Thursday, February 18, 2010

Economist Special report on Social Networks (or not)

I took a moment to cruise the pile of Economist issues we have in our lobby and stumbled across a Special Report on Social Networks. Just like I see in many conversations I have with others about my research on networks and entrepreneurship, people are quick to generalize in this order:
  • networks --> social networks --> online social networks
Let's be clear here. Networks are a form of organizing that are neither market nor hierarchy. In business research, networks are arguably not a theory, but a way of looking at social structures and processes. There are of course also computer networks, neural networks, infrastructure networks, etc, but those are topics for other blogs. "Social networks" imply network structures of social relationships, for which most people assume it's all about friendship networks, or at least homophily (the degree to which any two people are similar, whether or not they actually know each other). "Social networks" stops there. It does not refer to a medium of communication, or even impute that there is a medium of communication, or communication. Technically, social networks may exist simply by virtue of similar attributes. Realistically, there is communication, including verbal (face-to-face, phone, voip, ..), written, visual, etc. This is where the word "online" often gets dropped. No one says "Do a search for 'social network research' online." It is simply assumed that because so much of what we do is via computers and the internet, that there's no need to state whether it's online or offline. To be clear though, when I read a special report from the Economist on "Social Networks" I was hoping to read about more than facebook and twitter. Sure they play a role in our lives, but so do networks in the real-o-sphere:

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Early stage commercialization in Oz

Don't ask me why, but it seems the National Angel Capital Association (NACO) has been blogging about Australia lately. Two things they recently blogged about are:

NACO President W. Daniel Mothersill speaking at Australian Angel Summit: Feb 17-19, 2010, NACO President W. Daniel Mothersill has been invited to make a presentation at the Australian Association of Angel Investors 2010 Conference in Adelaide.

Commercialization Australia is announced: While many have bemoaned the 2008 announcement that the Commercial Ready program was going to be shut down, the Australian government has announced a new program that "assists researchers, entrepreneurs and innovative companies to convert ideas into successful commercial ventures." Looks like they've got three levels of support:
  1. Skills and Knowledge: Support of up to $50,000 for specialist advice and services to help commercialise an idea. Support of up to $200,000 over two years to engage experienced executives.
  2. Proof of Concept: Grants from $50,000 to $250,000 to test the commercial viability of a new product, process or service.
  3. Early Stage Commercialization: Repayable grants from $250,000 to $2 million to undertake activities that enable a new product, process or service to be taken to market.
Unfortunately I don't have the time to poke around and see what the terms and conditions are on the grants, but the fact that they explicitly mention the Early Stage Commercialization ones are repayable, suggests the other ones are not (or else they would have added "repayable" to their descriptions).