Wednesday, 30 September 2009

ethics in entrepreneurship

Two stories came my way recently and it made me think about what is or is not ethical in entrepreneurship.

One is somewhat trivial - the hissing and fizzing of pop stars about whether or not they support illegal downloads. What I liked within the article on Lily Allen's views is the statement by music critic John Dee that it seems the only thing that unites some pop stars into any kind of passionate debate is "the one that concerns their own personal fortune",news,lily-allen-quits-music-as-music-piracy-abuse-gets-nasty

So, what goes through my mind is ofcourse that as part of entrepreneurship education, especially for the next generation how does one position ethical attitudes and behaviours in the pursuit of entrepreneurial careers when the mainstream illustrations are about whether or not artists can make money from illegal downloads and how the music industry can survive.

These are important; reflecting changes to oligopolistic contracts between consumers and the industry. They are being shatered by fragmented responses based on emerging technology. Southwestern, Ryanair and Easyjet to name a few airlines have capitalised on breaking up monopoly behaviours in the airline industry. Firms that cannot or do not respond to such changes are eventually killed off. Meanwhile consumers have benefited from being able to travel around much more easily and in more affordable ways.

I am sure the music and film industry needs similar thinking and this is on its way. In other words it is time to be creative about solving a problem rather than trying to control it or complaining about it.

But to be honest - this debate does not fire me up very much although the underlying debate about how free - free markets are supposed to be is the more philosophical argument to have.

The story that does get me really angry is based on a very fundamental question posed by Aristotle back in 350 BC (approx - I was not there at the time) - Is a Doctor a maker of money or a healer of the sick? This question still has no real answer. I was reminded of the question by a story from one of my family who lost their son recently. A young man of late 30s early 40s went into hospital with Swine Flu symptoms and sadly died there. This was at the Apollo Hospital in Hyderabad. I do not have the full story due to the distressed condition of the family - but in essence the Hospital management refused to allow the body to be taken away in one of their vehicles, insisting that the family take away the dead son in their own car or hire a taxi. Whether this is due to swineflu panic, cost management, crass stupidity of the staff on duty at the time is all not clear. But one thing is for sure - Aristotle - if he were in India today and saw the conditions of healthcare for the poor and the profit centred hospitals for the rich - he would certainly have something to say.

As always values play such a strong role in entrepreneurship. What are your own positions on such topics?

Thursday, 24 September 2009


Prof Henning Sirringhaus is a leading authority on organic semiconductors. Working within the Cambridge environment he and his business contacts saw the huge potential for the application of this deep science research to the possibility of creating a whole new industry based on the fact that plactics can carry current!

Henning is founder, director and continues to be a shareholder in Plastic Logic. Meanwhile the commercial team that was formed around it included Dr Hermann Hauser, serial entrepreneur, investor, physicist, eternal optimist and visionary. Bit by bit they formed a formidable team of scientists, technologists, commercial teams and through a series of dead ends, diversions and sometimes distractions they have raised over £250m in venture capital, got a factory underway in Dresden and are now launching their own product.

Plastic Logic might be the first company within a new industry? It is also potentially a huge success story based on over 20 years of research and earlier attempts at commercialisation of near to market technologies.

But who can tell – at this early stage if Plastic Logic will actually launch a new industry. Meanwhile we look to understand how and why the founders, investors and shareholders continue to have faith in a venture with long gestation periods. Most businesses operate on quarterly cycles and get impatient if there are no sales. What motivates this group of individuals and teams of technical, commercial and scientific talent to pursue Plastic Logic.
From the presentations and discussion by Henning Sirringhaus, Bill Earner (Amadeus Capital Partners) and Martin Jackson (Plastic Logic) we hope to find out more about:

Personal motivations; recognition of opportunities; the types of skills needed at different stages of the venture; risks and rewards. We also hope to learn about whether or not dilution of shares and ownership affects motivation of founders; how the funding cycles have gone and been managed and how teams have changed.

Based on this opening lecture we expect to set the scene for the remainder of the 11 lectures and networking events to bring you Enterprise Tuesday.

Here are some references for the business and academic communities:

Plasctic logic – press releases; home page
Plastic Logic demo
Cavendish labs – Henning’s work
Amadeus capital partners – investors in Plastic Logic

A Highly π-Stacked Organic Semiconductor for Thin Film Transistors Based on Fused Thiophenes
Xiao-Chang Li, Henning Sirringhaus, Francis Garnier, Andrew B. Holmes, Stephen C. Moratti, Neil Feeder, William Clegg, Simon J. Teat, and Richard H. Friend
J. Am. Chem. Soc., 1998, 120 (9), pp 2206–2207 Publication Date (Web): February 24, 1998
Effects of Packing Structure on the Optoelectronic and Charge Transport Properties in Poly(9,9-di-n-octylfluorene-alt-benzothiadiazole) Carrie L. Donley, Jana Zaumseil, Jens W. Andreasen, Martin M. Nielsen, Henning Sirringhaus, Richard H. Friend, and Ji-Seon Kim
J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2005, 127 (37), pp 12890–12899 Publication Date (Web): August 25, 2005
Surface Tension and Fluid Flow Driven Self-Assembly of Ordered ZnO Nanorod Films for High-Performance Field Effect Transistors
Baoquan Sun and Henning Sirringhaus
J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2006, 128 (50), pp 16231–16237 Publication Date (Web): December 1, 2006
Binary Nanoparticle Superlattices in the Semiconductor−Semiconductor System: CdTe and CdSe
Zhuoying Chen, Jenny Moore, Guillaume Radtke, Henning Sirringhaus, and Stephen O'Brien
J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2007, 129 (50), pp 15702–15709
Publication Date (Web): November 23, 2007

Sunday, 6 September 2009

What is the best way to learn if you want to be an entrepreneur?

I am presently working on several projects connected with entrepreneurship education and there is inevitably a menu of ways to "teach" or "organise learning".

But before we stray into detail - the most Frequently Asked question continues to be - "can you teach it?". My response so far has been that it is no different from teaching management, music, math or geography or any other subject - it ultimately comes down to people wanting to learn. So - if we get past this basic question then we get to "how" questions.

Learning by doing? Learning through simulations? Use of case studies? From mentors and coaches? In the calss room based strongly on theory? Videos? On-line models of learning? Action learning - i.e. through problem solving and applying the lessons? and so forth.

Going back to the question - in the title - I would welcome some intelligent thoughts and comments on the subject. We are getting ready for the Advanced Diploma in two weeks time - (see; working on a review of education at Laurea University in Finland and thinking about scaling up entrepreneurship education on a global basis as a result of a major project for the World Economic Forum.