The invite-only 2015 Endeavor Entrepreneur Retreat will take place May 6-8 in Westchester, NY. Three top-tier keynote speakers have been confirmed for the event: – Kenneth I. Chenault is Chairman and CEO of the American Express Company. He joined […]
Emirates 24/7, a United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) online news outlet, recently profiled the Endeavor affiliate office in Dubai, which was announced in October of 2013. The official launch of the UAE affiliate was marked by […]
Endeavor Global Board member and Endeavor Investor Network member Michael Ahearn announced on July 18 the launch of his new $300 million greentech venture capital company, True North Venture Partners. In the release, True North said it would focus on early-stage firms in the energy, water, agriculture, and waste sectors, with investments in the $100,000 to $25 million range.
Michael is also the Chairman of the Board of First Solar, which he co-founded and where he served as CEO from 2000 to 2009. During his tenure, he grew the company from start-up to a solar industry leading S&P 500 company.
In addition to his role on Endeavor’s Board and as a member of the Investor Network, Michael is very involved mentoring Endeavor Entrepreneurs and was recently recognized as one of the top mentors in the global network.
Endeavor is pleased to make public the following video and summary of a presentation at the 2011 Endeavor Entrepreneur Summit in San Francisco. The event, which assembled over 450 entrepreneurs and global business leaders, featured dozens of entrepreneurship-related presentations by top CEOs and industry experts.
Bio: Mr. Welch is an engineer at IBM’s Almaden Research Center and corporate strategy expert with over twenty years of experience.
Summary of presentation:
In mid-February of this year, NBC broke its ratings record as millions of American viewers tuned in to a see a game of Jeopardy! The impressive turnout wasn’t due to a collective bout of nostalgia, but interest in a particular unique contestant. Watson, a super-computer engineered by a team of 24 researchers at IBM, made history as the first non-human contestant to compete on the game show and beat the defending champion, effectively earning a one million dollar prize and awakening the world to a new brand of artificial intelligence.
Steve Welch, a Distinguished Engineer and Manager of Health Informatics for IBM and a member of the team that worked on Watson, spoke at the Endeavor Summit this summer about the engineering behind Watson’s development and the implications of this innovative technology for the world.
The biggest hurdle in developing Watson, Welch said, was getting a computer to understand natural human language. Unlike computer code, equations, or the key search terms we usually use to ‘talk’ with our computers, human language is nuanced, ambiguous and contextual. Years of experience and cognitive processes go into any form of verbal human communication, making it virtually impossible for a computer to decode. The breakthrough came in the form of a new paradigm that was created by an IBM summer student. His system reconfigured the way computers process language and provided IBM with the framework that would eventually define the super-computer’s consciousness.
Watson’s ‘brain’ is composed of seven banks of processors and 2,800 cores. The team of engineers and researchers behind his development spent years inputting thousands of pages of data into Watson’s knowledge base that could be called upon when answering questions on Jeopardy (Watson was not connected to the Internet during the game). Unlike traditional search engines, Watson weighs supporting evidence for a number of different answers before producing a response. When he reports his answer, he can also provide the evidence that led him to it and his level of confidence in the findings. Just like a real human, Watson learns to trust different sources of information based on past experience.
Watson’s development marks not only an innovative leap for technology, but also for art. IBM went to great lengths to develop Watson’s humanity, bringing in a voice actor to record thousands of lines and sounds as the basis of Watson’s ‘voice,’ and hiring a generative artist to design Watson’s face. The image he created is a swarming globe that has 27 different states to illustrate Watson’s various moods – when he is very confident in is answer, the globe will swarm towards the top of the screen and glow green.
A member of the audience asked Welch where Watson was now: has he retired on his earnings to a life of leisure? Of course not. For now, Watson is an IBM employee working in healthcare and finance, two industries where there is an influx of information to be processed and analyzed. In the future, IBM hopes to develop practical applications for the Watson technology that will create benefits in many different facets of society.
The following profile of Endeavor Entrepreneur Yossi Hasson is reprinted with permission from TechCentral (original article here). Yossi cofounded Synaq, one of South Africa’s leaders in hosted email and internet security services, with fellow Endeavor Entrepreneur David Jacobson.
Yossi Hasson, MD of open-source software specialist Synaq, is tall, dark, handsome and gifted. Which means my first instinct is to dislike him. However, Hasson proves to be as friendly as he is talented when I meet with him on a cold weekday afternoon in a Sandton coffee shop.
“From a very young age I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur or a business owner,” Hasson says when I ask how he got started in the technology industry. “I thought that was the best thing you could do — never mind being a doctor or a firemen or anything else.”
Hasson says he taught himself how to sell stuff when he was young. His father was self-employed, and Hasson saw entrepreneurship as the best way “to control my destiny and make money.”
When he was 11, Hasson started washing cars for money and doing other odd jobs. From there, he roped in his sister and her friends to make key rings for sale in Plettenberg Bay during school holidays. By 15, he was selling medical sports equipment to schools.
“I got my first computer when I was 14, a red Stallion XT. I fell in love with computers and the tech world and the infinite possibilities they presented. I took the machine apart the day I got it, and couldn’t put it back together, but eventually I learnt how to. I got entrenched in technology from there.”
In his matric year in 2000, Hasson launched a social network for matriculants to post pictures and message one another. At its peak, Matric 2000 had almost 3 000 users. Hasson says that was the turning point for him and he decided that, rather than study, he wanted to get involved in the business world immediately.
Hasson’s business partner, David Jacobson, was a hacker who managed to get his computer confiscated by the police when he was 17, and found himself banned from being online for a year. “I saw him as a guy I needed to get involved with because I wanted the best people. We started chatting after school, but at first nothing came of it.”
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After finishing matric, Hasson started a business importing second-hand cellphone parts. After two-and-a-half years he sold the company and became a fundraiser for Habonim Dror, a Jewish community charity organisation, for a year.
“I was still involved in programming, website design and that sort of thing, and I was obsessed with Linux and open-source software,” says Hasson. When Jacobson returned from an extended stay in London in 2004, the two mates began talking about business ventures again.
“Dave had built an anti-spam solution for an Internet service provider in SA,” says Hasson. “It was killing expensive proprietary solutions, and it was open source.” Shortly thereafter, the two decided to start Synaq — at the time intended as a managed Linux service company offering open-source solutions.
Synaq launched on 1 September of that year, with Hasson and Jacobson having raised R1m to start the business. Hasson had been working for an online retailer and had other lucrative offers, but decided he wanted his own business.
Synaq grew as a managed Linux services company, and went on to launch products like Pinpoint SecureMail, the first hosted, cloud-based anti-spam service in SA.
Fast forward to 2011, and Synaq is primarily a cloud service provider. It remains Linux-based, but is no longer a custom Linux support provider. “We changed our strategy to be cloud-focused. That’s where we saw the future, particularly with bandwidth costs coming down, more affordable infrastructure, and a skills set that allows us to build scalable systems,” says Hasson.
Hasson says the change of strategy took 18 months to implement fully, but that it proved to be a good move. “We’ve launched a software development division that’s building global cloud services now, rather than only local ones.”
Synaq is launching another new product soon. “It’s called BrandFu, an e-mail branding and e-mail signature management system. It allows for centralised management with integration into Google Apps,” says Hasson. Synaq plans to market BrandFu globally when it launches in August.
Though this may sound ambitious, Synaq is already home to a number of sizeable clients. Hasson says most of Synaq’s customers are small and medium-sized businesses, but bigger clients include MTN.
“All of their e-mail goes through our servers, it’s checked for spam, we make sure the reputation is good, and so on,” Hasson says. MTN alone accounts for 500m e-mails a month on Synaq’s platform.
Synaq has clearly attracted the right sort of attention. In May, Dimension Data’s Internet Solutions (IS) acquired 50,1% of Synaq. Hasson says that although a controlling stake was one of the conditions of the acquisition “we retain full management control.”
“IS is a very good partner,” says Hasson. “They believe in the management team and what Synaq have done to date. The deal with IS gives us leverage, and in turn we’re seeing where we can help them.”
Hasson says IS has little by way of an open-source competency and that Synaq is helping rectify that. IS, meanwhile, will provide Synaq with the necessary capital to expand its operations.
Despite having foregone tertiary education after school, Hasson now holds an MBA from the Gordon Institute of Business Science. “I was 26 when I applied and had no degree. I got rejected. I appealed the rejection, and sent them a list of the business books I’d read and a proposal based on their curriculum. I also met with the academic director, and managed to get a three-month probation,” says Hasson.
He has no regrets about studying later in life because four years of running Synaq “made the MBA classes more applicable, and I was more keen and more active.”
“I don’t think people should go straight from school to varsity. Going against the mould is probably something shared by most successful people across all industries,” says Hasson. “They went for what they were passionate about and their perseverance made it work. I recommend working for a company for a few years.”
Having been an avowed capitalist since his youth, Hasson says the notion of a community developing software for free, as in the open-source world, intrigued him. “They were so passionate and, even though they worked for free, they could create better software than companies were making. I also saw the business potential of having access to amazing software for free.”
Asked what the largest challenges are for the local IT industry, Hasson says it’s the shortage of skills, of developers in particular. “We need more Shuttleworths, more rock star geeks. Maybe we just need more role models”.
Another problem is a lack of vision by local entrepreneurs. “US start-ups think about global domination, raise funding to do it and aren’t scared to chase a good opportunity, even if they sometimes get it wrong.”
SA start-ups often fail to aim for global success, says Hasson. “Synaq was no exception. At first we thought too small, too local, and about small problems. We’ve learnt the importance of changing that way of thinking.”
Hasson says that for the local IT industry to flourish, South Africans need access to reliable, affordable infrastructure. By way of example, he says Synaq used to host its servers in the UK and that moving their hosting to SA “increased our expenses 400%. There’s no reason that should be the case – for a start-up that’s a massive increase.”
When Hasson isn’t working, he participates in a number of networking groups and events, lectures part-time at the Gordon Institute on entrepreneurship, and plays poker. “I’m also an avid Starcraft player. I’m still a geek at heart. I try and read a lot of nonfiction, too, and I love to travel.” — Craig Wilson, TechCentral
“Socomal, a green agricultural distribution company located in Southern Chile, outlines plan to help 27 Mapuche communities develop and expand their farms to make Mapuche agricultural products accessible to the International market.”
Today, it was reported that Kiñe wun lof Mapu, an Indigenous association comprised of more than 1,500 small Mapuche agricultural producers from 27 different Mapuche communities, signed an agreement with the corporation, Socomal. The agreement included an investment of nearly US$400,000 in helping the Mapuche producers get trained and develop more than 2,400 acres of land for the production of beans and lupins. Ultimately, those goods will be sold at market prices and shipped globally — including to Europe and the Middle East.
Remigio Huenolaf, the spokesperson for Kiñe wun lof Mapu, discussed the steps necessary to reaching this agreement: “We are working in an organized manner and establishing alliances based on the principle of trust between leaders, associations and entrepreneurs.” Huenolaf later added, “Maybe this agreement is a small step, but it is the beginning of a new life for families in this area.”
On the other side of the agreement was Patricia Cuevas, the owner of Socomal and businesswoman from Temuco. She too, expressed her hopes for improving the quality of life in the area. “I started working with the Mapuche communities and we have helped out one another. The most important thing is that they make progress, improve their homes, lands and the quality of life for their families.”
In addition to individuals from Kiñe wun lof Mapu and Socomal, the National Director of CONADI, Jorge Retamal, attended the signing of the agreement as well. He indicated that he was proud of the agreement and indicated, “We are seeing more examples like this one, where the Government, private sector and communities work hand in hand for the welfare of the Mapuche people.”
Registration is now open for the Americas Venture Capital Conference, entitled “Latin America: Building on Success.” The conference will take place November 16-17 at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Florida. It is hosted by Florida International University’s Eugenio Pino and Family Global Entrepreneurship Center and consists of several panel discussions, venture showcases, and networking opportunities. Click here to register for the conference or click here for more information.
Endeavor Global Networks director Allen Taylor will be participating in a panel discussing speculation that Latin American economies may be entering a bubble period, Endeavor Global Advisory Board member Juan Pablo Cappello will moderate a panel about how to avoid making common, costly mistakes, and Endeavor Entrepreneur and Global Board member Wences Casares will deliver a keynote speech. Click here for the full agenda.
The conference is a one-of-a-kind opportunity for innovative Latin American entrepreneurs and South Florida investors and other companies interested in Latin American business to connect and share insight and experiences. Select entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to present their venture to these potential investors and partners. Click here to apply to be one of these Top 15 Innovative Ventures. Applications are due August 15.
The essence of Endeavor is the people who make up its global network. What connects these diverse individuals around the world – from the entrepreneurs to the mentors to the eMBAs to the staff and supporters – is a shared vision for high-impact entrepreneurship in emerging markets.
Listen to some of the voices that speak on behalf of this vision and hear what being part of Endeavor means to them, in a simple word or phrase. Special thanks to intern Kristen Collins for compiling these videos, which were aired during the 2011 Endeavor Entrepreneur Summit.
Michael Shoemaker is an MBA student at INSEAD and is spending his summer as an eMBA working with Vialux in Monterrey, Mexico.
The condensed MBA program at INSEAD makes for a short summer internship. And fully aware of the time we wouldn’t have together, Endeavor Entrepreneurs Fernando and Frank, the founders here at Vialux in Monterrey, had me doing my homework prior to arrival.
Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised, then, that a week into my internship I am putting together a summary of the (admittedly abbreviated) analysis we did of the company’s core processes, capabilities, and differentiators. Those will be key inputs into the design of the international expansion model, which will have to be done by the end of next week, so that we can put together the launch plan prior to the two-week scouting trip to Bogotá planned for the beginning of August. Oh, and in the meantime we are virtually networking and setting up meetings to try to fill those two weeks with productive activity.
The word ridiculous comes to mind when I think about how much we are trying to accomplish in these 6.5 weeks. That’s probably why I love it. Much like the MBA program I’m doing right now, I’m finding that in an fast-growing company like Vialux, you simply cannot learn or work more quickly than the opportunities and challenges allow. For me, this time may be an enjoyable stopover on the way to a less action-packed job. For the founders, it’s just one of many exciting rides that the company has taken them on. I can’t help but be envious!
Of course, the speedy transition has been aided by the incredible work that the whole team at Vialux has done to prepare my stay. The logistics have all been taken care of…all of them. So thus far, an all-around amazing experience.
This speech was given by Chris Schroeder at last month’s Endeavor Summit in San Francisco. Schroeder is a leading entrepreneur and investor in interactive technologies and social communications, ranging from news and media, education, social networks and marketing. He currently serves as Chief Executive Officer and Board Member of HealthCentral, the highest quality collection of condition and wellness specific interactive sites. A veteran of online media, Schroeder has also served as CEO and Publisher of Washingtonpost, Newsweek Interactive and LEGI-SLATE, INC.
Watch the video here:
It is not only an honor, but electrifying to be with you all.
I find nothing more inspirational than spending time with people who have made their life mission to create that which was not there before – directly with the entrepreneurs themselves and all of you who are part of the worlds they are creating.
I especially salute our friends at Endeavor, long supporting, befriending and even building entrepreneurial environments in what we once called the “developing world” at a time when much conventional thinking suggested they were crazy – or, at least, that there were much greener pastures to claim or mow down elsewhere.
It is, in fact, conventional thinking – or a gravitational force that compounds it — that will be at the essence of my brief talk. But allow me to digress for a moment.
It is no hubris or flight of fancy to acknowledge, that we are living in historic times.
I suppose all times have their impact in history, at least in hindsight, but one need no PhD in global studies to know that we all in the earliest moments of times that will define generations to come.
Most of you are too young to conceive of your own children, but I can assure you your grandchildren will be talking about these days – and about your remarkable impact upon them.
In this spirit, allow me to share three stories of my experiences with, literally, the best experts of their fields from a different world than that which brings us all to Silicon Valley today. I think they are very instructive.
Some years ago – and as a brief break from my business activities — I worked in the Department of State during times of great uncertainty and change. At the highest levels, we were wrestling unprecedented times and how to engage with the leadership bringing this change. I sat in a briefing hosted by some of the best experts available – women and men who had lived in and studied and had close relationships in these countries. Their conclusion was that we should not be fooled by the leadership, that they were putting a new face on fundamentally similar policies. Real change, if any, may happen but likely over a decade.
Perhaps a year later, I sat in on a similar briefing, led by similar experts but on another part of the world discussing the pace of change in another crucial nation. Their conclusion: that this change, if it happened quickly, would be unprecedently bloody; that existing power would never give up power willingly. Hence change, if any, would be a decade in the making.
Play the clock forward nearly two decades. I sat at a dinner with experts from government and the private sector, representing collectively a century of experience in their country, all taking in utterly stunning and fast-paced change in their region. They concluded, “Something big is happening, but won’t happen quickly here. You don’t know how it works here.” Change, if any, may happen but likely over a decade.
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In the first story, the experts were talking about Gorbachev and describing the Soviet Union and East Germany in late October of 1989 – two weeks before the Wall fell.
The second story, the experts were talking about South Africa. Two months later, Mandela was released and power shifted joltingly, painfully, but peacefully by any standard of expectation.
The last story, of course, took place in Cairo in mid January of this year. There were two young entrepreneurs at that dinner who, when I looked at them, whispered to me, “You know, I’m not sure why it is THAT different….” And, of course, we all know and have been a part of what played in Tahrir Square a week later.
History, as Nassim Taleb argues so eloquently, is filled much more with “Black Swans” than “all things being equal” – great moments that before they happen are viewed as almost inconceivable if not impossible. One can assume that this is just the way the world is, and analyzing it does little. Who can build a life under what might happen? Who, among us, are rewarded for preventing something that never occurs? We all make mistakes. Move on.
One may further write-off my stories as typical government bureaucracy, or government inefficiency, and it has little meaning to our Endeavor worlds.
But to dismiss these stories would miss greater meaning.
Nothing is certain in this world, but one of the great builders of self deception, of the comfort that we have our worlds right, is something I also saw in these stories, and in business and entrepreneurship generally – the echo chamber at play!
Every expert I meet, in almost any walk of life, spends remarkable amount of time – physically or in writing – with other experts in their fields. They go to the same cocktail parties, gather at the same conferences, pat each other on the back for some speech given or some piece written, and nicely stab each other in the back when you are out of ear shot. Government officials and academics render a certain charming arrogance to it, but it really isn’t that different in any walk of life.
It all starts innocent enough. We all tend to flock around people who share our interests and passions. But with time, another behavior creeps in – stunningly early. We want acceptance from our flock, we want to be controversial but still part of the flock, we begin to feel other flocks are flying toward and into some naïve or foolish sun.
The echo chamber. We all have them. If we are honest with each other, we all seek them. Communities of like-minded people assessing their pieces of the world, building the tautology of conventional wisdom. We are entrepreneurs, so we value individuality. But we are human beings, so we are scared to be out – or at least too far out – of the main stream, especially if that stream is comprised of fish who are “expert” and “successful.”
I have heard it argued that an echo chamber is exactly what entrepreneurs need! “How can your city duplicate things that are going on in Silicon Valley while retaining its own personality,” argues one blogger, “the answer is simple: build an echo chamber!” He calls for getting people to link to and build platforms in and around your geography; to build a lingo – even if one doesn’t know exactly what it means – but attracts people to build community around it; to build a sense that others are missing out if not well part of the echo chamber.
I think this blogger is confusing environment – or ecosystem (a vague word I kind of hate for its vagueness) – with echo chamber.
For me, one of the sharpest bloggers out there is Andrew Chen – who, with Ben Horowitz – are my must-reads as they are outstandingly well written and data filled, and they publish only when they really have something to say. They scan the worlds of entrepreneurship, technology, management, how our worlds are evolving down to the core of what drives human behavior.
Andrew pointed out two years ago something worth consideration today. Before he came to Silicon Valley, and lived in Seattle, he lamented not having a density of events, bloggers and general activity like one finds in the Bay area. Let me be clear, there is a reason why some of the most innovative and successful companies anywhere in the world have come from a 75 mile radius around the Golden Gate bridge. The talent, spirit, risk-taking, financial infrastructure, shared learning – all re-enforce the clear and remarkable results.
But Andrew goes on to point out that the echo chamber of self-congratulations can take us off a clear focus on real customers, push us to go after technology for technology sake – that, in his words, “strong peer reinforcement from fellow entrepreneurs makes it easy to focus on very short-term successes, and ignore long-term contrarian bets.” In fact, if you are so beholden to your echo chamber you risk focusing more on copycatting, perhaps with some twist, so much of whatever already exists.
I must tell you as an investor there is no word I hate more than “meet.” I know elevator pitches need to by pithy and tight, but when someone says, “my idea is kind of like Facebook meets Groupon meets LinkedIn,” I strongly wonder how thought out the idea really is.
We are an anecdotal animal, and love analogy. I get that. People have made a fortune in copycats with a twist, certainly countless businesses are being built leveraging the social and technological platforms of today. I get that.
But the bankruptcy graveyards are filled with many more victims of the echo chamber none of us hear about or focus upon.
The echo chambers of our lives are, I will suggest, on overdrive thanks to technology. For me, the most dangerous manifestation is one that surprised me – though if I were half the human behaviorist I think I am, I should never have been surprised.
Back when I ran the online sites for the Washington Post and Newsweek, I was almost giddy with all the information available to everyone. We’d all learn from each other, all hear each others’ views; we’d be a better informed society.
But then I saw a small study – Berkeley I think – of a guy who researched buying behaviors on Amazon. He wondered how many conservatives buy “liberal books” and vice versa. Putting aside that one can debate what makes for a conservative or liberal book, the findings were startling.
Well over 95% of each read only their own views.
Ours could be, is becoming, a world of self-confirming crowds and biased wisdom, echo chambers where we take comfort that in the sheer quantity of people and experiences available to us, somehow we are getting out of our safety zones. This concerns me profoundly. Ask yourself what news channels you watch on television, what perspectives you seek online, whose opinions you really consider different than yours. It may give you pause.
Twitter, which I adore, I think has compounded this. 140 characters is a great way to share what others I admire are reading at any one time, but they lend themselves to the angry, and the snide.
My goal here is not to be merely cautionary, extolling you to get out of your echo chambers. That’s fine. Do take that this caution seriously.
But here’s a little secret. If you’ve been dozing up until now, listen up!
You – great global, Endeavor entrepreneurs – are by definition apart from the greatest echo chambers on earth.
You can tell me better than anyone what is needed to enhance your lives spiritually, financially, educationally, regulatorily.
But you are free.
You have an understanding of unique opportunities within your cities, and countries and regions and cultures and faiths. You understand your customers and how to serve them – by the millions – better than anyone.
But it doesn’t stop there, of course. Outside of the great echo chambers of entrepreneurship you can ask perhaps the greatest and most difficult and most scoffed at question in any echo chamber: “why?”
And in your own answers, you will be building truly global platforms, global answers to need that is at the essence of the revolution in our midst – a revolution not of MENA alone but of societies overall.
Visit Silicon Valley, Mumbai, Sao Paolo etc — marvel at their unique achievement, learn interesting lessons, learn what not to do, raise a few bucks, cut a few business deals.
But if anyone, anywhere, asks you “what is the Silicon Valley of your country,” run – not walk – run away.
Pick your favorite stat, but one great entrepreneurial friend once pointed out to me that over 1.6 bb people on this planet have no access to electricity. Can you imagine – it is mind boggling – the innovation on its own terms pent up to unleash from every corner of the earth?
And you are all in the vanguard.
You have your own echo chambers – admit them, acknowledge them, look them in the eye.
Seek people and ideas as much as you can that disagree with your most cherished beliefs.
Endeavor is pleased to make public the following transcript and video from a presentation at the 2011 Endeavor Entrepreneur Summit in San Francisco. The event, which assembled over 450 entrepreneurs and global business leaders, featured dozens of entrepreneurship-related presentations by top CEOs and industry experts.
Overview: In the closing keynote of the Endeavor Summit, Reid Hoffman discusses his rules of entrepreneurship (elaborating on the ones posted on Endeavor.org: http://www.endeavor.org/blog/reid-hoffman-entrepreneurship-rules) and interweaves the analogy of entrepreneurship to settling the Wild West. For Hoffman, it’s all about being on the frontier.
Importance of Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurship has always been really important. It’s how all of these institutions were started – every government, every nation. Entrepreneurship has always been important, but I think it’s growing in importance in our time. I think the reason is fairly simple, which is the future. We’re accelerating towards the future, the markets are changing more rapidly, you have the forces of globalization, you have technology change. And all of that means that how we both invent the future and adapt to it is becoming more and more important. How you create new things, how you make something – the new institution, the new product, the new organization: that’s what entrepreneurship is about. (more…)