Suggested Song: Sweet Emotion, Aerosmith
Suggested Drink: Passion Punch; light rum, dark rum, passion fruit, orange juice, sugar syrup

 On Entrepreneurship

BootsTen inventors and 40 students passed through another long and exhausting Sci-Tech Entrepreneurship Bootcamp at INSEAD last weekend. We start with a speed dating session on Friday afternoon between the student teams and external innovation projects and once paired up – typically 3-4 MBAs and 1 mad scientist per love-match – the newly formed teams start pounding out the core elements of workable business models.

Friday and Saturday evenings run to midnight or later, as each of the mock startups work through an endless series of assignments around value proposition, product design and evolution, IP and patent considerations, and customer discovery and market strategy, … and realizing that in this iterative process each business model decision impacts earlier assumptions, they return to the white board to reassess and redesign where necessary. Sunday is reserved for estimating cash needs to get their dreams across the finish line and how these will be funded, then on to presentations to investor judges. We finish by early evening, awards announced, photos taken, a big group hug, and everyone leaves exhilarated, tired, and ready for a serious cocktail.

The innovations under development through the weekend camp varied widely, from programmable antibiotics to hybrid tractors, autonomous robots to fiber composite wheels for aircraft. Through the course of a weekend my students – who lead the charge on the business model creation – tend to pass through Magill’s 5 stages of bootcamp emotion:

  1. Absorption, of what is often a complex and confusing underlying science.
  2. Exasperation, at first attempts at developing a sound and workable business model around it.
  3. Traction, when their growing understanding of the innovation’s capabilities and limitations coalesces with their knowledge of basic business planning.
  4. Exhilaration (or deflation), when the true market potential of their project starts to emerge.
  5. Realization, that the real work of validating all of the weekend assumptions and correcting course is just beginning.

I’m never disappointed by the flexibility, efficiency, and level of accomplishment on display by the business students and visiting scientists during these entrepreneurship bootcamps. Their ability to work together through the science, the business, and deciding what’s next, and often in some unpredictable mix of primary languages, is incredibly impressive and inspiring.

On Intérpreneurship

In early December I’ll give another 3 day workshop, what I call the Intérprize Accelerator, at the University of Aix-Marseille. While the entrepreneurship weekends center on the creation of compelling businesses that flourish and sustain, with an outward focus on external markets, my intérpreneurship sessions emphasize exciting life ambitions that inspire and endure, with an inward focus on personal achievement and self-realization.

The fundamental principals of both camps are largely similar: what is your project’s true value, what assets do you bring to its realization and where are the holes to be filled, who are your customers and in what format do they consume your project (some participants may want to become best-selling authors or artistic performers, others may want to start cafes or operate wineries, so the variance is as wide as in the recent entrepreneurship camp), is extra financing needed and where do you find it?

What is vastly different, however, is the added emphasis on wellness and balance. Without these things we quickly lose our bearings and the ability to execute effectively. The Intérprize Accelerator involves daily happy hours around concepts of positive psychology, and participants also get a 2-hour experiential session on the merits of meditation and yoga (or whatever your favorite physical outlet tends to be).

Mark Stock, Ponder
Mark Stock, Ponder

Like entrepreneurs, intérpreneurs most often start out passionate about their projects (more passionate possibly, given the deeply personal meaning of these aspirations), which yields to a more enlightened acceptance of the sober challenges involved. They pass through the same 5 stages highlighted above, then launch and optimize their models, or in some cases realize that not all dreams are attainable, at least in the form envisioned. This can be a painful discovery but one better arrived at early than late, after precious time and resources have been committed.

… a note on passion

We tumble hard sometimes, foolishly and obsessively. You meet someone and the world is suddenly brighter and more animated, colors are richer and more expressive, your heart beats faster. Irrational exuberance takes root and you know it, you feel it, but you can’t resist it, talking about her or him, repeating yourself, thinking of them, aching to see them again soon.

When you feel this way about your intérprize project something powerful is happening and you have tapped into something deeply meaningful that demands to be explored and exhausted. There is no option. As with our love lives, it all may come to nothing, but oh what sweet emotion while it lasts, while we still believe.

Bill Magill

Suggested Song: Suspicious Minds, Elvis Presley
Suggested Drink: Absinthe, water, sugar cube

mark stockMark Stock died this week, suddenly, at the age of 62. He was an acclaimed artist from the San Francisco area who’s unique, pensive style inspired a legion of fans from around the globe. What is that lovelorn butler really thinking, writing, considering? What devious plans are afoot? Stock’s film noir infused work was used in Hollywood films and David Arquette produced a short film on his most celebrated piece – “Butler in Love – Absinthe” – shown at right. Two signed posters hang in my dining room in Aix. By the time I met Mark an original Stock was well out of the family budget, unfortunately.

Mark and my former admin Roxanne had been partners in the early 2000s, so I was fortunate to cross his orbit a few times. His renown as an artist was already established, but few people realized his well honed slight-of-hand skills. At dinner parties he held court with card and coin tricks, and his floating dollar bill was always the evening’s climactic dénouement. He was a fixture and crowd favorite for that brief period at our company dinners, keeping everyone laughing and amazed. Roxanne, you ARE bringing Mark tonight, right?

Two things struck me this morning as I read the news of Mark’s death. First, that artists can be truly inspiring as many of us wrestle with the dilemma of uncertain passion pursuits versus sensible compromises. Commercial success in the worlds of music and art demand an all in commitment that provides absolutely no guarantees. It’s an incredible sacrifice by the many that rewards the very few. For those who take the deep and perilous dive, it is a clarifying declaration that this is their gift and raison d’être, and no, they will not compromise that obligation (don’t all of us hold the same obligation, to share our unique gifts with world while we can?). Second, that we are all artists and magicians, regardless of our calling. The accountant, shop keeper, parent, engineer; we are all working to develop and perfect our self-defining oeuvre, to distinguish ourselves from the fray by divining some precious spark of magic. How does she do that? Amazing!

The world is a better place for all when each of us offers up our unique and natural genius, as did Mark Stock. Now, what is your magic within and where is your palette?

For more examples of Mark’s work click here.

Bill Magill

Postscript: I recently read Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. That it took me this long to read this book – considered one of the greatest works of psychiatric analysis since Freud – shows how poorly read I truly am. Frankl’s experiences as a prisoner in Auschwitz and his ensuing principle that our deepest desires stem from the search for meaning and purpose make for some powerful thought provocation. For those of you feeling resentful and handicapped by life’s little injustices (and exploiting that excuse regularly) I suggest that it’s required reading.