Startups in America: Beware of Geeks Bearing Gifts

Authors note: This blog, for the most part, is focused on Healthcare and related topics. Perhaps I am stretching the concept of related topics a bit with this post because so much of the Silicon Valley startup industry has rapidly migrated to healthcare.  I now get numerous calls, or Linked-In requests, every week to look at some healthcare or health-tech startup. I have been interested in writing a paper on the state of the startup industry for a long time and this has provided a good excuse to put my ideas down in pixels.

StartupPaperCover

Click the image above to download this paper for free

I have spent many years in the fabled Silicon Valley, working with startups and investors to develop new businesses in many different industries. Along the way I have seen a lot, some good and some not so good. I have seen good entrepreneurs and investors, and I have lived through a few really bad ones as well.

While much has changed, much has not. Some things have gotten better and others much worse. What has stayed the same is that it is still very difficult to conceptualize, finance and build a business to maturity in a way that is good for founders, employees and investors.

To a great extent I think that the system today is simply stacked against all of us.

I have come to the conclusion it could be much easier and much more effective if we simply did a few things a bit differently. This paper is a little of what I think! Click the graphic above to download your free copy.

America has long been a land of invention and innovation. Having lived through the entire PC revolution, I can see that we have been blessed with massive change to the U.S. and the world due to both technological innovation and a business climate that supported risk capital investment. For the past 30 years or so, this engine of change has been based on the startup business industry. In more recent history the engine has showed signs that it no longer may be what it seems. Some have said as early as 2012 that it is fundamentally and forever broken. Yet, from the pace of young entrepreneurs out trying to start businesses to again change the world, one would never know there is a problem. You’d never know, that is, unless you actually looked a little below the surface.

Entrepreneurs trying to raise money in order to start a business are faced with numerous pitfalls, posers, crooks, charlatans and RPRTrs (Right Place Right Timers) all scattered along what is, for many, little more than a boulevard of broken dreams. We have a cast of characters in both the good, and not so good meaning of the word. We have entrepreneurs, serial entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, angel investors, angel investment groups, super angels, crowd funding, facilitators, “consultants,” deal syndicators, incubators, accelerators and many others. All of these entities want the entrepreneur, or the investor, to think they are “The Answer.”  Some of them may be — many more end up being their worst nightmare.

In this paper I try to give an overview of where these characters came from, what benefits they can bring and the kind of harm they can render if we are not careful. I also try to track come of the changes and show how they have built the current dynamic environment. I also ask some questions for you, the reader to think about.

In my opinion, from the entrepreneur’s perspective, the access to smart money has never been easy. More importantly, from the investor’s perspective, it has not been hard enough. We believe a lot of things about the value of the hi-tech, biotech and Internet industries. We also believe that startups are key to our economic future.  I am not sure that all we believe is correct. I do think there are some fundamental questions we should answer.

First and foremost, if we are going to have a robust startup business industry, we need to understand not only why startups fail, but how to help them not fail and to bring them longer term viability. You will find, if you read this paper, that there are some things we can do to improve how we develop startup businesses that I thank can have significant long term effects and are relatively simple to do.

This paper reflects on my historical perspective working with startups and investors, what I have observed that worked, and what I have learned that does not.  I have condensed a number of very good research papers as to both the evolution and current state of capital access from VCs, angel investors and other sources as well as some excellent reports on why startups succeed and why they fail.

Overall, my conclusion is there are a number of things we should do differently if we want to continue to have a robust startup industry in the years to come. I make a few suggestions at the end.

I hope you will either click the link above or the title and download your free copy.  I only ask one thing!  If you feel this has merit, forward to people you know and let them read it also.  As I said this paper is free and I hope it will circulate and open up some needed discussions.

Startups in America – Beware of Geeks Bearing Gifts (revised)

And as always, I appreciate you reading my blog and hope you find things of value here.

— Tom

Why Ebola petrifies us: One reason is healthcare’s unobtainable expectations.

Ebolacare givers practice safe procedures

Ebola caregivers practice safe procedures

Petrified & Angry

We are petrified of Ebola. It is a deadly disease, but we are much more scared of this today than we were of Polio, and Tuberculosis years ago. Why?

In the 1940s and 50s, modern medicine was a bit less advanced than we are today.  We had many more diseases to be afraid of.  Polio was an epidemic. Outcomes from Polio were not particularly good. Tuberculosis (TB) was a significant issue as well.  People with TB were quarantined.

Travel in that period was not as easy and ubiquitous as it is today yet, we routinely restricted affected people’s movements. In some cases we incarcerated them in sanitariums to protect the public at large. Despite these actions and the lack of effective treatment for these, and many other, diseases, people were no where near as panicked then as we see them today with the current Ebola crisis.

People who grew up in this era will tell you that most Americans accepted the dangers these microbes presented as a regular part of life. Sure, they were afraid of the diseases but they recognized that they had little control over potential infection. If they became infected they understood that HealthCare did not have cures. While there may have been many things to help ease the symptoms, odds were usually not very good that they would see their symptoms eliminated. Continue reading

Breast Cancer and Environmental Causes: Links not as clear as we’ve hoped.

The latest research is finding that real links between environmental causes, genetics and occurrence of Breast Cancer continue to be elusive. Perhaps, it’s for a reason. Are we thinking of cancer in the wrong way?

Published in Aquila Style (click to read original article)

Published in Aquila Style
(click to read original article)

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

The above graphic is from an interesting article titled, Suprises in Hunt for Environmental Links to Breast Cancer, published by , 6:30 pm Monday, 11th November 2013 on http://www.aquila-style.com. The article is about one of the latest studies trying to find a definitive link to breast cancers’ origins. Many studies have tried to find links to environmental and genetic causes. So far the research has not been definitive to say the least. We do know that genetic mutations are present in many cancers, but we also know that they are sometimes not there in some – where we expect them, and are there in many – where do not see the cancer develop.

“We have still got 80 percent that has got to be environmental,” said Reinlib, who is part of the Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Program (BCERP) program that has received some $70 million in funds from the US government since 2003.

The above quote from the article seems to indicate that there is clear evidence that the causes simply have to be environmental because we have ruled out that family history is the main indicator. Yet, this may be a false premise as well.  Just because a white jelly bean is not vanilla flavored, does not mean it must therefore be coconut flavored. It can be any flavor at all or have none! Most of the research into environmental, family history and genetic mutation indicators have shown relatively slight correlation to the actual development of breast cancers.  These indicators may statistically increase the chances a few percent but they do not provide definitive guidance that one will, or will not, get cancer.

Recently, some researchers are starting to discuss cancer, less as a disease — even though the outcome is devastating on the individuals and the family — but more of a naturally occurring process — perhaps necessary in the species. Perhaps this same process that sometimes evidences as cancer, is a natural part of the core engine that drives natural selection to improve the species. Changing how we think about and classify cancer may have more of an effect on how we learn to adapt to it than “cure it” as time goes on.

We have found many genetic markers in the past decade or so that we felt were the main drivers of disease, like the BRACA genes for breast cancer, only to find that they turned out to not be specific. BRACAs were considered a key indicator specifically for breast cancer but recently has been shown to exist for prostate — not much of a surprise as prostate and breast tissues are histologically very similar — lung and now many other cancers as well. BRACAs are more likely broad based cancer markers as time will likely tell.  Most genetic markers are likely relatively nonspecific. In fact, our genes may be good blueprints for building the body and its systems but may not be the control point for what happens with these things when they are built.

Further, genetic markers themselves have been know to not be definitive for the occurrence of a cancer. You can have the markers and not get the cancer, and you can sometimes have the cancer and not have the markers. Some other researchers now believe there is a different biochemical system at work. Undiscovered, this other system has been dubbed epi-genetic — meaning above the gene. Numerous studies over the past 15 years have indicated the presence of some other control point. Don’t forget that it took many decades for actual chemistry of DNA to be identified and proven; even though we understood the theory of its presence for many years.

It is likely in the years to come we will find more answers to these new questions and new theories will fundamentally change how we think of cancer and reset our expectations on its treatment and occurrence.

Please remember all those who have died due to this horrible disease!

Continue reading

Why the Middle Class is Still Getting Crushed: Lets look back!

It is now crystal clear that the middle class are being destroyed. Politician’s explanations are based on pure biased rhetoric. The real reason is much simpler. It is the mechanics of how we are trying to fix the economy.

This is a reprint of an earlier Article, originally published September of 2013, on some of the reasons the middle class in America are declining. At the end of the article will be links to a couple other articles relating to this issue.

man_question_mark DemoCare demolishes America’s Middle Class

The Affordable Care Act is often called ObamaCare but I think from now on it should be called “DemoCare” because it’s going to demolish care in America and along with that demolish America’s Middle Class.

There are quite a lot of things about the way this law works that make it undesirable.  Mostly, the causes are not in the debate that we hear so much about nor are they in the parade of facts that we are about to be inundated with over the next 90 days from those selling the benefits or arguing against them.  Like most debates the truth in the rhetoric is somewhere between the extremes. There are many flaws, there are some benefits but there are massive amounts of unintended consequences. This is why, I do not call for its repeal.  I call for amendment and alteration. Continue reading