Thursday, February 26, 2015

Learn How 3D Printing Will Revolutionize Business

This is the topic of Sarah Westfall’s interview with Craig Walker, the “guru of 3D printing” on WebTalkRadio.net: Business Game Changers.

Before that interview, however, you need to tolerate Westfall’s interview with Michael Jay Moon, an entrepreneur and self-styled Silicon Valley thought leader. He gives his reaction to Newsweek’s article, “What Silicon Valley Thinks of Women.” What is his contribution to the discussion? “Hardware is hard and why would women want to do anything hard?”

Thanks Michael. Moving on.

Craig Walker’s enthusiastic representation of “all things 3D printing” turns Michael’s point on its head.  Since very few people know anything about 3D printing AND since 3D printing will likely revolutionize US creativity and productivity, this is a field where women would be very smart to enter now and ride the wave to tremendous opportunity.

Review some of the main points at Craig Walker’s websites:

Walker says we are “entering a personal manufacturing age” where the average individual can purchase 3D printers for under $2,000 or access top tier equipment at Staples and prototype many products and product ideas. Rapid prototyping will have a world-changing impact on global manufacturing.

Walker marketed some web sites, including 3Dhubs.com, which is an aggregation of 3D printers available in the neighborhood. Individuals can send a design to a 3DHub and turnaround a prototype in a few days. However prototyping of this type might be subject to corporate theft given that you never know who is owning/managing the hub.

A safer strategy might be to prototype at a 3D printer at Staples. The office supply retail outlet envisions wide-ranging 3D printing applications in healthcare, education, art, manufacturing, engineering, consumer products, and architecture.

Some examples discussed include the “most popular 3D printed item” – fancy chocolates.  Food industry applications promise to be as ubiquitous as the microwave.

The “Foodini” is an automated meal-assembly machine that creates homemade meals faster and more efficiently than human hands— the first product by Natural Machines, Lynette Kucsma’s company. Foodini will go on sale in the mid-2015.

Medical applications include prosthetic limbs and, potentially, skin and organs. Engineering applications include prototyping and fabrication of airplane and vehicle parts.

Made in Space (http://www.madeinspace.us/) is the first 3D printer to fabricate tools needed in space.

There are examples of companies and agencies using 3D printing to make modular homes in Norway and China; disaster relief temporary domes; homeless tent/domes or restrooms.

Maximatic produced a spill-proof coffee cup for cars.

There may be a concern about 3D printing eliminating traditional jobs from injection molding, manufacturing, and design firms.  Will more jobs be added through creativity than are eliminated through obsolescence? This is a perennial question in technology.


Educational applications include curricula to enhance pupils’ 3D visualization skills through the use of 3D production of complex shapes, formula, and spatial representation. Or maybe just let kids use 3D printers to become fascinated, again, with technology.

Finally, a good place to learn more about 3D printing and products/services was in Burbank, CA this past January 2015 at the 3D Printer World Expo (http://www.3dprinterworld.com/)

It’s a brave new world! And opportunities abound if women get on the early learning path to 3D printing competence.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Notes on Women's History Month (March 2015)

As we approach March and the celebration of women in history, let us remember the Women of the Manhattan Project, their contributions and challenges. See the article by Caroline Hertzenberg: "Women Scientists of the Manhattan Project"

Linda Rottenberg, CEO of Endeavor Global, "the world's leading organization mentoring entrepreneurs".  (See www.endeavor.org) The Endeavor mantra is:

Define, evaluate, measure, and build the value proposition which is a statement of what BENEFIT you/your company/your product/service provides for WHOM and HOW you do it UNIQUELY..

            What is the target market?
            What is the problem you solve?
            Why you are distinctly better than the alternatives?
  
Elizabeth Holmes founded Theranos at nineteen years of age in 2003, just before leaving Stanford University where she was studying chemical engineering.
See the December 15, 2014 article about her in the New Yorker by Ken Auletta:
"Blood, Simpler: One womans drive to upend medical testing."

Her company is both a hardware and medical service entity with the vision of making blood testing simpler, more cost effective, and a more powerful diagnostic tool in the hands of the average consumer/patient. She anticipates having blood testing facilities as close as your average Walgreen's Pharmacy.

This is another example of the power of women in technology in combination with healthcare.

Kaufman Foundation on Small Business

The Kaufman Foundation reported that the overall business creation rate was 0.28 % of US adults/month in 2013. That meant there were 476,000 new business owners established each month in the US. Employer firms represented 25% of the total or 119,000. The fastest growing segment of the market was the 45-54 age group.  The states exhibiting the fast growth rates of new business formation were: Montana, Alaska, South Dakota and California. (It should be remembered that growth rates may be highest among low base populations.)

Age Group                  2003                2013                % Change
20-34 years                 26.4%              22.7%              - 3.7%
35-44 years                 29.8%              24.0%              - 5.8%
45-54 years             25.2%            30.0%           + 4.8%
55-65 years                 18.7%              23.4%              + 4.7%

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 220,000 establishment births in the 2nd Q of 2014 (up 7,000 from the previous Q) representing the creation of 803,000 new jobs (up 40,000 from the previous Q). Establishment closings during the 3rd Q 2013 were195,000 (down 24,000 from the previous Q) representing the loss of 683,000 jobs (compared to a loss of 706,000 jobs in the previous Q).

Only 50% of service companies survive to this 5th year. Eight out of ten businesses fail by their 18th month. Why do businesses fail?

The #1 reason that businesses fail is that the business is not in touch with the customer through a deep dialog. (See The Clue Train Manifesto.)

The #2 reason for failure is that the business has no real value proposition - the business does not represent a real product differentiation in the market. (See Alex Osterwalder's Value Proposition Canvas.)

The #3 reason for failure is the failure to communicate the value proposition in a clear, concise, and compelling fashion.

The #4 reason for failure Is founder dysfunction - leadership breakdown at the top.

The #5 reason for failure is an inability to nail a profitable business revenue model with proven revenue streams (an inability to "move to the money fast".)

See the Kaufman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity for ongoing updates to their data and insight.

Women of Technology

In 2014, Walter Isaacson wrote his second book about technology - The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution (Simon & Schuster). While not many women participated in that epoch, a few played crucial if unheralded roles in the origins of modern technology. 

The book starts with Ada, (daughter of Lord Byron) Countess of Lovelace, who published "notes" on Charles Babbage's Analytic Engine in 1843. Since Babbage's concepts were decades ahead of the practical implementation of the computing machine, Lovelace's writings were crucial to establishing the foundation of the revolution. It is amazing that a woman of that period could have such a crystal clear concept of the idea Babbage was developing, but even more important was the fact that she succinctly documented it's components and potentials which served long past her time unto the age of artificial intelligence.

The second major and noteworthy chapter describes Naval Commander Grace Hopper who wrote the history of the Mark I computer and who led the development of the COBOL software language which made it possible for computing technology to be integrated into business applications.

The third major contribution came from six women who worked as "computers" on the ENIAC machine for the military during World War II. Their work was essential to the origins of the programming profession and to the early success of computer usage by the military.

There are a host of other women who contributed to the formative years of the information technology revolution although many of them remain unsung heroines in the creation of solutions, the adaptation of technology by business and society, and the constant movement of technology forward.  

It does not matter how many (or few) women innovators. What does matter is that they were there at the right time and the right place and made a difference, just as they continue to do today. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Chance and Performance

A friend of mine is a great player of both backgammon and bridge, games of intelligence and luck.  He and his game-partners are quite humble as they describe their game proficiency.  They indicate that both games include not just a little luck and fortune with respect to the cards dealt to them or the roll of the dice.  Both events are random – stuff over which they have zero control. Yet, it is how they play the game given the cards or dice that makes it challenging, interesting, and satisfying. It is GIVEN the cards or the dice that presents the world with which they must interact.

Malcolm Gladwell tells us that it takes 10,000 hours of individual effort to become proficient in any field of endeavor.  He does not say how many thousands of hours of randomness individuals must endure along the way.  But, we can surmise that they might come in equal measure. 

While we women wait for the perfect roll of the dice or the perfect deal of the deck in terms of invitations to join a corporate board, we also must invest at least an equal time and effort in “practice” or “play” that moves us toward board or governance proficiency.  What are we doing, now, to acquire practical governance education, training, and experience?  Are we putting ourselves into positions where we could learn from others about that particular “game”? What are we doing to “test” our proficiency in the governance field?  Are there economic development or venture venues in which we could improve our governance performance or experience?

Are we focused more on the random luck or more on the performance proficiency?  That will determine how well we "play the game."