Archive for the ‘Entrepreneurship’ Category

Entrepreneurial lessons from “Hamilton”

February 21, 2016


Ever since I was lucky enough to see Hamilton on Broadway in December, I’ve wanted to find a way to get back in the room where it happens again. While for most people that would be enough to see the original cast in person once, I want to see the play one last time even if I have to wait for it.

Fortunately, I’m not helpless to make my return to the Richard Rodgers Theater happen. You see, I had a hunch that the anonymous reviewers could not say no to this research I submitted to the World Media Economics and Management Conference. My two conference papers were accepted so I’ll be back in the Greatest City in the World for a week in May. While I’ll mainly be there for #work (work), I’m going to be sure to take a break for Hamilton, take two. I can almost guarantee I’ll be just as satisfied as I was the first time. If you’re like me, after seeing the show you’ll be back to watch it again.

Ever since I watched this revolutionary play, I’ve been wanting to incorporate it into the classroom as I often make pop culture references in lectures. With this backdrop of returning for a conference whose theme is “Global Media & Local Entrepreneurs” and seizing the opportunity to see Hamilton once more, I’ve come to the realization that Hamilton the play offers many lessons on entrepreneurship. Just as Lin-Manuel Miranda was inspired to rise up to this masterful musical creation after reading Ron Chernow’s novel about Alexander Hamilton, the Broadway sensation has served as my muse for an unorthodox creative outlet (this blog post and eventual lecture). Like many entrepreneurs, Hamilton was a self-made man whose hustle and determination allowed him to “thrive when so few survive.” Sounds just like the modern day startup scene where the vast majority of companies fail.

Thus, I humbly offer to you five lessons “Hamilton” teaches us about entrepreneurship as told through songs from the musical:

My Shot: This song can serve as inspiration and apt description of aspiring entrepreneurs who are “young , scrappy, and hungry” as they work to “rise up” in life through innovation and creation. This song teaches us that if you have an idea for a new product, service or company that adds value you should “not throw away your shot” at greatness as you seek your independence from the regular daily grind, whether that be college or a 9-5 job.

Nonstop: This song speaks to entrepreneurial hustle and work ethic as many entrepreneurs grind nonstop like they’re running out of time. Given limited resources, entrepreneurs are always mindful of their runway as the startup will either takeoff or crash and burn. Replace the word “write” with “work” in the lines: “Why do you assume you’re the smartest in the room?”

“Why do you write like it’s going out of style? Write day and night like it’s going out of style?” and you could easily be describing modern day entrepreneurs. Many entrepreneurs put in long, hard hours at all times of day and night.

Satisfied: Just as Alexander Hamilton tells us “I have never been satisfied” such a refrain could come from a present day entrepreneur. Successful entrepreneurs are not satisfied with the status quo. They create solutions to real world problems. And tackling one problem or creating one company is never enough for serial entrepreneurs who are out to prove themselves again and again.

“There’s a million things I haven’t done but just you wait, just you wait…”

Wait for It: This Leslie Odom Jr. (aka Burr) song is by far my favorite in the play, and offers lessons on two important entrepreneurial concepts: strategy and failure. Burr is strategic in lying in wait, calculating his ambitions and waiting for his moment to act. One memorable refrain from this number is “I am inimitable/I am an original.” The Resource-Based View of strategic management offers that one way to obtain a sustained competitive advantage is to have inimitable resources. This rings true for large companies as well as scrappy startups.

But this song also teaches us that entrepreneurial tenet that failure can be beneficial if we learn from it. Mistakes are inevitable, but those failures can eventually lead to success for those who are patient.


“Life doesn’t discriminate
between the sinners and the saints
it takes and it takes and it takes
and we keep living anyway,
we rise and we fall and we break
and we make our mistakes
and if there’s a reason
I’m still alive
when so many have died,
then I’m willing’ to-“


Wait for it.

Room Where it Happens: This is another pièce de résistance from Odom Jr. (for a play about Hamilton, Burr sure does get the best songs, but I digress..) that offers a counter to the patience preached in “Wait For It” by encouraging action.

“When you got skin in the game, you stay in the game

But you don’t get a win unless you play in the game

Oh, you get love for it. You get hate for it.

You get nothing if you…

Wait for it, wait for it, wait”

This number is an ode to deal brokering, and speaks to the importance of networking (you want connections to get a seat at the table), and negotiation. Deals often take place behind closed doors and involve making tradeoffs.

“The art of the compromise

Hold your nose and close your eyes”

And finally this song offers that entrepreneurs are not only dreamers but doers as these visionaries bring concepts to life.

This song includes a line “But we dream in the dark for the most part” which according to is likely a reference to a TE Lawrence quote:

“All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.”

Click-boom. There you have it. In addition to being the greatest play to hit Broadway in my lifetime, Hamilton illustrates these entrepreneurial insights. And finally just as immigrants are integral to the story of our nation’s history and Hamilton itself, I would be remiss to point out that according to a recent Kaufmann Foundation report, an immigrant is nearly twice as likely to be an entrepreneur as a native-born American.


While this tale of entrepreneurship vis-à-vis Hamilton is the story of tonight, I have to think that these themes will stay alive and relevant for many years to come. Of course, I welcome your feedback. I’d love to know what I’d miss?



Summer travels showcase entrepreneurial successes

August 12, 2014

Two products from American Underground in Durham, N.C.

While technically “off” during the summer, the lack of school being in session hardly means productivity and scholarship grinds to a halt. In fact, quite the opposite is true. The summer months are a time for publishing and class prep, for discovery and exploration. I’ve been busy traveling up and down the east coast networking, learning and visiting sites to get some “best practice” insights and examples of “media startupery” in action. I thought I’d share some of my latest adventures here on the blog.

First up, was a week in New York City last month where I attended PBS MediaShift’s Collab/Space, an event focused on collaborative examination of some media intrapraneurship projects at companies like Vox Media, the New York Daily News, the Atlantic and even Facebook. I attended a breakout session on the Daily News’ media innovation lab.

Two days later, thanks to the generosity of a travel stipend from the Scripps Howard Foundation, I attended the first Entrepreneurial Journalism Educators’ Summit. Hosted by the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at City University of New York, I was able to connect with other academics who teach some form of media entrepreneurship or entrepreneurial journalism at other universities around the country world. I’m excited by future collaborations, such as a nationwide Innovators’ Cup that Ohio University’s Michelle Ferrier is spearheading.



Guns up @ NFL!


Guns up @ American Underground

I used the opportunity of being in New York to reconnect with old friends, colleagues and former students. New York’s Fordham University will host the World Media Economics and Management Conference in 2016 media entrepreneurship part of the global conference theme. I met with conference organizer and editor of the International Journal on Media Management Bozena Mierzejewska and her husband Axel Ropnack, as we brainstormed ideas for research, and conference session possibilities. One of my former students at the University ofGeorgia, AngelaAlfano, works for the National Football League and was kind enough togive me a tour of its New York headquarters. I also had coffee with another former UGA student, MarahLidey, who is doing big things at DoSomething.Org.

After New York, I headed back to my roots in the Triangle area of North Carolina. While checking out a book at the University of North Carolina, I dropped in to the J-school of my undergraduate alma mater. I ran into John Clark, who gave me an impromptu tour of the Reese News Lab, a digital innovation news space.

I also decided to tour American Underground, a cooperative working space for startups and one of 8 Google for Entrepreneurs Tech Hubs around the country. The fun atmosphere, ranging from a Mario-themed rest cubicle to a slide from the top floor to the bottom, belies the serious work, from startups and individuals, taking place across three Triangle locations. One of the cool things about American Underground, (in my opinion) is it was founded by a local media company, Capitol Broadcasting, four years ago.


A Mario Brothers-themed rest area @ American Underground on Main Street in Durham, N.C.

Finally, my most recent jaunt took me up north to Montreal, Canada for the annual Association for Educators in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) conference last week.

Jan Schaffer of American University’s J-Lab organized a breakfast session with an excellent panel of educators who teach media entrepreneurship (all but one of the panelists was at the CUNY summit). In a separate division session, there was even a motion to add “entrepreneurship” to the media management and economics division name (the membership will vote on the name change later this fall). And I enjoyed catching up with fellow media management/entrepreneur educators, from near and far. I got to spend time with folks I’m proud to call my friends, including the likes of fellow ISOJers Jake Batsell (SMU), Carrie Brown (CUNY) and Jonathan Groves (Drury), and even (in a surprise appearance at his first AEJMC conference), Francisco Perez-Latre from the University of Navarra in Spain.


Dr. Francisco Perez-Latre from the University of Navarra in Spain.


Presenting a paper before the Media Management & Economics division at AEJMC in Montreal, Canada.





The summer travels have re-energized me as I return to Lubbock to help build an ecosystem to allow media entrepreneurship to grow and thrive in Silicon Prairie. Wheels up, Guns up!

“Startupery” is possible in “Silicon Prairie.”

March 28, 2014

Bob Metcalfe would like to see more student “startupers.”

The inventor of Ethernet, founder of 3COM and a professor of innovation at UT-Austin is on a mission to promote the term “startupery” as a better alternative to entrepreneurship. In a Friday talk here at Texas Tech University, titled “Startupery out of Research Universities,” Metcalfe argued that research universities are better outlets for research and innovation than traditional government labs.

After noting that the Internet was built by startups and not incumbent businesses, Metcalfe described seven components to his model for fostering technological entrepreneurial innovation (which at scale looks like Google, General Electric and IBM). Metcalfe calls the model the Doriot Ecology, which he named after late Gen. Georges Doriot, a Harvard Business professor who is known as the “father of venture capitalism.”

The seven components to the “Doriot model” include:
1)government funding agencies , which fund

2)research professors, who teach

3)students, who are the key vehicles to innovation for they carry new knowledge into the world and connect with or become

4)scaling entrepreneurs, people who know how to build companies (a principal asset of Silicon Valley)


6)strategic partners (established companies that help grow the business and reach of the startup) and

7)early adopters of the technology

While the major U.S. research labs were all established by monopoly businesses, with the Bell Lab held up as the pinnacle of American research and innovation, Metcalfe argues that we should expand the efforts at research universities and not try to recreate the Bell Lab experience.

Universities are better outlets for funding research innovation, according to Metcalfe, because universities are going to compete with each other (as they already do for funding from RFPs) and that they graduate students, who then serve as vehicles of innovation.

Metcalfe also noted the importance of developing technology to serve future customers and not to satsify present trends. He said that “time machines” allowed 3COM to beat its competitors.

“We had been to the future and our competitors had not,” he said. “We knew what to build. Our competitors did not.”

Metcalfe’s company was focused on developing Ethernet to connect personal computers in the early 1980s before personal computers were prevalent and mainstream because he saw future trends from working in the Xerox PARC lab.

Metcalfe also spoke of the travails from taking a product from idea to marketplace, pivoting along the way to meet consumer demands in order to avoid a “valley of death.”
“If you see a valley of death, you are not obligated to go charging into it,” he said. “If you see a valley of death, don’t (go).”

Jodey Arrington, vice chancellor for Research, Commercialization and Federal Relations for the Texas Tech University System said that his office (which sponsored Metcalfe’s talk) would like to create “Silicon Prairie” here in West Texas.

“Our ideas are every bit as good as Stanford and MIT … it’s just a matter of creating a culture (here).”

Of course, several research universities have begun to recognize the importance of “startupery” in the areas of media, journalism and mass communication by offering undergraduate and graduate courses on media entrepreneurship and innovation and developing media incubators, accelerators and hackathons.

Student “startupers” are becoming more commonplace, as evident by the Student Startup Madness competition held annually in conjunction with SXSW. The Student Startup Madness concept was developed by Sean Branagan, director of the Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.

Here at Texas Tech, I’m fortunate to teach a course on Media Entrepreneurship, which is the capstone course among undergraduate Media Strategies majors, here in the College of Media and Communication. My college is committed to fostering “media startupery” and interdisciplinary collaboration and we’ve been buoyed by early student successes.

My university likes to say “from here, it’s possible.” Because he has the benefit of a “time machine,” Metcalfe must know that his vision of “startupery” will certainly become a reality.

Student “startupers” should and will emerge and continue to foster innovation, from Silicon Valley to Silicon Prairie, from coast to coast and points in between.

An entrepreneurial state of mind

November 15, 2013

When I lived in Connecticut, I would often found myself in a “New York state of mind.” I frequently would hop on the Metro North and head into the self-proclaimed “Greatest City in the World.”

With apologies to Alicia Keys and Jay-Z, since moving to Lubbock, I’ve found myself in an “entrepreneurial state of mind.” Entrepreneurship an emerging area of focus at my college and university. Naturally, I try to instill an entrepreneurial ethos into the classes I teach.
Of course, an entrepreneurial mindset is about more than starting a business. It’s an attitude. A lifestyle. And a characteristic that will serve students of all ages well at any stage in life. In honor of next week’s Global Entrepreneurship Week, I thought I would highlight some key traits that in my mind define an entrepreneur. They are:

1. Novel. In the words of Peter Drucker, “entrepreneurs innovate.” Innovation is about a novel idea or concept. They can be new to the world or a different way of using existing technologies. Entrepreneurs at their core are “idea men/women.”

2.Teammate. No entrepreneur can succeed alone (except maybe Jack Dorsey. Between Twitter and Square, that guy is an entrepreneurial beast. I mean that as a compliment.) Teamwork is essential. Entrepreneurs who create startups must find others with strengths to complement their owns. Entrepreneurs are the ultimate team players.

3. Driven. Social entrepreneur extraordinaire Gary Vaynerchuk always likes to talk about the importance of “hustle.” The bottom line is that entrepreneurs must have a strong work ethic. They must be willing to put in long hours and sacrifice in order to make it. Entrepreneurs work hard.

4.Decisive. Entrepreneurs must be decisive as they’re faced with lots of choices during the entrepreneurial process, from funding decisions, team-building decisions, product development decisions, and so forth and so on.

5. Strategic. A good entrepreneur makes strategic decisions. They’re in it for the long haul. Strategy is needed to guide the startup mission, the culture and the company ethos.

6. Analytic. Entrepreneurs should be analytic. They should be making decisions off audience insights. They should know the market, know the competition, know the numbers, and know future trends and projections.

That’s my list. Agree? Disagree? What traits would you add to the list?