the Olympics as a force for cultural understanding, collaboration and impact looms large – a precursor for modern day global organizations like Impact Hub. 

Eric Hauck at Impact Hub Barcelona

The new leadership of the Generalitat, the government of Calatonia, has also helped to develop a flourishing social innovation ecosystem by making it a key priority. Public institutions in Barcelona provide seed funding to early-stage ventures and have been a convener of entrepreneurs. Social innovation in Barcelona traces its roots back to the first-ever Universal Forum of Cultures Barcelona in 2004. Hosted by the Spanish Government and UNESCO,  convening hundreds from around the world to address the linkage between sustainability, culture and peace. Despite the elevated attention and powerful partners behind the event, in Hauck’s estimation it was a philanthropic vision that came too early and was not well understood in Barcelona. One key legacy of the Forum was that it produced to the first group of social impact incubators. Copperfield, a social impact incubator founded by Hauck, emerged from this event.

Hauck spent his early career as a journalist, serving as a foreign correspondent in Sarajevo during the Siege. Reporting on the destruction of Sarajevo – a sister Olympic city with a vibrant, cosmopolitan culture reminiscent of Barcelona – was a pivotal experience for Hauck that developed his sense of his ability to have a positive impact amid horrific tragedy. After the Siege, Hauck stayed to lead aspects of the reconstruction effort to revive Sarajevo’s social and cultures institutions, employing a strategy focused on corporate partnerships and global collaboration that would become a blueprint for much of his future work in Barcelona.  His team established a formal link between the Sarajevo and Barcelona by having the war-torn city declared the 11th neighborhood of Catalonia’s capital city – a relationship that remains in place. In Barcelona, Hauck has played a key role in fomenting the social innovation movement and more importantly, has been instrumental in integrating the concept of social impact into mainstream thinking.

He strongly believes the venture capital community should be involved in social innovation. Even if venture capital firms don’t fund projects, the mentorship of venture capitalists can help social impact companies on the whole grow into a sector with reliable business models. To that end, Impact Hub Barcelona has developed relationships with U.S. VCs  to help Barcelona companies reach the North American market. They have developed a three-month program to incubate Barcelona companies in the U.S. and to teach Spanish entrepreneurs how to market to North American customers.  

Impact Hub knows it has started to succeed, in part, because multinational corporations now approach them to explore ways they can tackle environmental sustainability and affect real change. In Barcelona, the critical social issues include youth employment, low income housing, and building a sustainable tourist industry. Entrepreneurs at the Impact Hub are tackling these issues one by one. We specifically spoke about tourism, as Hauck explained, “Sixty million tourists visit Spain every year and spend at least one night in Catalunya. We would like to create a culture to integrate tourists and welcome them as temporary citizens. We want to offer them real things, real experiences so that Barcelona doesn’t simply become a theme park.” Giving tourists the experience of Barcelona as a place, rather than a tourist destination, will change their experience of the city, educate visitors about social innovation in Barcelona, and, of course bring them back.

To do this, Barcelonans are looking toward the sky — they are reconquering the rooftops. Impact Hub, which has a large rooftop, is teaming up with the Barcelona Rooftop Association to open to the public 3 million square meters of rooftop for cultural events and initiatives. Musicians, artists, entrepreneurs, students, and importantly, tourists hanging out in the Plaza Real will be invited up to join.  Hauck said, “We want to convince those outside of our community of the value not only of social impact, but to bring them here and treat them as citizens of Barcelona. Back home, they have their own ecosystems. But if they are simply passing through Barcelona, they won’t take the opportunity to join us. We want to create opportunities for them to contribute to our movement and to be part of our ecosystem.”

Last Updated on Monday, 24 November 2014 14:25




President Obama's Executive Order on Immigration Benefits Innovators PDF Print E-mail

Emily Baker

Written by Emily Baker   

Last night President Obama announced his executive action to fix the nation’s broken immigration system. Key provisions of the Executive Order benefit the innovation ecosystem and represent a victory for NVCA.  Here is a short recap of the provisions that relate to high-skilled immigrant entrepreneurs, the venture capital industry and why this is such an important achievement for NVCA.

Immigration reform has been a top priority for NVCA for more than a decade and we have been working on the Startup Visa for more than four years.  The original concept of the Startup Visa, developed by Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Jared Polis (D-CO), aimed to provide immigrant entrepreneurs with the ability to raise angel or venture capital and build their businesses in the U.S.  Former NVCA board members Jason Mendelson (Foundry Group), Deepak Kamra (Canaan Partners), Keith Crandell (Arch Ventures), Ray Rothrock (formerly of Venrock) as well as NVCA members Jeff Bussgang (Flybridge Capital) and Shervin Pishevar (formerly of Menlo Ventures) have all testified before Congress on the importance of providing visas to entrepreneurs who receive venture capital so that they can build their businesses in the U.S.

The Executive Order expands opportunities for foreign entrepreneurs who receive venture capital (or angel investment) and meet other criteria such as job creation and revenue generation.  Achieving these milestones will allow the entrepreneur to stay in the U.S. and, if successful, be on a pathway to getting a green card.  Importantly, this visa program is uncapped and entrepreneurs can remain in the U.S. for an unlimited amount of time as they grow their business.

The Executive Order does not specify the details of the Startup Visa.  Instead it calls for the appropriate federal agency to provide guidelines and rulemaking on the specifics.  Because NVCA has been working with lawmakers and officials at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for so long on this issue, we believe that the criteria around this visa are well-defined, even if they are not public at this time.  In the case of the Startup Visa, we anticipate that the entrepreneur will have to raise a certain amount of capital and create a certain number of jobs in order to be eligible.  The inclusion of the Startup Visa in the Executive Order is a tremendous success, but doesn’t negate the need for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform that becomes the law of the land.

The Obama Administration will now turn its attention to defining the regulatory terms of the Executive Order over the next 120 days.  NVCA has already been in discussions with the White House and DHS to ensure that the rules for these visas are written in such a way that they achieve the intended results for the startup community.  In the weeks and months ahead, we will continue working with the Administration on the regulatory front and Congress on the legislative front.

Today, Bobby Franklin, NVCA President and CEO, discussed the positive impact of the provisions included in the Executive Order that benefit the innovation ecosystem on CNBC’s Squawk Alley. Watch the interview.

We encourage members of NVCA to join in sharing their support for the provisions of the Executive Order that increase access to visas for foreign-born entrepreneurs.  Whether you write a blog post, discuss on social media, or in conversations with reporters, we ask for your contributions to make clear that the inclusion of the Startup Visa is a win for innovation, job creation and economic growth in the U.S.  There is broad bipartisan support in Congress and the White House for the high-skilled immigration provisions in the Executive Order and we want to demonstrate our support for these provisions to be included in any legislative effort. Please share your contributions with NVCA on Twitter at @NVCA. 

Last Updated on Friday, 21 November 2014 16:49




Global Entrepreneurship Week: Catalyzer Accelerator Helps Entrepreneurs Seize Opportunities Hyderabad PDF Print E-mail

Jessica Straus

Written by Jessica Straus   

Catalyzer 1

In our second series of interviews in support of Global Entrepreneurship Week, we connected with Dr. Madhulika, Co-Founder & Director of Catalyzer Startup Accelerator in Hyderabad, India. The Catalyzer team works with prospective entrepreneurs through a mentorship-driven startup accelerator program based on systems theory to facilitate accelerated learning through appropriate research methodology and data analysis.

Catalyzer accepts startup teams with innovative ideas and helps them grow by providing access to seed funding, office space, mentors (who themselves are successful entrepreneurs), academia and investors—all resources startups might otherwise struggle to find. The team has launched three initiatives as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week including the Chai, Biscuit & Startup Bi-monthly Startup community gathering, Startup 3 for three days free workshop for prospective startup founders and Entrepreneurship for Students, which includes free workshops and mentoring support for students.

In our conversation with Dr. Madhulika, she spoke about the importance of exposing young minds to entrepreneurship, the cultural factors that shape Hyderabad’s startup ecosystem, and the government’s renewed focus on policies to spur innovation.

Why is Catalyzer participating in Global Entrepreneurship Week?

Catalyzer is committed to the development of entrepreneurial ecosystems through outreach and awareness programs. Global Entrepreneurship Week is a great opportunity to consolidate the outreach work at Catalyzer in tandem with thousands of people across the world. Awareness and outreach programs carry more weight and impact when a common purpose and agenda are linked to them; we at Catalyzer feel Global Entrepreneurship Week is one such opportunity.

Our events for GEW 2014 are aimed at the youth with workshops on “Introduction to Entrepreneurship” for high School and college students. We are also actively engaged in mentoring students throughout the week and beyond.

With Catalyzer’s location in Hyderabad, one of the largest cities in India, home to several academic institutions, including the Indian School of Business, and a diverse economy, how does the environment support entrepreneurship and the work of Catalyzer?

The environment provides us access to human resources, relative low cost of operations are an added plus, and the city is an IT hub so connectivity is not an issue. The diverse economy provides a fertile ground for customer development and also finding the right resources for product development.

Imagine you were speaking with an entrepreneur from another country who was applying to Catalyzer to launch their business locally, what are the main advantages and/or disadvantages of starting a company in Hyderabad?

Like any other place in the world, the socio cultural factors play a key role when starting a company in Hyderabad. The advantages being ease of finding and recruiting human resources in technology, relative low cost of operations, ease of connecting in a major IT hub. The local culture is very risk averse and job oriented, so even though opportunities are many, there are very few individuals geared towards entrepreneurship. But, this situation becomes an advantage for an outsider because the market is very huge and local interest in entrepreneurship very negligible.

However, the disadvantages are also equally compelling. The local population is very skeptical of changes and new ideas. Networking and connections form the backbone of entrepreneurship in Hyderabad, these aspects maybe a hindrance for the outsider. An association with a local group or body is almost a necessity to start a new venture in Hyderabad.

In terms of growth strategy, does Catalyzer encourage its entrepreneurs to bootstrap their companies or raise outside private capital or to explore non-traditional capital sources, like crowdfunding?

At Catalyzer, we conduct a needs assessment for our startups at every stage and depending on their product development cycle and customer development process startups are encouraged to boot strap or raise private capital or explore nontraditional sources of funding. We believe different solutions are required for different problems; one solution does not fit every body’s needs and requirements.

Governments play a key role in the decisions of investors and entrepreneurs. Tell us more about how the government has impacted innovation in India in the past, and under the new leadership of Prime Minister Modi, what you hope to see happen with government policy in the coming years.

While governments in the past have been supportive of entrepreneurship, the efforts were scattered and not aligned together. We are hopeful that in the coming years we will be able to see a much more consolidated and concentrated approach towards encouraging entrepreneurship with a stronger focus on engaging youth in entrepreneurial activities. Support and encouragement should also be coupled with awareness about innovation, creativity and knowledge construction and management.

Looking ahead 10 years, what does Catalyzer hope to have accomplished?

Catalyzer aims to have constructed a self-sustainable startup commune in the next 10 years. Catalyzer was started by entrepreneurs with a passion for sharing their know-how, skills and expertise with startups. In a world ridden with cut throat competition and negativity, Catalyzer is a sincere attempt to bring people together to form a commune and help each other build and share wealth; be it social or financial wealth. Catalyzer is a startup commune for entrepreneurs built with commitment and a vision to be a launch pad for startups. 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 November 2014 09:30




Global Entrepreneurship Week: Entrepreneurial Opportunities Abound in Durban PDF Print E-mail

Jessica Straus

Written by Jessica Straus   

As part of Global Entrepreneurship Week, our team at NVCA connected with leaders in innovation ecosystems around the world.  In the first of our series of interviews, we spoke with Nkululeko Mthembu, the founder of the Durban Innovation Hub in Durban, South Africa. Durban, a city of over three million people and home to the country’s largest port, has a diverse economy driven by trade, industry and the presence of multinational corporations.


Durban Innovation Hub 1Mthembu founded the organization with the vision to foster entrepreneurship throughout Durban through collaboration, connection, education and mentorship. Whether they are connecting first-time entrepreneurs with experienced industry players, convening events like the monthly Hook Up Dinners to give entrepreneurs the opportunity to break bread and pitch each other, or hosting seminars on Lean Startup methodology, Mthembu, aptly known as “The Head Honcho,” is creating space for entrepreneurs to learn and create. Why the focus on connection? As Mthembu told us, “The entrepreneurial journey is long and very lonely, so we put together spaces and clusters and little hives where entrepreneurs can meet.”

The collective work of the Durban Innovation Hub, many other incubators, corporations and government entities, like the National Youth Development Agency seems to be having an impact. Every year, in partnership with Deloitte, NVCA surveys 300 venture capital investors to measure their confidence in investing in startups around the world as part of our Global Venture Capital Confidence Survey. In 2014, confidence in growth prospects of South African startups increased among investors in the U.S., Brazil, China and Japan.

Mthembu and his team know firsthand the reasons to be confident in South African startups. He pointed to the huge opportunities that exist. In addition to having the largest port, Durban has the most land mass in the country, advanced agricultural and industrial ecosystems, and multinational corporations right in their backyard. Many universities have dedicated research and development initiatives focused on innovation across the value chain of agribusiness, including improving crop development and developing alternative energies.  In addition, compared to other economies, there is very little red tape coming from the government, so it can be easy to get things done.

However, the challenge remains to educate more people about the concept of entrepreneurship and creating an ecosystem that will attract international talent at a time when many workers leave for Johannesburg, Capetown and the UK. Amid a fertile environment for potential corporate partnerships, job opportunities to build technical skills, Durban can be very silo-ed. Durban Innovation Hub wants to break down the barriers hindering innovation.

In Durban, Mthembu believes the pathway to success will come from tapping into the structures that already exist, and in order to do so, collaboration is needed. Durban Innovation Hub has formed partnerships that benefit the rising generation – working with student entrepreneurs in their teens, on up. The Hub has partnered with a local college to offer free coding classes, developed relationships with successful entrepreneurs to provide mentorship, and is working to leverage corporate resources.

As the Durban Innovation Hub team pointed out, everyone in Durban brings a competitive spirit to the ecosystem.  When companies seek to raise outside capital, the team strongly encourages bootstrapping. They believe bootstrapping builds out the character of the entrepreneur, their ability to think and enhances their natural inclination toward competition. Once an enterprise has developed its business model, entrepreneurs in Durban may turn to crowdfunding through South African crowdfunding platform Thundafund or other similar services.

Often, the best motivation can come from the heroes of innovation.  When we asked aspiring entrepreneurs in Durban who they admire most, they immediately named Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and South Africa’s own Elon Musk as their most iconic figures. Mark Shuttleworth, one of South Africa’s most revered entrepreneurs and the first citizen to travel to space, looms large as well. All the role models play a huge role in shaping South Africa, and their perceptions of what is possible.

Looking ahead 10 years, we asked what the Durban Innovation Hub hopes to have accomplished. Mthembu and his team listed off several milestones they are working toward. By 2024, the Hub hopes to have contributed 10% growth of the local economy, convened over one million minds, built R&D facilities, attracted foreign direct investment from international players, created an enabling environment for entrepreneurs, and increased interconnectedness with the global communities by 5 percent. With their track record in Durban and a clear roadmap, they are well on their way. 



Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 November 2014 09:10
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