Monday, December 17, 2007

Half of Food in Developed World Goes Wasted: Problem to Solve, Entrepreneurial Opportunity to Seize

Yesterday, the BBC World Service broadcast a debate on food productivity. It was mentioned that 25-30% of food fit for human consumption in developed countries is thrown away. Some data for the UK indicate the figure is one third, for the US maybe one half. One fellow-blogger has even dedicated a site to this issue. This is really appalling given how many people starve in this world. (Picture from Wasted Food.)

But certainly a clever enterpreneur could seize on this opportunity - transforming this incredible amount of waste into something both socially useful, and profitable. Maybe he could make an agreement with restaurants and supermarkets to collect their waste and then agree with a biomass producer to transform it into biomass. Or with a hygienist he could separate what is still fit for animal consumption and make that part of the waste into animal feed. Something could be made into fertilizer.

Who comes up with the best entrepreneurial plan on how to put this waste into use, gets a present from me! Send your ideas to or post them below as comments, with an address where I can reach you.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

New Successful Start Up: Etsy

Although the Getcrafty website was launched in 1998, it wasn't until Robert Kalin was involved in 2004 that the online sale of handmade products became a true commercial venture - and a very successful one indeed. The Etsy company was born.

Today, Etsy brings together 70,000 sellers of handmade products such as whistles, porcelain bowls or candle holders. It has about 50 employees, and last November alone it increased sales by 43%, selling 300,000 items for a total value of $4,300,000.

You can read the whole story on the International Herald Tribune's website.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Entrepreneurship Growing in India, but...

A piece in the latest issue of the Economist makes an overview of the growing phenomenon of entrepreneurship in India. It reports the growth in the field, yet mentions several caveats. First, the judicial system is not as mature as in Silicon Valley, where the term sheets used are taken from. Second, knowledge of how to run a new business, e.g. on the financial side, is still lagging. And third, internet penetration is low, albeit growing (some say not fast enough, though), limiting the possibilities of internet start-ups.

But the biggest obstacle to an entrepreneurial boom, says the Economist, is that "[m]ost people prefer a safe job at one of the big services firms." This reminds of the Czech landscape, as was mentioned on But no challenge is to be left unchallenged...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

AIA at the Nation-Wide Meeting of Local Government Representatives

Today, in the somptuous hall of South Moravia Region's council hall, the Angel Investor Association spoke at the Country-wide Meeting of Local Government Representatives held in Brno and organized by Regionpartner. Present were several mayors, town parliament members and other dignitaries. Among the speakers were, besides AIA's Michal Kohoutek, Mr Ponikelský of the National Academy of Regional Management, Mrs Ostruhová, director of the Ministry of Interior Department of Supervision on Public Administration, and Mr Andrýsek of QCM, s.r.o.

The need was stressed for a synergy between public and private initiatives such as AIA's, to promote the growth of entrepreneurship and SME's. The aim of AIA's presentation was to educate public sector representatives on angel start up capital and on its role in fostering grassroots business life.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Lay Back and Let the Machine Innovate for You

Do you know how "long-life USB memory sticks, superfast racing-yacht keels, ultra-high bandwidth optical fibres, improved cochlear implants and a cancer-biopsy analyser that matches a human pathologist's tumour-spotting skills" were all invented? The answer is: by a machine. Or rather, to be more precise, by a program called "an evolutionary algorithm", as reported in the Economist's latest Technology Quarterly. The idea is Darwinian: you program a computer to try as many variations on a theme until it spots the most useful and inventive one and "selects" it.

The funniest part of the article comes at the end:

"[Dr Koza's] team at Stanford developed a Wi-Fi antenna for a client who did not want to pay a patent-licence fee to Cisco Systems. The team fed the algorithm as much data as they could from the Cisco patent and told the software to design around it. It succeeded in doing so. The result is a design that does not infringe Cisco's patent—and is more efficient to boot. A century and a half after Darwin suggested natural selection as the mechanism of evolution, engineers have proved him right once again."