The May Report: 1/20/2010: Bulletin: After two years exactly, K&L Gates, fka Bell Boyd & Lloyd, suddenly and unexpectedly ends its sponsorship of MIT-EF leaving them high and dry with no venue for next month; A wake up call to MIT-EF?
January 20, 2010
The May Report: 1/20/2010: Bulletin: After two years exactly, K&L Gates, fka
Bell Boyd & Lloyd, suddenly and unexpectedly ends its sponsorship of MIT-EF
leaving them high and dry with no venue for next month; A wake up call to
If you missed an article, go here:
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
The Scoop section:
— Jason Rexilius: Planning to go to Haiti in the next few weeks and looking
for Motorola phones
— Briefly noted, by Ron May
The Scoop section:
Jason Rexilius: Planning to go to Haiti in the next few weeks and looking for
Wondering if you could post this. I’ve lost touch with my Motorola
brethren (been too many years) but would like to broadcast ping this.
I am likely heading down to Haiti later this month and helping out
with comms and feeds into some systems to help with identifying the
dead, tagging problems and other ground intel support.
I’m going to be bringing some Google phones (however many a friend
can spare) and would like to get Motorola phones as well. I’m working
on the software and the interfaces with the NGO’s who have the systems
to feed into but would like to deliver phones, solar USB chargers and
training to people on the ground along with it.
If any Motorolans or people with ties in can help get me some USB
charging phones with GPS and camera (Droid’s expensive but ideal),
that’d be great.
I’m also looking for donations to help cover the costs for the trip
down and the operations. These would go to the non-profit that I’m
helping and would be tax deductible charitable donations.
Any help, please email me: email@example.com
May here. Jason told me on the phone Tuesday that he is well aware that there
are not many cell phone towers in Haiti. He wants to the phones for other
reasons, like GPS and video.
Briefly noted, by Ron May
* I have a little scoop for you. K&L Gates, the primary sponsor of the
MIT-Enterprise Forum, has suddenly and unceremoniously dumped the MIT-EF as a
sponsored organization. The dump came so fast and unexpectedly that MIT-EF has
no venue for next month.
Thems the facts.
Now, tonight I feel like putting it out there and laying it on the line. There
is much more here than inside baseball. It is a much bigger story than
organizational politics and we make a mistake to see it that way. It applies in
general to many aspects of business.
No one gets a pass tonight, myself included, and I apologize in advance for
some greater than usual blunt talk.
Tonight the Democratic Party got a wake up call in the election in
The question is: Are they smart enough to understand that? Do they get the
lesson of tonight and correct their course or do they continue their march
toward defeat in November?
In many ways, the MIT-EF faces the same dilemma.
There are two ways to take the dumping of MIT-EF by K&L Gates.
One way to look at it is that this is just the way things work. The other way
is that this is something far more profound and represents a wake up call.
I know that MIT-EF is a volunteer organization and many people put in many
hours of work to make it what it is, but that is effectively beside the point.
To draw on my own past experience, if the assignment is a five page thought
paper and I write a 50 page research paper, no matter how good that research
paper is, it is not what was called for. There must be alignment between
strategy, goals and execution.
Bell Boyd became the main sponsor of MIT-EF in Chicago on January 16th 2008,
exactly two years ago.
Here’s the press release.
MIT Enterprise Forum Teams with Bell Boyd as Meeting Sponsor
You may have seen this already, but I thought I would forward it to you to
close the loop on the 2008 MIT Enterprise Forum sponsorship. We hope to see you
at a few of these events.
Take care of yourself,
Bell Boyd to Sponsor MIT Enterprise Forum Monthly Programs
CHICAGO, January 16, 2008 — Bell, Boyd & Lloyd LLP will become the premier
sponsor of the MIT Enterprise Forum of Chicago, the prestigious monthly forum
fostering innovation and entrepreneurship. A chapter of the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology’s Global Enterprise Forum, the network of technology
executives, entrepreneurs, scientists and investors will meet for monthly
programs at Bell, Boyd & Lloyd’s Conference Center, 70 West Madison Street,
Chicago, beginning on February 12th.
“The MIT Enterprise Forum is nationally recognized as a preeminent resource for
technology entrepreneurs,” said Robert M. Barrett who head’s Bell Boyd’s Patent
Group and will serve as a member of the Forum’s Executive Committee. “We are
proud and honored to be affiliated with the Chicago Chapter and to sponsor
their important programs. Their work on behalf of emerging companies, including
many of our own clients, is critical to the advancement and development of
technology in the Chicago area.”
The firm will also sponsor the Chicago MITEF/RPX Group Innovation Whiteboard
Challenge, a competition pitting 12-15 innovation concept presenters against
each other for a $3,000 first-place prize.
Bell, Boyd & Lloyd counsels emerging companies and entrepreneurs on all aspects
of launching their businesses and bringing their products to market. From
protecting innovation, to obtaining financing and navigating the regulatory
hurdles, Bell Boyd intellectual property and corporate attorneys work with
their clients through all stages of their life cycles.
70 West Madison Street • Chicago, Illinois 60602 • p. 312.372.1121 • f.
Jude M. Sullivan | Bell, Boyd & Lloyd LLP
70 W. Madison St., Ste. 3100 | Chicago, IL 60602-4207
t. 312-781-7160 | f. 312-345-9995 | c. 773-744-6852
firstname.lastname@example.org | www.bellboyd.com
May again. The reason that Bell Boyd took over the sponsorship two years ago is
that Drinker Biddle dumped MIT-EF. Now that was something that was coming for
some time. First of all, Drinker Biddle was Gardner Carton & Douglas before it
was merged into the national firm.
This, as we all know, has been a long term trend for mid-sized local law firms.
Who has not been merged. Gordon & Glickson became McGuire Woods. Sachnoff &
Weaver became Reed Smith. McBride Baker & Coles became Holland & Knight.
It is true that as these mid-sized firms have merged with larger ones, they
have tended to drop off their support of local organizations in sponsorship.
Gardner Carton became Drinker Biddle and just last March 1st — curious choice
of dates, huh? — Bell Boyd became K&L Gates.
Here is TMR from 2/24/2009.
Craig Bradley tells me that next week, March 1st, the merger between Bell Boyd
and a firm in Pittsburgh called K&L Gates. That firm has 1,700 lawyers and Bell
Boyd has 250 in three offices. K&L Gates has 31 offices.
And Bell Boyd did have some small cuts in staff to tighten the belt before this
merger was announced:
I think Craig Bradley told me that K&L Gates is a firm started by Bill Gates’
It is obvious that the yearly sponsorship decisions made by both Bell Boyd and
Drinker Biddle come at the beginning of the year. It’s a January thing.
I had heard rumors that Bell Boyd was going to drop MIT-EF and the people at
Bell Boyd, then K&L Gates, folks like Jude Sullivan and Priscilla Whittier,
But these rumors have a way of persisting.
The same thing happened back at Drinker Biddle. Remember that Drinker was
carrying the load for both MIT-EF and TiE-Midwest. There was a long period of
angst associated with the high cost of the monthly sponsorship. Recall that
Drinker really put on a big show every month with a catered reception with Hors
d’Å“uvres and drinks. That reception cost Drinker about $4,000 a month.
I believe it was in the last year of the sponsorships of both MIT-EF and TiE
that Drinker cut back their financial support for the receptions and the room
to 50% of the total cost. At Drinker Biddle the cutbacks applied to both MIT-EF
When Bell Boyd took over, they provided a room that we all know was a bit
squeezed in terms of size (which holds 110 people, not 150) and they paid for
the pre-event networking, food and drinks downstairs at La Rosetta.
At first they seemed happy. I consistently saw Bell Boyd lawyers at the
pre-event networking. However, many of them did not stay for the event that
But as time went by, Bell Boyd went through the same evolution that Drinker
Without revealing the specifics of conversations I have had with Darren Cahr at
Drinker, I can tell you that partners at Drinker were not overjoyed with the
management of MIT-EF. Meetings were infrequent and hard to arrange. They had
some issues with Nik Rokop dating back some years.
You have to remember, these lawyers are sophisticated people. They charge
between $400 and $700 an hour for their services. They deal mostly with large
corporations that can pay their fees.
Now I must be blunt.
The membership of the MIT-EF is largely independent business consultants and
small business entrepreneurs. I could name them for you but you know who they
So, if the law firms that sponsor MIT-EF are looking for clients that can pay
their fees, they are looking in the wrong place.
Michael Feldman told me that in no uncertain terms. He is (or was) with
Seyfarth Shaw which took over D’Ancona Flaum.
I wrote this on 2/24/2005:
When I ran into Michael Feldman of Seyfarth Shaw last week at the ACG meeting,
I asked him why D’Ancona Flam had stopped sponsoring the MIT-EF. D’Ancona
merged with Seyfarth. He said that quite honestly the quality was not there
among the attendees. The best guy he met, he said, was a Motorola employee who
wanted to start his own firm. He wished Gardner Carton better luck. Spencer
said that there are three reasons that Gardner decided to sponsor the MIT-EF.
There you have it. The quality of the attendees and we must remember that is in
the context of what a major law firm is looking for. Now we all know that the
MIT-EF members are good people, but they are truly small fry and don’t bring
with them the big money clients that firms like Seyfarth, Drinker and K&L are
I know that many people felt that Peter Balbus was arrogant and abrasive but
one thing I have to say in his favor is that he “got this.”
Peter understood that MIT-EF needed to move up the food chain and draw in
higher level people. He understood that they needed a strategy. Key word there.
He knew they needed a theme and he chose innovation, not just in small
start-ups but in incumbents as well. This is a point that Sean Murdock has
understood all along and he has run his nanotech organization with that in
mind. You have to merge universities, government, large businesses and small
start-ups plus throw in investors and others in the infrastructure.
Balbus did bring in people from Sara Lee, U. S. Gypsum, and Wrigley, innovators
One of the big beefs that the partners at Drinker had with MIT-EF was that the
board did not a.) engage them and b.) lay out a strategic plan. How many higher
level introductions did MIT-EF make for Drinker? For K&L Gates?
Look, if you are shelling out $50K a year or more, you want to know what you
are getting for your money.
Here is the key point. If the MIT-EF is made up largely of business consultants
who are smart people, they should be smart enough to understand that they have
to figure out what their premier sponsor wants and help that sponsor to get it.
That is the thing that astounds me.
I have to lay a lot of blame on Bob Lepkowski as well. He was detached and not
Bob has always been arrogant about MIT-EF. His attitude was that the sponsors
should be happy just to have their names associated with MIT-EF.
Much of the problem here has to do with a huge misconception that many have
about MIT-EF that needs to be corrected. The twenty or so chapters of the
organization across the country report to the alumni association! Yes, it is
true that MIT, the university, is known for innovation and entrepreneurship,
but the people running the MIT-EF as part of the alumni association in Boston
are pretty weak. They’re bureaucrats and not very inventive.
Big name law firms have gotten sucked in by MIT-EF. They have assumed that the
cachet of MIT meant that they were going to be exposed to real movers and
shakers. Not so.
MIT-EF is not the same as MIT, the university. People like Keith Karasek know
that. There are folks like Bob Lepkowski who earned their stripes by doing work
for the alumni association. Alumni associations tend not to be where the action
is or the brains are. The MIT media lab is where the action is, but if a
sponsor thinks they will be hanging out with Neil Gershenfeld of the MIT media
lab, they had better think again.
So, did the MIT-EF board engage Bell Boyd and K&L Gates?
My information from the inside is no, they decidedly did not.
I would love to know how many meetings the MIT-EF people initiated with K&L
Gates. If someone is paying your freight, don’t take it for granted.
It is true that Terry Flanagan, who is president largely by default because he
is a nice guy who likes to facilitate, but he is not necessarily a leader, did
start putting together a three year plan with a plan of succession, but that
has been essentially dropped.
Flanagan may be the titular head of the organization but so much of the heavy
lifting has been done by Nancy Munro.
My information is that last night, Bill Burnett and Steve Smith who are beside
themselves about next month and where MIT-EF will meet, were discussing how
much of the burden for finding a venue for February will fall on Nancy. You can
email her at email@example.com. Sitting at their table were Burnett and
Smith and Rachel Kaberon, Richard Cross, David Dalka plus one or two others.
There are others who participate and make contributions and each meeting tends
to be run by a small but different group. The moderator of last night’s meeting
was Tim Curley.
Let me use last night’s meeting as an example of the problem MIT-EF faces.
They appear to operate meeting to meeting and it is all very ad hoc.
There is little cross meeting coordination and little activity of any kind
outside of the context of monthly meetings. Where are roundtables and other
meetings in between that bring more to the table?
I know, I know, it’s a volunteer organization and people are busy.
Was the meeting last night a good meeting?
Honestly, I have to reluctantly say no, and here is why.
First, let me say that I will have a good write up on the meeting. Richard
Cross helped me with my getting around and my oxygen and he took more than 20
pages of notes and Paolo Messina also took notes, plus I taped it. I will also
have some predictions from David Hale who spoke last night at ASP for you since
I interviewed him at Stefania’s Christmas party.
It is certainly not because it was boring or lacking in good content. Each
panelist was on top of the issues and sharp and Angela Librizzi is not hard on
I learned a lot and enjoyed the exchanges between the panelists and there were
some great lines or quotes from Mark Keeley who could do stand-up comedy or
write a column in TMR.
If this event had been sponsored by Forbes or Fortune Magazine, it would have
been great. But they forgot the number one rule for any speaker or panel.
Know your audience and speak to your audience. The MIT-EF is made up of
entrepreneurs, consultants, and people who want to know about innovation.
Yes, BRIC is interesting, and so are many of the topics they covered but when
Adolfo Laurenti, an economist at Mesirow and appearing for the second time at
MIT-EF, gives ten reasons why the banks can’t lend money and no one says boo,
something is not right and there is a disconnect with the audience.
I certainly don’t begrudge Adolfo his opinions and his professional expertise,
but the issue is that the meeting was not geared toward the membership.
Almost all the meetings are interesting and engaging.
The problem is that there is no overarching theme and no dovetailing with a
strategic vision. If the theme is entrepreneurship, as I pointed out in my last
question of the evening, that was one word we had not heard in almost two
The panel, albeit smart, was essentially unidimensional. If they had thrown in
a venture guy, an up and coming entrepreneur from a place like Groupon, that
could have added some reality and multidimensionality to the discussion.
That is my basic issue with MIT-EF. Meeting by meeting, it may be doing a good
job, but there is no interconnection. One of the upcoming meetings is
bootstrapping vs. investors. My, what if they had given an on the ground and in
the trenches perspective from a business owner who can’t get a needed line of
credit to counterbalance Adolfo?
There needs to be more outside the box thinking and again, I think Tim did a
good job and asked good questions and I learned a lot, but it was boxed in from
Let me get back to getting dumped after a short stint of two years with Bell
Boyd and K&L Gates.
From what I can tell, the way the dumping was handled, the folks at K&L did not
feel they were being treated well.
There was not one K&L person last night from what I could tell and not one at
the holiday party in December which was held in a different location.
Jude Sullivan moderated two MIT-EF panels, and he would usually hang out
downstairs at La Rosetta after the meeting.
My information is that the dumping was quite sudden and unexpected, and it
leaves the planning for next month very much up in the air.
My overall point is that local organizations must be more cognizant of their
The beauty of what has just happened to the MIT-EF is that it is a wake up call
for the organization and it is the free market exercising its muscle.
At the end of the day, there is accountability. Remember that word?
And that is my issue with our buddies Fred Hoch and Terry Howerton.
Drinker Biddle and K&L Gates and the other law firms that sponsor organizations
are accountable to the bottom line. Is a sponsorship bringing in new clients
But Fred and Terry got an undeserved pass this last year and they know it.
They finagled the ITDA out of $750K or thereabouts and since the ITDA had no
accountability, they really don’t have to show anything for the money they have
I know this may seem like nitpicking, but the old ITDA site had a section with
resources of all kinds listed for entrepreneurs. What happened to that?
Margaret Plett is gone and they have not replaced her and we really never did
get a good explanation for why she left. But whatever happened to the revamping
of their website? Are those Ukrainian programmers still being paid?
MIT-EF in Chicago, like the Democratic Party as of last night, has now been
given an opportunity to look at itself in the mirror and to fix things.
That is going to take a lot more than just planning and having a good meeting
with good attendance numbers.
It calls for some real thought and strategic planning and yes, heavy lifting.
What that comes down to is how do they attract VP or C-level people who are
with firms that a sponsor like K&L or Drinker would be interested in.
The ITA, sadly, has had no such challenge to confront that might make it a
better organization. In historian Arnold Toynbee’s terms, there is no challenge
and therefore no response.
I am sure that the MIT-EF will survive and it has done a good job on the day to
day level. But — and I know this better than most people — being task
oriented, being day to day, is not enough. For MIT-EF, the task is always next
month’s meeting and after a while, that just does not cut it.
It does not cut it for firms like K&L Gates which look at the big picture on an
annual basis and ask the hard questions about what they are getting. And lest
you think that K&L is just cutting back in general, I noticed that they are
sponsoring the EDC luncheon this month.
MIT-EF lives meeting to meeting and it has resulted in two major sponsors
dumping them. I live scoop to scoop and tell me, where is TMR today? Just on
another scoop. Where is the big plan, the big picture?
So, let me say no one is without blame, but everyone bears responsibility for
setting things right.
Finally, one piece of news — sort of. Mike Nelson of NanoInk was there and he
told me that they have 80 people and have two new instruments that they
introduced in 2009 which are selling well. They are still working on the pills
but they have not cracked that nut just yet.
END OF REPORT