Boosting the Creative Juices

BDo you need to “get creative” quickly?

New research from Stanford University substantiates how the act of walking stimulates creativity. Among study participants, 81% improved their creative output when walking. The report claims that “walking outside produced the most novel and highest quality analogies. Walking opens up the free flow of ideas, and it is a simple and robust solution to the goal of increasing creativity.”

Before starting your walk, consider researching the topic you will working on to set the right frame of mind. Other creativity boosters: go to the gym, engage in a hobby or just get out of the office and go to a coffee shop.

TECH THURSDAY: Mobile Man

santiago

EDITOR’S NOTE: BizVoice® has featured technology/innovation stories throughout its 18-year history. Look for these flashbacks each Thursday. Here is a 2013 favorite. And it’s most appropriate considering yesterday’s news from Bluebridge in which the company announced a new platform, more funding and its plans to add more jobs. 

Santiago Jaramillo, now 23, initially landed in Indiana without any personal connections. Oh, how that has changed in a short period of time.

Having flourished on a full scholarship he’d earned at a prestigious private high school – American Heritage School in Plantation, Fla. – where Miami Heat basketball players often send their children, he could have attended almost any university he wanted.

Yet when he walked onto the campus of Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion following a visit to Chicago, he decided to commit to the school. “I walked in and said, ‘I don’t know why I should go here – but I think it’s right,’ ” Jaramillo recalls. “I didn’t know anybody in Indiana; I’d never been here before.”

That decision would ultimately open many doors for him after he graduated with a 4.0 GPA and valedictorian status at the university. But it certainly wasn’t the first time a fortuitous instinct paid dividends for him. He remembers a fateful day as a child in his native Cali, Colombia.

Read the full story online.

And learn more about the Indiana Chamber’s new Technology & Innovation Council. Want to participate? Contact Mark Lawrance at mlawrance(at)indianachamber.com.

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Talent is Everything

cSignificant numbers of talented people, not to mention entrepreneurs, in the STEM fields come from international backgrounds. Home countries are trying to entice these men and women to return, while U.S. policy makes it difficult for them to stay here, apply the lessons they have learned and be meaningful economic contributors.

The Kauffman Foundation has more:

The United States stands to lose valuable economic contributors unless it removes immigration barriers to international STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) students who earn advanced degrees here, according to a study released by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

International Ph.D. students in the United States on temporary visas accounted for nearly two-fifths (39 percent) of all Ph.D.s in STEM fields in 2013 – a proportion that has doubled over the past three decades. If the trend continues, the majority of STEM Ph.D.s from U.S. universities will go to international students by 2020.

The report, “Will They Stay or Will They Go? International STEM Students Are Up for Grabs,” conducted by Richard Appelbaum and Xueying Han at the University of California, Santa Barbara, shows that nearly two out of five international STEM students are undecided about whether to stay in America or return to their home countries after graduation. More than a third of them are aware of programs designed to lure them back to their countries of origin, at the same time U.S. immigration policy makes it difficult for them to remain here.

The ability to retain international STEM graduates has implications for U.S. entrepreneurship, innovation and economic growth. In 2014, 29 percent of all new U.S. startups were founded by immigrant entrepreneurs, reflecting a startup rate nearly twice as high as that of U.S.-born adults.

“Innovation is one of America’s strongest assets, but other nations are gaining on us,” said Yasuyuki Motoyama, director in Research and Policy at the Kauffman Foundation. “These students represent talented scientists and engineers. If we want to maintain our edge amid intensifying global competition, then our immigration policies must be modified to make it easier for international STEM students to make America their permanent home.”

The Kauffman report draws from 2,322 responses to an email survey of domestic and international graduate students enrolled in STEM programs at the 10 U.S. universities with the largest number of international students. Thirty-four percent of the respondents were international students holding temporary visas.

The report recommends that Congress take action to open the immigration door wider to international STEM students, including:

  • Adopt the Immigration Innovation Act (or the I-Squared Act), which would increase the H-1B visa annual cap from 65,000 to between 115,000 and 195,000, depending on demand and market conditions.
  • Adopt the Stopping Trained in America Ph.D.s from Leaving the Economy Act of 2015 (or the STAPLE Act), which would allow international students who earn STEM Ph.D.s from U.S universities and receive job offers from U.S. employers to be admitted for permanent resident status and exempted from H-1B visa limitations.
  • Amend the H-1B visa system to allow all individuals to switch employers/jobs.

The Kauffman researchers recommended that Congress avoid lumping illegal immigration with legal immigration in one bill, cautioning that “politics should play no role in an issue so critical to the future of U.S. competitiveness.”

And learn more about the Indiana Chamber’s new Technology & Innovation Council. Want to participate? Contact Mark Lawrance at mlawrance(at)indianachamber.com.

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TECH THURSDAY: Mickey’s Mantra

maurer

EDITOR’S NOTE: BizVoice® has featured technology/innovation stories throughout its 18-year history. Look for these flashbacks each Thursday. Here is a 2011 favorite.

Michael S. “Mickey” Maurer says a common piece of advice for entrepreneurs is “find something you do well, you like, and do that forever.”

But all entrepreneurs do not fit into a nice, neat, one-size-fits-all package. The definition of the term, after all, typically includes the words “initiative” and “risk.”

Maurer follows his initial comment with this self-description. “I just don’t seem to follow that good advice. I have a short attention span, a big curiosity and I like to do things I’ve never done before. What I try to do is find something I’ve never done, do that and learn all I can, and then move on and do something else I’ve never done. And that makes every deal fascinating … and it makes every deal fraught with risks if you’re doing everything for the first time.”

Maurer’s business career has included cable television, racquetball facilities, film production, radio broadcasting, newspaper publishing, banking and much more. He served in the early days of the Daniels administration, making deals for the state as leader of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.

In one 30-minute conversation, Maurer offers these recollections and pieces of advice.

Read the full story online.

And learn more about the Indiana Chamber’s new Technology & Innovation Council. Want to participate? Contact Mark Lawrance at mlawrance(at)indianachamber.com.

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Angels Prove to be More Selective in 2015

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The angel investor market in 2015 had a slight increase in investment dollars and in deal size according to a new report from the Center for Venture Research (CVR) at the University of New Hampshire.

The State Science & Technology Institute provides the following analysis:

In The Angel Investor Market in 2015: A Buyers Market, CVR reports that total angel investments in 2015 were $24.6 billion – an increase of 1.9% over 2014. CVR also reported that the total number of entrepreneurial ventures that received angel funding in 2015 declined by 3.1% from 2014 – in total 71,110 start-ups received funding. The result of these two trends was larger deal sizes for 2015 – an increase of 5.1% from 2014. CVR concluded that these findings, combined with yield rates and valuations data, indicate that angels were selective in their investment behavior in 2015.

While CVR contends that the angel market was robust in 2015 – approximately $24.6 billion in investments – they also believe that the selectivity of angels and decrease in valuations over the last three years indicates a continuing market correction in valuations. Other findings include:

  • Software maintained its top sector position with 18% of total angel investments in 2015
  • Other key industries include Healthcare Services/Medical Devices and Equipment (16%), Biotech (13%), Industrial/Energy (11%), Retail (10.6%), and Media (9%)
  • Angel investments contributed to the creation of 270,2000 new jobs in the U.S. – 3.8 jobs per angel investment
  • The average angel deal size was $345,390
  • The average equity received was 14.89% with a deal valuation of $2.3 million
  • Angel investment in the seed and start-up stage (28% of deals) was largely unchanged from 2014 (25% of deals)
  • Fort-five percent of all angel deals were early stage investments (46% in 2014)
  • Expansion and late stage investments also remained consistent with regard to percentage of total deals

Interested in the health of Indiana’s tech community? Get involved in the new Indiana Technology and Innovation Council. First open discussion is August 9! Contact Mark Lawrance at mlawrance(at)indianachamber.com to learn more. 

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Seeking Government Answers

If you are not receiving timely responses from written queries to the federal government, join the crowd. Washington is not known for being nimble, but agencies respond differently according to the Center for Effective Government. Here’s a brief breakdown:

  • Especially slow: Department of Veterans Affairs, State Department, Securities and Exchange Commission, Environmental Protection Agency and Occupational Safety and Health Administration
  • High marks: Agriculture Department and Social Security Administration
    Congress will try to move the biggest offenders, but Kiplinger reminds that “the bureaucracy, after all, is still the bureaucracy. Making agencies more responsive is sure to take time.”

Tech Thursday: Don’t Worry; Just Be Successful

EDITOR’S NOTE: BizVoice® has featured technology/innovation stories throughout its 18-year history. Look for these flashbacks each Thursday. Here is a 2015 favorite.

Max Yoder talks – a lot. He is the first to admit that. But the 27-year-old CEO of Lesson.ly (the 2015 Mira Award winner as Tech Startup of the Year) has a great deal to say. And many people are paying very close attention to his words.

In the first five minutes of a 55-minute conversation, Yoder says he is a worrier. When asked to explain that seeming contradiction with leading an entrepreneurial venture, he clarifies:

“When I say I’m a worrier, that doesn’t necessarily mean I worry about everything. I don’t worry about my abilities. I often worry about things I can’t control; there are a lot of them,” he shares.

Read the full story online.

And learn more about the Indiana Chamber’s new Technology and Innovation Council. Want to participate? Contact Mark Lawrance at mlawrance(at)indianachamber.com and look for the #TIC4TECH hashtag.

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Global Woes Could Haunt U.S.

GKiplinger projects 2% economic growth for the United States in 2016. While not outstanding, there could be a sudden shift in the other direction if trouble occurs elsewhere. These are identified as the countries worth watching:

  • Venezuela: “Its economy is near collapse, as is its political system. If its oil flow stops, even for a short time, global prices will spike, putting pressure on major industrialized nations that need imports (including the U.S.) and likely shaking the confidence of investors.”
  • Brazil: “South America’s largest economy is in the second year of recession, its government is in disarray and its burgeoning middle class is being squeezed. A full meltdown isn’t likely but a less-than-spectacular Olympics and the spread of the Zika virus could unnerve trading partners and investors.”
  • Saudi Arabia: “Like others, the Saudis were stung by falling oil prices. But the big unknown is how the ruling family will respond if Washington decides that the kingdom can be held legally liable for the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. One possible Saudi response: Selling off as much as $750 billion in U.S. Treasuries and other assets as a form of political retribution.”
  • China: “Slowing growth there causes ripples in everybody’s pond, threatening to slim trade in Europe, Asia and the Americas. China won’t be derailed, but its stumbles will keep global expansion muted.”

Don’t Burn Those Bridges

9990321It’s not uncommon for employees to return to a previous employer at some point in their career. It’s sometimes referred to as a boomerang effect. We’ve seen and benefited from more than a few of those occurrences at the Indiana Chamber.

But even more typical is former employers being asked for references about your job performance. Allison & Taylor, which refers to itself as the nation’s oldest professional reference checking firm, offers the following 5 Golden Rules of Job Reference Etiquette:

  1. Call your former bosses and ask them if they are willing to be good job references for you. Be sure to thank them for supporting you in your job search if they agree.
  2. Let them know each and every time you give out their name and email address.
  3. Keep your former positive references informed of your experiences in climbing the corporate ladder and your educational progress. Provide them with career updates. He/she will be more inclined to see you in a stronger light as you progress.
  4. Remember that spending time with a potential employer takes valuable time out of your former bosses’ day, so try to give something back. For instance, after receiving a good job reference, write a personal thank-you letter or (at a minimum) send an email. Better still, send a thank-you note with a gift card, or offer to take your former boss to lunch/dinner.
  5. If you win the new position, call or email your former boss and thank them again for the positive references. At the same time, you can provide your new professional contact information.

Making the Most of the Middle

Business direction background with two people

The Indiana Chamber Foundation conducted research on Indiana middle-market firms nearly a decade ago and initiated programming efforts (that continue today) to help grow those companies.

Now, American Express and Dun & Bradstreet offer the Middle Market Power Index.

The latest report rates Indiana fourth for growth in the number of middle market firms – defined as between $10 million and $1 billion in annual revenues) from 2011 to 2016. The current 3,916 firms in this category constitute an increase of more than 101% from five years earlier.

While small businesses (less than $10 million in revenues in this case) comprise more than 98% of all businesses, Indiana is one of 10 states – in a somewhat Midwest-dominated category – in which middle market firms comprise a greater than average share of companies. The numbers: Illinois and Wisconsin, 1.5% share; Michigan and New Jersey, 1.3%; Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, North Dakota, New York and Ohio, 1.2% each.

Maybe part of the explanation for the above is that middle market firms are much more likely to be found in manufacturing (18%) and wholesale trade (17%).

Just as the Chamber found previously, these firms makes an outstanding economic contribution. While comprising just less than 1% of all businesses, they employ more than one in four workers (27%) in the private sector and contribute 26% of revenues.