Monthly Archives: April 2012

Founders Flash

This week’s articles highlight the tech sector boom in Brazil, discuss why start-ups should have a physical headquarters, examine how “pivoting” works for entrepreneurs, and provide business lessons learned from a new book on the Kennedy’s.

Brazil Getting Too Hot? Torrid Pace of VC Deals Has Some Talking ‘Bubble’ – Esteban Israel, Reuters

Brazil’s buzzing tech sector has venture capital funds snapping up stakes in local Web startups at an unprecedented pace.

Why VCs Invest in Startups with Gravity – David Beisel, GenuineVC

VCs want to know where a company is (going to be) located after they fund it. Where is its center of gravity?

‘Pivoting’ Pays Off for Tech Entrepreneurs – Lizette Chapman, Wall Street Journal

Today, founders cycle quickly through different ideas until they find one that sticks.

6 Lessons Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Jackie and John F. Kennedy – Rieva Lesonsky, OPEN Forum

The recently released book, Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy, offers some unexpected lessons for entrepreneurs.

This post was authored by Founders Workbench.

Post Grant Review of Business Method Patents Under the AIA

Now that the dust has settled around the enactment of the America Invents Act, companies are starting to think about how these changes may impact their patent strategy, both offensively and defensively.

One provision that has started to gain significant interest is entitled “Transitional Program for Covered Business Method Patents.” The provision provides that, for the next eight years, a company charged with infringement of a “business method patent” can request “post grant review” of that patent if it was issued prior to enactment of the AIA.

But what is a “business method patent?”

In this case, it has a very specific meaning – and one that is narrower than one might think.  The AIA defines a “business method patent” as “a patent that claims a method or corresponding apparatus for performing data processing or other operations used in the practice, administration, or management of a financial product or service, except that the term “business method patent” does not include patents for technological inventions.”

So what’s covered and what’s not?

As of now it’s a bit unclear, but it appears that special-purpose devices (ATMs, optical check reading machines, point-of-sale machines, etc.) would be excluded, while it is likely that general purpose computers simply executing code that implement a financial service might fall within its reach.  There is no clear guidance on the meaning of “business method patent” and many of the related questions raised by the Supreme Court’s decision in Bilski v. Kappos relating to patenting of business methods remain unanswered.

Stay tuned as this provision comes into effect on September 16, 2012 and the challenges start piling up at the PTO and in court.

This post on Patents was authored by Joel Lehrer.


What Can Founders Learn from a SWIM?

I was one of the lucky women to have a seat at the MIT Sloan Women in Management (SWIM) conference in March. (The wait list exceeded 200!)

As I listened to the speakers discuss the challenges women face in the business world, I could not help but observe that many of these same issues apply to the start-up community. The limited number of role models, the tendency to be overworked and burned out, the danger of being underestimated and the fear of failure all affect the founders I know and work with.

With that said, the advice that was given to overcome these obstacles is applicable to founders as well. While some of the advice was gender specific, below are my top takeaways from the conference for founders, both female and male:

1. Don’t hold yourself back by thinking you have to do it all by yourself.  Delegate and simultaneously build a loyal following by training your own talent.  Leadership is about empowerment, of yourself and others.

2. Embrace the difficulties and limitations you face.  Not only do obstacles keep your competitors at bay but they can also be a springboard for innovation.  Creativity works best with constraints.

3. Be present. While it is important to be forward-looking and evaluative, don’t let your concerns and musings keep you from being actively engaged.  When you tune into those meta-thoughts, you are not participating.

4.  Find your rhythm. Implement breaks with appropriate frequency. Protect the routines you need to stay happy and productive. Whether it is exercising, traveling, spending time with your friends or family, figure out what makes you tick and hold it sacred.

Many thanks to MIT SWIM and the wonderful speakers for such an inspiring event.

This post was authored by Jennifer Fang.

Founders Flash

This week’s articles highlight what entrepreneurs can learn from the Instagram sale, discuss a plan for start-up pop-up stores in Boston, profile online-razor selling start-up Dollar Shave Club, and share tips on how to follow the “Lean Startup Model.”

Top 3 Lessons for Young Entrepreneurs from Instagram’s $1 Billion Sale – Puneet Lakhi, Under30CEO

As one of the best success stories of our generation, Instagram is the perfect case study for young entrepreneurs who want to know how they can break it big themselves someday.

Pop-up Store for Startups – Donna Goodison, Boston Herald

POPstart temporary “pop-up” stores will give start-ups an opportunity to introduce and sell their products and services for two days in a Boston storefront.

A David and Gillette Story – Emily Glazer, Wall Street Journal

Dollar Shave Club, a recently launched online-razor seller, bet big and has a made a big impression with a comical YouTube video.

How To Launch a Lean Startup: The Apptopia Story – Matthew E. May, OPEN Forum

Apptopia co-founder Jonathan Kay breaks down his strategy for launching a lean start-up.

This post was authored by Founders Workbench.

Supreme Court Issues Long-awaited Decision in Mayo v. Prometheus: How Will This Affect Patent Law?

On March 20, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court reshaped the landscape of patent law with its long-awaited decision in Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories. The Court ruled that certain claims of patents licensed to Prometheus, claims that related to the use of thiopurine drugs in the treatment of autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s disease, were invalid because they did not constitute patent eligible subject matter.

So, what is still considered patentable subject matter, in light of Mayo v. Prometheus? Click the links below to find out.

Supreme Court Expands “Laws of Nature” Exception to Patentability in Mayo v. Prometheus

Lessons from Mayo v. Prometheus: Assessing Patentability and Obtaining Patent Protection for “Laws of Nature” Inventions

This post on Patents was authored by Founders Workbench.

The Twitter Patent Hack

On Tuesday, Twitter announced a pledge to employees that patents on their inventions will only be used for defensive purposes.  In other words, Twitter is promising not to use those patents in offensive litigation without the permission of the inventors.

To back it up, Twitter is putting that commitment in writing and making it clear that the promise flows with the patents.  So, if Twitter sells the patents or the company, the buyer is bound by Twitter’s commitment.  Twitter calls the pledge, posted on GitHub, the Innovator’s Patent Agreement, or the “IPA.”  Noted NYC VC Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures (USV) calls it the “Twitter Patent Hack”.  We like that name a lot.  Fred notes that USV will be instructing the start-up lawyers with whom USV works to include the patent hack language in all standard forms.

When it announced the IPA, Twitter noted that it’s a significant departure from the current state of affairs in the industry.  That’s an understatement.  We’re not aware of any leading technology company that has made a similar written commitment regarding its patents.

You may want to dismiss this as a wacky idea.  Don’t.  Other tech companies and investors agree with Twitter and USV that software and business method patents are an enemy of innovation in the tech sector.  This is a very serious effort by Twitter into which a lot of thought (and money!) has been invested.  It remains to be seen whether other companies and investors will line-up with Twitter and USV, but we expect that this very public effort will spur a lot of discussion and debate – and maybe even start a movement.

This post was authored by Steve Charkoudian.

You’ve Achieved Product-Market Fit, So What Happens Now?

For an entrepreneur, achieving product-market fit is one of the most important elements of start-up success. Although the concept may seem fairly abstract, product-market fit essentially means being in a good market with a product that can satisfy that particular target market. Attempting to find that product-market fit will certainly keep a founder up at night, but finding it is often part of that breakthrough moment in the early stages of a young company.

So you’ve got product-market fit…now what?

In March, the Vilna Shul hosted a panel discussion to address that exact question. The panel featured nationally recognized players in the start-up world who also happen to be CEOs of Boston-based companies, including: Brian Halligan, CEO and Co-founder of Hubspot, Gail Goodman, Chairman and CEO of Constant Contact, Diane Hessan, CEO of Communispace and Doron Reuveni, CEO and Co-founder of uTest.

For a brief summary of the panel discussion, read this article or check out Doron Reuveni’s tips on what to do after you determine a product-market fit.

Sponsored by Goodwin Procter, the Vilna Shul Speakers Series features leading voices from Boston and beyond speaking on such topics as technology, finance, journalism, the arts, culture, and dynamic networking. For more information on the Vilna Shul Speakers Series and up-coming panels please visit the Vilna Shul website.

This post was authored by Michael Jabbawy.

Founders Flash

This week’s articles highlight how start-ups should use social media, question whether 40-somethings can still make it as entrepreneurs, discuss the high ratio of females founders in NYC, and profile a start-up that helps small-businesses navigate trademarking.

Make Social Networks Work for Your Start-Up – Sarah Needleman, Wall Street Journal

Knowing which social-networking sites to join and how to take advantage of them can be daunting for a rookie entrepreneur.

Does My Entrepreneurial Mojo Go Past 40? – Terry Howerton, Forbes

A seasoned entrepreneur questions whether or not being an entrepreneur is only a game for the young.

Damn, Girl: New York Has Almost Double The Female Founders – Kelly Faircloth, BetaBeat

NYC will change the ratio all by itself, if necessary.

A Start-Up Rethinks the Process of Getting a Trademark – Jessica Bruder, New York Times Small Business

A look at start-up Trademarkia, an online search engine that helps small-business owners sift through the more than six million names, slogans and logos that have been trademarked in America since 1870.

This post was authored by Founders Workbench.

Start-up Stories: An Interview with Bill Attinger, CEO & Founder of ActSeed Corporation

Bill Attinger

Name and Current Occupation: Bill Attinger, CEO and Founder at ActSeed Corporation (

What is your start-up story?

I started at Morgan Stanley as an investment banker where I specialized in a brand new area of banking: derivatives and debt instruments. We helped our clients save a lot of money as they acquired and grew hospitals, but the work was too transactional for me personally. I didn’t have any particular “light bulb” moment in becoming an entrepreneur, but I really like being able to come into a venture with a blank canvas – there is something incredible and chaotic and opportunistic about that purity.

What is the secret of your success?

I am good with ideas, but my greatest strength is that I have the structure, organization and discipline needed to be successful in a venture.  There are lots of great ideas out there, but without the structure of the business in place, a venture with a great idea will still not be successful.  That has been the key to my success in this sphere.

What is ActSeed?  What made you start ActSeed?

ActSeed is an “early stage business ecosystem” that includes professional networking, resources, access to service providers, access to potential investors, and other advice from proven entrepreneurs.

I decided to create ActSeed in 2008 after launching my last startup, Ansible Mobile. I had a reputation as a “fixer” and “builder” for startups – an executive for early stage companies navigating the growth stages, especially when a young founder needed a mentor. From all of my startup experiences, I derived a common list of insights and necessities that were applicable to start-up founders in any stage of early business growth and across any industry, from high-tech start-ups to a “Main Street Entrepreneur” who wants to open a bricks-and-mortar business. I took this list and created a blueprint for any young business to build a company and find angel investors or other sources of capital.

No entrepreneur succeeds in a vacuum. The founder of a start-up is only going to succeed if the founder has access to talent, access to investment dollars, access to service providers, and access to start-up focused education and resources. ActSeed provides resources for individuals and entities in each of these “roles”. We charge a nominal membership fee to entrepreneurs and service providers to use the resources in the ActSeed community, which helps fund the operation.

What do you think of other “innovation ecosystems” that aim to increase start-up success?

We know that some systems work well for some entrepreneurs and not as well for others. Most other innovation ecosystems are industry- or region-specific. There are many entrepreneurs for whom industry- and region-specific groups are not robust enough to meet their needs. ActSeed is meant to work both as a stand-alone product and as a complement to those other resources that entrepreneurs have access to.

What advice would you give to a new entrepreneur (other than to join ActSeed)?

Entrepreneurs should budget at least $100 each month for community-building and education, whether that be joining ActSeed, taking a business class at a local community college, or paying for membership in an industry group. The key is to research the available options and choose the ones that will give the most benefit. Those investment dollars will come back many-fold in increased visibility, free advice, and access to investment dollars.

This post on Start-up Stories was authored by Caitlin Vaughn.


The University Research & Entrepreneurship Symposium 2012 (URES)

Date:  April 18th | 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM

Overview: The University Research & Entrepreneurship Symposium is an invitation-only one-day conference established to bring world-class research universities to Boston and to showcase them before a group of New England’s top entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. The Symposium will explore the challenges and opportunities faced by entrepreneurs and start-up companies commercializing university-owned technology while at the same time showcasing New England’s top venture capitalists and entrepreneurs to leading research universities beyond the Boston area.

For more information please visit:

Twitter: @usymposium; hashtag #URES2012

This post was authored by Founders Workbench.