Category Archives: jobs

WHY MILLENNIALS KEEP DUMPING YOU

An Open Letter to Management

by Lisa Earle McLeod

Attracting and keeping top millennial talent is a burning issue for leaders. Millennials are 35% of the workforce. By 2020 they’ll be 46% of the working population.

Some of our most successful clients — organizations like G Adventures, Google, and Hootsuite — are filled with millennials who are on fire for their jobs. Yet many organizations struggle to attract, and retain, top millennial talent.

One of us, Elizabeth, wrote this letter, to share insights about what top-performing millennials want and how leaders can ignite the “energy of a thousand suns.”

~ ~ ~

An Open Letter to Management:

You hired us thinking this one might be different; this one might be in it for the long haul. We’re six months in, giving everything we have, then suddenly, we drop a bomb on you. We’re quitting.

We know the stereotypes. Millennials never settle down. We’re drowning in debt for useless degrees. We refuse to put our phone away. We are addicted to lattes even at the expense of our water bill. Our bosses are not wrong about these perceptions. But, pointing to our sometimes irresponsible spending and fear of interpersonal commitment isn’t going to solve your problem. You still need us. We’re the ones who’ve mastered social media, who have the energy of a thousand suns, and who will knock back 5-dollar macchiatos until the job is done perfectly.

I’ve worked in corporate America, administrative offices, advertising agencies, and restaurants. I’ve had bosses ranging from 24 to 64. I’ve had bosses I loved, and bosses I didn’t. I’ve seen my peers quit, and I’ve quit a few times myself. Here’s what’s really behind your millennials’ resignation letter:

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-1- You tolerate low-performance

It’s downright debilitating to a high achiever. I’m working my heart out and every time I look up Donna-Do-Nothing is contemplating how long is too long to take for lunch. I start wondering why leadership tolerates this.

Is that the standard here? No thanks.

Fact: Poor performers have a chilling effect on everyone.

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-2- ROI is not enough for me

I spent Sunday thinking about how I can make a difference to our customers. Now it’s Monday morning, what do I hear? Stock price. Billing. ROI. Suddenly, my Monday power playlist seems useless. I’m sitting in a conference room listening to you drag on about cash flow.

I was making more money bartending in college than I am at this entry-level job. You say I’ll get a raise in a year if the company hits a certain number? So what? I need something to care about today. Talk to me about how we make a difference, not your ROI report.

Fact: Organizations with a purpose bigger than money have a growth rate triple that of their competitors.

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-3- Culture is more than free Panera

Don’t confuse culture with collateral. Yes, I am a cash-strapped millennial who really appreciates free lunch. But I don’t wake up at 6AM every day to play foosball in the break room. I’m not inspired to be more innovative over a Bacon Turkey Bravo.

I need to be surrounded by people who are on fire for what we’re doing. I need a manager who is motivated to push boundaries and think differently. Working in a cool office is really awesome. So is free lunch. But a purposeful culture is more important.

Fact: A culture of purpose drives exponential sales growth

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-4- It’s ok to get personal

Treat me like a number? I’ll return the favor. This job will quickly become nothing more than my rent payment. I’ll start living for Friday and counting down the minutes until 5. After a few months of that, I’ll probably have a drunken epiphany and realize I want more out of my life than this.

Then I’ll prove your assumptions right. 8 months in, I’ll quit and leave. Or worse, I’ll quit and stay, just like Donna-Do-Nothing.

That’s not good for either of us. Here’s what you need to know:

I was raised to believe I could change the world. I’m desperate for you to show me that the work we do here matters, even just a little bit. I’ll make copies, I’ll fetch coffee, I’ll do the grunt work. But I’m not doing it to help you get a new Mercedes.

I’ll give you everything I’ve got, but I need to know it makes a difference to something bigger than your bottom line.

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Signed,

A Millennial

~ ~ ~

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The millennials are telling us what we already know in our hearts to be true. People want to make money; they also want to make a difference. Successful leaders put purpose before profit, and they wind up with teams who drive revenue through the roof.

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This article was co-written with Elizabeth McLeod, a millennial and cum laude graduate of Boston University, and daughter of Lisa Earle McLeod.

Lisa Earle McLeod is the creator of the popular business concept Noble Purpose and author of the bestselling books, SELLING WITH NOBLE PURPOSE and LEADING WITH NOBLE PURPOSE. Lisa is a sales leadership consultant and keynote speaker who helps organizations improve competitive differentiation and emotional engagement. www.mcleodandmore.com

This article previously appeared in Forbes

Image credit: Lisa Earle McLeod

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Also by Lisa Earle McLeod:

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. Please perform your own due diligence. It’s not our fault if you lose money.
.Copyright © 2017 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved
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THE TRUMP EFFECT

WHAT THE NEW ADMINISTRATION MIGHT MEAN FOR HEALTH CARE

By Erik Clausen

Several months have passed since the U.S. Presidential election, and…we’re still here, folks. After years of political rhetoric and theatrics, and a few months of uncertainty, we are starting to gain some clarity around exactly what the new administration and its policies might mean for the life science industry and, by extension, marketers within it.

Most importantly and as a wise man wrote before the election, “There is no need for panic.”

the scream EdvardMunch

Edvard Munch – The Scream

Now that the rhetoric has momentarily quieted, we need to balance Trump’s desire to make dramatic policy changes with the realities of the legislative process and with the expectations of a public that benefits from life science and healthcare innovation. Widespread policy changes take time to implement and often require strong Congressional support, even with a Republican-controlled House and Senate. The recent defeat of the health care bill is a case in point.

In other words, as we look at the major policy changes that are likely to affect life science marketing in the years ahead, we need to recognize that there will be time to adjust marketing strategies and tactics accordingly. This may even mean building multiple marketing plans to address different contingencies.

fear MS Office

 

Possible repatriation of US dollars

U.S. pharmaceutical companies have substantial funds tied up in accounts overseas due to punitive tax laws. The administration has proposed, as part of his economic stimulus plan, to dramatically reduce this tax rate and encourage those dollars to come back to the U.S.

In theory, by lowering the tax burden on these businesses, the economy will see an uptick as businesses are encouraged to invest. These companies benefitting from tax relief would in turn reinvest those dollars domestically in the form of new deals, R&D, acquisition and job creation.

Since pharmaceutical and instrumentation companies typically grow based on acquisition, we could see a resurgence in life science M&A and dramatic increases in the value of emerging biotech, diagnostic and tools companies. No doubt, these topics are top of mind at industry gatherings like the January 2017 J.P. Morgan Healthcare conference.

dollars MS Office

If this move does have the immediate and positive effect on the life science sector as promised, it would give corporate brand managers and marketers much to do to position their companies correctly to take full advantage of the M&A environment.

Of course, this assumes that the financial boon to corporations is reinvested or used for acquisition and not simply distributed to shareholders. Increased deal-flow will lead to increased budgets. This will undoubtedly bring increased noise in a busy economy. Therefore, we should focus on building long-term brand equity in an expanding GDP and economy.

 

Corporate tax rate reduction

The administration will also propose in the President’s Budget Bill, a much lower corporate tax rate. This plan would significantly reduce the cost of capital and reduce the marginal tax rate on labor.

By most analyses, these incentives could increase the U.S. economy’s size in the long run, boost wages, and result in more full-time equivalent jobs—including in the life science sector. The question remains, what the estimated reduction in federal revenue will mean for federal funding of medical and scientific research. Such grants often precipitate early discovery that soon become commercialized.

 

tax tax tax MS Office

The size of the proposed tax breaks for corporations are, simply put, Huge.” But if the administration can actually get it through Congress, it has the potential to give corporations exponential buying power, increase cash flow, build up inventory, and re-invest in technology. Dismissing any possibility of a bubble and or the rich simply getting richer, these tax breaks should create jobs and boost all sectors of the economy, including life science and healthcare.

 

Reforming the FDA

In his 100-day plan, Trump specifically cited, “…cutting the red tape at the FDA…” as among his highest priorities. In the plan, he stated that, “…there are over 4,000 drugs awaiting approval, and we especially want to speed the approval of life-saving medications.” We can only assume that such reforms would also have a direct effect on approval and clearances for new medical devices and diagnostic tests, as well.

An accelerated approval process at the FDA could potentially have a positive effect—at least in the short-term—on the life science sector. With therapeutic candidates and devices moving more rapidly through review than anticipated, biotech, pharmaceutical and device companies in mid to late stage clinical phases could see increased valuations of companies with early approvals.

fda MS Office

Additionally, this could encourage earlier stage companies to get more ambitious about moving candidates to the clinic and could make would-be acquirers more bullish.

In the long term, if that accelerated review brings products to market too quickly, it could threaten public health, cause another costly set of reforms, and damage the brands of those companies.

 

What does the new agenda mean for marketers?

While it will take some time to feel the effects on any proposed legislation or policy changes, the administration will tie everything back to growing the economy: no small challenge. A lot has to come together with or without a cooperative Congress. The President will have to build a consensus.

marketing MS Office

For now, as marketers we need to do what we’ve always done—assess market opportunities, pinpoint our target audiences, develop smart strategies to reach and influence their behavior, and measure outcomes. Certainly, researching the impact of policy decisions is part of that research, but acting too quickly on proposed policy changes only fuels uncertainty.

And, if there is one truth in the market, it doesn’t like uncertainty.

screaming robot MS Office

In the end, even if the President is able to pass a fraction of what he’s proposing, it should lead to economic prosperity and marketing opportunity in our industry.

Now, if we could just turn off his Twitter account, we might make social media great again, as well.

 

chempetitive group logo

About the Author

Erik Clausen is part of the Chempetitive Group, a Chicago based marketing initiative for pharmaceutical, chemical, biotechnology, diagnostics, and medical devices.

This article was previously posted online

Graphics: THE SCREAM courtesy www.EdvardMunch.org

All other graphics from MS Office.

 

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. Please perform your own due diligence. It’s not our fault if you lose money.
.Copyright © 2017 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved
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YOU MIGHT AS WELL DANCE

help-t-ms-officeIT Guys—Stop Playing Defense

by Howard Tullman

Not feeling enough love? Yes, techies are under appreciated until spit hits fan. But if you’re one of them, you’ve got a bigger role to play than you think. Here are three ways to raise your profile.

I feel bad for the guys in our IT department because they suffer the same career issue as the heads of Homeland Security. As we all know, terrorists and other scumbags only need to get it right one time and horrible things happen. Yet our counter-terrorism teams and other law enforcement agencies must try to be right every time. Then, when nothing happens, no one bothers to thank them or offer recognition for their work.

it-guys

People whine about cost, delays, and all the stupid rules. They figure that protecting us is what we’re paying these folks to do. The best the good guys can hope for is a tie. No harm—no foul. And no credit for keeping us safe.

I Don’t Get No Respect

IT departments in almost every business get the Rodney Dangerfield “I don’t get no respect” treatment. They’re taken for granted and get little or no recognition—from anyone—even though the complexity, significance, and risks associated with their responsibilities have multiplied exponentially in the last decade.

Face it, we humans only understand the degree of our dependence on machines and systems when they shut down, data disappears, and systems stop delivering the information we need to proceed.

help-ms-office

The truth is, you can’t do anything intelligent today without solid, timely, reliable, and accurate data. It’s the oil of the digital age and the IT guys are the ones with their mitts on the meters, mechanisms, and measurements. IT infrastructure is the make-or-break gate, tool and tunnel through which everything critical in our data-driven world passes. If they don’t get it right, your business simply doesn’t get done. Relative to your competition, you might as well be in the Dark Ages.

The Tide is Changing

I’ve been spending a fair amount of time with IT teams and I’m encouraged to see a few positive signs.

  • A slowly growing acknowledgement of the importance of IT.
  • Recognition of the turmoil caused by under-investing and under-appreciating the IT team.
  • How neglect exposes your entire company to critical and severe problems.

But time only changes what you don’t change first. I tell all the IT people I meet that they have to be their own best advocates and change agents if they really want to see meaningful improvements and add real value to their businesses.

This is no easy sell. These folks aren’t really built that way.

Selling their ideas is the last thing they ever thought they’d be stuck doing. But the waves of change are coming—and you can swim with the tides or sit still and be submerged.

I’ve found three specific ideas and approaches that senior-level IT folks can focus on to make a serious contribution to the future of their firms.

connected-devices-ms-office

1—Be a Weapon, not a Shield

Playing great defense isn’t enough. The smartest IT players are extracting from the plethora of connected devices and turning the data they develop into “weaponized” information—decision tools that move their businesses ahead by providing better and more timely solutions, both to internal users and outside clients. What gets done is what gets measured. Help your team optimize every aspect of the operation with real-time decision support. That puts everybody in a position to correctly make the most critical calls—like when to double-down on winners and how soon to ditch dogs. Providing increased metrics and visibility is what the best data-driven IT strategies are all about. Money is just expendable ammunition. Data is power and guess who’s in charge of the data?

future

2—Focus on Future

Everything is about the future. We need bridges—not more bandages. The network is the name of the game. Help your team exploit the extensive resources outside of your own shop. Connect your company to critical partners, collaborators, and new technologies that are beyond your four walls. Do it securely, without sacrificing speed, accuracy or ease of access.

Make sure your people are an active and effective part of all the “social” conversations that concern your business because these new channels are changing the way we all confer, compare, communicate, and consume. Unless your products and services are part of the ongoing conversations and decision sets, when the buyers are ready to buy, you’re nowhere.

Holding down the fort isn’t enough; you’ve got to do more than simple maintenance because your business needs a vision and a path forward—not another Mr. Fix-It.

be-the-solution

3—Be In the Room Where It Happens

If you don’t ask, you don’t get. As a senior IT professional, step up and insist that your presence and your input is central to securing the best solutions for the business. If you’re not there, if you don’t have some skin in the game, if you’re just a spectator, then the changes that do happen will happen to you, not through you. It’s not always safe to step up, but it’s the smartest bet you can make. If you don’t believe in yourself and your abilities, who else will? And take my word for it; waiting never gets you to a better result. The world is moving too quickly to give anyone the luxury of time. Just like in racing, you need to understand that no one waits for you.

If it’s any consolation in these tough and troubling times, just remember that they’re going to blame you for anything and everything that goes wrong anyway. So, if you’re already walking on thin ice, you might as well dance.

howard-tullman-double-gulp-t

Howard Tullman is the father of Chicago’s 1871 incubator.

Read his bio on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_A._Tullman

Check out his websites at http://tullman.com/

and http://tullman.blogspot.com/

Write him at 1871@Tullman

Image credits – Howard Tullman, Getty Images, MS Office

This is an excerpt from an article in INC.

http://www.inc.com/author/howard-tullman

Image credits – Howard Tullman, Getty Images, MS Office

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.
.Copyright © 2017 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved
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DON’T ASK WHY—ASK WHY NOT

Question Markby Howard Tullman

How the First Apprentice Winner Became an Entrepreneur

(No, The Donald Didn’t Help):

Bill Rancic readily admits he wasn’t the smartest guy on the show. But in his subsequent career, he has become very smart about getting the most out of the people around him.

Bill Rancic by Greg Rothstein

At 1871, we had the opportunity to host Bill Rancic for a keynote speech about what he’s learned from several important mentors. Bill was the first winner on Donald Trump’s The Apprentice television program, but didn’t mention The Donald, which isn’t really that much of a surprise. He talked about how he started and built several entrepreneurial ventures, and about a very important lesson that he took away from his triumph on the TV show in 2004.

I thought that his explanation for how he won the Apprentice competition was highly enlightening.

  • He didn’t say he worked the hardest.
  • He didn’t say he wanted it the most.
  • And he certainly didn’t say he was the smartest guy in the room.

Be the Conductor

Bill’s winning edge was something that we talk about every day at 1871: Nobody does anything important and worthwhile all alone. If you have a dream, you need a team—that is, if you want to make the dream come true.

Bill said he tried to be “the conductor” just like the main man at the symphony. He brought everyone together so they could make beautiful music. He knew—just like in an orchestra—that he didn’t personally have the special skills or the same abilities that each of the other members of his team possessed. But he got them all moving in the right direction.  He brought out the best efforts that each team member had to contribute.

The most amazing things get done when no one cares who gets the credit. Harmony trumps hubris. And Bill never spent his time blaming others when things went wrong. That would have been a waste of breath and energy.  When facing confrontations and tough sledding, he kept in mind what Robert Schuller said: “Tough times never last, but tough people do!”

Learn from Others

Bill was fortunate to have some great people to learn from, whose examples he follows to this day. And he knew not to do things on his own until he really knew what he was doing. He needed to play a role for a while before he tried to roll his own—even though one of his first ventures was in the mail order cigar business. Today, he’s also a restaurateur. (See Entrepreneurship: Will You Sink or Swim?).

Bill had a very clear idea of where he wanted to end up and even how he thought he’d get there. But he knew these things were going to take time. The smartest thing he could do was to concentrate on learning something from someone every day on the journey.  It’s important to have a mental roadmap, but patience is also essential.  (See Why You Need a Reverse Roadmap).

Make a Start

One of his father’s rules was “practical execution.” All talk is simply that—results and actions are the things that make a difference. His Dad used to say, “Show me, don’t tell me” or as I like to say, “You can’t win a race with your mouth.”

There’s no simple playbook or set of rules for how you invent the future – you’ve got to get the ball rolling, keep your eyes on the goal, and be agile and flexible all the time. But it won’t ever happen if you don’t get started.

Embrace Risk

Bill said, “When we’re born, we’re only afraid of two things – falling and loud noises. From then forward we learn to be afraid of other things and too often allow those fears to keep us from stepping out and taking the kinds of risks that are essential to succeed.” He quoted Emerson as saying you needed to do what you are afraid of—and if you do—success will find you.  The key is not to avoid every possible risk, but to recognize and manage reasonable risks so you can convert them into opportunities and rewards. The ship that stays in port is the safest, but it doesn’t get anywhere.

Don’t Ask Why

Finally, there is the business with the bumblebees. For years scientists figured bees were never supposed to be able to fly. The ratio of their wing size to body weight was all wrong. The laws of physics decreed that the bees couldn’t generate enough power to lift themselves into the air.  Like so many entrepreneurs who do every day what others think is impossible, no one ever told the bees they couldn’t fly. But off they went.

Today, no one says that the bees are defying physics or nature. They are defying convention. We’ve finally figured out that just because the bees don’t fly the same way that fixed-wing airplanes do doesn’t mean gravity doesn’t apply to them. The fact is that bees—just like entrepreneurs—have figured out a different way to solve the problem. They fly by rapidly rotating their flexible wings; that’s how they get lift.

Every day entrepreneurs are doing the same thing. We look at the same problems that millions of others have observed from new and different perspectives and come up with novel solutions that are often obvious in retrospect. This is because we don’t ask why; we ask, why not?

Tullman2_Full-bkt_16396_16396_16396Howard Tullman is a the father of 1871. For more from Howard, go to

http://tullman.blogspot.com

www.1871.com/

Read his bio: http://tullman.com/resume.asp

Images: Greg Rothstein, Cloudspotter/1871,

Howard Tullman, MS Office

This article is adapted from Inc Magazine

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Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2015 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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OIL FROM WATER

oil well T2by John Jonelis

What if you can make oil out of water?  What if, you also end up with more water?  A discovery like that will benefit our country and the world.

The technology now exists.  Commercialization is beginning.

The story starts here in Chicago.  Len Bland, mild-mannered local businessman, creates Business Network Chicago — a forum for presenting early stage ventures to the entrepreneurial community.  Over the years, he sees hundreds of startup companies and occasionally grapples with some very good ideas.

Once in a while, a surprise technology comes along that’s practical, profitable, and good for society. When that happens, it’s time to get involved personally and help them along.  That’s just what Len does.  This is a story about that company.

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Social Entrepreneurship

Nano Gas Technologies is a company that grows out of the discovery that very small gas bubbles remain in liquid a very long time—much longer than had previously been thought in scientific circles.  If you saturate a substance with oxygen or some other gas and it remains in situ for a very long time, a whole range of possibilities opens up.  One ramification of this discovery is to solve the fresh water dilemma.  That’s huge.

Next to the air we breathe, there is nothing more important to life than water.  And our fresh water is drying up.  There are two ways to provide more water to the world:

  • Find more
  • Waste less

Nano Gas starts along the first path and ends up solving the second.

oil well

Find More

Clean drinking water is the first market the company tests—until the real blockbuster application turns up.  Let’s briefly explore this first path because it’s an important one that will benefit humanity.  The company can return to it at any time, and given its importance to society, they probably will.

Fresh water is processed in municipal wastewater treatment facilities.  These facilities are incredibly inefficient.  Turns out, by injecting nano-bubbles into the sludge, a whole lot more pure water can be reclaimed.  Simple.  The best discoveries are simple.

This is hugely exciting news because the benefits extend far beyond relieving the stench in and around the neighborhood of these plants.  We are looking at the potential solution to water shortage in the industrialized world.  Beyond that, the process can provide drinking water to third world nations by extracting purified water from swamps and polluted rivers.  This is social entrepreneurship at its best!

clarification steps

Politics has a funny way of throwing roadblocks in front of good causes.  It turns out that cracking the municipal market is a slow and painstaking undertaking because there are so many cities and towns and each of them takes a long time to make a decision. Wastewater treatment is a good and important application for the technology, but it’s not a market suited for a new company raising significant capital for rapid growth.  In other words, the time horizon for the served market and the time horizon for the capital market don’t match.

Again, I believe the company will return to this market once it achieves maturity.  Meanwhile a much more profitable opportunity has come to light—one that can propel the company to significant growth on a timetable attractive to venture capital.

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Waste Less

Let me tell you about the change that captured my interest in the company:

Domestic oil wells use a lot of water.  Not just fracking operations, but ordinary wells too.  Many of these run out of water before the lunch whistle blows and operations cease for the day.  That means more tankers of oil get shipped from unfriendly places in the world.

At these domestic wells, once the water is used, it comes back as a contaminated slurry.  The standard method to gain value from the slurry is gravity–settling ponds.  Given time, valuable minerals sink to the bottom or rise to the top.  This is slow, messy, and doesn’t do a complete job of cleaning the water.  The reclaimed water is not fit to drink.  It’s not even fit for recovering oil because it clogs up the machinery.  The industry doesn’t know how to deal with the water that remains.

oil well in Rockies

Believe it or not, this water gets entirely wasted.  Drillers truck it to special facilities called disposal wells that pump it back into the ground just to get rid of it.  This reduces the amount of water available for drinking and for industry.

So we’re wasting too much water and pumping too little oil.  Enter Nano Gas Technologies.  They use their profoundly simple nano-bubble discovery to clean wastewater for oil wells.  This is huge because, once purified, oil wells can re-use their water.  That’s right, instead of wasting more and more water and pumping the contaminated residue into the ground, the same water can now be cleaned and used over and over.

That means oil wells no longer cease operations early in the day.  America gets a whole lot more domestic oil and wastes a whole lot less water.  And the company is dealing with the free market rather than multiple bureaucracies.  Everybody wins.

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Big Money

This is a social benefit with $35B market in a very short span of time.  It’s profitable for oil wells, disposal wells, and of course, for the company.  An additional 18 barrels of oil can be reclaimed from 3000 barrels of wastewater.  Dirty water is no longer a nuisance—it’s so valuable that Nano Gas Technologies proposes to pay the well owners for the water and sell the oil they reclaim from it!  Now, there’s a revolutionary idea!  Rapid industry-wide adoption is anticipated once the technology is demonstrated.

Here’s a diagram of the process logistics:

Nano Gas Process

Residual oil reclamation plan – Nano Gas Technologies

Fair Disclosure:  I’m impressed and invested.  Who wouldn’t invest in more oil and more water?

Ω

 

Contacts

Nano Gas Technologies, Inc. –

BNC – Business Network Chicago

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This article appeared in News From Heartland 

Photo Credits – Nano Gas Technologies

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TOUGH LOVE

Sandee 15TTechbash – Part 5

John Jonelis

This is a story about raw love. Tough.  Rugged.  Unashamed.

I’m at i.c.stars—the premier social incubator in Chicago—and I find myself a bit overwhelmed by it all. I stop in to thank Sandee Kastrul, their President and Co-founder and she pours me some hot coffee.

“I think,” She says, “that at the end of the day, there are three things that you should know about us:

  • We’re positioned as an opportunity, not a charity.
  • Rather than exploit our interns, we exploit our CIOs.
  • We’re funded by the technology industry—not the government.

Those seem to me rather interesting assertions for a social venture. But she goes on to explain:

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It’s a Business

“If we were a charity,” She says, “it would ruin the product—destroy the brand. If you say, let’s give these poor kids a chance, give them a job—it’s charity, not business. Their job each day is not just to learn the technology—not just to learn the software—but to change perceptions about what it means to be a young person entering this field without a college degree. To be a person of color. To be someone who’s overcome adversity. icstars-hq11

“And so everything is about, not what Johnny WAS, but what Johnny DOES. We never exploit the stories in the past. One person is homeless or 30% of our folks are ex-offenders, or whatever it is—we never discuss that. It’s what Johnny DOES. That’s a very important differentiator.”

I sip my coffee. So that’s why I didn’t hear any personal histories in their introductions. I thought at the time that it was intentional but hadn’t known the reasoning behind it.

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Don’t Exploit the Talent

“Another thing is that I would much rather exploit the CIOs than our interns. We have an agreement. We give the CIOs jobs. For instance, at the TechBash event, we make them into celebrity bartenders. We get them to blog and sell sponsorships to all their potential customers. Just to be with the interns for that period of time cost them extra money and the ticket price is already $250. And so they know that they are doing their share and lending their name. That’s hard for the introverted CIOs but they do it.”Sandee 19

That takes me by surprise. “Those C-level bigshots from major corporations are introverts?”

“Oh sure—they’re technology people.”

She makes it sound so plausible, like—Of course, what do you suppose? But now she’s moving on:

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Industry Funded

“The third thing is our economic engine: We don’t have any government funding. We’re funded by the technology industry. And so this CIO network is what keeps us afloat. We’re able to leverage those relationships.”

“They see it as an investment in their own companies?”

“In talent, yes. And they’re able to grow their leadership. icstars-hq10And each of them remembers when they first started out in technology. They all went to boot camps. Whether that was GE or Continental Bank—it’s this idea of an intense experience. When they come to Tea—if that’s their first step—they’re blown away by the reciprocity, by the passion, and they say, ‘I wish my team could do that.’

“I actually heard one of them say that.”

That gets a big smile from Sandee. “When they ask our interns their questions, they get a real surprise. This is not typical. It’s not like going to business school and saying, ‘Well how did you do this?’ You know—that sort of interview routine. Here, it’s really about having intimacy and building a connection with someone.

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Alumni Evangelists

“Then the interns become evangelists for the organization.Sandee 13 That’s a very important part of changing perceptions. It’s also an important part of building our network. The more CIOs we have that are connected and engaged, the more we’re able to go after service providers, to engage with the organization.”

This I like. She’s talking about building a self-sustaining social venture. “How often do you run these—these crash courses?”

“We typically do two cycles a year. We have capacity for four but it depends on market demand. Say CDW wants to hire 10 QA analysts. That tells us, ‘All right—Jerry get your recruitment engine going again.’

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Tough Love

Do interns drop out?”

We fire people.”

I sit up in my chair and almost spill my coffee. “Fire them? After what they went through to get here?”

“We have a very strict attendance policy. You can’t be late or absent for four months.”icstars-hq2

“Not once?

“One and you go on probation. The second one, you’re let go. It’s the idea of, ‘How do you learn to take care of yourself—to show up on time?’”

I can hardly believe what I’m hearing. After that rigorous selection process, fired for missing a couple days? That’s what I call real tough love.

“What it really does,” She says, “is shine a spotlight on all those things that keep us from being reliable. And I mean substance abuse. Violent relationships. I’ve had boyfriends unplugging alarm clocks so that the woman would be late and lose her position because it was such a threat—she was learning so much—she was speaking differently—he was worried that she was going to outpace him or not need him.

“And so what that does is give us a real insight. icstars-hq8We might say, ‘Okay—here’s what you need to work on. Take six months. Fix this problem. Here are some resources. And then come back.’

“It’s not easy to come back though. They’ve got to go through an alumni interview. That’s rough. There are 13 things they have to do including a reading list. It’s rigorous. It’s not a free ride. Then the alums decide, ‘No this person shouldn’t represent our brand.’ That’s intense. But it’s important because it’s back to that idea that you’re fighting for something bigger than yourself. Can you really stake that claim?”

This calls for commitment level even higher than I realized and I seriously doubt I could stand up to it myself. icstars-hq6Getting in takes a special kind of person. Getting through is even tougher. No wonder Fortune 500 companies are so eager to hire i.c.stars alums.

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Growing the Venture

Sandee passes a hand over her brow then changes expression and I sense a change of subject.

“I’m working on expanding to Detroit, Milwaukee, and Denver.” She says. “I have a very interesting process that’s organic. Grass roots.”

What about growing this one location?”

“We’re looking at expanding the number of interns as well—getting up to about a hundred per year. But local expansion is about partnering with more organizations—it’s more of a channel strategy than trying to bring more people in here. We’re thinking through how we might plug in other organizations that are in the community. We’re exploring the concept of what a partnership would look like because there are certainly tons of opportunities in the market. It could be a primer—before i.c.stars—or a post i.c. stars plugin.

That make a whole lot of sense and it also occurs to me that more than one university graduate programs would be delighted build a program for candidates of this caliber. “So other people see your success—start up similar organizations—and that’s a good thing. I know you turn away people and it breaks your heart. I know you feel that way.”

She nods slowly. “It’s hard.”Sandee 11

Before I go, Sandee hands me some brochures—what she calls “propaganda.” But later I read it all and it’s some of the best material I’ve come across. You can download it below.

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DOWNLOAD I.C.STARS BROCHURE – (500K PDF)

GO BACK TO PART 1 – TALENT HIDES

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Contacts

i.c.stars – www.icstars.org

Sandee Kastrul, President and Co-Founder – sKastrul@icstars.org

Photos credits: i.c.stars.
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Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link . This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2014 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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Filed under Big Corporations, big money, chicago, Chicago Ventures, city, Conflict, Education, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Events, i.c.stars, Impact Investing, Innovation and Culture, jobs, philanthropist, philanthropy, Social Entrepreneur, Software, TechBash, The City

THE APPRENTICE MEETS DIGITAL BOOT CAMP

icstarg 1Techbash – Part 3

VERBATIM – John Jonelis

This is a story of high expectations, high reality, and high energy. I may as well give it to you straight, because Loop Lonogan would want it that way. He’s in the lockup. Too much hard partying on Twelfth Night. His guests spilled into the street and all kinds of trouble erupted—part of it involving a policeman he knocked cold.  So I’m here at i.c.stars headquarters.  Here to finish Lonagan’s series of articles.  I’m talking to the president and co-founder, Sandee Kastrul.

The location—downtown Chicago. The workspace—all business. I start by throwing out this question: “Can I call i.c.stars a social incubator. Is that fair?”

Sandee bursts out in a smile. “I love it—I love it. It’s all about transformation. Technology is a tool of transformation. Sandee 2We teach technology because it’s creative. It doesn’t know what you look like. At the end of the day you can be a rock star.

“But what really gets us jazzed about technology is the systems thinking and the process that’s embedded in it. If you can take that and apply it to community leadership, to organizing, to service leaders, to entrepreneurship, we can literally make a change in the communities that we come from. And so we sit between the leadership and the technology side. Our vision is 1000 community leaders by 2020. So everything is about the leadership angle.”

This gal is for real and genuinely creative and intellectual. I’m going to enjoy this conversation.

Then she pauses and cocks her head. “Why was the TechBash event so special for Mr. Lonogan?”

icstarg 14

High Expectations

“When Loop visited TechBash,” I say as I lean forward, hands clasped, “he met people that deeply impressed him. Everybody wants to give back—both interns and alums. They’re all wonderful evangelists for your program. He convinced me that you’ve really got something terrific going on here. I also think he feels a deep empathy with the people he met because, as you know, he grew up in a tough neighborhood—and he profited by it. Of course, with Loop we always have to consider the open bar.”

Sandee 16Sandee laughs at that and I ask her to fill me in. 

“Reciprocity is one of our seven tenants.” she says. “It’s embedded in everything we do. Our model is all project-based learning. You spend a week doing team building, leadership training, trust exercises, cross-cultural communications, and then that Friday the team is divided up into three teams that form their own consulting companies and they’re literally competing with each other for their first bid on a project.”

Now I feel a grin coming on.  That’s the kind of interactive hands-on education that I always loved and seldom experienced.  I ask her if the project is a simulation.

“It’s kind of like The Apprentice meets Digital Boot Camp,” she says. “Leadership objectives are baked into their project. There are monkey wrenches all the way through, and those things are scripted, but the software they’re building is real, the requirements are real, it’s all very real.”

How many of your people find work in their field in six months?”

90% placement rate for our graduates—within six months probably 95-100%.”

That’s a significant statement.  Amazing in any economic climate.  So I ask her for the details. 

“Four months of an intensive, twelve hour a day, project-based learning environment.”

“Homework?”

She comes right back. Sandee 6“You do the work until it’s done. I always say the difference between school and work is: School is all about you and work is about everybody else. Sometimes they’ll be here till one in the morning working on deliverables.”

“So twelve hours or even more.”

“Yes. It’s project-based learning. The student is in a meeting and client will say, Okay, we want you to build this mobile app.”

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High Reality

“Corporate sponsors come in with real needs?”

“That’s right. And then the interns figure out how to do it. Then in the last hour, we have a subject matter expert who will come in on a parachute from the sky and help them over the last mile. And what’s important about that from a pedagogy standpoint is that you are learning how to learn—how to figure things out—how to learn quickly—and how to apply that information. Sandee 7It’s not pre-teaching for later—it’s literally learn-for-the-month. What’s interesting is that our whole program is built on the premise that people who have overcome adversity have developed resiliency. And they wouldn’t be sitting at our table without it. Resiliency is the number one thing we’re looking for in our assessment process.”

That makes so much sense to me. I know she’s right.  Of course, not everybody thrives in such a setting and it takes strength of character.  So I ask her where she finds her intern candidates.

“We recruit from all over. Most come from the South and West sides of Chicago.”

Consider the magnitude of what she’s saying. Those are some of the roughest neighborhoods in the country. So I relate to her what Lonagan described last night through the steel screen: “Some of the alums told Loop they felt helpless till they found i.c.stars. Angry. No expectations out of life. No hope. No reason to have any. But each of them somehow had the drive to try this program and somehow got accepted. Does that describe your students?”

“I think so. We’re looking for people who are fighting for something bigger than themselves. That and the resiliency piece. Sandee 9So at some point, they faced adversity in their life and said, ‘I’ll show you. You’re not gonna tell me no.’ And it’s that fight—that resiliency—that develops this tool kit that has creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, all these things. We’re taking that toolkit and providing different context for them to learn. Our assumption is they already have all the raw materials. The project-based learning environment says, You already know—we’re just giving you this other context.

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High Energy

“But you train them first—before they go into a project?”

“A little bit. A week.”

I sit straight in my chair. A week? Who can do that? She must be describing the hottest recruiting ground in the world. “So they learn to program while doing?”

“Yes. We also have night classes. Experts come in and teach a concept.”

“Where do you find the experts to teach?”

She grins. “We have about a thousand volunteers plugged in. The training program manager handles that. A technical coach is on staff. It’s a busy place.”

She’s describing a training program on steroids.  “How many recruits do you accept for a four-month internship?”

“We have capacity for 20 people at a time. We err on the smaller side.”

“I heard that you start with 3,000.”

“That is a very interesting statistic. The top of the funnel is about 400 people who are interested enough in i.c.stars to show the necessary commitment. Sandee 10What happens in that pipeline is quite rigorous: Four phases of assessment tests. At each level, people drop off. They self-select out. They might say, ‘It’s a little too intense—I’m not ready yet.’ It’s not as if we’re kicking people out all the way through—they’re saying, ‘I’m not ready.’

“The last leg is our panel interview. That really looks at resiliency. It is nothing more than seven existential questions in a panel setting. That interview has been THE greatest indicator of people’s success in the program. And on the job. And in the community. It really is looking at, ‘How do you see yourself in the world?’ Are you coming from a locus of control, like, ‘I’m a victim,’ or are you at, ‘This is what I want to do.’ Where do you sit? It’s very powerful. It’s like, ‘What are you gonna do about it?’”

Sandee 8Then she abruptly stands. “High Tea is going to happen now. It’s something we do every day. We have a different business or community leader come to the table and share their story.” She ushers me in and gives me a seat. “You’re going to introduce the person to your left.”

Introduce who—how? Suddenly I’m getting a small dose of what it means to learn while doing and it doesn’t feel comfortable at all.

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GO TO PART 4 – HIGH TECH HIGH TEA

GO BACK TO PART 1 – TALENT HIDES

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Contacts

i.c.stars – www.icstars.org

Sandee Kastrul – President & Co-founder – sKastrul@icstars.org

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Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link . This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2014 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

.
.

4 Comments

Filed under Big Corporations, big money, chicago, Chicago Venture Magazine, Chicago Ventures, Christmas, city, Conflict, Data, Education, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurship and Politics, Events, i.c.stars, Impact Investing, Innovation and Culture, jobs, loop lonagan, Mobile App, philanthropist, philanthropy, Public Schools, Social Entrepreneur, TechBash