Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Social Enterprise and Self Esteem

Excuse a somewhat curmudgeonly post. It has been sitting in my "drafts" for some time. Time to hit publish or delete...

It occurs to me that the social enterprise field (#socent for all you who are changing the world by tweeting about it) suffers from a surfeit of self esteem. I am fine with passion and enthusiasm, but I also like to see some healthy debate and critique. Even the self esteem movement recognizes this.

Sure it is important to celebrate success. But too often, this field seems to crown celebrities long before success shows up.  Too often praise gets in the way of the real hard work. Let's not celebrate what's new, but what's working.

A few suggestions:

1) You don't come first. The customer/user does. I don't care what conferences you spoke at or attended. Neither do your potential customers.

2) It isn't about "helping" others, it is about working with others to fix something that sucks.

3) Entrepreneur is an attitude. I don't introduce myself as an "American Entrepreneur." Why do you call your partner an "African Entrepreneur"? (or "microentrepreneur"). Have you asked her what she'd like you to call her?

4) Keep an eye out for how often you use the word "they."

That's probably enough for now.

Much better than a slide deck

I love the video animations that RSA Animate puts together.  Maybe it's the novelty of this medium, but I find it a very engaging way to be introduced to an idea... much prefer it to a TED talk or Slideshare.

Here are a few of my favorites... click 4 times and you can learn a lot in 45 minutes.
- Jeremy Rifkin on Empathic Civilization
- Steven Johnson on Where Good Ideas Come From 
- Sir Kenneth Robinson on Educational Reform  and
- Daniel Pink on Motivation

Monday, April 16, 2012

This is what disruption looks like, Part II

I have been using the Lean Startup and Business Model Generation tools in my MBA capstone. One of the ideas we have been using is to create a minimum viable product ("MVP"), and then test it with  potential customers. It seems to be working quite well in the class.

But since these books are pretty new, and there aren't so many examples out there, we have also had several hundred students searching for examples.

Today, one of my students, Abhishek, sent me this example, with the following comment: "To test their MVP Pebble used Kickstarter.com where they put a video for the watch with the intention of raising $100,000 to manufacture this watch. They met their target funding in less than 2 hours and currently have raised more than $2 million due to the huge interest in the product."

He sent me this email at 9:30 am this morning. By 4 pm, they were at $3.2 million.

Several years ago, Paul Graham and others started pointing to how the cost of starting a startup was dropping, and that this was, perhaps an existential threat to venture capital. For a while, Kickstarter probably just looked cute to the VCs... non-threatening. But in the past few weeks, first Congress passed a crowdfunding bill, and now a startup has raised over $3 million on Kickstarter in a matter of days.

Wonder if VCs still think that's cute? Or are they starting to feel nervous?

This looks like a whole new way of bootstrapping...and it will be interesting to watch how it develops, as well as what other types of products and services begin to hit larger numbers on these platforms.
For an interesting podcast on how Kickstarter got started, as well as concerns about where products like this fit (compared to projects like documentaries) check out this From Scratch interview.

-May 7 update: interesting analysis from Robert Fabricant at Frog Design.