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While Wall Street’s gambling has brought the world economy to its knees and venture capitalists continue to act like bankers, innovators must have more conviction than ever before. While it is always important to be fearless—now is the time to be savvy.
In Innovation: The Need of the Hour, the fourth volume in the Entrepreneur Journeys series, entrepreneur and strategy consultant Sramana Mitra offers readers a multitude of ways to transform innovation into market leading businesses.
As in the previous volumes, she leads specific discussions on bootstrapping and shoestring innovation, which remain the most successful ways to circumvent early-stage funding challenges in order to maintain freedom and control. She turns to innovators in such fields as healthcare and cryptography, gleaning how they found pragmatic and profitable solutions using practical methodologies, such as consulting on intellectual property to generate cash flow. One thing is certain—the carnage of the world financial crisis can only be cleaned through innovation and polished by innovative entrepreneurs.
As you navigate your company through the entrepreneurship waters, this series continues to map the system for your success.
ForeWord Clarion Reviews:
“The time is now for ‘a system that rewards long-term, sustained effort in solving humanity’s biggest problems, not one driven by unbridled greed,’ Sramana Mitra writes in the fourth volume in her series on entrepreneurism. Her call to action asserts itself in the wake of the recent financial meltdown, and Mitra is resolute in her demand for increased innovation among entrepreneurs and ‘the value creator’s return to power.’ Despite a risk-averse economic environment, especially for venture capitalists, Mitra argues that the stranglehold on credit, equity investments, mergers, and other transactions that propel businesses is verging on hazardous because it ultimately squelches big ideas just when they are most needed.
At the core of Mitra’s ethos is a kind of American spirit that prizes optimism, resourcefulness, and in her words, ‘bootstrapping’ and ‘shoestring’ innovation. She believes that the best ideas, and very often, the most successful businesses, are not just those founded on great ideas or designs, but are those that respond to needs or problems. With her own background in engineering and computer science, Mitra seems especially keen on how these fields can be marshaled to address challenges in healthcare and cleantech. She’s also a believer in the role that academic institutions can play in fostering new entrepreneurs. Innovation: Need Of The Hour is constructed around interviews with leading innovators in all of these arenas. She frames the discussion with brief, analytical introductions, followed by her conversations with the entrepreneurs she deems exemplars. This format results in a quick, readable text that is made even more approachable by other design features that draw attention to key insights and advice along the way.
Mitra teases out background stories, educational paths, and the inspiration that preceded some of the businesses recognized as groundbreaking and foundational within their sectors. She and her subjects get into some detail, talking about how certain companies were launched and made profitable, but also about some of the pitfalls and hard lessons learned along the way. Ashar Aziz, for example, raised $100 million in startup money for this first company, which was then spent at breakneck speed, well before they were generating any revenue. His advice: ‘The higher the capital intensity, the greater the risk of ultimate failure.’
This kind of pithy advice is easy to come by in Mitra’s book, but it is grounded in a thoughtful discussion of the very process by which groundbreaking innovation actually occurs. Mitra’s prose style is clean, clear, and to the point—presumably a skill she has honed while writing her business blog, Sramana Mitra on Strategy, and writing a column for Forbes. Her latest book offers a window into the zest for creation and dogged perseverance at the core of so many successful startups. It lays out some ideas for putting unemployed engineers back to work, and it is a worthwhile read for savvy innovators who are considering going into business with their own big ideas.”
About the Author
Sramana Mitra is a technology entrepreneur and strategy consultant in Silicon Valley. She has founded three companies and writes a business blog, Sramana Mitra on Strategy. Mitra is also a columnist for Forbes and runs the 1M/1M initiative. She is the author of the Entrepreneur Journeys books series, including Entrepreneur Journeys, Bootstrapping, Weapon Of Mass Reconstruction, and Positioning: How To Test, Validate, and Bring Your Idea To Market, as well as Vision India 2020.
It is hard to argue with the basic premise of this collection of interviews, namely that innovation driven by entrepreneurs is the key to solving the biggest problems of today. The near financial collapse of late 2008 destabilized markets all around the world and the current levels of governmental budget deficits in the United States are unsustainable. Add in the devastating potential for climate change and it is easy to descend into a state of despair over the state of the world. This collection of interviews with people that have started companies with new approaches to problems will give you hope. The interviewees are dynamic, original, intelligent and extremely positive about what they are doing. It is also refreshing to hear from people whose goal is to change the world rather than simply extract cash from it. The interviewees are also refreshingly candid about what they see as the failures of businesses to look beyond three months and their inability to accept short-term reductions in share value in order to reap much greater value in the future. A specific point of emphasis is in how the entrepreneur can fund their idea without having to give up critical control of their company. In great crises there is always great opportunity and people with courage and a great idea for a new way to do things during a crisis can do things that will help alleviate the problems and make a great deal of money. If you are such a person, the inspirational nature of this book may be the last push of encouragement that will set you on the path to success.
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Entrepreneur Journeys v.4 : Innovation: Need Of the Hour (Volume 4)is my favorite of the Entrepreneur Journey series book. Sramana dives right in with several entrepreneurs who have created successful technology-based businesses in software, services, clean tech, etc., focusing on how the entrepreneur first determined there was indeed a need in their market and how they rose to meet that need through innovation process that had not been tried before. It's as if you are in a coffee shop, having a very relaxed but very candid conversation with the CEO of each of the companies profiled where they share their strategies, insights and even mistakes. There is much to learn from this book.
The book also tackles innovation from a broader perspective of how should government, universities, investors and entrepreneurs work together on larger scale research initiatives that are beyond the means of a single entity is able to accomplish on its own.
I definitely recommend this book for anyone wanting to learn about innovation and entrepreneurship.
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Sramana Mitra is a successful businesswoman who has developed specific and focused ideas on how entrepreneurs can improve their chances, how this can help the economy, and how the economy itself might better be structured to encourage this worthwhile outcome. She promotes this thinking through her consulting, and then spins her carefully organized observations into a series of wonderful books on the theme.
A particularly valuable characteristic of the books is that Mitra's own thinking on the theme of each book is organized into a clearly-structured argument which is then expressed in brief, lucid essays, which are themselves then amplified with really informative and productive interviews she conducts with successful entrepreneurs whose experience in the area discussed is instructive. I have found that these interviews are also filled with terrific and hard-won insight into more generally important - even vital - aspects of management, making these books a real treasure to read.
The latest in this series is certainly no exception. It builds on the overall trend of the arguments in the book series, which began by describing the entrepreneurial process, moved on to discuss core managerial approaches for succeeding with it, to - in the current book, "Innovation" - analyzing the importance of the entrepreneurial function itself to a vibrant, healthy economy. In this context, innovation as an economic activity that produces groundbreaking advances is the focus, rather than the incremental process-improvement form of innovation that many managers concern themselves with.
Both forms are vital to an intelligent, productive economy that supports a dynamic, forward-moving society.Read more ›
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Don't worry if you haven't read any of the three previous volumes, as this latest in the series is a great read in and of itself. Author Sramana Mitra, a noted contributor to Forbes magazine and a veteran of the VC industry and the world of entrepreneurship once again lets her subjects tell their great stories.
In Volume 4, Mitra structures the interviews around the central thesis that we have a societal need to innovate our way out of the challenges we face today. She digs deep into the past as well as finding more recent examples of the type of creativity that we can only hope will not be stifled by regulation and taxation. Once again, she hits lots of different industries, including Clean Tech, software, alternative energy, healthcare and many others. A feature that I like, given that I am an analyst who researches public companies, is that many of her interviews are with entrepreneurs who have taken their companies public. In this volume, she profiles several who may reach that achievement in the next couple of years but also Tom Leighton, one of the founders of Akamai (AKAM) and Jonathan Bush of athenahealth (ATHN).
The structure of the book allows the reader to progress as slowly or as quickly as he or she wishes. There are four main sections, each with 2-5 conversations. I was captivated, so I read it very quickly, but it's so compartmentalized that it could also be read over several weeks with the same impact to the reader.
As with the other volumes, Mitra's direction of the interviews adds a lot. I liked that she addressed some really big issues and tied that theme through the book. This volume too left me hopeful that we as a society can rise to meet the challenges of the big problems with energy, the environment, healthcare, etc. Hopefully, risk-taking will not be a victim of the Great Recession and Mitra can describe in one of her future works what great companies arose from the ashes.
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Sramana Mitra is the founder of the One Million by One Million (1M/1M) global, virtual incubator that aims to help one million entrepreneurs globally to reach $1 million in revenue and beyond.
She is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and strategy consultant, she writes the blog Sramana Mitra On Strategy, and is author of the Entrepreneur Journeys book series and Vision India 2020. From 2008 to 2010, Sramana was a columnist for Forbes, and currently syndicates to numerous venues including Harvard Business Review and Huffington Post.
As an entrepreneur CEO, she ran three companies: DAIS, Intarka, and Uuma. She has a master's degree in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.