Connect with us

Entrepreneurship

Do Lean Startups Mean Less IP?

Published

on

Can principles of management impact on the creation of IP? The question has taken on potentially greater significance with the ever-increasing emphasis on innovation and entrepreneurship and the search for the best ways to manage such activities. Within this context, there are few managerial notions that have attracted more attention than Eric Ries’s notion of lean start-ups. As set out in his 2011 best-selling book, The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses, here, Ries argues that product development cycles can be significantly shortened by adopting “validated learning.” The idea is to put the customer’s needs as the focus of product development rather than adopting what has been described as a Field of Dreams approach—“build it and they will come”, here. Under this view, the emphasis is on constant iteration of trying to find out what customers really want. As described in The Economist (“Tech Start Ups: A Cambrian Moment”, January 18, 2014):

“involves building something [in the world of Ries, a minimum viable product that is used to ascertain consumer interest],measuring how users react, learning from the results, then starting all over again until they reach what is known as “product-market fit.”

The claim is that the constant process of iteration enables the startup to remain lean by
“eliminat[ing] wasteful practices and increas[ing] value producing practices during the product development phase so that startups can have a better chance of success without requiring large amounts of outside funding, elaborate business plans, or the perfect product.”

In the world of Ries, where almost anything “can be made”, the real question is not “can it be built?’, but rather “should it be built?” In support of this “lean” function, a form of “accounting for innovation” has been developed, which requires the entrepreneur to maintain detailed records of their iterative activities and to analyze how they impact on “meaningful metrics” that measure the innovation function. Not surprisingly, a cottage industry has grown up around this so-called “lean movement”, including over 1,000 “lean-startup” groups, an organization (Lean Startup Machine) that offers workshops, tools to chart a company’s “lean” performance, all of this augmented by related printed materials, YouTube presentations and the like.

Before considering how lean startup approach may impact on IP, it is important to consider forms of push-back that have been expressed, as suggested by the piece in The Economist. First, there is a psychological dimension. Entrepreneurship is often described as a journey in following one’s passion, even when no one else buys into your notion. But the lean startup approach has built into it the need to constantly admit that you may be wrong (so wrong that, in the lexicon of the field, one should “pivot”, meaning scrapping the current product idea and starting over). In the word of Joel Gascoigne, an adherent to the approach, “as an entrepreneur you’re meant to be bullish about your opinion. But leans means that you constantly remind yourself that you could be wrong.”

Another criticism can be bundled under the claim that lean startups are not really acts of entrepreneurship, but merely the disciplined activities of “empiricists who try to find a profitable niche.” As such, there is inherently in the lean approach a very low ceiling for innovative potential. As venture capitalist Scott Nolan observed,

“lean provides a useful toolkit, but it can bias you towards the incremental rather than the transformational. You cannot simply iterate your way into orbit.”

Ries himself seems to acknowledge that the lean approach can lead to “analysis paralysis” if not properly applied (though this is an occupational hazard of any approach that is heavily driven by metrics and the responses to them). A more general criticism, which applies both the lean approach and the current world of startups more generally, was expressed by consultant Venkatesh Rao, who argues that what is happening is less about fostering the next world-beating startup and more about creating the managerial framework in which today’s knowledge workers can flourish. In his view, this process is analogous to what Rao claims happened to artisan steelworkers at the end of the 19th century, as their skills were commoditized, the goal being to create a reliable and productive working class with the requisite knowledge.

So what about IP? At a certain risk of generalization, this author wonders whether the lean approach, if it becomes the norm for a critical mass of knowledge workers, may dampen the conditions by which innovation and invention take place. The suggestion that startup activity should be aspiring to a form of assembly line for knowledge workers, engaged in constant empirical iterations in the search of “the product”, would seem to narrow the scope for the kinds of creations and inventions that are the staple of IP rights. Incrementalism has its place, but it should also have its limits, lest it have a pernicious dampening effect on the ability of knowledge workers to continue to create and invent.

written by IPKAT team. IPKAT represents a team and platform passionate about all things IP. see more.

Entrepreneurship

Women on Top in Tech – Daphne Ng, CEO of JEDTrade

Published

on

(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

Daphne Ng is the CEO of JEDTrade, a blockchain technology company focused on trade, supply chain, and financial inclusion projects in ASEAN. She is also the Scretary-General at ACCESS and Exco. of Singapore Fintech Association

What makes you do what you do?
I was introduced to blockchain technology in 2016 after I left my corporate banking career after 10 years. It was my mentor who first got me interested in this technology, which I then went on to delve further into, on its potential applications in the lending and trade finance space – domains where I came from.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?
Being in the space for 2 years and actively involved in the ecosystem, I was able to bring on the projects, network and a good degree of thought leadership in this vertical. Early on in the startup journey, our team faced many challenges. And to me, the key to rising above failures are two essential factors – resilience and support. While resilience is innate, I received a lot of help be it in terms of connections or advice. ‘Nobody succeeds without help’ rings very true for me.

Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics)?
From the start, I focused on my domain expertise in trade finance and the application construct of how blockchain and DLT can be applied to these use cases. Also, my strategy from the start was to build a technology company made up of 80% tech and engineers, which is also our key competitive advantage today. At the end of the day, deliverables are about strategy and execution, which includes building and leading an ‘A’ team.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work?
I have many mentors, which includes our company advisors (all of whom are well-known in this industry) and mostly informal mentors I meet via my connections, and on various occasions and circumstances. Creating opportunities also means putting myself in the right place, at the right time. And in my case, these were mostly organic and genuine friendships formed from the initial connection.

How did you make a match if you and how did you end up being mentored by him?
To me, a match in values is very important. It also takes humility to ask for help and be willing to listen to advice, which is important in order for mentorships to be successful – be it formal or informal.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?
I love this question! I am passionate about building strong teams and helping my people grow. I abide by the 3Rs when identifying talents: resourcefulness, resilience and right values. And then I invest in the ‘potential’ and this means giving them room to lead, make decisions and take risks.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?
My support of diverse talents, skillsets and characters can be seen in the make-up of our core team – all helming specific roles and each bringing their own value to the table. We need the sum of all parts to build a great company.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?
Great leaders emerge in times of failures and challenges, never abandoning the team, and always putting the team’s interests before her own. And I consciously live by these mottos every day.

Advice for others?
My advice to other entrepreneurs: be resolute and dare to be different. If you are going to follow others, then you will end up on the same path as them. No right or wrong; but I would rather chart my own path. This June, we are officially launching our blockchain project, Jupiter Chain (www.jupiterchain.tech), which have garnered much interest in the industry, even before we made it public. We believe this project is the epitome of marrying innovation with practical implementation, and we want to be the first to truly operationalize blockchain for our ecosystem projects in this region.


If you’d like to get in touch with Daphne Ng, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/daphne-ng-%E9%BB%84%E7%91%9E%E7%8E%B2/

To learn more about JEDTrade, please click here.

Continue Reading

Callum Connects

Jace Koh, Founder of U Ventures

Published

on

Jace Koh believes cash flow is the lifeblood of your business. Understanding it will enhance your ability to run and manage your business.

What’s your story?
My name is Jace Koh and I am the Founder of U Ventures. I’ve always been inclined towards investment and entrepreneurship. I’ve played a hand in starting businesses across these industries – professional services, cloud integration, software and music. I believe that succeeding in business is tough, but that’s what makes the rewards even sweeter.

What excites you most about your industry?
Everything excites me. These are my beliefs:

  • Why is accounting important?
    The accounting department is the heart. Cash flow is like blood stream, it pumps blood to various parts of the body like cash flow is pumped to various departments and/or functions in a business. It is vital to the life and death of the business.
  • Is accounting boring?
    Accountants are artists too. They paint the numbers the way they want them to be.
  • What makes a good accountant?
    A good accountant can tell you a story about the business by looking at the numbers.
  • Why is budgeting and projection important?
    Accountants are like fortune tellers, they can predict the numbers and if you wish to understand your business and make informed decisions, feel free to speak to our friendly consultants to secure a meeting.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore, and here’s where I want to be.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore is my favourite city. We have great legal systems in place, good security and people with integrity. Most importantly, we have a government that fosters a good environment for doing business. I recently went for a cultural exchange programme in Hong Kong to learn more about their startups. I found out that the Hong Kong government generally only supports local business owners in terms of grants. They’ve recently been more lenient and changed the eligibility to include all businesses that have at least 50% local shareholding. But comparing that to Singapore, the government only requires a 30% local shareholding to obtain government support. In the early days of starting a business, all the support you can get is precious. It’s great that we have a government that understands that.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
The best time ever to plant a tree was 10 years ago as the tree would have grown so big to provide you with shelter and all. When is the next best time to plant a tree? It is today. Because in 10 years time, the tree would have grown big enough to provide you shelter and all.

Who inspires you?
Jack Ma. His journey to success is one of the most inspiring as it proves that with determination and great foresight, even the poorest can turn their lives around. I personally relate to his story a lot, and this is my favourite quote from him, “If you don’t give up, you still have a chance. Giving up is the greatest failure.”

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I’ve faced multiple rejections throughout my business journey, and recently came across a fact on Jack Ma about how he was once rejected for 32 different jobs. It resonated very deeply and taught me the importance of tenacity, especially during tough times.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing. I live a life with no regrets. Everything I do, regardless of whether it is right or wrong, happy or sad, and regardless of outcome, it’s a lesson with something to take away.

How do you unwind?
I love to pamper myself through retail therapy and going for spas. I also make a conscious effort to take time off work to have a break outside to unwind as well as to uncloud my mind. This moment of reflection from time to time helps me see more clearly on how I can improve myself.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Taiwan! Good food with no language barriers and the people are great!

Everyone in business should read this book:
I don’t really read books. Mostly, I learn from my daily life and interactions with hundreds of other business owners. To me, people tell the most interesting stories.

Shameless plug for your business:
We’re not just corporate secretaries, we’re “business doctors.”
U Ventures is a Xero certified advisory firm that goes beyond traditional accounting services to provide solutions for your business. You can reach us on our website: http://uventures.com.sg/

How can people connect with you?
Converse to connect. You can reach me via email at [email protected] or alternatively, on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jacekoh/

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started,
built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

Continue Reading

Trending