Wednesday, June 24, 2009

June 26th - MTB at La Sapienza with Alumn

Guest post by Stefano Antonelli, MTB Alumn, ERIS4

On Friday 26th June, I will be presenting the Mind the Bridge initiative to "Scuola Volterra" at the department of Physics of "Sapienza Universita' di Roma".
The presentation will be held together with Renata Sarno one of the founder of The department of Physics of "Sapienza Universita' di Roma" is where Enrico Fermi used to teach and research before leaving Italy and even now is a very well known research institute.
I am a physic and I graduated at "Sapienza Universita' di Roma", I did my thesis in a laboratory where the APE supercomputers were developed to perform complex Quantum Chromo Dynamic (QCD) simulations.

It was an incredible environment filled with incredibly talented and creative people. From that experience a number of successful spin off were created.
They were not necessarily related to the APE project, but I think that the environment played a role in taking them off. When I came back from SV after the final Phase of the Mind the Bridge competition, I discussed with Marco Marinucci and it came out that there might be someone at Physics departement of "Sapienza Universita' di Roma" interested in the Mind the Bridge Competition. I called Renata Sarno that was at that time a PhD doctor working in the laboratory and contacted Enzo Marinari (director of "Scuola Volterrra").
In short time the presentation was setup and I am very curios about the feedback we will get. I'll keep you all posted about future developments in this blog.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Mind The Bridge is formally recognized as a charitable organization

This post was written by Matteo Daste, member of the Board of Directors of the Mind the Bridge Foundation.

Mind The Bridge is not just a website or a name. It is a California non-profit corporation that is qualified as a tax exempt organization under section 501(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Organizations described in section 501(c)(3) are also commonly referred to as “charitable organizations”.

From a tax standpoint, the primary significance of being qualified as a charitable organization is that contributions made to the organization are tax deductible to the donor in accordance with Code section 170. This is quite an attractive feature to donors, since it makes their donations tax deductible.

However, it is not so easy to become a charitable organization – and, specifically a public charity like Mind the Bridge. A public charity normally receives a substantial part of its income, directly or indirectly, from the general public or from the government. The charity must be approved by the IRS and must meet various strict requirements concerning its organization, activities and management and control.

To summarize, these requirements include the following:

  • There must be an organization. An individual will not qualify.

  • The organization must be operated for a specific and recognized exempt purpose. The Code only recognizes the following activities: religious, charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, and educational purposes, to foster national or international amateur sports competition, or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals.

  • The organizing documents must not expressly empower it to engage in activities that are not in furtherance of one or more of those purposes.

  • The organization's assets must be permanently dedicated to an exempt purpose. This means that if the organization dissolves, its assets must be distributed for an exempt purpose, to the federal government, or to a state or local government for a public purpose.

  • Finally, none of its earnings may inure to any private shareholder or individual.

To maintain public charity status, Mind The Bridge must diligently follow governance practices to assure sound operations and compliance with the tax law.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Nokia Calling all Innovators for Mobile applications

Nokia is sponsoring Calling all Innovators, a world wide competition aimed at mobile and web applications developers.

Applicants have time until June 30th to apply to one of four categories:

  • Internet Innovation: applications on Nokia devices using technologies that include Nokia Web Runtime, XHTML, CSS, Java Script, AJAX, widgets and other standards-based web technologies.
  • Flash: applications that expand the capabilities and user benefits of Flash Lite on Nokia devices.
  • Emerging Markets and Global Necessities: applications across mobile technology platforms – ranging from SMS through Series 40 and S60 device platforms. All applications will be considered, including those developed using Java, Python, or open source.
  • Apps on Maps: applications that harness the power of location-aware technologies to create an experience that’s relevant and compelling for your users, wherever they are in the world.

The prizes include cash (250.000€ in total); the opportunity to demo the winning application at a Nokia specified event this Fall; and "Spotlight" placement featuring your winning application on Nokia's newly announced Ovi Store, where consumers will find the best mobile applications and content for their Nokia devices.

Friday, June 19, 2009

MTB @ Forum Televisione Digitale

This is a 3mts introduction of Mind the Bridge (business plan competition and Gymnasium) for the "Forum Europeo Televisione Digitale", pan-european event on digital TV, taking place today in Lucca.

The organizers, in particular Andrea Michelozzi, have been doing a great job in endorsing our project.
As a result, we now expect a lot of good ideas on digital TV and the likes...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Lessons on Leadership: Innovation

One of the most interesting sections on the online version of the Wall Street Journal is "Lessons on Leadership", short video interviews in which well-know business leaders share their wisdom on interesting topics.

The following videos address one topic that is of extreme interest for the Mind The Bridge community : Innovation.

Steve Ballmerr (CEO of Microsoft): How to drive Innovation.

Craig Mundie (Chief Research and Strategy Officer at Microsoft): How To Fuel Innovation.

Richard Sandor (SEO of the Chicago Climate Exchange): How to Encourage Creativity.

Alan Mulally (CEO of Ford): Driving Innovation.

More videos can be found here. Feel free to share your thought or findings on Innovation by writing us at

Monday, June 15, 2009

How The Stimulus Package Is Getting Silicon Valley Greentech Start-Ups Off The Ground

Guest post by Fabiana DiPaola
The “Green New Deal”
Whether it is Alan Salzman special host at last week World Business Summit on Climate Change in Copenhagen, or Paul Holland accompanying President Obama to present the new Energy and Technology Research budget for FY2010, Silicon Valley cleantech community and leading venture capitalists are front and center of the debate over clean and renewable energy. And it’s not by chance that Steven Chu, the new Energy Secretary appointed by Obama, comes from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the oldest of the U.S. Department of Energy's National Laboratories. Washington is turning its attention and consequent financing to green technologies and by all means Silicon Valley cleantech ecosystem is well placed to reap benefits from the new federal and state incentives in an attempt to find a way out of the financial crisis, curb energy consumption, decrease energy dependency and ultimately fight global warming.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, passed last February 2009, pours over $65 billion into renewable energy, energy efficiency and greentech financing of which 6.5 billion for R&D. It is a real “Green New Deal”: The most significant effort in public spending in science and technology after the launch of the Apollo Program. And «it only costs the equivalent of a couple of months in Irak» as a blogger commented on the New York Times website. A big part of these dollars is already profiting Silicon Valley start-ups and research centers, which are leading the way through future technological development. So, if Washington is looking towards Silicon Valley, it is also true that, surprisingly enough, for the first time Silicon Valley is looking East, towards Washington money. Lately, law firms have been organizing seminars around the Bay Area to explain to cleantech start-ups and the venture capital community the Recovery Act. The economic crisis has hit many Bay Area start ups and renewable energy companies that are now suffering from the loss of tax equity buyers (including AIG, Lehman Brothers, Wachovia, JP Morgan, Wells Fargo) and vc are becoming more selective due to a decrease in the amount of funding they can raise per financing round.

The most important incentives deployed by the Stimulus Package are the following:

  • A large sum for energy efficiency, including $5 billion for low-income weatherization programs; over $6 billion in grants for state and local governments; and several billion to modernize federal buildings, with a particular emphasis on energy efficiency.

  • $11 billion for “smart grid” investments.

  • $3.4 billion for carbon capture and sequestration demonstration projects (also known as “clean coal”).

  • $2 billion for research into batteries for electric cars.

  • $500 million to help workers train for “green jobs.”

  • A three-year extension of the “production tax credit” for wind energy (as well as a tax credit extension for biomass, geothermal, landfill gas and some hydropower projects).

  • The option, available to many developers, of turning their tax credits into direct cash, with the government underwriting 30 percent of a project’s cost.

For more details, I found the DSIRE database very useful to navigate the complex space of federal and state incentives for renewables and efficiency. You can also visit the many websites of US law firms with a cleantech practice. For instance Cooley Godward Kronish in Palo Alto has recently launched a new cleantech stimulus portal.

What’s In For Italian Companies?
It is worth looking into the details of the plan for Italian cleantech companies willing to invest in the US market. Even if many of the provisions are accessible only to American companies for the « Buy American » clause, this is true only if the spending relates to public works or public procurements, seeking to ensure that only U.S. iron, steel, and manufactured goods are used in infrastructure projects. In addition, waivers can be issued to U.S. federal departments should the department head believe the Buy American provisions are not in the "public interest." Some waivers have already been issued for instance by the Environmental Protection Agency. Moreover, the Buy American restrictions can be avoided by opening a subsidiary or a production plants in the US. Some European front-runner green energy companies have already made the strategic decision to invest in the US and in Silicon Valley. This gives them a competitive advantage in the rush to cash in on stimulus money. For instance, with an investment in Noventi Ventures - a Silicon Valley-based cleantech venture capital fund - Sorgenia has opened a window on the US market and on the most promising clean technologies developed in Silicon Valley. Not only the stimulus funds are benefiting Noventi portfolio companies, but Sorgenia is already exploring further direct investment opportunities in renewable energy projects, such as wind and solar power.

What Are the Silicon Valley Based Companies Tapping Into The Stimulus Package?

Renewable Power Generation : Thin Film Solar photovoltaic
Solyndra is the first company to receive an offer for a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) loan guarantee within the Stimulus Package. Solyndra, a Fremont, California-based manufacturer of innovative cylindrical photovoltaic systems using thin film technology, will use the proceeds of a $535 million loan from the U.S. Treasury’s Federal Financing Bank to expand its solar panel manufacturing capacity in California. Also in the thin-film sector, Heliovolt is looking into the Stimulus Package for the development of its technology and production capacity. It is a CIGS thin-film PV panel manufacturer that uses a fraction of semiconductor material used in traditional silicon cells, significantly slicing costs while at the same time achieving performances comparable to traditional silicon cells.

Transportation: Electric Cars and Biofuels
Tesla Motors, Inc. is awaiting word on a $350 million loan application to the Department of Energy that would allow the electric carmaker to build the Model S sedan, which is expected to cost $57,400. Tesla is a Silicon Valley automobile startup company focusing on the production of high performance, consumer-oriented battery electric vehicles. In the biodiesel space, Aurora Biofuels uses proprietary technology developed at the University of California at Berkeley, to produce biodiesel feedstock from microalgae. Based in Alameda, California, Aurora’s technology achieves yields that are 100 times higher and at significant lower costs than traditional bioethanol production methods.

Energy Efficiency:
Serious Materials, a leading sustainable building materials company based in Sunnyvale, CA, announced that it fully supports the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act energy efficiency provisions. “We are already opening plants to meet the Recovery Act demand and hiring what may be hundreds of workers this year.” The company’s products such as SeriousWindows and SeriousGlass can reduce heating and cooling energy costs by up to 50%. Under the Recovery Act, homeowners can receive federal tax credits for “qualified energy-efficient improvements,” which include windows, doors and skylights. The new tax credits are for 30% of the cost of eligible products up to a limit of $1,500.

Efficiency of Infrastructures: Smart Grid Management Systems
Lumenergi, Inc., a Newark, CA based start-up is emerging rapidly in a space populated by large corporations. Lumenergi manufactures advanced and price-competitive dimming electronic ballast for fluorescent lighting that, combined with a proprietary lighting control system, is able to achieve energy savings in the order of 70%. In addition, Lumenergi’s system is Demend Response ready, allowing utilities to save energy at peak loads. This provides a huge opportunity as lighting accounts for 23 percent of all electricity consumption in the U.S. and 50 percent of electricity used in high-rise buildings. Coupled with rebates and grants that are increasingly being offered by utilities or state energy offices, Lumenergi estimates that a customer could get a return on their investment in only two years.
With billions of dollars from the Recovery Act flowing into smart grid investments, pushing utilities towards efficiency, and funding energy efficiency retrofits of commercial and governmental building, Lumenergi and other technology start-ups in Silicon Valley are getting organized to make the most out of federal and state funding.

Investors and Entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley

Guest post by Enrico Beltramini.

Silicon Valley (SV) is known for technological innovation and business model. Examples of technological innovation are the browser (Netscape), the search engine (Google), and the social network (Facebook); examples of business model are the Reverse Market, the Disintermediation, and the Long Tail. Before a geographic place, SV is a space of experimentation, the collective project of a new grammar of business. It has been built slowly over a few generations, and found maturity in the second half of the Nineties. Along with technological innovation and business model, there is a third element which has marked the history of SV and influenced its evolution. This element is less known of the other two, but certainly it is equally determined to make SV be successful. This element is the relationship between investors and entrepreneurs.

In a strict sense, the investor is someone who invests in a company. In SV this definition translates into a high risk investment commitment. For this reason, SV became almost 50 years ago the home of a specific form of investment, and competence as well: Venture Capital (VC). History tells us that the first VC was Arthur Rock, a little boy more than twenty years old, a law degree just awarded, a single customer, and five friends wealthy. He put this together in half an hour and managed to collect 5 million and fund the spin-off of eight researchers from Shockley Semiconductor. Thus the Fairchild was born. Fairchild then generated dozens of other companies, eight of them were born from five founding companies: Amelco, Signetics, National Semiconductor, Advanced Micro Devices - AMD - and Intel. Intel and AMD wrote the next chapter in the history of SV.

Since then, whether in times of economic growth than in a recession, two times a week the members of one of hundreds of circles of investors in SV are seated around the table and attend the presentation of business plans from entrepreneurs in need of funds. Fifteen minutes per presentation, four and a half hours for fourteen presentations (including breaks). Journalists imagine fabled meeting rooms where investors build the fortune of the new big, big thing, i.e., start-up that literally invented a business based on a service or product radically new. This is probably true for venture capitalists like John Doerr, a partner of Kleiner Parkins (office at Sand Hill Road, the road of VC) which financed Amazon, Compaq, Google, Intuit, Netscape and Symantec (in strict alphabetical list). For the founders of start-up, receiving a few million dollars from VC as Benchmark Capital, which has built a reputation financing eBay, or Dick Kramlich of New enterprice Associates, or Glenn Muelle of Mayfield Fund, is how to obtain a degree from Stanford or MIT: a road to heaven made possible thanks to the credibility, success and reputation that are provided by these names. These people increase the valuation of the ventures where they invest just by their presence. For most entrepreneurs, however, meetings like these are simply a dream, since they are financed by less known VC, or not funded at all.

Together with the investor, at the heart of the ecosystem of SV there is the entrepreneur. A special type of entrepreneur. He or she is the one who promotes the attack of large corporations despite the presence in the Valley of big companies such as Apple, Cisco, Google, HP, Oracle, Sun Microsystems, Yahoo! (in strict alphabetical order). From the mission to the strategy, passing through managing people, promoting innovation, developing technology, everything in the start-ups seems to be built right in the sense of overturning the traditional approach of the large corporation which sees in the management of the company the key technology. Given this emphasis on managerial work and competence that large corporations have spread and that now pervades the entire community of business, the entrepreneur offers a different perspective. To be an entrepreneur in SV is an anthropological rather than institutional form of life. It is a vocation rather than a profession.

The balance of power in SV between investors and entrepreneurs has reversed only recently. Until the mid-Nineties, investors took a large share of the society in which they invested, and often the operational control. The role of the entrepreneur - once investors were in - was marginal. Entrepreneurs of the new economy reverses this system. They explained that investors do not understand how a company works, they do not have the passion to drive them, and above all have too short term plans. Investors have to finance companies, not to guide them. Thus the figure of the entrepreneur - investor, who retains control of his or her own company even when the investors finance it, was born. Today, establishing a new company does not require the huge funds of the past. As it is possible to start-up with a few hundred thousand dollars, the role of VC is less important than it was in the past.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Bridge starts at Insubria University

Thanks to Alberto Onetti (professor of Economy, director of CrESIT, and among other stuff, CFO of Funambol) MTB has been the fil-rouge of cycle of cycle of CrESIT conferences around innovation.
First the energetic 2008/9 finalist Massimo de Santis (FreePackNet) , then the expert Matteo Daste (corporate lawyer, MTB board member) and then me, fired up the attentive students of Uni Insubria, Varese.

Here is some press coverage
Marco, Matteo, Massimo

As part of the 2009/10 plan, we expect to have a whole lot more of such activities. Stay tuned….

Monday, June 8, 2009

MtB 2009/10 - The Race is Open!

Since May 25th, the Mind the Bridge 2009/10 cycle is up and running. The deadline to submit your business plan is Aug 25th.

You know the rules. We are looking for highly innovative startups, focused on a global market, with high growth potential.
A dozen of the semifinalists will be invited to present during the Venture Camp event in November . The selected projects will go through several months of mentoring that will culminate with a Silicon Valley road show.
Some of the selected projects will be offered to join the Gym, where the entrepreneurs will be able to build their muscles in the heart of the Silicon Valley.

Need some advice?
VC Evaluation, How to write a BP, Tips from Entrepreneurs, How to present to a VC

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Innovello - Italians and together?

What happened a few days ago in Venice passed mostly unnoticed by the main media channels (surprise surprise…)

For the first time ever in Italy, a number of organizations representing over 130,000 companies signed a deal to work together on a one-stop portal gathering all relevant information around startups and innovation in Italy. It’s called Innovello and it’s orchestrated by Massimo Colomban and Emil Abirascid.

As Mind the Bridge foundation we applaud the effort as the first real attempt an umbrella organization that can coordinate all the major initiatives to promote Italian entrepreneurship. Therefore, we decided to be among the first organizations to sign the memorandum with the hope that the one-stop portal about Italian innovation would be just the first step to align several local efforts that today barely talk to one another.

Let’s be clear: the fundamental problem that needs to be solved is the following:

The international investment community thinks that the Italian startups scenario sucks, generally speaking. We are in this initiative to work together to change this perception. We expect that the portal will be the first step towards an umbrella organization, P4G style, able to represent and coordinate the next century Italian innovation in a global setting.

Here’s our press release for the event.