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Archive for the ‘Entrepreneurs’ category

Entrepreneurship Is Fueling Global Change

April 21st, 2013

Ah, Entrepreneurship…

Entrepreneurship is now fueling the world’s quests to end epidemics, resolve inequities and poverty, increase education and care for our natural resources.    Three forces – government environment, bottoms up desire for skills/learning, and conscious capital — have come together to create this sea of change.  The Millennials will cause changes like we’ve never seen in the world.  In general, there is a growing consciousness that we CAN change our world for the better and entrepreneurial thinking is the key to this change.

For the past two years, we’ve had an amazing set of innovators/entrepreneurs share their experiences @ The Intersection Event on how their work impacts the world. Some of the most memorable moments…

–> Leila Janah, Founder/CEO of Samasource spoke at our event inside Pixar about how her company is creating mico-work opportunities for impoverished women and children around the world

–> Reid Hoffman, Founder of LinkedIn, and Ev Williams, Co-Founder of Twitter have talked about the impact of their game-changing social networks

–> Barry Zito, SF Giants star pitcher, spoke @ Google about Strikeout for the Troops, his entrepreneurial endeavor that supports our nations military families

–> Kushal Chakrabarti, Chairman of Vittana, gave a passion-filled pitch at 2013 The Gratitude Awards for ways in which his company has enabled young people in Africa to complete their educations with help from those of us who care

These …and many many more memorable moments at The Intersection, have reminded us that innovation that impacts social change is not coming from the large NGOs – it’s coming from the ingenuity of the entrepreneurs.

How popular is Entrepreneurship today around the world?

If measured by televisions sets in our homes in the US, Entrpreneurship has reached the pinacle of popularity…shows like Shark Tank, a TV show  developed by Mark Burnett (executive producer of Survivor, The Bible, The Voice, and Celebrity Apprentice) and featuring 5 angel investors who love (or shred apart) various entrepreneurs who “pitch” their wares. Thanks to this program, millions of people around the world now know how to calculate the valuation of a start-up, how to evaluate a team, what sales are needed to impress investors, and how to negotiate a term sheet (…and for this I went to Harvard Business School???).

Around the world, Big Governments is encouraging Entrepreneurship. This trend started 10 years ago and has reached a crescendo in recent years.  My former professor at HBS and colleague, John Kao, authored Innovation Nation in 2007 to “pour some cold ice” on the US government about how the US is losing its edge as an innovation leader.  New institutions, laws, cultural norms will enable other countries to surpass the US in innovation, posits Kao, if we don’t embrace entrepreneurship and ingenuity in new ways in the US.   Regardless, with the recent

entrepreneurship in internet search, mobile software and human interface design,  the SPIRIT of ENTREPRENEURSHIP still seems embedded in our culture I don’t see it going anywhere in the coming years.  Initiatives, under Obama, like the Steve-Case-headed Start-up America are looking for ways to turn around our competitive situation

Grass-roots Desire

While Mr. Burnett is raking in the ratings, there is clearly a grass roots, bottoms up desire for Entrepreneurship among tomorrow’s leaders – who are today in undergrad and graduate schools around the world. I see this with each year that I teach at UC Berkeley and U. Cambridge – more and more students are asking me how they can “do well” AND “do good”.

General Entrepreneurship is taught at every major University around the globe; three dozen of the top business schools now offer a “Center” for Entrepreneurship” or program – without one they are no longer competitive players in the college market -  many students are looking to build their entrepreneurial skills as part of their core learning experience in college.

Social entrepreneurship is now the hot new area: courses at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Management illustrate the case. In the past few years, numerous course on innovation, entrepreneurship and now social entrepreneurship have proliferated – and most students take at least one of these electives in pursuing their degrees.  These offering  have spilled over into the 3-year (“weekend/evening MBA program”) which takes in students who for the most part also have full-time management-level jobs in the Bay Area. According to February 2013 blog on HBR between 2003 and 2009 the average course in US MBA schools has skyrocked over 110% per year.

A recent Fortune article on higher ed illustrates the points:  The latest trends in undergrads are programs that develop students as social entrepreneurs.  Already Berkeley (Haas), Yale, Stanford (GSB), Harvard MBA, and Duke (Darden School) have entire programs around teaching social entrepreneurship. Abroad, INSEAD has led the way and Oxford (Saïd School) has sponsored The Skoll Foundation’s annual trend-setting conference called Skoll World Forum for Social Entrepreneurship.

Not Just the MBAs

Turns out the social entrepreneurship movement is gaining momentum in many undergraduate schools as well – from Dartmouth to Azusa Pacific.  For example, at Brown University, undergrad students are leading the entrepreneurial charge.  This bottom up approach has led to the continued success of the Entrepreneurship Program, or EP, a 15-year-old student run entrepreneurship initiative, which is now thriving as both an engagement program for blossoming entrepreneurs, and an accelerator program for more experienced founders.  In addition, EP has recently formed a partnership with E’ship, the student-run entrepreneurship club at the Rhode Island School of Design.  Through partnering RISD designers with Brown coders, engineerings, and creative thinkers, the Brown-RISD entrepreneurship initiative could assert Providence’s College Hill as one of the nation’s top entrepreneurial breeding grounds, all thanks to a grass-roots approach to entrepreneurship. Brown was also ranked recently by US News & World Report as a leader in the area of Social Entrepreneurship, with its unique programs at the Howard Swearer Center including the Social Innovation initiative and a Seed Fund for social ventures.

The Intersection of Need and Talent and Money

The third component, MONEY, completes the puzzle.  Over the past 10 years there has been a steady rise in funding sources available to social entrepreneurs. There are angel groups (for example, Investors Circle), foundations (Skoll Foundation, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Kauffman Foundation), social-impact banks (such as Triodos Bank in Europe), and a variety of emerging venture firms (see a great list here, from Olivia Khalili of Cause Capital blog).

At UC Berkeley, my students and I have completed a “Note on Social Impacting Investment” that can be used with MBA students to provide an overview of the options available.  The Note, written in 2012, provides an overview of the wide range of emerging options for philanthropic and impact investing, along with overviews of 8 of the top funding organizations.  To download and read the Note, click here: A Note on Social and Impact Investing

Put them all together they spell “C-H-A-N-G-E”

Put these three trends together — top-down government policy, rising desire of the Millenials for social entrepreneurship, and Conscious Capital –  and one gets a very encouraging picture of impact that global social entrepreneurship is likely to have in the next 20 years. Scores of young minds desire to understand how they can become social entrepreneurs,  governments (in the US and abroad) are likely to legislate in favor of the entrepreneurs and capital is becoming more available.

The Gratitude Network and The Intersection community are ready for this change.  Are you?

The Economist “Ideas Economy” Conference at UC Berkeley

March 25th, 2011

This week the Economist sponsored The IDEAS ECONOMY Conference at the Haas School of Business on the Berkeley campus.  I attended both days and enjoyed meeting many innovation experts from around the world.

A  look at Twitter:#ideaseconomy provides some short insights from the conference and here are a few of my favorite tweets:

  • H Chesbrough – Opening up processes to include the customer is even more important with services #ideaseconomy
  • Paul Kedrosky (Kauffman Foundation): We think of ourselves as economic virus hunters #ideaseconomy
  • Elon Musk: Success = talent x drive x opportunity. If any of those goes to zero, success is impossible #ideaseconomy
  • RT @govlab: Aneesh Chopra on stage showing that govt, innovation, and entrepreneurship can go together. #ideaseconomy
  • Fun at Economist Innovation Summit! IRS asking question of Scott Cook (Intuit) then NASA asking Elon Musk (SpaceX) #ideaseconom

What were the “big ideas” from the event?  Here are my top four:

1) The World is turning into an Idea Economy- we have entered a period where the Democratization of Ideas seems more potent in many ways than technology, leadership, and geography.  In this new economy, one’s location (Silicon Valley, New York City,  Cambridge UK, Beijing, or Finland) is not so important as the way in which ideas are shared and collaborated on.  The concept of  Open Service Innovation is taking hold (see my Haas colleague, Henry Chesbrough’s new book on this topic,) – and innovative companies are getting their ideas, as well as their execution from all corners of the world.

2) Education will be radically transformed in the next 10 years – lots of examples were presented at this conference that indicate that the global education system is about to be transformed by technologies such as cloud computing, virtual classrooms, video conferencing, and distance learning tools.  This transformation will bring affordable teaching to third world and developing countries, but also represents an opportunity for major “brands” like Harvard, Brown, Cal, Stanford to take a leadership in creating the “virtual” campus to extend their brand.

3) Government programs for entrepreneurship seem to be a priority of the current administration – for example, entrepreneurs have a tax break and angel investors have a break as well (through the end of 2012) for angel investing (perhaps partially explains the rush of angel capital investments moving into start-ups these days). Other programs like Start-up America (this is a good video – done YouTube style)…. Aneesh Chopra, CTO of the United States was interviewed at this conference.  He was praised for how worn out his shoes seem to be. Point of fact, he seems to intimately know many of the entrepreneurs, angels and VCs here in the Silicon Valley.  A good sign.

4) Think nimbly, make mistakes, fail often – this theme was stressed at the conference in many different forms and seems to capture the mindset of today’s most successful entrepreneurs.  Marc Zuckerberg , CEO of Facebook has been said (in an interview in 2010) “move fast and break things”.   This is a radical departure from 15 years ago, when companies carefully thought out and planned software development.  Given costs associated with cloud computing, open source programming, and other technologies, companies can afford to experiment and fail often – as long as they are tracking the results on their customers and changing course to reflect customer needs quickly

In contrast to TED, The Economist conference is smaller and more intimate.  So, it’s easier to talk with leading experts. Unlike TED, the conference was attended largely by a group of corporate executives and writers who are all intrigued by notions of

I’ve enjoyed attending both TED and The Economist events this Spring, but I still miss the intimacy and power of the early TED events in Monterey, when only 400 people attended and one could more easily kibitz with founders from Yahoo, Google, Amazon, MIT Media Labs, Microsoft and more.

Searching for Synthia – hottest innovation of the 21st century

August 22nd, 2010

Introducing Synthia

So popular is she, that 3 months after her birth, she already has her own Wikipedia page. Synthia may be the hottest innovation of the 21st Century.Yet, for many of us, we read about it casually on May 21st on our iPads  or home-delivered newspapers, next to stories about the latest Giants-A’s series showdown and local murder trials.  If you happened to miss the news that day, read on, as you might want to become familiar with this innovation.

“Synthia” is the nickname for a brand new bacterium developed by Craig Venter and his J. Craig Venter Institute.  You may recognize Venter’s name – he led a team at  TIGR (The Institute for Genomic Research) which in is credited as first to fully decode the genome sequence for a free living organism, Haemophilus influenzae in 1995;  in 2001, Venter and his team along with Celera Genomics decoded the first human genome entirely.  After leaving TIGR, Venter went on to form the the J. Craig Venter Institute and several related companies, such as Synthetic Genomics.  Bottom line:  Venter is among the leaders in understanding how to decode the basic building blocks of life and has a significant advantage in combining creative ideas on how to use this information commercially in the future.  It’s no wonder several investors and VCs like Steve Jurvetson kept close to him.

Her Story

The story of Synthia is truly something out of a Robin Cook novel – but in this case, the technology that has been perfected may truly have lasting effect on our lives and the lives of our progeny. It’s no simply science fiction.

Synthia was created by a synthetic genome. The team at Venter’s institute essentially pieced together from DNA fragments a modified version of a natural genome (mycoplasma mycoides - a chromosome with some 1.2 million base pairs) and implanted the hand-made genome into the shell of a  bacterium.  The new organism essentially came to live and is self-replicating.  That means that it essentially takes on a life of its own.

Uses and Abuses

One can only image the possible uses of this new approach to synthesizing life, as Synthia only represents the very beginning in a likely long exercise in creating new life forms.

Other areas that Venter and his team are apparently already exploring, and hoping to use their approaches on are:  fuel/energy, vaccination production, pollution control/clean-up,cell production,

Since genomes are the building blocks of heredity and proteins, and proteins are the building blocks of cells, and cells are the components of complex systems (organs, etc) within living organisms, the implication is that a synthetic self-replicating organism can become the basic building block to almost any change in life one can imagine.

Shades of “Singularity”

The question that many have had is whether biologists will soon be playing God with this new-found approach.  The new technology ultimately leads the way to new forms of genetically produced bacteria, viruses, plants and animals – and since they would be new to our world there would be no way of predicting how they might affect our global environment, ecosystem or biosphere.

What  might occur when eventually the recipe for synthetic life falls into naive or evil hands?

This is the essentially the first time that an artificially-created organism can self-replicate. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the predictions by author Ray Kurzweil who has written numerous books predicting new innovations that will explode from the intersection of biology/biotech/genetics, artificial intelligence and nanotechnology around the year 2030 (for more on this read The Singularity is Near by Kurzweil).

Love Her, Hate Her

So, that’s Synthia.  The bacterium you will come to love and hate.  Either we’ve unleashed a new “Manhattan Project” or we’ve got the beginning of a new Era in science.   Or, both.

I’d like to hear your impressions on this important innovation.

Keeping Innovation Simple – social entrepreneurship

July 19th, 2010

I get little argument when I suggest to entrepreneurs that they keep their businesses simple, that they focus on getting the simple steps done first, or that they focus on products that meet simple consumer needs.

But TALKING ABOUT simplicity and actually enabling it are two different things. It’s amazing how complex things can get when you hire a team of bright minds, create partnerships or define the functions of your product!

I was on the website Echoing Green (a early-stage social venture firm) and came across the video for one of their “Green Fellows” – a woman named Jodie Wu.  I love the innovations that she is creating with a somewhat mundane (by US standards) technology and transforming it into something of value to the poor villagers in other countries around the world.  This is simplicity in action.

What I see here is an entrepreneur who is taking a basic/antiquated technology – the bicycle – and looking at the world through the eyes of the social entrepreneur in Africa, South America, India, or China – and coming up with an innovative way of approaching this technology for alternative uses.

Will the organization itself get funding, grow successfully and launch? Perhaps? But they certainly are off to an innovative approach to social entrepreneurship that may re-purpose an old technology for the benefit of the Third World.

Have examples of simplicity that you can share? I’d love to hear from you…

Hunger-driven creativity

June 30th, 2010

One of my favorite charities is Opportunity International, a global non-profit that in the past 27 years has put in place an incredible network of overseas banks and NGO partnerships to provide small loans (aka “micro-finance”) to poverty-stricken families starting small businesses. These occur in Africa, Asia, and Latin America primarily.

A lot of small loans moving the needle

According to Opportunity’s SVP of Resource Development, Dave Knibbe, 1.3 million individual loans (each on average about $150 or so in size) were given out to “clients” in 2009. That’s a LOT of entrepreneurs getting funding at a micro level…enough to move the needle in a small community, given the loans are appropriated on a group basis (usually 20-30 families cross-collateralizing each others’ loans as a group and paying small interest weekly) Opportunity claims a 96+% repayment rate on these micro loans…and the loan money is then available for the next family and the next and the next….

Opportunity reports that there are some 2 billion people in the world today living with under $2/day in wages or income.  The organization is on a mission to affect 1 billion people through it’s financial operations in the coming years.

Seeing the work – in Latin America

My recent trip to see Opportunity’s work took me (along with daughter, Kayla), to Colombia.  We visited deeply impoverished sites outside the capital, Bogota, and the coastal city of Cartagena.  Our week-long visit with other families who give to Opportunity, consisted of visits to the local bank/NGO offices to meet “loan officers” and regional managers and then out to visit “clients”, most of whom ate living in unbelievable conditions…photos of the trip are posted HERE.

What drives creativity?

This is my 3rd trip to see this innovative organization in action – and these trips are ALWAYS uplifting…because it turns out that the street barracks of Cartagena, Colombia — or the villages of Malawi, Africa or the inner city in Manila, Philippines — are full of highly motivated and creative entrepreneurs. They create businesses ranging from pottery to vegetable stands to leather goods to beauty salons…

These Entrepreneurs are a whole lot different from those that I’ve deal with for the past 20 years in the Silicon Valley. The education they have may not be what it is in the Silicon Valley, but the drive is is more focused and never-ending.

By  our U.S. standards these are very basic businesses with basic business models.  What amazes me is the differences in motivation. It got me thinking about 3 types of entrepreneurs…the typical American entrepreneur I’ve engaged with either seems to be focused on social needs or conquest/wealth generation.  For example, I know a lot of young entrepreneurs who have engaged with Web 2.0 and developed unique social applications – it was their way of providing something back to the world to allow us all to be more social.  Some of these companies haven’t created great wealth, but they’ve connected people like never before. Most of the entrepreneurs I’ve dealt with are after wealth creation or simply proving they can build something (“out for the kill”). Looking at Abraham Maslow‘s theory on hierarchy of human needs (see purple band above), these two sets of entrepreneurs fill needs for Social growth or Esteem.

The Opportunity entrepreneur (90% are woman, ages 25-55), in contrast, is driven by the need to feed her family personal hunger, desire for shelter, desire for safety – and or desire to see her children have a better life. Most are driven by all three.  Farther down on Maslow’s hierchy they are.  There’s quite a bit of motivation involved when your food shelter and clothing depends upon it.  The result is quite a bit of human ingenuity…finding solutions to getting around the system, using I call it true hunger-driven creativity.

At the top of the Pyramid

The third type of entrepreneur, an area that I am exploring in detail with my own career these days, is what I call the “social entrepreneur”.  These are typically those that have started a non-profit, or even a foundation, to serve others or a for-profit with a triple-bottom line.  These are sometimes successful entrepreneurs who have decided to give something back to others. Examples include Bill George, Bill & Melinda Gates, Bob Buford (author of HalfTime). Their Life work is focused on the top of the pyramid, self-actualization – typically in giving to others.

Although I teach a course at UC Berkeley about all the impressive ways that entrepreneurs use their creativity – in all aspects of business – I’m truly amazed when I visit and interact with hunger-driven entrepreneurs.

Of the 3 types of entrepreneurs, can you guess who shows the most gratitude?

Bogotá