Monday, December 24, 2012

What Next? 2013 Musings.

Merry Christmas everyone; Happy Holidays. Here’s hoping the New Year brings you all that you hope for and more. I for one, generally spend the week between Christmas and the new year spending a lot of time thinking about what novel wonders will come our way. What trends will entrepreneurs capitalize upon and where will the next breakthrough idea come from?

Just think about the past few years: the smartphone has come to dominate our lives. When you stop to reflect on it one can do just about anything with a smartphone: from depositing checks (thank you US Bank, my bank, and all the others really) to having it serve as your personal trainer (try out Fitbit, it’s free); to well, from what I gather, the next big breakthrough will be using vibrations to allow you to feel things like fabric or fur on your phone – the sky obviously is the limit. So we know one trend bound to continue is the explosion of mobile apps. 

What else? Clearly the green/sustainability movement will continue to blow up. Whether it’s locally sourced products; organic food; and recycling just about everything; here too, the trend is unmistakable.

The mark of a great entrepreneur is one who sees trends and somehow combines them into one stunning new achievement. Here in Chico,at the Chico Mall, we might be able to see just such a product of what the great Peter Drucker called creative imitation . That’s right the Chico Mall where you can see and use one of the most stunning examples of combining trends I can possibly imagine: it’s called  ecoATM and it combines our love of new smartphones (the average American replaces his/her phone every two years) with recycling. 

How it works is even more startling. The following comes directly from their web site:

The ecoATM is an automated, consumer self-serve kiosk that quickly evaluates and buys back used consumer electronics directly from consumers for cash. The process takes just a few minutes to complete.
The ecoATM - Easy as 1, 2, 3
STEP 1: Place your mobile device in the ecoATM test station.
STEP 2: The ecoATM will examine your device and then search for the highest price we can find in the worldwide market.
STEP 3: If you agree to sell it, you will receive cash on the spot.

Take a moment to think about this one. It’s automated, self-serve and it yields instant cash. There are even protections in the form of fingerprinting and numerous on-board video cameras to stop thieves. According to their web-site, thus far less than one out of every 4,000 transactions was the result of a theft. The business, by the way, raised $17 million dollars in a Round B in May, so others or at least some VC’s believe in it. 

How about you? Do you think this one has legs?

Special thanks to Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution for bringing ecoATM to my attention.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Students Making Things

Often it seems student entrepreneurs are concentrating exclusively on building web sites and apps, but it’s simply not so. Case in point, the winners of the Center for Entrepreneurship's Spring 2011 Business Concept Competition: Jon Richardson, Hobie Jensen and Pat Edelman, aka Upper Park Designs have just released their product line of backpacks for the casual disc golfer.

The idea behind the business was to produce bags that make sense for the majority of disc golfers – not necessarily professionals but folks who want to cruise around a course, have fun and enjoy the outdoors. So what was the PROBLEM they were trying to solve?

Basically, they saw the majority of bags for disc golfers were being made for the so-called serious player, so the existing bags all aped golf bags; they were big and bulky.

The Upper Park Designs team thought the average disc golfer goes out more for fun than anything else; so a big bulky bag is inappropriate. Rather a backpack-like design would be the ticket – and here is where they got clever. In a moment of clarity that the great management guru Peter Drucker would love, they thought: Why not mimic a different sport altogether?

How about bringing the idea of an archery quiver to a disc golf course? In this way the player can just reach around and grab the appropriate disc. Perhaps said golfer might not be able to carry all fifteen discs a “serious” player requires – but who cares? A driver, a couple of irons and a putter are fine for most  --- and for those of you unfamiliar with the sport, yes Virginia there are indeed all sorts of different discs for special requirements on a disc golf course.

Add it all up and you have a burgeoning new business conceived and wrought here on the campus of California State University – Chico. 

Check their complete line out at

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Fall 2012 Business Concept Competition

Andrew Gazdecki is killing it. His company BiznessApps, with its latest spin-off BiznessCRM, is rapidly becoming one of the most popular, if not the most popular, website for creating apps in the world – and it all started at the bi-annual Chico State Business Concept Competition. Andrew won in Fall 2010. 

This Fall’s event was held on November 14 and it was, according to a number of students in the crowd, “epic”. There were over 125 people in attendance at Colusa Hall. They were there to hear fourteen finalists present their ideas in front of a panel of four distinguished judges.

The winner was Katharina Chiu, whose idea Meeting Punkt was inspired by her trip to Germany last year and her perception that students (and really everyone) could use an app to find traveling companions.

Katharina accepting congratulations.
A happy winner!

Second place was Impetus Calendar Management for an app to sync various different calendar programs. Brett Connor and Kevin Crowe were the presenters.

Kevin Crowe
High five for Brett

The judges awarded two third place finishers:

    Eco Racks team
  •  Eco Racks, the brainchild of Sam Thomas, Nico Chesterton, and Andrew Paddock. Their idea revolved around an in-classroom stand for skateboards.
    Max Fredericks
  • MusicSession, Max Fredericks’ idea for a web site that unites musicians and music lovers in a unique social networking milieu.

Judges for the event were Professor Bonnie Persons of the College of Business; Professor Daren Otten of the College of Engineering and head of the Sustainable Manufacturing; local entrepreneur,  member of the Center for Entrepreneurship’s Board of Mentors and a proud Chico State alum, Dave Purser; and Joyce Mikkelson of the California Center for International Trade Development.
Judges: from the left,  Bonnie, Dave, Daren and Joyce
Yours truly.

Easy job...