Caught in the Mousetrap

At the UC Davis Center for Entrepreneurship, we built our Entrepreneurship Academies on a simple observation, that the myth of the better mousetrap was undermining innovation. 

Recall Emerson's famous line: “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.” People are obsessed with building better mousetraps. For scientists, this creates a mindset in which the hard work lies in coming up with the idea—usually culminating in publishing a paper.  For the engineer, this usually means developing a design, or a model. For the would-be entrepreneur, or corporate innovator, this usually means an extensive excel spreadsheet or polished powerpoint description of the next great idea.  And for managers managing for “innovation,” to revive or maintain their business’s growth, this usually means searching for better ideas from inside the company, from among its customers, or from the larger “idea” marketplace. 

If I have learned anything while traveling the country, talking to people in companies about their innovation process, and working with scientists from around the globe, it is this: There is no shortage of good ideas. We are waist-deep in ideas, good and bad. We’ve just lost the ability to recognize them, separate the good from the bad, and throw ourselves into building the best ones into real businesses.

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The Forks in the Road

If you come to a fork in the road, take it.
—Yogi Berra

In the commercialization of university research, it’s important to recognize that not every research project becomes a new venture—nor should it. For every research project, there is a range of possible outcomes. This range is often lost when federal commercialization policies, universities technology transfer offices, and enterpreneurship programs focus too much on the number of startups launched or the amount of licensing revenue received in a given year.

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The Entrepreneurial Leap

This series of posts (finally) puts to words the approach, the ideas, and the tools developed and tested in the programs of the UC Davis Center for Entrepreneurship.

Our work focuses on the first of three critical moments in the life of a new venture—the entrepreneurial leap.  This is the moment (that can take months, or more if not careful) when the original entrepreneurs make the decision whether to start a new venture or not, and take the first steps that, often unknowingly, send them down paths they may take years, if ever, to recover from.

The ongoing series of posts focusing on the entrepreneurial leap can be found by visiting The Entrepreneurial Leap >>

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