France Hates Innovation

January 8, 2010

This piece from Wired.com is yet another describing the futile attempts by people who are uneasy about the changes brought about by digital content.

In this latest one, it appears that the French Government has decided that it might be a good idea to tax successful online companies in order to help unsuccessful companies.  They think that taxing a company like Google, who has figured out what people want to do, and need to do online, is the way to help other companies who have failed to see the wave of the future and continue to lose money because of free content.

Let’s face it people, there will always be some who do not like change.  But this is the way the world is moving.  I have written about it on this blog.  Many others have written about it on their blogs.

If a company exists that used to make money because they produced highly sought content, and is now losing money because of competition, why does the government or anybody else have any right to just give them money.  Either figure out how to compete in this new market, or fail.  Those are your options.

Besides the fact that what the French government is trying to do might be illegal, its just plain stupid.  Competition moves us forward.  Free content is working.  Don’t punish the people that have seen the future and moved us there for the sake of saving the near-sighted companies that thought the world would never change.


Obama Looking to Small Businesses for Growth

March 16, 2009

obamaIt was not obvious to everyone during the campaign, but it always appeared that Barack Obama understood the role of small businesses have in the US economy.  An entrepreneurial culture, where small businesses can innovate and drive change is important to any economy, especially a struggling one.  And Barack Obama stressed that more than any of the other candidates.  And now, that message is moving to the front of the economic battle.

Today, President Barack Obama will announce a plan to help struggling small business owners.  This article, from CNN, discusses the two programs that his plan will address right away.

The first, called “the 7a Program“, allows for the Small Business Administration to back up to $2 million in loans to small businesses.  This frees up banks and other lending institutions to once again free up some funds and help small business owners meet the financial needs within the company.

The second, called “the 504 Program“, guarantees up to $4 million for small business development project.  Under the new plan, the fees for borrowers and lenders will be reduced or eliminated to make applying for these funds more attractive.

These are two important steps in turning things around for small businesses.  It is even more important that Barack Obama and the rest of his economic team focus on what small businesses can do to give a much needed boost to the economy.  Increasing the availability of short term funds will go a long way toward relieving many small business owners.  But to improve the nature of the economic climate, it may take more of a concentrated effort on paving the way for successful small business to grow and compete.

Often times, small businesses will find solutions to problems before the larger companies.  The problem is, the landscape is such that larger companies often have too much power and are resistant to change.  We have seen this in the auto industry, the printing/media industry, and the financial industry.  Times are changing and we need the President and his administration to see our flaws and empower those people with the answers to change things.

Small businesses are the start.

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Think Innovation, Not Bailout

December 5, 2008

Making headlines today will be the announcement of the decision on whether or not to bailout the US Auto Industry.  What started as a $25 Billion request has turned into a $34 Billion request, and will most likely continue to grow if congress goes with the bailout option.  I read a great quote yesterday that made me think about this issue, saying that if the Big 3 could not handle the money that they earned, how do they expect to handle the money that we give them as a gift.

I am not one to relentlessly praise and uphold the free market, deregulate everything and let the chips fall where they may.  But I do think that when a company, or group of companies, are in danger of failing because of poor business practices, we need to let the market determine their fate.  The automakers have continued to be stubborn, throwing billions away on advertising campaigns, and dismissing the needs to provide more efficient vehicles that consumers have been asking for.

Now, I know that many proponents of the bailout will argue that these companies are simply too big to fail.  The fact that their downfall would affect so many other people is troubling, and the one point that makes me think a bailout is necessary.

But what if we take that money and put it into startups within the industry, or outside the industry?  What if the government would set up a program whereby entrepreneurs and small business owners could submit ideas through a selection process and get government backed loans to grow and develop?  Let others have a chance to succeed where the big 3 have failed.

Help out an innovative battery manufacturer in Toronto gain access to, or start their own, production facility.  Help out the more efficient manufacturers by allowing them to hire more people and expand production.  Help out parts manufacturers, allowing them to upgrade their shops with the latest technology.  Shake up the entire industry, then let the market play out.  New leaders will rise to the top, and soon, if the big 3 are still in business, they will learn to compete in the NEW auto industry.

It’s time to send a message to the various sectors of the economy.  Be smart, practice good business, and grow and develop efficiently.  There will be no more handouts to companies with flawed business practices.  That would be real change, and though it may take awhile to catch on, it would leave us better off in the long run.

I want your opinion.  Check out the poll below:

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2 Emails Worth Mentioning

November 20, 2008

In the past week I have received two emails that I feel are worthy of a mention on a blog about Innovation. Both were from people I do not know, have never met, have never talked with online, and most likely will never talk with in my lifetime.

The first was from Steve Gentile at Think Tank NYC, and he probably had no idea that he was emailing me. You see, Steve decided to leave a social networking group that we were both a part of called Sta.rtUp.Biz. In deciding to leave, Steve emailed all the members of the website explaining his reasons for leaving, and also saying that he is interested in communicating with any of us who would still like to remain in contact with him.

This email stands out for two reasons. The first, is a direct shot at Sta.rtUp.Biz. We are in a world where everything you do can and will be used against you, online. And word travels fast. When you market yourself as a social networking site for entrepreneurs, where we can enjoy the freedom of idea creation, open discussion, and useful information to start our business, you better follow through with that. Now I don’t know if it was the creators or the members who transformed this site into what it is now, but Steve is blaming the creators. “A fool’s game of mindless invitations and posts delivered with the purpose of point building without substance, and not networking or provoking deeper thoughts”, is how he described it in the email. That got my attention, and I am sure many others’, and will hurt the website’s credibility.

Two, this is a semi-ingenious move on Steve’s part to get some attention. As an entrepreneur, what better way to promote without promoting. Take something you are going to do anyway and send an email about it that gets in the heads of people that you may want to work with. I don’t know Steve, but I emailed him with interest after receiving that blast.

The second was from John Podesta. John is the co-Chair of the Obama/Biden Transition Team, and apparently the one in charge of sending out the emails (or at least the name that someone else puts on their emails). I got this email because I had signed up at the new website of the Obama Administration, Change.gov. I encourage all those who have never seen it to check it out. It is still quite bare right now, but very promising.

It is interesting to think about a presidency that will be more in touch with the people. Even if this is all an act, which I don’t think that it is, it’s still a strong step. A president who devotes time to including people and getting involved in online communication, what a concept. Well, we already saw how well they used this sort of internet grassroots promotion in the campaign, now we get to see if they follow through with it during the next 4-8 years.

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The Government Doesn’t Get It

July 15, 2008

Innovation is hard.  As a concept, innovation is not something that just happens on its own, hence the whole point of this blog.  It becomes even harder for those of us that are not used to and have not been built on innovative principles and experience.  Case in point, our government.

The government has never been an institution that has embraced change all too well.  They are slow to move, slow to act, and quick to defend the old ways of doing things when presented with change.  When presented with a situation in which change is necessary, they don’t know what to do.

One example of this is the current economic conditions.  They know that certain things must be done to help the individuals and the companies that have been hurt the worst.  The Federal Reserve has arranged buyouts and bailouts for struggling financial institutions.  Congress approved a stimulus that put billions of dollars back in the hands of consumers.  And now everyone seems to be debating what to do about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Short term fixes and get out of jail free cards will never get at the heart of the problem.  These are not solutions because they do not address the underlying issues in the financial institutions.  They are just cover ups, like medicine for the common cold.  I am not going to sit here and say that I know what to do, but the government needs to take a long hard look at themselves and realize that in this day and age, they need to be able to adapt to change quickly and decisively.  No longer can partisan politics keep this country from moving forward.  It causes more pain in the end when we hesitate or do nothing than simply taking action.