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Posts Tagged ‘entrepreneur’

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?

Innovation in an 8000 year old profession?

October 16th, 2010

How do we identify Innovation in one of the world’s oldest professions?  No, not THAT profession, the other oldest profession: the wine-making profession. I’ve long had a love-affair with wine, not just because of it’s social lubricant qualities and enjoyment on the palette, but also because the process of wine-making is itself a CREATIVE endeavor, honed over 8000 years into both a craft and an enormous industry at the same time.

I am the vine, you are the branches (John 15)

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Wine-making starts with selection & planting of a  terroire and vines. The soil that the vine is placed in is critical to the fruit it will produce.  The vine has to be trained, stressed, pruned, watered – nurtured just right.  The weather, over which the vintner has little control, dictates the region that one might choose to do this in. For thousands of years the wine-maker (typically trained by family over generations) would determine by touch, taste, smell, if the grapes on the vine were ripe for the picking. Each “varietal” of wine has to be harvested: de-stemmed, crushed, re-crushed, then  mixed/combined with the juice from other grapes (most wines are not 100% of one varietal), and finally set away in barrels to ferment and age.  All the decisions involved in each of these steps involve a certain creative/artistic approach. No two seasons or harvests (vintage) are the same, no two sets of produce are the same. By the time the wine is bottled and labeled with a branding message, the wine has gone through a considerable number of creative steps.  This is an annual form of creative problem solving process hat the wine-maker goes through each year: “in what way can I maximize the variables to produce the most optimal yield, quality and product for each vintage?”. The art of wine-making is a great example of the creative process at work…over the past 8000 years.

The quintessential Entrepreneurs

By the same token I have always found the wine-maker to be the perfect example of American entrepreneur in action. Part creator, part business-man, part risk-taker.  A successful winery involves a blend of art, science and management.

This week in class at UC Berkeley my students in “Innovation, Creativity & the Entrepreneur” class (ICE, as it is fondly known), were introduced to Steve Mirassou, founder of Steven Kent Winery (Livermore, CA).  Steve, who is as passionate about wine as I’d imagine his forefathers were, is a direct lineage of the OLDEST wine family in the United States – he is a 6th generation in the wine business. His great-great-great grandfather started one of the earliest vineyards in the US, which later became the Mirassou Family Vineyards in the San Jose area (sold to Gallo). Steve started his own winery in Livermore in the 1992 with his father.  Today the winery produces some ~30,000 cases of wine per year and offers 2 wine clubs (“direct to consumer” model), many varietals, and just launched a new high-end label called Lineage. Steve is a highly unique individual – a blend of business talent, artistic taste and PASSION for what he does for a living (we all want that!).  He lives and breathes wine.  Here’s a clip of Steven which is part of a video I took for my Creativity class:

Also joining Steve was another entrepreneur, Alyssa Rapp, founder of BottleNotes - a leading online start-up in the

AJR New Headshot

area of wine-making. Alyssa’s enthusiasm for wine comes out in a different form from Steven. She loves educating the public about wine growing, tasting and collecting.  Bottlenotes offers interesting new approaches to wine, using a unique mix of events, online information, social media, email marketing and more.  Alyssa spoke to our class about innovations, particularly in marketing and online media, in the industry over the past decade, but she also cautioned that the regulation of the industry by the government and the pressure on the industry by lobbyists is something is a constant check-and-balance to potential creativity and innovation.

Innovation in the wine industry

A key question that came up in discussions with Steve and Alyssa was the nature of innovation in an somewhat slow-growing and notoriously stodgy industry.  The wine business in the US and abroad has seen considerable consolidation in the past 25 years. Today, 80% of wine production in the US is owned by a small number of huge wineries.  Are these large players innovating or simply consolidating? Are mid and smaller wineries showing signs of innovation or creativity?

The question I pose here:  based on examples like BottleNotes, Steven Kent and others – is the wine industry showing signs of innovation in the past 5 years…or is it simply evolving?  I’d like to hear reader’s thoughts and in my next post will share some of my own thoughts on the topic.

10 Ways Leaders Create Innovation

October 19th, 2009

Successful entrepreneurs are not only able to create a product or service that fits an unmet market need – but they also seem to have a knack for unleashing the creativity of their team. In my work with some 60+ companies as an angel, board member, venture capitalist or “mentor”, I’ve seen some very innovative companies – and most of them were innovative because the leader(s) or Founders put in some brain-power time to determine early-on what they could do to nurture creativity within the company.

Here are 10 ways that the most successful entrepreneurs created a truly innovative environment:

1) Foster an environment of experimentation and risk-taking – the great ones ensure that employees feel that they can experiment with risk – particularly in marketing, product development, and relationship management areas. I recall one company I was on the Board of that took the risk of trying out a new form of banner advertisement that incorporated e-commerce transactions right into the banner ad. Twenty-four months after launching, the company was purchased for $100M + and the entrepreneur who came up with the idea of e-com banner was handsomely rewarded.

2) Condition the team to a “Freedom to Fail” attitude – a cousin to the idea of risk taking is “freedom to fail” . Leaders who allow their team to sometimes try things, knowing that they might fail but also knowing that the team will learn something from attempting a new idea. This creates an environment where the team “fearlessly” approaches new markets and relationships without “sweating the small stuff.” (see Innovation Sparks, 9/24 and 10/2/09 entries for several great company examples)

3) Give control and responsibility to your “Creatives” – by creatives I include engineers, artists, editors – depends on the type of business. A great creative leader allows his creative team to have some control over the quality of their work and the output – rather than have to cater to the bureaucracy of an organization. One of the most famous examples of this was Steve Job’s Macintosh team. A more modern example are the scientific teams at Genentech.

4) Build a great physical environment –setting up an environment properly can ensure that employees have amenities to assist in their creative mindset. For example , IDEO’s campus includes a wide variety of playful rooms for client work, several well-stocked cafeterias (stocked with free food) and outdoor meetings spaces.  Google’s office complex (the “GooglePlex”) is run like a university campus and is so nurturing that an unconfirmed rumor has it that a recent summer intern spent the entire summer eat, slept, worked and recreated at Google ….and no one at the company realized that he used the GooglePlex as his home for 10 weeks.

5) Set up both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards for your employees – physical environment and other “perks” are extrinsic rewards (along with base pay and bonus/commission) that can, of course be an effective way of motivating creativity within the company. But truly innovative leaders also look for a variety of intrinsic rewards to give employees – such as public recognition, control over . At Netflix, for example, workers compete in an annual Waffle breakfast event – and take great pride in creating the winning recipe and eat-in each year…over 30 teams competed this past year.

6) Introduce stress into the team and key individuals – Impose deadlines, challenges and “stretch” opportunities for your creative teams. If the competition in the market doesn’t do it, it’s up to you to insert some stress into the system. Philosopher and entrepreneur, Renn Zaphiropoulos, believes that creativy cannot exist without some personal stress. See his video clip for more clarity on this concept…

7) Building a culture of communication, collaboration and “smart peers” – in my class at UC Berkeley, students love the Harvard Business Review article on “How Pixar Fosters Collective Creativity” by Pixar CEO, Ed Catmut. In the article,  Catmut describes the process by which teams at Pixar handle peer-driven problem-solving and creation of the next big hit movie.  The company creates internal and cross-company networks of peers who communicate directly over problems, work in a learning environment and and collaborate on solving complex production and creative issues.  I noticed a similar culture at The Active Network (San Diego), Facebook, Google, and many other young companies.

8) Set up internal processes for problem resolution and opportunity generation: although it may seem counter-intuitive that a “process” is needed to encourage the freedom to create – but in start-up companies the key to moving the business forward is being able to solve problems. Teams that have a process in working together to solve problems, can carry forward the momentum of the company. The best ideas come from intersections among departments, cultures, customer/business and more. “Intersectional innovation” borrows from one field and applies it in a new field (a great book on this is Frans Johansson’s The Medici Effect). One of the best-known processes for problem solving was developed by Sid Parnes at State University of Buffalo, NY – where the “Creative Problem Solving Institute” is located.

9) Envision yourself as a metaphor --– great leaders envision their role metaphorically as “shepherd”, “gardener”, or “producer”. S/he may not realize the metaphor until much later (although more experienced serial entrepreneurs may realize faster than others). The role they’ve playing in the success of the company was one of “herding” the sheep toward the right goals and projects, and “enabling/nurturing” the creative skills of the engineering/artistic team to create great products.

10) Learn to Balance and Embrace Opposites – Great managers are able to harness the power of opposites, such as success/failure, autonomy/control, or stress/fun. More on this in my next blog entry!