Saturday, January 23, 2010

Big Questions

There are a lot of big questions out there. For some, I have no answers. For some, I believe I at least have some insight. And I use those to organize* my MBA course.

So, here are some biq questions about innovation and new ventures that I plan to ask some 300 MBAs this semester:

1. What on earth is an idea worth?
2. What do start up teams do?**
3. How do you make a business model?
4. Bake it in or bolt it on?
5. Can you have it all- value, values and valuation?
6. Can founders and funders get along?
7. Are start ups pretty when they are born?
8. Can you keep your job while you start a new venture?
9. Investors- deal or no deal?
10. How do start up investors control risk? (and does it work?)
11. What are the leading causes of start up death?
12. Should entrepreneurs be acquisitive?
13. How do you pitch in the big leagues?
* Some of my students assert this is a verb that should not be used to describe my classes. These students mistake the verb "organize" with the adjective "organized." One describes the effort put into the undertaking, the other its result. So, I think I can use the verb. And, the adjective is not one for which I strive.
** The question some students ask me during this class is: "why are we watching South Park in business school?"


Paul Rigterink said...

Why not have your students start a company in Haiti that produces micro-irrigation equipment for use by NGOs throughout Central and Latin America including Haiti. You have the NGO, Government, and embassy contacts that can buy the equipment for subsequent resale. Also IDE is near your campus. See and
My website has the business issues that needed to be addressed to develop a product for the world market in Bangladesh based on experience from aid workers in Chile and a business vision for Cordoba Colombia. See

Paul Rigterink said...

As you might expect from my website at, the University of Cordoba (Colombia) could use business plans on the following:
1) A company that would sell tropical fruit tree and moringa seeds produced in all of Colombia and Haiti to NGOs working in the Caribbean and Latin America
2) A company that would sell tropical fruit tree nursery stock produced in Cordoba and Haiti to BOP farmers in northern Colombia and Haiti
3) A company that would repeat the UN FAO West Bengal India backyard poultry success in northern Colombia and Haiti. See “A Backyard Poultry Value Chain Increases Assets, Income and Nutrition”. See
4) A company that would prepare the nursery stock necessary to reproduce the reforestation solution of the Gaviotas II project in other parts of the world including Haiti
I am sure that the staff of the Colombian embassy and the University of Cordoba would get your students any information that they needed. In addition, the University of Cordoba could use proposals and marketing plan on the subjects listed above that they could submit to NGOs such as the Gates Foundation. Two words of caution: 1) The Internet connection to Monteria Colombia is often out of service and 2) it can be very dangerous to visit certain areas in Cordoba. Two words of caution to your students: 1) The marketing people from Colombia are often young, very good looking, extremely intelligent, and have gone to the best schools in the world; you really need to be well prepared. (Luckily, they also are very polite to an old, happily married man such as me). 2) The agriculture engineers from the University of Cordoba can make American experts in tropical agriculture look undereducated.

Bopreneur said...

Paul R-

I appreciate your comments and I am glad you are working on these ideas.

While I have done some work with other universities, my experience is that having students in my class do business plans with students in Cordoba for businesses in Haiti or Cordoba won't work for our MBA program.

So good luck- I hope you are fortunate to get a few of those talented students to work with you on your business ideas. Certainly enterprise approaches to issues of sustainable food production in Haiti are important. My advice would be partnering with Haitian farmers (rather than US students) would increase your chances of success (as your comment about their ag experts seems to indicate).

Would any of these students be interested in attending IDDS? The application deadline is in a few weeks. Please pass this along to them.

Paul H

Paul Rigterink said...

Thank you for your rapid response and considering my ideas. I will do what you suggested concerning IDDS.

You may want to show your IDDS designs to ECHO and the Gaviotas II Project. ECHO tests and demonstrates appropriate BOP technology for missionaries. See
The Gaviotas II project in Colombia (one of the biggest reforestation projects in the world (250,000 acres) hopes to create jobs for 5 million poor people. They develop and uses a lot of appropriate technology as described in the book: “Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World” by Alan Weisman. From Amazon – “The people of Gaviotas today produce innovative technologies (solar collectors, irrigation systems, windmills, and hydroponic gardens) that use the environment without depleting or destroying it.” Even more important from the NPR documentary “Although ecologists originally questioned bringing a Central American species into Colombia's Llanos, something amazing has happened. In the moist understory of the Gaviotas forest, dormant seeds of native trees probably not seen in Los Llanos for millennia are sprouting. Biologists have now counted at least 40 species, which are sheltered by Caribbean pines. Over the coming decades, Gaviotas will let these new native trees choke out the pines and return the Llanos to what many believe was their primeval state, an extension of the Amazon. Already, the population of deer and anteaters is growing.” I don’t yet know the leaders of the Gaviotas project since I focus on Northern Colombia.

Bopreneur said...

Paul R-
Have you visited Gaviotas?
Paul H

Paul Rigterink said...

No, I haven’t visited Gaviotas. Perhaps Francisco Noguera (Next Billion) or my college classmates Dennis and Donella Matthews (authors of book “Limits to Growth” and active in Club of Rome) have been there. There were two reasons I did not go there
1) For years, Cordoba and the Llanos were very dangerous places in which to travel. Many Colombians did not go there. For example, I had problems with followers of Che Guevara when I lived in Cordoba.
2) I did not have time to travel anywhere. Most of my life I have been a house husband for my wife (a medical doctor and/or executive for Kaiser) or the Program Manager/Technical Director of up to 500 people supporting NASA, FAA, Coast Guard, FEMA, DoD Health Systems, Space Telescope, etc. I write papers in Third World development with help from people who work with me. Some of my co-workers are relatives of very high level Government officials in foreign countries. They correct my mistakes and help me get my papers implemented in their countries.

Brad said...
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