2013 Outlook: 7 Big Trends Affecting Entrepreneurs

As we open 2013, I would like to share my thoughts on big trends that will affect entrepreneurs and innovators:

1.  The U.S. “Fiscal Cliff” will lead to ongoing uncertainty, restraining corporate investments and consumer spending through 2013 and possibly into 2014.  Not a great time to start or build a company?  Wrong.  The best startups are capital efficient and leverage either ignored or fast-growing markets.  What are some of these?

2.  Global Mobile Cloud Boom.  IBM, HP, Amazon, Dell and others are promoting cloud services —- private, public and hybrid clouds — which are booming right now.  Now it’s possible for sole entrepreneurs and small businesses to get free CRM and other useful mobile apps (see TruNorthGlobal.com) and cheap cloud services, which enable startups to go global out of the starting gate.  The next Amazons, Groupons and Facebooks will be built on public clouds, then expand to hybrid clouds.  The market is global so expect fast growth in the underserved BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) markets.

3.  Grassroots Services and Content Creation:   Smartphones and tablets democratize technology so it’s possible for poor farmers in India and China to create and post their own content.  Watch for a boom in grassroots services from “the bottom of the pyramid.”  The next great fortunes will be made in Africa, the Mideast and Asia, which have young, fast-growing populations.  A must read:  The Takeover of Mobile Internet [Infographic] from ChurchMag http://churchm.ag/mobile-internet-takeover/  and the first African-designed smartphone and tablet:  http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/?articleID=2000073830&story_title=Kenya-%27First-African-designed%27-smartphone-and-tablet-launched 

4.  Mobile Learning:   Mobile devices make it possible to learn anywhere, anytime, especially with the rise of Khan Academy and thousands of other PC and mobile learning startups and universities like MIT and Harvard offering free and credential courses.  A must read:  The End of the University as We Know It – Nathan Harden – The American Interest Magazine http://shar.es/h8f6r

5.  Marketing Revolution:   The shift to grassroot mobile devices means the former product-push marketing and sales approaches won’t work.  Instead, listening and collaborating with customers who are treated as friends and guests will become the new paradigm.  Market demand and “user buzz”, not marketing hype, will take over and undermine companies stuck in past methods.  A must read: Entrepreneurs Learn New Rules for Real Influencehttp://blog.startupprofessionals.com/2012/12/entrepreneurs-learn-new-rules-for-real.html via @bloggerplugins

6.  Crowdfunding is the future for entrepreneurs.  Existing financial institutions are too slow, rigid, closed and conservative to keep up with the fast-moving pace of grassroots innovation and entrepreneurship, so we’re seeing a boom in crowdfunding and other forms of micro-financing.  A useful crowdfunding news site is Crowdfund Insider.

7.  Lean innovation is the future.  Due to ongoing recession, budget cutbacks, and high unemployment, entrepreneurs must think and act “lean” and not waste time or money.  They must reinvent business processes since we have totally new tools, markets and systems.  Reinvention or reset is the new buzzword.  Here’s a good article on lean innovation:  http://matthewemay.com/2012/12/14/7-targets-for-lean-innovation/

A young Chinese man is circling the global in search of the next Silicon Valleys.  His report on China is excellent. Offer to meet him and tell him about your region. | VentureBeathttp://venturebeat.com/2012/12/26/world-startup-report-one-mans-quest-to-document-startup-culture-around-the-world/#FJAXAiCklDhRrRlF.02 via @VentureBeat

I wish you a Happy New Year and hope that you share your energy, goodwill and knowledge with others to build a better world for all of us.  Peace!


3D Printing: How Soon and How Big?

Recently, 3D printing has become a big topic in Silicon Valley because of the rise of “boutique manufacturing”, which combines engineering and IT design skills in new ways.  Desktop 3D printers from Mojo and ThingLab have stirred the imaginations of hobbyists, developers and researchers alike:  http://binged.it/VYT9BI; http://binged.it/UYjfpt

Are these just hobbyist toys or will they revolutionize business and society as visionaries believe?   The truth is somewhere in-between.  Short-term, 3D printers will probably be limited to leading-edge ventures, researchers and other early adopters, just as the PC and desktop publishing were during the 1980s.  However, over time 3D will go mainstream, especially if Apple developers introduce 3D design templates and apps. 

What does this 3D printing future look like?  How soon will it be? 

As Wikipedia notes, 3D printing is already used in a few early adopters in jewelry, footwear, industrial design, architecture, engineering and construction (AEC), automotive, aerospace, dental and medical industries, education, geographic information systems, civil engineering, and many other fields.  Source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3D_printing

To see examples, use Google and Bing image search for 3D printing. 

The early applications are rapid prototyping and rapid manufacturing.  In December 2012, at a Silicon Valley Innovation Institute program (www.svii.net), a local designer from Ponoko showed a variety of artificial legs created using 3D printers, including designer legs with mesh designs.  http://blog.ponoko.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/deb_5527_FPO_0.jpg 

Among hobbyists, ornaments, gears, coat hooks and other simple designs are common. But software is rapidly enabling more complex designs.  The open source Fab@Home project has developed printers for general use and , as Wikipedia notes, research into advanced applications is moving fast. 

My friend Steve Naegele raises an interesting question in his blog.  What about rapid copying?   How can designers protect their 3D designs from piracy?   http://naegeledesign.com/emptypageblog/

As I mention in his blog, I think copyright and patent laws will be extended to 3D printing.  Designers could submit their files, which would be checked by users by accessing 3D design databases via smartphones.  Like chip designers today, designers could embed secret codes or design mistakes into their files as a way to catch copycats.  There would be no guarantee that this will protect 3D designers, just as designers are quickly copied today, but at least the legal framework is in place under WTO and international copyright laws. 

So how will 3D printing affect you and your family?  We may see a 3D printing boom, just like the desktop publishing boom, during the next decade.  Many entrepreneurs will build businesses around 3D printing services. Your kids will print out their own toys (Lego will make a fortune!). Small printers and manufacturers will install 3D printers to make and distribute popular products, with authorized dealers selling Star Wars, Spiderman and other franchise toys and accessories.  Instead of storing and shipping products, toymakers and other consumer companies will set up local 3D printing centers worldwide, run by subsidiaries or franchisees, to beat competitors to the market. The Christmas season, which is currently a huge bottleneck for gift manufacturers, will be where companies make huge profits since it will reduce their time-to-market, shipping and storage overhead, and marketing costs.  They would shift from produce-in-advance to print-on-demand.  Production would be determined by users, not manufacturers.   

With global networks of 3D printing centers, small businesses could go global and become major corporations overnight if they develop hit products.  3D printing will look more like Hollywood blockbusters; a few will dominate, while most designs will remain small in the “long tail.”  

So that’s my vision for the future of 3D printing. It’s fun thinking about the future and how it will create opportunities for many people.   I welcome your comments, ideas and suggestions.  


Advising Russian Business Parks and Resorts


Recently, I was asked to serve on the International Advisory Board to RUSSEZ, a state-run management agency recruiting foreign companies and investors to Russia’s business parks and resorts.  I’ll meet the agency folks this week in Moscow to prepare for our 2013 invitation campaign.

Suggest how the Russez website can be improved for foreigners:   http://www.russez.ru

To follow Russian business trends, see my new Facebook group:  http://www.facebook.com/Ru

Photo:  Ekaterina Bragina handles foreign pharmaceutical investments.  Vadim Dubovik, a PhD who worked at Deloitte, is Deputy CEO of Russez.ru in Moscow.   Contact Vadim at:  vdubovik at oao-oez.ru



Dresden Seeking Social Media Partners

My colleague Ralf Lippold in Dresden is seeking social media partners around the world.  He writes:

I am a passionate social media / network enabler working on bringing together art, science, and technology in my beautiful city of Dresden News (City of Dresden), and at the meanwhile globally connect with passionate global citizens around, just like Sheridan, making the impossible a soon reality.



I am a passionate blogger about ballet, and opera, and following Singularity University’s, and Peter H. Diamandis activities to spread the use of information technology within rising fields, and create a state of Abundance (of opportunities to create economic wealth).

More on my actions on http://about.me/RalfLippold

Thanks a lot for your support, and connecting with Dresden 

Ralf Lippold

Social Media Ambassador at Abundance Hub; Studied Business Dynamics at MIT Sloan School of Management

Ralf asked on Facebook:  “What is the MVA (Minimal Viable Action) that can be done without waiting for the big money to flow in? What is currently holding back DREWAG – Stadtwerke Dresden GmbHand Dresden News (City of Dresden) to act?”

My reply:

The Silicon Valley process is fairly straightforward: Need/Opportunity -> Minimum Viable Product (MVP) –> User testing (customer validation) –> Refine MVP –> Keep testing to acquire evangelists (early adopters who love your produce/service and create “user buzz”) –> Investors show up when they hear “user buzz” (not vendor marketing hype) –> seed funding –> keep building fast before competitors pass you by. This process can be done in weeks, but can take over 12 months for more complex, scientifically-based systems.

I hear about Dresden incubators, but investors want to hear “user buzz” about hot Dresden startups. Are there any? Which ones are hot? Who are the smartest entrepreneurs in Dresden? What are they doing that is novel or interesting? Spend your time finding them. Many will be 19 to 30-year old college students dropping out to work on their interesting ideas. Also, laid-off corporate people trying to create something new. Develop a list of Hot Dresden Startups and write about them.How about posting these names and startups on a Hot Dresden Startups group on Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter? Everyone knows Germany has great engineers and wants to know about its great entrepreneurs.

“Market pull” startups funded by startups are better than “tech-push” startups funded by government (e.g. Skolkovo, Russia).  Focus on building hot startups that solve big problems or needs. Don’t waste your time chasing government or VC funding. If the startup is hot, angel investors and VCs will show up. Example: Draper “found” the former Kazaam founders, who left the U.S. after their music piracy service was shut down by lawyers, in Luxembourg and Stockholm, then invested $2M into their new Skype service.

In summary, regions and startups should be focused on markets and customers, not government subsidies for technology development, which is very common in Europe.  The best startups are very lean and capital efficient.  Their lack of money forces them to work with customers early and provide real benefits to them.  In the early stage, less is more.  As the saying goes:  “Money is a poor substitute for imagination.”

Ralf Lippold replies:  Some names that come to mind are Wadim Sus Low Matthias Röder Matthias PinkertIan Whalen Rainer Wasserfuhr. Some startups worthwhile watching (locally and globally) based in Dresden areHeliatek GmbH Novaled Paulsberg. A former power plant as the platform for accelerated art, and technology startup creation in Dresden? Certainly, and information technology, and free Wifi could even more so accelerate it right here in the middle of town. cc Dirk Hilbert Bettina Bunge

Is College Overrated?

The New York Times just ran an article where college dropouts starting companies challenge the value of college.  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/02/fashion/saying-no-to-college.html?src=me&ref=general

As a college grad and serial entrepreneur (8th and 9th underway), what do I think?  Should young people ditch college to start their ventures?

Yes, if you have tested a prototype product or service with customers and are getting some positive response, I believe by all means that you should drop out and try building your venture.  In the mid-1980s, Michael Dell called me from his dorm at U. Texas Austin just as he was dropping out of his sophomore year to launch Dell Computer.  But Michael was no amateur; he was already generating $80,000 a month, with a 40% gross margin, so I encouraged him to jump ship.

I wrote about my amazing conversation with Michael Dell in my new e-book, “In the Valley of Digital Dreams,” http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/in-the-valley-of-digital-dreams-sheridan-tatsuno/1111778075?ean=9781469969442&itm=1&

However, most young people don’t have proven businesses like Michael.  Should you still try?  Yes, but you should probably stay in school while developing your prototype so you can get constant feedback from other students, friends and their families.  As Mark Zuckerberg and Dell learned, college is a great testbed for startups.  And you’re more likely to succeed selling to your generation than older people.

Given the high cost and fierce competition to get into top colleges, I believe you shouldn’t attend if you don’t want to be in class.  Save the space for a more driven student.  If your startup fails, you can always attend or go back to college, a lot wiser and knowledgeable than your classmates, and you can always try again.  If you decide to go to college and want to be an entrepreneur, save money by enrolling in a local community college to get your basic education, then transfer to a local state college that has a strong department and professors in your chosen major.  You’ll save money for your startup and you can still get a good education if you choose properly.  Given a choice, try to major in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) subject and credentialed programs so you have practical, hands-on skills that will enable you to get a job.  Paying your bills while building your startup is probably the biggest challenge for entrepreneurs.  Even part-time work can buy you the time, usually years, required to launch a sustainable startup company.

Entrepreneurship is a mindset, a process, an education and a lifestyle, not a destination.  Approach it like learning to play a music instrument and you’ll enjoy the process.  And perhaps someday you’ll make it to the business equivalent of Carnegie Hall if you practice and work hard enough for at least 10,000 hours.

P.S.  A Bunch Of Students Think They Have Found The Next Mark Zuckerberg

http://www.businessinsider.com/a-bunch-of-students-think-they-may-have-found-the-next-mark-zuckerberg-2012-12?0=sai via @sai

Beyond the PC Cliff

Recently, Dell, HP, Intel and AMD announced lower earnings due to slumping PC sales.  Will this PC slowdown be gradual or abrupt?  As the title suggests, I think it will be a sudden cliff, with PC hardware, chipmakers and software vendors all toppling over together due to the rise of smartphones and tablets.

Where is the tech industry going?  Recently, I posted “Beyond the PC Cliff” on my friend’s blog, which explores some of the emerging trends and industries coming — the Next New Things:  :http://www.cmodisrupt.com/#!blog/csdn

What new business opportunities do you see in the next few years?

For ideas, see the “Saving Intel” chapter in my new e-book:


Can Intel Recover?

Intel and other PC-related companies face a “PC cliff” during the coming years as the iPad and tablets undercut PC sales.  With PC microprocessor sales declining, can Intel find another cash cow to drive its next generation of processors?

An Intel researcher said the company is focused on the “Internet of things” — embedding processors into everyday objects that Intel forecasts will reach billions of units a year.  My friend said that Intel has pretty much written off tablets and smartphones, which are dominated by ARM and Qualcomm.  Can Intel make the shift to machine-to-machine (M2M) businesses? And will the profit margins be enough to sustain its staffing, factories and overhead?  That’s the biggest question facing the valley now.

In 1985, I advised Intel to drop its memory business, which it had lost to Japan, and shift to PC microprocessors, which I wrote about in the chapter “Saving Intel” in my new e-book, “In the Valley of Digital Dreams.”   For a copy, check out Barnes & Noble:


Silicon Valley Boom Moves to “The Golden Triangle”

Office space has become scarce on the peninsula between Cupertino and Menlo Park so tech companies are expanding into the “Golden Triangle” in North San Jose between highways 101, 880 and 237. This are is the #1 job creation spot in the U.S. at the moment.


This growth will create many opportunities for entrepreneurs, service providers and realtors in the coming years. SVGN is located in the eye of the hurricane so I encourage members to meet often in order to share resources and open doors for each other. After all, good karma is the fastest way to growth, both personal and commercial.