011 – A Conversation on Leveraging Intellectual Property as a Business Growth Strategy, with Professor James Gerard Conley

Professor James Conley serves on the faculty of both the Kellogg School of Management and the McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern University. He is a faculty contributor in the Kellogg Center for Research in Technology & Innovation and serves as a Faculty Fellow at the Segal Design Institute (NU IDEA). He is also serving as a Visiting Professor in the chair of technology and innovation management at the WHU in Germany. Beyond Northwestern, he served as an appointed member on the United States Department of Commerce Trademark Public Advisory Committee to the Patent and Trademark Office and is a Charter Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors. In 2017, he became a member of the editorial board at the California Management Review.

#PeakPerformers, Professor Conley shares the benefits of IP for the entrepreneur #TheEntrepYou today! Click To Tweet
Show  Notes:

If given a chance, which person would you like to be for a day? Or who would you like to exchange roles with?I would like to be Mark Zuckerberg for a day because I would like the understand the nature of the social engagement that he manages uniquely on the Facebook platform. I would like to see how he is managing the uniqueness of all that to the benefit of, not just the people that work at Facebook nor the people that participate on Facebook, but for people like you and I who are relative strangers, but we seeing the world engage on this platform in a way that’s brought us all much closer together.

When we talk about intellectual property, what are we really talking about?

What we are talking about, are things that are established by a nation’s government. Laws that are established by a nation’s government that are designed to help people who innovate, people who actually come up with new concept.

There are various modes of legal protection to help entrepreneurs compete when they decide to do something different than everyone else in their field of business. That difference usually requires some investment. It may be a difference that brings about some form of technological solution; it may be a difference that brings about some new cultural narrative; it may be a difference that brings about some form of product that has unique branding and it may be a difference that that is simply taking something that the entrepreneur knows, that not too many other people know.  What I’ve just described are domains of property that relate to things like patent, copyright, trademarks and trade secrets.

I’m thinking specifically of the artiste who influenced me when I was younger, Bob Marley. This man has created a great legacy of cultural expression. He is protected by a Copyright that is an intellectual property form. That allows him and his estate to capture some value from the work that he put in from those beautiful expressions of his youth that in some sense give some foundation to what Jamaica is today.

Are you saying that the laws that govern intellectual property differ from territory to territory?

The world that we live in is essentially one that follows a guideline of self- determination. Jamaica makes its own laws like Tunisia makes its own laws. They choose their own government Just like the United States, just like Cuba. That means if the government chooses to have intellectual property, that’s their choice. They generally try and do this because it is good for the entrepreneurs like you and the audience of this podcast.  The governments generally try to help entrepreneurs, they want to give them advantages so they create these laws.

The World Intellectually Property Office (WIPO) – an entity in Geneva which operates in the same way for example as the World Health Organization operates, is trying to makes these intellectual property laws similar across the globe so it easy for entrepreneurs to capture their property in multiple countries. If you come up a fabulous fashion line like a wonderful brand name such as Patwa (Apparel), you have to make sure that brand name is respected in multiple counties. You can register your trademark in several countries and expect that the laws you encounter in Jamaica will also be similar in other countries that you may want to sell your fashion line and invest in the advertising that builds meaning of the word Patwa to multiple market and customers.

What is the importance of effectively managing IP for business growth?

This topic that we are addressing is one that is actually taking these ideas about intellectual property and the knowledge of it and trying to turn it into a language that is liberated from the lawyers. IP rights are typically the domain of the lawyers but management of intellectual property is typically the responsibility of the entrepreneur or the manager or the executive that is running a business.

The reason you have to think about this is because it is really a manager’s choice to invest in the legal cost of property. That means management must be able to think about the IP in terms of marketing, finance, strategy – what is the logic of doing what we are doing? In the case of Patwa, what is the logic of registering in the United States? You must be planning on selling your goods in the United States. That’s really a management decision. Where ae you going to sell? How are you going to sell? What is the difference that you will be presenting to your customers about your goods relative to competitors? These are management decisions but they, at the very core, involve property because they are trying to help you differentiate yourself relative to everyone else. Effective management of intellectual property is about taking complex issues of the law and turning them into things that management speak about on a daily basis and make good decisions about for the purpose of their own sustainability in the market place.

When are the implications for SMEs in considering registration of their intellectual property?

Small and medium sized enterprises are perennially and chronically challenged by resource constraints. What they have typically is a lot of passion and desire to be successful in the market place. They just need a selling proposition, that means they need the ability to convince others to buy their products and or invest in their business. This is what the community of venture capitalists is looking for – that sparkling SME where they can invest their money.

The choice to not pursue property may be because they just don’t have the money. That’s a perfectly fine choice. It is in fact a Manager’s choice. That may be effective given what are your resource limitations at a particular point in time. What’s important for the manager to realize is that if they don’t invest, then they are essentially contributing all that good will to the competition. They can use my Patwa brand, they can play Bob Marley’s music, they can use the invention that you may come up with, for example in your clothing line and you can’t do anything about that.

The investment in property is one to reserve your unique expression, your unique inventions. It is a cost-benefit analysis. It must be in the minds of the SME owner, in the mind of the entrepreneur so they can see consciously, what the tradeoffs are. Typically, the best time to invest in property is when you’re small.

Intellectual Property within the paradigm of the digital platform?

Let’s take Blue Mountain Coffee, that as a product has a lot of infrastructure, lots of farmers, lots of machines, devices, lots of physical capital that are required to invest and build and harvest and bring that product to market. That’s all fixed physical assets and there is a lot of money involved in building and maintaining those assets.

Let’s go to (back) to Facebook which doesn’t have those fixed physical assets. What does Facebook have? It has a platform, we all know how to find that platform – we log to find our friends pages, we find the pages of Patwa and all sorts of other companies there. It is a platform that essentially is a computer infrastructure that allows us as people who interact with Facebook to put stories, links, pictures on what is our portion of the platform – our Facebook page. Everything that we put up there, we physically own that but when we put it up there, we agree to let Facebook use it to their commercial benefit. That’s part of the legal agreement, that we as photographers, we as story tellers, we as people that create product like your company, we agree to actually let Facebook capture the value through advertising and other mechanism to try and convince folks that they have a large audience on the Facebook platform.

All of this that we are describing, you putting your content up there, the audience being convinced to come and engage with you through Facebook, the potential clients that may want to advertise to you – all of these are parties that want to collaborate. But the right to do that is completely intangible. Facebook has the brand which means they have the address, they have the computer infrastructure which has all sorts of interesting inventions that have all sorts of associated with it. When we go and place pictures up there, we are bringing the copyrighted expression to the party that is Facebook.

Facebook becomes the place we all go to have a socially engaging experience and so that’s very much a digital phenomenon. It’s not the phenomenon of growing the coffee, hauling the many pounds of coffee to the coast, getting them on the ship and sending them across world. That’s an important commercial endeavour but Facebook is completely digital. It does not require the movement of physical goods. The capturing of audiences does not require the infrastructure of the physical world.

Main Take-Aways:

  • IP laws that are established by a nation’s government, designed to help people who innovate, people who come up with new concept.

  • There are various modes of legal protection to help entrepreneurs compete when they decide to do something different than everyone else in their field of business.

  • Entrepreneurs typically have a lot of passion and desire to be successful in the market place.

RESOURCES TO PEAK YOUR PERFORMANCE

Professor Conley’s Research

Connect with Professor James Gerard Conley

Email

Website

Question of the Day:

How are you leveraging your intellectual property as part of your business growth strategy? Do leave a comment below.

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010 – Using the digital ‘sticky notes’, Trello, to organize your daily activities, with Michael Pryor

Michael Pryor is the co-founder of Trello, the collaboration tool used by millions to organize and prioritize projects using boards, lists, and cards. He’s also the co-founder of Fog Creek Software for Project Management; he currently lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two daughters.

#PeakPerformers, Michael shares about @Trello on #TheEntrepYou today! Click To Tweet

Show  Notes:

If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items would you want to have with you?

Snorkel fins as I’m not such a great swimmer, a dog to keep me company and a guitar which would take me a long time to learn.

What is the Unique Selling Proposition of Trello?

Persons were using sticky notes on their walls. Historically we had built a lot of tools for a much more structured project management and we were thinking about how easy it was for people to use these sticky notes. It helps them organize their thoughts. There is something about being able to see it in front of your face. We tried to map that. It’s not like a digital sticky note but it is taking that metaphor into the software world. You create these boards, you put your digital sticky notes, you organize them into lists so people can see where you are, where you were and where you are going. It basically gives you a map for what you’re working on.

Did you know this would have been a winner?

We spent a lot of time building software tools for other developers and this was one of the first tools we build where we wanted to build something for a much wider and broader audience. It was a big bat for us. We thought of building a software that 100 million people can use and it seemed ridiculous at the time. Now we’ve had 20 million people signed up to use Trello.

At the time, we put it out there and we launched it Tech Crunch Disrupt. We told people about it at the competition that we came in second. The huge spike in sign-ups came from that. Those who knew us at the time weren’t very technical in nature. People were writing blogs on how they use Trello to plan their wedding, run their marketing campaign and recruit people for their teams. These are examples that we hadn’t thought of before-hand but were perfect examples of all the different ways that you could use this application. Persons were writing these blog posts on their own without us asking them to. That’s when it started to click that we’re on to something here. These people are so excited about what we are doing that they are willing to market to their own channels and tell their friends and the people that follow them about this product without us even getting involved. That’s 20 million people have been word of mouth.

What were the thoughts that went through your mind during the competition, recognizing you did not come in first place?

This was about 5 or 6 years ago. We had a different story than just being at the completion. We had been making software and had a software company for 10 years before that and this was one of the products that we made. We were funding the development of Trello through the sales of some of the other products we were selling, unrelated to Trello. We weren’t in a typical scenario where we had to win the competition in order to get the funds to continue the company. This happened much later in our lifecycle of our software development career. Trello and Stack Overflow were joint ventures with Fog Creek. Those super successful and well know products came much later in our history.

We took a lot of the lessons learnt over the first decade and applied them. We made many different software products over the years. Some were the right product at the wrong time, or the right product marketed to the wrong people or the right idea but built in the wrong way. There were a lot of failures along the way. What seemed like an over-night success was actually a really long journey.

What were some of the lessons learnt?

If you’ve ever heard of Log Me In or Go To My PC, there were companies which allowed you to get onto a remote computer. They IPOed and became billion dollar companies on the Stock Market. If you rolled back the clock to about 9 years ago, that technology wasn’t widespread. It was hard to get onto a computer remotely. We developed a tool that enabled you to do that, it’s called Co-Pilot (copilot.com). We had built it for ourselves as we were trying to help our customers install our software on their computers and we struggled with them trying to tell us over the phone what they were seeing.

I thought, ‘if I could just see their computer and control it’, I would solve this problem. Nowadays this is pretty easy to do, back then it wasn’t easy to do. We built the tool that would enable you to do that and we marketed it to customer support agents. It was a great tool but the wrong marketing strategy. It grew and we made a lot of money off it but the people took that same idea and put a whole lot more investment into it and then market it to all IT groups, all companies. Those companies like Go To MY PC and Log Me In became huge successes. We had the right idea at the right time but didn’t market it to the right people.

When we started Trello, that was part of learning, knowing that we were going to build something to market to everybody and not just a specific, vertical tool. It is a general tool anyone can use to get on the same page with other people. One of the lessons learnt is that if you’re going after a bigger market, it’s a bigger risk; it’s much harder to get a lot of people to use your product as there is not really a category defined for what Trello is but if you can get enough people to love your product then they can tell other people about it and you have passionate fans, the passion of your fans will do the marketing for you.

 Worst entrepreneurial moment?

One of the things on the journey for Trello was the project started in Fog Creek Software. After a couple years, we realized there were about four different things we wanted to do but we weren’t going to be able to do them all at the same time as we didn’t have the people to do them. We needed to hire more people. Because we were growing the product on the profits from the other things that we were selling, we were constraint. At that point, we realized we needed to get funding to accelerate the growth of Trello and hire more people because we know we have something which is working. We talked to some investors that we already knew.

We had to spin off Trello from Fog Creek. The trickiest part is that we had to make two companies. The identities of the employees of those companies got split in two. We shared the same office but it is a difficult process to go through emotionally. From the outside, it is the right business decision but there is a melancholy aspect, the end of an era.

Talk to us about emotional attachment?

It is a change you go through as you scale and grow. Not everyone is interested in that. Some people don’t want to do that. If your company is going to grow, there should be somebody who is doing that management, somebody who is scaling the company up. As CEO I did three: The first thing is, don’t run out of money, secondly recruit people ideally that are smarter than you and thirdly, keep the vision. When you’re small, you can mind mill to make decision, but as you scale the things you know in your head, you have to start to figure out how to spread that throughout the company. It is your job as the CEO to keep the vision. It is not so much about telling people what not to do but telling them what to focus on. As you grow you need some sort of metric to figure out what to focus on.

What kind of pay if forward initiative is your company invoked in?

At Trello, we had created internship in the form of Junior Developer positions in order to improve their resumes so we had a better pool of employees to choose from. Our parent company Atlassian tries to get employees to invest 1% of their salary in programmes to help entrepreneurs.

A piece of advice to persons interesting in the field of tech?

The hardest thing is to focus on the one thing. It’s not coming up with new ideas. The idea is not the thing, it’s the execution. The little steps along the way…there’s going to be the ups and the downs but it is going to happen. That’s part of the experience. Every time you fail you put it in the repository of your knowledge to help you.

 Main Take-Aways:

  • In order to grow, there should be somebody who is doing that management – scaling the company up.
  • The right product must be marketed to the right people at the right time.
  • Focus on the one thing.

Connect with Michael Pryor

Twitter

Question of the Day:

How do you collaborate with your team members? Do leave a comment below.

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Heneka Watkis-Porter is a serial-entrepreneur, cultural ambassador, sociologist, author, speaker, fashion designer and podcaster. She wakes up every day with a grateful heart as she lives her purpose of “life transformation through inspiration”. She is the leading lady behind Patwa Culcha International, the company that owns the authentic Jamaica clothing brand, Patwa Apparel.

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009 – Good Corporate Governance and getting your business investment ready, with Tyrone Wilson

Tyrone Wilson Founder, President & CEO of eMedia Interactive – a digital media, advertising & training company powered by technology, creativity and innovation.

#PeakPerformers, Tyrone shares on being investment-ready on #TheEntrepYou! Click To Tweet

Show  Notes:

If you had a time machine that would work only once, what point in the future or in history would you visit? Why?

I would say the’70s in Jamaica. I think that’s a period where music and cultural space began to take shape. It would have been quite an experience to have existed in that period.

What was childhood like for you?

Childhood was fun; I grew up in the Inner City, Kintyre, Papine (Jamaica). It was one of the most memorable moments of my life just being free, roam around. I’m at the river, camp and playing every sport that I came across. Just experiencing that side of life prepares me for everything that I face today. My childhood experience was a well-rounded one.

What was your thinking like about your own childhood then?

I always embraced it.  One of the things that I learnt growing up especially being in an inner-city community is that you have to work twice as hard as the average person who didn’t grow up in such an environment. You have a lot that you’re trying to achieve. One of those is to get out of the community and into something that presents more opportunities for you. I knew that the foundation wasn’t as strong but I had to work hard just to set a foundation trying to achieve what comes after.

Were you A-Student?

I’ve always been up and down. In primary school I was one of the top students. In my class I was at least in top 5. When I went to Jamaica College for the first 3 years I was mediocre academically. In 4th form, I decided to take it more seriously. I graduated as the top student. I always had it in me but never really embraced it, only if it is competitive that’s when I flourished.

What light bulb went off in your head when you decided to do things differently?

It was competition or a challenge. My father instituted a thing when we started travelling. He wouldn’t buy any shoes for my brother and I above the price of our average. If my average was 40, I’d get a pair of $40.00 shoes and the shoes we wanted was up to $90.00 (USD).  Of course, we had to get good average to be able to get shoes like Timberland. That started pushing me. In 4th form, I had an accounting teacher (Devon Lawrence).  who, like me, loved competition and he understood and figured out how to work with boys in an all boys’ school to get them to perform academically. He instituted a very competitive system. His system was a test every month along with our course work. The person who comes first is the Prime Minister so he gets a special seat at the front and he also gets an orange juice from the person who came in last in the test. The Prime Minister had his cabinet in the front which consisted of students who also got high grades. The Opposition consisted of those who got lower grades.  That motivated.

It transcended beyond accounts. It motivated me to be a top student in everything else. In 6th form, I was the first student to get accepted an unconditional acceptance at the University of the West Indies.

How did starting your own business come about?

I’ve always wanted to become an entrepreneur. I think it started as early as primary school because my father always used to have business cards and letterheads. His business cards would say ‘business man’. The business name is Rolex after his name Roland. As a boy who looked up to his father, when they asked in school what wanted to be I would say, businessman. It has always been in my mind to become that. It stayed there and even though the primary objective changed early (at one point I wanted to become a Lawyer and an Accountant), the fundamental principle of it all was that I even if I’m a Lawyer I wanted to own my own Law firm, if an Accountant I wanted to own my own Accounting firm. That interest in becoming an entrepreneur continued to exist. I moved from that to getting right into it.

Take us from the genesis to where you are now…

The concept of eMedia started from in college. I was the publications chairperson at the Guild of Students at UWI. I was responsible for the entire publication of content or the student body. It was exciting, I had a decent budget; we had a voice. From wanting to have my business in media because a year before I had started an entertainment and lifestyle website (yaadmedia.com). I got the opportunity at the guild to experience what it is like running your own business with actual money. I never looked back from then. I developed my business plan, got the investment from Chris Williams, COE of Proven. I moved from a small business to getting additional investment from investor support (Sagicor Investment). We raised US$350,000.00 to expand the business in video, original content, etc. Structuring a Board of Directors Chaired by Richard Byles, CEO of Sagicor. It has been quite an experience.

How do we prepare our businesses for investment?

My degree is in banking and finance which gave me a lot of information how banks work. I’m running a creative business and a lot of times people think that I went to CARIMAC (at UWI). The most exciting part of the Banking & Finance was the Finance part. When I was approached by Donovan Perkins who at the time was the CEO of Sagicor Investments, I had no idea they wanted to invest. I went to a meeting at their request and we started having a discussion. They were asking me about the business and what were my plans to take it to the next level. Right there, I was caught off caught. One of my first tips to entrepreneurs is to always be ready. I was always working on ‘what’s next for my business so when they asked for me it was a no-brainer, I started outlining all the plans that I have for the business. They liked them and the discussion moved to financing so equity investment is always important. As a young business that is the type of investment that you need – what they call ‘patience capital’. Individuals who are willing to put some funds in your business and allow you the opportunity to explore the ideas and take some bets and deliver on what is needed.

Entrepreneurs should have their financials available; their current performance and what are the projections for the next 3 years and be able to speak to those investors without even looking at them. Know your business and what it is that what you have planned as the driver/captain. You have to be as intimate as possible with the state of your business.

I’ve dealt with quite a few investors. I’ve recently raised some more equity for my business that enabled the expansion into our Creative School. When Sagicor approached me about the investment I was 24 years old (now 31). What impressed them was that I had an Advisory Board and was having Board Meetings. I had my Minutes, Reports and that was very unique for an entrepreneur my age. I really give credit to Chris Williams (CEO Proven Investments) and Sheree Martin (VP at Energy Delivery at JPS). because they were the ones who ensured that those structures were in place. They took me on early, gave me the mentorship, support and guidance to ensure these structures were in place. I had the level of discipline to ensure that we committed to those systems. That was important. Sagicor was impressed by that. They knew right away that they were investing in someone who understood that when people are giving their money, the level of responsibility that is needed to display in the business.

In addition to the Advisory Board, I knew they would want a Board of Directors. Those were stipulations in the agreement. I moved right away to setting up the Board.

What were some considerations for the Board?

It has a lot to do with the type of business that you have and support needed at the time. I was young and needed mentorship at the time. The Board was more than a governance board but a set of people who understood the cycle of the business, the state that we were at the what was needed. For example, Sandra Glasgow who was the CEO of the PSOJ at the time and one of the best in terms of Corporate Governance locally came on the Board. She is big on corporate governance. We knew that we needed someone in Corporate Governance who understand small business and know how to work with young entrepreneurs. Sheree was a shareholder so had a seat on the board based on a number of shares she had at the time. She also understood the business.

Entrepreneurs just have to look at their business and do a gap analysis and put what is needed in place. My board members aren’t paid, they have shares in lieu of fees.

How did you approach these big names to come on board as part of your team?

Be a good Salesman. I’m into the business of selling ideas; selling a vision. That’s what I did with my Shareholders and Directors. I sold them a long-term vision for the business and they bought into it.

How did your Creative School come about and why the need?

The school was an idea developed five years ago. We realized very early that there is a big need for creative talent in Jamaica. Our creative economy is under-served. We need more people who understand entrepreneurship, who are creatives and are able to create the type of content that we need and the type of intellect property that we need in order to contribute to economic growth. It has been hugely neglected by Policy Makers because a lot of those don’t understand. When we look at the British economy in 2016, the Creative Economy contributed 5% of the GDP, the largest contributor and the fastest growing. We’re taking that for granted locally like any other economy, the first way to develop it to have trained people working there.

We created the iCreate Institute which is now an institution fully under the University of the Commonwealth Caribbean. Our need is to train the future of the creative economy and see the growth in this space.

Final Words

There is always an excuse as to why we can’t do something; our responsibility is to find ways to get it done. Jamaica needs so much in terms of development. The only way we are going to build our economy and anywhere else in the world is through entrepreneurship. People who are bold enough to create change.  My circumstances would have said otherwise but I decided not to listen and push to develop the company we have today and I feel very proud of the work my team has been doing over the last few years.

Just go after what you want to achieve in life as cliché as it may sound.

Main Take-Aways:

  • Always see yourself as a Salesperson, selling your vision to those you need to work with.
  • Entrepreneurs should know their financials available; their current performance and what are the projections when seeking investment. Be very intimate with the state of your business
  • We have a responsibility to find ways to get things done.

 

Resources to #PeakYourPerformance:

Connect with Tyrone

Twitter

Instagram

Facebook

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Question of the Day:

How are you ensure that you prepare your business for investors? Do leave a comment below.

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Get Your Brand the Recognition it Deserves: Start A Podcast

It’s almost unthinkable that there are many persons who are still unaware of what a Podcast is. Yet so many marketers are building brands using this free, on-demand medium to communicate their messaging. It is one that has nowhere going anytime soon. It has come to stay, so we might as well get to know more about it and its awesome benefits.

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