Tuesday, February 26, 2013


The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom. Isaac Asimov

The recent passing of C. Everett Koop is an appropriate time to reflect on the impacts of public health policy on the welfare of the people. However, before getting into the thicket of his political life, his transformational impact as a pediatric surgery must be acknowledged. Anyone who has had the misfortune of watching their child undergo surgery owes, ultimately, a debt of gratitude to this trail blazer in surgical techniques.

It was outside of the operating room where Koop would rise to global fame. He took strong positions on AIDS, turning panic of a plague like outbreak with demands for mandatory testing and quarantine, into thoughtful discourse on behavior modifications and long term care. He infuriated both extremes of the debate on abortion by demonstrating that abortion was not a public health concern while at the same time calling it morally abominable. He challenged our basic prejudices and misunderstandings on the rights of infants with birth defects, providing the scientific basis for the Baby Doe legislation.

Koop was also an aggressive critic of the tobacco industry. Perhaps in this role he is often over credited with driving change, as by the early 1980's when he became Surgeon General, there was already a clear downward trend. That trend was started by then Surgeon General Luther Terry in 1964 who first declared definitive causality of lung cancer and the probable causality of heart disease from smoking.

Trends in Current Cigarette Smoking Among High School Students and Adults, United States, 1965–2011
CDC graph

Koop understood that through a balance of scientific thought and moral conscience, it could BE different.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Home Alone

The only place you see a free market is in the speeches of politicians. Dwayne Andreas

Thanks to my friend Erik Pages, I'm going to be lazy this week and send you to his post.

The key quote is "....when it comes to innovation, US firms are 'home alone.'  If they develop a new innovation, it’s solely up to them to scale it up and bring it to market.  In contrast, foreign manufacturers can tap into a diverse network of resources...."

We can keep to a failed philosophy, or we can recognize that with a bit of pragmatic policy that it could BE different for US Manufacturing.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Good is Not Good Enough

There is no country in the world where it's as easy to find venture capital in the stock market as the United States. Ron Chernow

You don't have to read many of my posts to know I am not a fan of the metaphor. (Copyball, Don't Skin the Turkey, Moldy Cheese, and Don't Spend Billions on a Metaphor). So it is with much hypocrisy that I publish this post about the investor and the entrepreneur.

"An eagle was sitting on a tree resting, doing nothing.

A small rabbit saw the eagle and asked him, 'Can I also sit like you and do nothing?'

The eagle answered: 'Sure, why not.'

So, the rabbit sat on the ground below the eagle and rested. Suddenly, a fox appeared, jumped on the rabbit and ate it.

The moral: If you are going to sit and do nothing, it is best to do so very high up." author unknown

As an entrepreneur, don't forget that the investor is perfectly fine doing nothing. Showing an investor a deal that is good is not good enough. Even showing an investor a great deal isn't good enough, if someone else has a greater deal.

This is perhaps the biggest mistake I see from people (and me) looking for money. They have good deals, but they don't have great deals. And for an investor, who already has a big pocket full of cash, why would they risk moving for anything other than a deal which clearly screams it could BE different.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

What the Customer Always Wants

They didn't want it good, they wanted it Wednesday. Robert Heinlein

The following is a rather popular cartoon.

On first read, I think anyone whose been involved in the development of a new product would chuckle with a sense of familiarity.


But the last frame is wrong.

The reality is that customers want a product which will make them money (or have a lot of fun, or eat a great meal, or whatever)......for free (or better yet, get money)......It's not enough to ask customers what they want, because that will always be what they want.

To develop and sell a new product, ask how you will make money in a way that engineering can design, that manufacturing can make, that marketing can distribute, that meets regulatory requirements AND that provides the customer improved value. And expect a few hundred iterations until you get it right.

It's not easy, but it is the only way it could BE different.