The misdirection starts with the name. The Marketplace Fairness Act isn’t about fairness at all. It’s about imposing the burden of calculating, collecting, reporting and remitting the consumer use taxes (sales tax) for all of the nearly 10,000 tax jurisdictions in the country onto merchants selling online regardless of whether the merchant has connections to the state and it’s taxing jurisdictions. The misdirection continues with the primary proponent of the Act, the Streamlined Sales Tax organization, putting their energy into political activism – getting as many states on board as possible – rather than on policy solutions that address the complexities and liabilities of the existing taxation landscape which are the primary obstacle to gaining the willing cooperation of online merchants.
In 2010 when I was serving as co-chair of the Information Task Force for Sen. Pat Roberts’ Science, Technology and the Future advisory committee I saw this “Firm Formation: The Importance of Startups” report published by Kansas City’s Kauffman Foundation, a think tank dedicated to fostering economic independence by advancing entrepreneurship and education, that shows “without startups, there would be no net job growth in the U.S. economy.” So why aren’t public economic development activities putting more effort and investment into the start-up market?
“If I knew then what I know now” is a pretty common lament heard in the postmortem analysis of most in-house proprietary software development projects. I recently got to tackle the build vs buy debate while working on a turn around engagement with the software development subsidiary of a large Costa Rican tourism company. What I found was that business leaders were reasonably familiar with the risks and considerations of the old build vs buy paradigm, but they were not at all up to date on the tremendous impact of the current open source market on this important strategic IT decision.
What are some of the key characteristics of successful teams charged with planning and decision-making responsibilities? A friend and former college classmate who worked for some years as a VP of Marketing for Microsoft once told me about working with Bill Gates. “He’s super smart” he said, “in our product marketing team meetings he could be pretty brutal.” He went on to elaborate further; “you’ve got to be totally prepared; he asks a lot of tough questions and he’s quick to call bull shit.” What Gates was doing was challenging assumptions, a key ingredient of critical thinking.
Entrepreneurs seeking start-up capital often look to early stage investors as validators for their vision and business acumen in addition to their value as financial supporters critical to the venture’s growth and survival. Thus, early stage investor may have a substantively different type of influence on the founder and the company. Unfortunately, in many cases, such early stage angel investors may be friends, family members, or local business executives with little to no experience in mentoring a founder of his company’s product, market or business strategy. Even worse, the investor may believe that he or she is an expert and mistakenly assume that they know better than the founder and his team what the company should be doing.
A few years ago I was a panelist on a discussion featuring John Gartner, author of The Hypomanic Edge – The Link Between Craziness and Success in America. In his book Gartner makes the case for why America, a nation of immigrants, has such a high quotient of entrepreneurial success. I had become friends with a number of H1B immigrants in my first start-up and I had marveled at the courage they had exhibited in leaving the comfort and security of family and culture to come to the USA to study and work. So Gartner’s findings not only made sense but they served to explain much of what was so impressive about this special group of people.
<- Snapshot from early LaGarde website Bob LaGarde entered the technology arena in 1996, about a year after the phenomenal Netscape IPO. He began programming in IDC/HTX, an old Microsoft methodology that is coincidentally somewhat like .NET with presentation layer and code behind architecture. This was back in the day when CGI was the dominant method of making web pages do something. The coolest stuff on the web was thought to be “eye-candy” things that blinked, spun or scrolled across the page. A few artifacts from the scrapbook: