iStart Company Investigations: Life Upgrades Group


iStart Company Investigations: Life Upgrades Group

Music meets robotics with RoboTar, a slide-on device that automates guitar chords. Here’s a look at where Kevin Krumwiede of Life Upgrades Group has gone with the product since placing high in a competition hosted on the iStart platform earlier this year.

Kevin Krumwiede has a burning passion for music that was passed down to him by his father. But when his father had a stroke and could no longer play guitar, the younger Krumwiede found a way to keep his dad’s passion alive by creating RoboTar, a robotic chord player.

The device attaches

Continue reading iStart Company Investigations: Life Upgrades Group

iStart Company Investigations: Koa Organic Beverages


Three years after placing high in a competition through iStart, here’s a look at where natural juice producer Koa Organic Beverages, originally known as Eden Organic Water, is today.

When Adam Louras – a smoothie and juice lover from Texas – found out he was going to be diabetic, he envisioned an idea: creating the world’s first sugar-free juice. From there, Koa Natural Olakino was born.

A mix of 12 different fruits and vegetables, the beverage is fresh pressed from each piece of produce and doesn’t add any preservatives or sweeteners.

“What you get is all of the nutritional aspects

Continue reading iStart Company Investigations: Koa Organic Beverages

'Sales Is Like Oxygen' and So is Education


During my years at the Kauffman Foundation I have seen firsthand the effect that education can have on the development of entrepreneurs and their companies. The entrepreneurs with whom I have worked have taken the lessons they have learned and applied them to great effect in their endeavors as founders. These entrepreneurs benefited from opportunities to learn critical skills, and from gaining an understanding of crucial decisions or junctures that often can derail entrepreneurial businesses.

Experience suggests that when entrepreneurs learn about founding team dynamics, strategies for handling objections in the sales process, and the ins and outs of intellectual

Continue reading ‘Sales Is Like Oxygen’ and So is Education

Founders School 'Just in Time' Lessons for Entrepreneurs


You don’t need to spend countless hours in a classroom, or have an MBA to become a successful entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs often don’t have the time or patience to sit through a semester long class or six-week course in order to retrieve the answer to a question they have now-today. They need help quickly and efficiently. And this is where our idea for Founders School started.

In my own entrepreneurial journey, I remember coming to points while starting my company where my knowledge or education couldn’t provide me with the information I needed to make a sound decision. This happens to

Continue reading Founders School ‘Just in Time’ Lessons for Entrepreneurs

Can Lean Startups Compete in Business Plan Competitions?


Traditional vs. Lean Startups

In traditional startup practice, a founder writes a lengthy business plan, pitches it to investors, assembles a team, builds out necessary infrastructure, and then works hard to sell his or her product. In the uncertainty and pace of the modern marketplace, startups operating in this way often struggle to keep up. According to research out of Harvard Business School, 75 percent of all venture-funded startups fail. Lean methodology, articulated mostly by Steve Blank and Eric Reis, seeks to help more startups succeed through a number of fundamental changes to the traditional model.


Continue reading Can Lean Startups Compete in Business Plan Competitions?

Leading the Charge: Business Competition Lessons from SiNode Systems


A Year of Learning

In the business world, SiNode Systems is becoming known for its success in recent business competitions as much as for its innovative, high-performance anodes for lithium ion batteries. The startup out of Northwestern University won the 2013 Rice Business Competition, the largest such competition in the world, as well as the 2013 Clean Energy Prize on the back of its cutting edge battery technology and a strong team of founders. Since the competitions, SiNode has gone on to secure private investment, receive a federal research grant, and form industry partnerships as it continues to grow

Continue reading Leading the Charge: Business Competition Lessons from SiNode Systems

Best Practices for Running a Business Competition


Whether you are planning to run a business plan, a business model, pitch or idea competition there is a couple of things I have noticed from hosting a couple of hundred competitions in the last two years that you may want to consider.

Don’t run a competition just to check a box for your organization. Business competitions are a wonderful way to provide experiential learning for your applicants. If you can’t put in the time and provide a clear benefit to those applicants, education, mentorship or capital, let them know about other competitions and help prepare them. In a recent

Continue reading Best Practices for Running a Business Competition

Fostering Startup Communities

Fostering Startup Communities

Do you wonder what it takes to start and foster a Startup Community? We’ve seen more and more communities pop up not only around the U.S. but all around the world from Haiti to Iran to Brazil to Norway, all to foster the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Lesa Mitchell at The Kauffman Foundation, Marc Nager at Startup Weekend, Charlie O’Donnell at Brooklyn Ventures, and Tony Hsieh at Zappos talk about what it takes to get this done. Tony speaks about why he is helping to create an ecosystem in Las Vegas, and how to incorporate education, arts music and real estate, with

Continue reading Fostering Startup Communities

New Kauffman Sketchbook Focuses on Immigration

land of opp

The newest installment of the Kauffman Sketchbook video series tells the great American success story of an immigrant entrepreneur who starts with very little yet achieves great things.

Released today by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the video features Gururaj “Desh” Deshpande, an Indian American venture capitalist and entrepreneur, who is president and chairman of Sparta Group LLC, and chairman of A123 Systems, Sycamore Networks, Tejas Networks and HiveFire. He also is co-founder of the Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation at MIT and the Deshpande Foundation.

In the video titled “Land of Opportunity,” Deshpande recounts his entrepreneurial journey that began

Continue reading New Kauffman Sketchbook Focuses on Immigration

Is More Better?

blog photo

It’s no secret that the Foundation thinks entrepreneurial activity benefits the economy. Working off this premise, we often promote policy changes that lower barriers to becoming an entrepreneur along the following (top) lines of logic. However, this series of events is far from obvious. Another outcome seems entirely plausible (bottom).

What do you think? Is more better?

Here is link to the post written by a colleague of mine here at the Kauffman Foundation.