A Tuna Salad Company, A Seafood Company or a Canned Goods Company?

April 2, 2011

That’s the old Branding 101 example of “you are what you say you are.” The idea being that Starkist or Bumblebee will be most successful expanding their product offerings if it fits in with a defined brand that people understand. You might be open to buying Starkist brand canned salmon or even Bumblebee fresh tuna steaks. Conversely, you probably wouldn’t want to buy tuna fish from a motor oil company, just because they branded themselves as a business that “makes things in containers.” So there are limits to everything.

We see a lot of that going on in our region. Boeing isn’t an “airplane company,” but rather an aerospace company and so you’re open to buying their tankers, and satellites and missiles. Microsoft is very much in the middle of defining themselves as a “platform company” that provides the tools upon which you create – whether that be word documents, video games, mobile apps or building energy management software.

These are the things that I thought of when I saw this article about BMW investing in IT start-ups as a way to facilitate defining themselves as a “mobility company.” Is this more Chicken of the Sea canned salmon or Pennzoil tuna?*

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We’re All International Now

March 28, 2011

I have one add to Eric’s excellent post on the Greater Seattle Chamber’s Intercity Study Mission to the Silicon Valley.  The trip is the the Chamber’s domestic study mission, as compared to the international trip that the Trade Development Alliance organizes for the Chamber…which this year travels to the UK.

But the Chamber’s Intercity trip to Silicon Valley was anything but domestic in nature. In our technology neighbor to the south we found an engineering work force that was 50 percent foreign born led by CEOs a majority of whom were also born overseas. We saw electric car company business models that are targeted at international markets, a social media platform that connects hundreds of millions of people across the world and schools that are preparing students for a life lived in an ever connected globe.

The Silicon Valley would not be the Silicon Valley without large international customers, without foreign talent and without important partnerships abroad.  The same, of course, is true for Greater Seattle’s technology sectors. In today’s globalized world, even a domestic study mission is an international study mission


Weekly B-MOW: Seattle Chamber Intercity Study Mission

March 26, 2011

Every year, the Seattle Chamber does an “intercity study mission,” bringing regional business, government and community leaders to a peer city for a three day exploration of similarities, differences and, most importantly, the best practices that we can take back and copy in our own region. This past week, a group of us traveled for this year’s trip to San Jose for an Intercity Study Mission to Silicon Valley.

The reason to do a study mission to Silicon Valley is obvious: as much as we fancy ourselves as a leading region for innovation, we pale in comparison to the sheer breadth and depth and magnitude of what has come out of that region – HP, Google, Adobe, Apple, Yahoo…the list goes on and on. So, what are those things that we can take from them?

Here are my top three takeaways:

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Two Words That Go Great Together: “Innovation” and “Summit”

March 2, 2011

The Prosperity Blog doesn’t usually shill for events. We like to keep our integrity so that you see us as an unbiased observer of the regional economic development scene. (Except for all that shilling we do for our own initiatives and priorities, but hey, man’s gotta eat.)

So, given that general practice of restraint, you will hopefully take it with some seriousness when we step out of that restriction and tell you that you probably don’t want to miss the 2011 Washington Innovation Summit on March 18. Seriously.

There’s two reasons we’re encouraging you to attend. First, the presenters – leading technology, business and policy experts like Crossing the Chasm author Geoffrey Moore and Larry Smarr, Founding Director of the California Institute for Telecommunications & Information Technology – plus a who’s who of panelists from the region and state: Steve Davis, Bruce Kendall, Ed Lazowska, Rick LeFaivre, Rogers Weed, Kim Zentz and a ton more (including our own Bob Drewel). By the way, note that I didn’t tell you who that last list of people are…if you don’t know, then you definitely need to attend!

The second reason you should probably go, is that it’s all about the issues we care most about here at the Prosperity Blog:

  • How the state is fusing support for innovation into its overall economic development strategy;
  • How emerging information technologies are dramatically changing our economy, presenting our state with new challenges as well as exciting new opportunities;
  • How the very nature of the enterprise is evolving, and how we should respond; and
  • How our industries can grow exports and strengthen global relationships.

As we’ve said before, innovation is like coolness, so be there or be square. And, as an added incentive, if you find me at the event and mention this blog post, you’ll get a sincere handshake from me…and if you’re lucky, I might even touch your shoulder with my left hand while shaking with my right. That’s how real economic developers do it.


Getting Around “Lending of Credit”

November 12, 2010

Every economic development blog in the state of Washington has, at some point, railed against the “lending of credit” provision in the state’s constitution. Which is actually a pretty good pun, considering the lending of credit provision was put in as a backlash against “greedy” railroad barons. Zinger! Anyway, you know what I’m talking about: the prohibition against direct investment of public funds into private enterprises. Which is a big deal around the country in economic development, where cities and states will throw money at a company to get it to move there. Sometimes that works out, sometimes it’s money that they don’t quite have.

A lot of folks in the state talk about making a run at a constitutional amendment, but I’ve never seen anyone actually make a go of it. Not that there’s a lot of money in the state government to lend to private companies anyway. But there are actually some interesting approaches that get around that prohibition going on these days. Read the rest of this entry »


Hey Kid, Go Be Entrepreneurial

August 3, 2010

One of the things that we hear a lot about in the economic development community is the importance of small business and entrepreneurship. A majority of jobs get created by small business, to say nothing about how many new products and innovations get launched that way as well. Here in Washington state, we’re great at entrepreneurship, with one of the highest rates of business starts per capita…except that we also have one of the highest rates of business failures per capita.

We’ve done a lot of research on that topic, and there are several reasons why those stats are somewhat misleading (for example, the high percentage of seasonal businesses…like farming…that get created and then close on purpose each year). And there’s issues with the B&O as a tax on businesses in the “valley of death” (pre-profitable, yet forced to pay a gross revenues tax). But it’s also true that successfully starting and running a business is hard, and there’s not actually a lot of resources out there to prepare you for it. Read the rest of this entry »


Fuuuuuukuoka, Where the Wind Comes Sweepin’ Down the Plains

July 15, 2010

Now that I’m slowly adjusting back to this time zone, I thought I’d update everyone on last week’s meeting of the International Regions Benchmarking Consortium in Fukuoka, Japan. The IRBC, as its known, is our group of 10 regions from around the world that gather annually to look at specific issues in economic development and share best practices. This year, Fukuoka took their turn to host, and the topic was Research Universities and the Knowledge Region. What do those two have to do with each other? Glad you asked! Read the rest of this entry »