Tag: start-up

Food for Thought: Weekly Wrap-Up

Electronic waste is proliferating at an incredible speed: In 2007, an estimated 40 million computers became obsolete world-wide and the rapid turnover of cell phones, printers, cameras etc. comes on top. A US-solution to the problem is introduced by William Pentland in Forbes this week: EcoATM, a California-based startup, provides self-serve electronic recycling stations, or “ecoATM kiosks” at shopping malls, supermarkets and other high-traffic areas. Consumers can insert cell phones they want to get rid off and immediately get a quote based on the value of the device in secondary markets. The business model is about to be expanded to additional portable devices.

Rainer Floehl in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) explains that to date, leukemia diagnostics does not take important informative parameters into account. A study in about 1,400 patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) led to the development of a risk scale which was subsequently tested in a further 800 patients. The scale comprises factors like patient age, chromosomal changes and body temperature as well as concentration of thrombocytes, hemoglobin fibrinogen and lactate dehydrogenase enzyme. The new scale will allow to stratify patients for aggressive chemotherapy or milder forms of treatment, thereby reducing unnecessary, severe side effects.

Alexander Picker, David Jackson and Stephan Brock in Die ZEIT respond to an article by Martina Keller in the same paper published in January, which dismissed the majority of novel cancer drugs as providing only marginal benefit to the patients while being grossly overpriced and full of severe side-effects. The authors, biologists and managers of Life Biosystems AG (Heidelberg, Germany), a company developing decision support systems for oncologists, point out that judgements like this – frequently found in today’s media – do not take into account the progress which is currently being made with personalized cancer therapies. They state that the diagnostic and analytic advances in this field still have to reach clinics and patients as well as regulatory agencies and insurers.

Malcolm Ritter in Die Welt reports about progress in personalized prostate cancer therapy. To date, a lot of men receive over-therapy such as chemo- and radiotherapy because doctors cannot tell apart aggressive from slowly growing, more benign forms. The article introduces a test developed by Ronald DePinho of Dana Farber Cancer Institute which identifies aggressive forms.

Alexander Wehr in Die Welt reports about a paradigm shift in preventing stroke by using novel anti-coagulants such as apixaban, dabigatran, edoxaban and rivaroxaban instead of warfarin or aspirin. In the same paper, Maria Braun features a study conducted by the University of Toronto showing that bilinguality has a surprisingly high protective effect against Alzheimer’s disease.

Finally, Amy Wallace in the New York Times introduces a start-up still seeking investors that has taught parasitic wasps new tricks. The founders discovered that wasps can be drilled to sniff any volatile substance, even if it is not occurring in the wasps’ natural habitat, and that they are even better in detecting odor traces than dogs. First product of the newly founded company is a device for detecting bedbugs, but the founders think of other applications as well – from sniffing explosives to detecting drugs or cadavers. The company is seeking a modest $200,000 to get the prototype on the market.

Food for Thought: Lessons from a Start-up Nation

Start-up Nation” by Dan Senor and Saul Singer addresses the trillion-dollar question: How is it that a country of a mere 7.1 million people has per capita venture capital investments 2.5 times greater than in the US (more than 30 times greater than in Europe), the highest density of high tech start-ups in the world (1 for every 1,844 inhabitant) and more companies listed at NASDAQ than all companies from the entire European continent?

The book is about Israel, and while much can be attributed to the extraordinary history of the country and its hostile environment, other factors such as a culture of leadership, risk management and  “can do” attitude are at least equally important . “When an Israeli entrepreneur has a business idea,” the authors state, “he will start it that week.”

The book points out that while clusters of excellence with tight proximity to great universities, large corporations and start-ups (as well as to suppliers, an engineering talent pool and venture capital) are important, this is not enough. In Israel, a typical high tech start-up receives about 10 times more seed funding than in Europe although the turnover rate of start-ups is much shorter and faster, even compared to US standards. In addition, as compared to Korea, Singapore, China and even to the EU and US, the country has a culture of constantly challenging authorities and wide-held beliefs and of team orientation and networking.

And while macro-economic factors can only be altered slowly, cultural attitudes can be changed more easily on a coporate and personal level, and this is why the book makes an inspiring reading.