Mar. 5, 2014
By: Sang Lee, CEO and founder, Return on Change – Huffington Post
“Social entrepreneurs are not content just to give a fish or teach how to fish. They will not rest until they have revolutionized the fishing industry.” — Bill Drayton
The modern era has brought such advancements in medicine, technology and energy that have continued to bring higher quality of life and sustainability for the whole world. However, concurrently we continue to face significant challenges around poverty, disease and accessibility to education just to name a few. We are collectively searching for the ideal solutions, and platforms such as the Youth Assembly at the United Nations are working towards creating fundamental and sustainable solutions that will not only provide immediate alleviations for current issues, but also serve as a spring board for further innovation to create systematic change.
There has been much misunderstanding that social entrepreneurship is nothing but a rebranding of charity and philanthropy. This is a fundamental flaw in the understanding of what social entrepreneurship seeks to accomplish, which is to create sustainable ground level and systematic change for all stakeholders in the world, which includes investors, consumers, community and environment. The public image that social entrepreneurship equates to charity has created difficulty in spreading the concept to the broader industry, but we are definitely moving in the right direction. Social entrepreneurship has the true potential of changing the world on a fundamental scale.
While today’s companies engage in corporate social responsibility, they have limited flexibility and are often unable to deliver high impact results. Large corporations also primarily contribute by means of philanthropy as opposed to sustainable business. Social entrepreneurs think outside of the box and think about disrupting the way issues are dealt with. We’ve seen entrepreneurs developing methodologies to make people ‘invisible’ to mosquitoes to fight the proliferation of disease or creating portable medical devices which allows doctors to provide their expertise to regions of the world that lack access to healthcare. As with other startups industries, social entrepreneurs have the ability to walk away from the established path to create new solutions for what is more often than not an old problem.
Additionally, the current model of philanthropy, while having certain uses has limited impact as compared to social entrepreneurship. Social entrepreneurs are motivated by maximizing the impact they are able to deliver, while concurrently creating a self-sustaining business model that is able to truly benefit everyone. This has the potential to have longer lasting impact as social entrepreneurs do not rely on a donation model, but actually create their own revenue to sustain the business. Financial systems are also evolving in order to promote financial inclusion and the democratization of the capital markets. Crowdfunding all over the globe has breathed new life into entrepreneurship and has facilitated the creation of new impact delivering businesses and the creation of jobs. There have been new regulatory changes such as the JOBS Act which will give everyone the opportunity to invest in community and businesses that they truly care about. Crowdfunding to date has shown that the number one type of campaigns to get funded are for social causes.
I have the honor and privilege of participating in the Youth Assembly at the United Nations this February with various panelists that bring unique and inspiring perspectives on how we could continue to collaborate and brainstorm on leveraging social entrepreneurship to deal with our most pressing issues. It’s also going to be so important that all entrepreneurs bring long term value creation into their business model and thesis. If all of our early stage businesses were simultaneously focused on creating multiple forms of value, we may not even need to have this discussion in the near future.
Great write-up in AZ Tech Beat on Venture Madness and the 64 start-ups duking it out for a $50k prize and national publicity. Please visit http://aztechbeat.com/2014/01/64-startups-battle-50k-venture-madness/ for the article and vote for Xplore Box and Brett Approved.
Kirk Johnson answered some questions we hope will shed light on what entrepreneurs can expect from their time in our incubator.
About me: My name is Kirk Johnson and I am the founder and director of SOUNDS Academy.
Why I applied: In March after being prompted by my colleagues with Teach For America, I went to DEMO DAY at Symphony Hall. I watched and listened to people such as Brett, Hart, and Francisco to name a few. I was immediately inspired to make my ideas more of a priority, and scale SOUNDS Academy to reach and accommodate more students. I applied for SEED SPOT because I wanted to make a positive change on a larger level and impact more children. I felt that SEED SPOT was the next step in helping me to attain this dream.
On being an entrepreneur: Being an entrepreneur is the equivalent to being a dream chaser. You start with a vision (a dream), which starts merely as a thought. Then it is nurtured, achieved, and sustained.
Initial expectations: Most of the expectations that I had were directed toward myself. I expected SEED SPOT to teach me how to fish and introduce me to community of fisher. I expected myself to listen, practice the techniques and practices that were taught, take chances, and have fun.
Obstacles overcome: I have more so realized the type of person that I am and have met others that are like me. I have more confidence in speaking to others about SOUNDS Academy because SEED SPOT did a great job of challenging me. Gut checks were a weekly occurrence. I also do a better job of accessing situations and thinking on a larger scale.
There were many obstacles since I challenged myself and had so much to learn. One of my biggest obstacles was public speaking. I have been fine with performing with instruments in front of others, but speaking is a whole other beast. However, because of Venture Fridays, I was able to practice that which I feared the most. I was able to see others speak and learn about presentation practices because of these special Fridays. Most importantly, I learned how to control my own nerves and not to show how nervous I actually am while speaking.
Lasting memories: I will remember the smiles, the stories, the “aha!” moments, the “oh no” moments, the jokes, the music. From the Kick-Off to the DEMO DAY, we made each other stronger. Iron sharpened iron. I look forward to them answering my calls when I call them years from now (hint, hint).
I will remember my mentors, the speakers, and the special guests along with their words of wisdom, warning, and encouragement. Last but not least, I will remember Mike, Courtney, Alex Spayberry, and Oscar. There are many things to remember the Fantastic Four by (yeah… I just made that up), but the thing that they all had in common were their wonderful smiles. It made it easy to start, continue, and end the day.
Who would you suggest apply for SEED SPOT programs, and why?
I suggest that those who are serious about chasing their dreams apply to be in SEED SPOT programs. That which you put into SEED SPOT, you will get out of SEED SPOT. I suggest visiting the facility and seeing if this feels like the right place for you.
Lastly, I would say that the stage that your venture is in is not as important as your attitude. If you’re willing to work smart, listen more than you talk (80/20 rule), and remain positive during challenging situations; then you will love SEED SPOT as much as I did.
SOUNDS Academy’s mission is to teach, mentor, and provide musical experiences and opportunities to underserved children. Their vision is to provide music education opportunities to a wide variety of children and to remove any barriers that children may have in receiving quality music education
Imagine receiving a notice in the mail that you’ve inherited your distant uncle’s semi-secret magic potion business, Elephant Water, LLC.
The company set the goal of going public with the formula, but couldn’t figure out how to bring the product to the market. The problem with the potion had nothing to do with its effectiveness; the juice is very powerful.
The potions were so powerful, in fact, that he had to keep the inventory in an abandoned Cold War-era bunker in rural Poland lest it fall into the wrong hands!
So, you travel overseas to claim your inheritance. As you exit the plane in Krakow, an older, provincial-looking gentleman, greets you at the airport with a name card in his hands and a warm glimmer of hope in his eyes. He says his name is Paul–he’s your uncle’s old business partner.
You shake hands. He gives you a brief once-over and escorts you into a black sedan with a licence plate that reads:
You and Paul make small talk as you travel the Polish countryside toward the potion storage facility.
From your window, you can see farmers of different stripes moving heavy-looking bales of what appear to be wheat onto truck, into barns, and into silos. Some use large machines. Some team up to move bails with their bare hands. You are impressed by their resolve.
Paul breaks your focus to explain how “innovative”–nay, “revolutionary”–this secret potion is. He says it has the power to solve all whole host of problems people face across the world. He revels in the formula’s profit-potential.
You finally ask him, “but what does it do?”
His eyes light up as a wide smile breaks across his face.
“It turns you into an elephant,” he says.
You ask if he means to say it improves your memory; elephants remember everything, etc..
He says it “literally turns you into an elephant.”
As the two of you descend into darkness of the bunker, you can almost feel the daunting vastness of the warehouse. When the incandescent lights flicker on, you are presented with a seemingly endless library of tiny, neatly arranged glass beakers on clean steel racks that appear to extend into infinity.
Paul removes one cylindrical beaker from the nearest rack.
He drinks down the red fluid and, as promised, he turns into an elephant, holding the now empty beaker in his trunk. Thirty minutes, and change of clothes later, you interrogate Paul.
You ask him why the whole world isn’t raving about Elephant Water, LLC.
“Well,” Paul says, “our surveys and market research revealed very little consumer demand in the way of our product.” He sighs, “consumers overwhelmingly responded saying they had ‘little-to-no desire’ to be an elephant. So, as it stands, we’re stranded as a business.”
Back to reality.
Now, what’s wrong with Paul’s reasoning? What hasn’t he figured out?
It’s easy to forget to draw a line between what your product is and the value your product offers.
What do we mean by this?
Consider Elephant Water’s product. It’s a red liquid turns you into a pachyderm for a half-hour.
Exchange value of Elephant Water (even if it tastes good) = approx. the value of 30 mins. entertainment = nearly the value of 30 mins. on YouTube or Netflix= between free and $7.99/month.
But, that’s only if the explicit benefit consumers gain from your product, (your value proposition) is the fun of being an elephant for 30 minutes.
Paul’s problem is that he’s focusing on the features of the product instead of the problems his potential customers want to solve in their lives.
If you could convince Paul to target one or another customer segment, or category of potential buyers in a given population of consumers, you may be able to get Elephant Water on to the shelves of every Whole Foods in the country.
Back to the Soviet-era Polish bunker, we go…
Impressed by what you’ve seen so far, you ask Paul who exactly was contacted in the survey.
He responds saying they reached out to wheat farmers in the area.
You propose another survey to be presented to the farmers:
“How much would you pay to move bales of hay 3-times faster?”
Your survey assumes the ability to move hay faster is a valuable to farmers. The big question is exactly how valuable.
The results of your survey return to indicate a strong demand among farmers to increase the speed at which bales of wheat could be moved without having to buy complex, difficult to maintain, and expensive equipment.
Can you guess who will become Elephant Water’s initial target market, come harvest season?
What will their value proposition be?
Check out this article by Mike Rudinsky, for more information on tuning into your target market.
We highly encourage social entrepreneurs with early-stage businesses and concepts to apply for SEED SPOT’s Spring venture incubation programs this year before January 24th, 2014.
Proctor.io, a 2013 SEED SPOT Venture, was selected as one of 10 companies to pitch this year at LAUNCHedu, an initiative of SXSWedu in Austin, Texas. Entries from across the United States and around the world were received for this year’s LAUNCHedu event. After weeks of extensive evaluations, SXSWedu announced that 2013 SEED SPOT Alumni, Proctor.io will take the main stage in March to highlight their innovations in an elevator-style pitch competition before the live SXSWedu audience and an esteemed judging panel of venture capitalists, successful entrepreneurs and education practitioners. Winners of the LAUNCHedu competition will be celebrated in true SXSWedu fashion at the conference-wide LAUNCHedu Party on Wednesday, March 5.
Kirk Johnson, founder of SOUNDS (Students Opening Up New Doors with Strings) Academy, pitches at the Fall 2013 Demo Day at the Orpheum to an audience of over 1500 entrepreneurs, business leaders, journalists, and members of the Phoenix startup community.
At the end of every program, SEED SPOT entrepreneurs are selected to pitch their venture at Demo Day.
Are you to take the next step toward growing your social venture?
It’s not easy to describe what it’s like to found a startup, though many admirable folks have tried.
Well-circulated and generally delightful comparisons include Y-Combinator co-founder Paul Graham’s statement that running a start up is like being “punched in the face, repeatedly,” and the colorful picture Tunezy CEO, Derrick Fung, drew for readers when he wrote that starting a company was like jumping out of an airplane while building another airplane on the way down.
In 2012, Sean Parker of Napster and Airtime fame likened managing a startup in its early growth phases to eating glass. On the other side of the fun-imagery spectrum, tech entrepreneur Steve Jang compares starting a business to surfing in his interview with Fast Company that same year.
Now imagine you’re a tech-savvy ten-year-old in Silicon Valley, and you want to found a startup when you grow up, so you decide to ask some successful people what it’s like to be an entrepreneur.
If you were told that’s what startups were like, do you imagine your ten-year-old self still wanting to start up that business?
More importantly: do you imagine your ten-year-old self coming away with a clear idea of what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur?
If you were a super intuitive youngster, maybe you would have naturally seen where the comparisons converge on some common truths. As for the hypothetically-ten-year-old rest of us, we might need some clarification lest we ride our bikes home more confused than we were before talked to the grown ups.
What’s interesting about all four of these apparently divergent metaphors,
1. repeated punches to the face
2. airborne airplane assembly
3. glass eating, and
4. wave riding
is that they are used to describe an experience all four people who said them have in common.
And while each metaphor, taken at face value, would seem to describe wildly different personal experiences, anyone who has attempted to make a startup work knows that ALL FOUR of the above comparisons are pretty much completely accurate, while describing very different aspects of the same truth, at the same time.
Graham, Fung, Parker, and Jang are all coming at the same truth from different angles, and it’s worthwhile to examine exactly what they’re trying to say with each metaphor.
1. For Graham, the struggle of building a business comes from having to face regular, violent, but generally survivable instances of pain, all of which end eventually, presumably leaving you a stronger person in the end, even if a bit bruised here and there. Graham’s metaphor should be taken as both a warning and invitation to determined entrepreneurs:
It‘s a tough sport, but if you’re pugnacious–if you’ve got moxy–you can win.
2. Now, it’s a fact that if you box long enough, you will eventually get punched in the face, but that doesn’t mean you should stand still and eat jabs. Quite the opposite; you have to keep moving, dodging, and parrying. You have to stay on your toes. You have to innovate on the fly, and Derrick Fung’s airplane metaphor is about just that. If you’re falling from the troposphere with a bucket full of 747 parts and no instructions, you have to learn fast. Fung’s metaphor is advice to entrepreneurs:
Don’t stop innovating ever, ever, ever, unless…ever.
3. Sean Parker’s comparison of startups and glass eating might seem difficult to swallow as he goes on to say that eventually the entrepreneur comes to “like the taste of [their] own blood.” For context, it’s important to note that Mr. Parker’s second major startup launched with lackluster results, costing the company tens of millions of dollars. A bloated staff, a stilted launch, and a number other factors, threw the company into a tailspin from which it is still recovering, to this day. Parker’s lesson to entrepreneurs:
Stay as lean as possible or risk burning through heaps of money unnecessarily.
4. When Steve Jang says founding a startup is like surfing, he doesn’t just mean they both involve “riding the wave,”
so to speak. He’s referring to the delicate balance of timing, attention, knowledge, and intuition needed to navigate the markets often tumultuous seas. Jang’s advice to entrepreneurs:
Staying afloat means paying attention keeping your balance amid change.
Taking the underlying lessons in each metaphor together creates a rather substantial set of guidelines for the startup rookie:
It‘s a tough sport, but if you’re pugnacious–if you’ve got moxy–you can win. Don’t stop innovating ever, ever, ever, unless…ever. Stay as lean as possible or risk burning through heaps of money unnecessarily. Staying afloat means paying attention keeping your balance amid change.
We highly encourage social entrepreneurs with early-stage businesses and concepts to apply for SEED SPOT’s Spring venture incubation programs this year before January 24th, 2014.
p.s. keep surfing
I see this all the time–an entrepreneur reaches a certain point in the early stages of business planning, where they believe they’ve done the hard work of figuring out exactly what their product or service is supposed to do.
“Clear value proposition, market segmentation, and revenue models to the wind,” says the entrepreneur, at this point, “I know this will work! I know this idea will be the thing to change the world forever.”
Of course, the entrepreneur isn’t crazy. She understands her limits and so is aware of her limitations–an idea this big can’t be done alone. If she plans to found a tech startup, even if she is a rock star developer, she might not also have an MBA, or a Law degree. Maybe she has a friend in marketing who can help get the product out to the market she supposes is waiting, with baited breath, to receive (and ultimately purchase) her product.
To bridge the gap between her personal skill set, and the expertise needed to get the idea off the ground, our visionary brings on partners and advisors to help get the idea off the ground. Once she stacks her roster with the A-Team she moves into action with her vision, and vague sense of the idea’s profitability and impact, the entrepreneur puts her brain through the ringer and crafts a meticulously detailed business plan.
It has everything a business plan is supposed to have:
1. Executive Summary
3. Market Analysis
4. Sales Structure
She has doesn’t know what to do with all this information, her idea, her vision.
She has run it by some colleagues and a couple of people who may have some understanding of how venture capital works; however, for all the nods, inquisitive looks she gets, none of it quite seems to get them any closer to the receiving kind of investment she thinks she needs to move her business to the next level.
In a best case scenario, our entrepreneur-in-progress becomes convinced growing their business is really all about getting external funding, which, itself, is really all about getting the idea in front of “the right people,” which is pretty much the last thing holding the idea back from gaining traction–from getting somewhere–anywhere, at this point.
In the worst case scenario, someone suggests she crowdfund the idea. “Just Kickstart it,” say her well-intentioned friends.
SPOILER ALERT: Neither connections, nor crowfunding are, on their own, enough to solve a larger, more fundamental and/or conceptual business model problem.
The biggest mistake you can make as an entrepreneur isn’t just putting the cart before the horse–it’s thinking you’re working with carts and horses, when you’re really dealing with wheelbarrows and your bare hands.
I’ve had the joy of founding and growing successful ventures. I’ve also seen my fair share of big ideas fizzle out at launch, never really getting off the ground, let alone soaring the profitable heights my team and I envisioned.
In retrospect, I can say one big factor leading to the success (or unexpected failure) of those ventures had little, if any, direct relationship to fundraising capabilities.
Rather, the success or failure of these visions when tested by the real conditions of the market was determined by how diligently our team tested and validated our assumptions, changing and refining our business model and value propositions as we encountered new information.
Businesses today aren’t just built on good ideas conceived in isolation from the outside world.
Today, success requires experimentation and the articulation of a clear, concise, and validated value proposition.
This isn’t to say you, as an entrepreneur shouldn’t dedicate time and diligence to identifying a clear revenue stream.
Consider the time between the “idea stage” and the early stages of your business development process time in which you should be figuring out precisely who will buy what you’re selling, and at what price.
Without a clear vision for venture with profit potential, your venture may find itself rich in potential service offerings, but altogether lacking a clear and sustainable path to profitability, which, for an investor is a major red flag.
The big take-away from this article should be that the real work of building a viable social venture begin in the early stages of conception, incorporating the almost scientific work of molding a precise value proposition along with the identifying, exploring and validating a constant source of revenue.
These are the guiding principles we use to develop social ventures into full-fledged businesses.
We highly encourage social entrepreneurs with early-stage businesses and concepts to apply for SEED SPOT’s Spring venture incubation programs this year before January 24th, 2014.
Liesl Kelp is the Founder & COO of AguaSac
Liesl answered some questions we hope will shed light on what entrepreneurs can expect from their time in our incubator.
About me: My name is Liesl Harder Kielp. I am the Founder and COO of AguaSac, LLC.
Why I applied: I wanted to create a sustainable and scalable business and was having trouble getting their on my own.
On being an entrepreneur: Being an initiator of something greater than oneself… to have visions of products and/or services that can benefit society and/or the environment.
Initial expectations: I really wasn’t sure what to expect… just that the time would be intense.
Changed expectations: Not having expectations, there was nothing to change. However, what I learned and gained was more than I could have even imagined.
SEED SPOT influence: Focus… focus… focus! At SEED SPOT we learned how to focus on the least and make it the most.
Obstacles overcome: My personal challenge was identifying the Value Proposition of AguaSAC. From there, everything else follows… hence, I believe the value proposition is the most important aspect of any new and expanding business. To have a concise value prop that resonated with those who would purchase the AguaSAC for their promotional initiatives made it much easier to find the lowest hanging fruit with which to build sales revenues and enable growth into other areas.
AguaSac helps employ adults with developmental and physical disabilities at special work centers who thankfully and happily apply your custom printed label perfectly to their unique, eco-friendly water packages. AguaSac is expanding their roster of conscious clientele, as well as exploring additional funding opportunities.
Social entrepreneurship is demanding.
It pushes its friends, partners, and employees to stay up late, working through the star-lit night in the pursuit of better, brighter, more sustainable days.
Social entrepreneurship tests the resolve and steadfastness of its leaders, as they chip away at obstacles impeding the full expression of their vision.
It seems never to settle, nor find final satisfaction. The underdog seems never to emit its final call, and even if the marginalized and underrepresented of the world fell silent, it would remain the duty of the social entrepreneurs to hear the rallying cries, the calls to action hidden in that silence.
As leaders of social enterprises, it is important to remember that even the most noble and humane pursuits can require an almost superhuman resolve to successfully achieve. Social entrepreneurship, by definition, challenges the deeply entrenched norms and expectations that form the foundations of the sub-optimal status quo.
It’s hard to break a solid, time-tested foundation.
It’s requires the forces of time and pressure.
It takes sweat equity.
Sometimes, it takes some venture capital…
On the other side of demands posed by the social enterprise is the gift of positive social and economic impact. In short, keep fighting the good fight. The world needs you.
Jason Bentz is a co-founder of Guardian NPX.
About me: I am Jason Bentz, Co-founder of Guardian NPX. b
Why I applied: Responsibility is what drove us to start Guardian NPX–the desire to help as many disadvantaged kids as we could. Although we had created other (more…)
Nicholas Aufiero is creative director and co-founder of TourKidd.
Two days after what one could call “his debut performance” at DEMO DAY in Phoenix’s Orpheum Theatre, Aufiero answered questions we hope will shed some light on what entrepreneurs can expect from their time in our incubator.
About me: My name is Nicholas Aufiero, and I’m a Co-founder of TourKidd.
Why I applied: TourKidd applied to be a part of Seed Spot for numerous reasons, but the main reason was to get out from around our kitchen table. To run our idea their curriculum and learn what
SITGREEN is not your ordinary furniture company. Founder, Jon Irons,
has been challenging the very definition of what furniture is since
2010. With 9 million tons of furniture waste being added to our
landfills every year, we created a company that subtracted from that
number rather than of adding to it.
SITGREEN takes waste materials that would otherwise be thrown away and
turn them into pieces of functional, beautiful furniture. You won’t
find any floral patterned overstuffed armchairs here, but what you
will find is unique furniture made from the most unlikely material
imaginable — cardboard.
Jon Irons started designing cardboard furniture as a student at
Arizona State University. Irons was part of a team given the task of
designing a chair for the interior design studio made only from
cardboard and adhesives .
The focus of the project was sustainability but the material becomes
unrecyclable once it’s saturated with glue. To overcome this problem,
steel rods and nuts were added to compress the materials together.
This simple, sturdy, and fully recyclable design led to a series of
similar pieces that followed the same system of compression and the
creation of SITGREEN. Learn more and order today at:
Preface: SEED SPOT is no stranger to the innovative power of young people. Last year the incubator reviewed hundreds of impressive applications, many of which come from ASU students.
Every day, ASU students and faculty converge on Changemaker Central to discuss, plan, and execute projects intended to make the world a better place.
Collegiate micro-revolutionaries, from diverse academic backgrounds, meet at Changemaker to draft their visions for change.
What makes Changemaker bigger than a brainstorming studio for quixotic youth is the institution’s dedication to pushing students toward implementing their philanthropic and/or entrepreneurial concepts.
ASU, since establishing itself as the New American University, has embraced a new educational paradigm that, in the eyes of this community member, puts the institution at the forefront of 21st century education and business thinking.
ASU realizes that students are coming of age in an era of where many job titles are fading into obsolescence as quickly as the market is demanding new skill sets in the post-recession service economy.
For today’s young people, a knack for following orders and coloring within the lines is hardly enough achieve success in the new economy.
In many cases, a penchant for rigidity, or a need for a hefty management structure will weigh negatively on a candidate looking for a position in, say, a startup–a business like many of those ventures Changemaker Central seeks to nurture into full-fledge companies.
Boogüd represents one such successful experiment in youth social entrepreneurship. Founded by ASU students-turned-entrepreneurs, Boogüd, adroitly synthesizes engineering, sustainability, and social impact by crafting light, durable bicycle frames from bamboo. For every bike sold, the company donates one hand-crank wheelchair attachment to a disabled child in Kenya every time a customer purchases a bicycle.
Young people coming of age in these times are no strangers to the painful, often existentially dire, symptoms 21st century business-without-ethics. As a generation, they’ve seen corporations display both sides of the business-ethics coin.
From Goldman-Sachs, to TOMS shoes–millennials have seen both the bad and awesome things businesses can accomoplish.
Luckily, young people today have been primed to view the proper role of business as providing for the general social good in addition to their formal profit motives.
Seeing big banks indulging in unscrupulous lending practices while manufacturers ravage the environment, all in the name of keeping up with the first-world’s insatiable desire for consumer goods has led this new generation of business innovators to ask the serious question which stand to shape the way we do business from here on in.
If we are to live together, on this earth, how can we build businesses that fuse disciplines to make the world work better?
There is certainly suffering in the world, how can businesses go about alleviating pain and suffering in the world, instead of exploiting it?
How can individuals come together to make positive difference in their communities in ways that are both sustainable and scalable?
Answers to these some of these questions can be found in the multitude of mission statements and business plans ASU students are putting together at Changemaker Central–a launch pad for many youth in entrepreneurship.
Click here for more information on the rules for admission to SEED SPOT’s venture incubation programs.
Clear your calendar – It’s going down!
SEED SPOT DEMO DAY 2013 kicks off on December 11th, and you’re invited to take part in the festivities! First 500 to register get in free using discount code SS500! When you click “Get Tickets”, look for “Enter Discount Code”. Come one, come all, and join us for an inspirational night
KIND Health Snacks is all about supporting entrepreneurs doing kind things in the world. Each month, people can vote on the ideas that inspire them the most, and at the end of the month, the project with the most votes receives $10,000 from KIND. What’s really so awesome about this initiative is that in order to vote for the projects you love, you must commit to doing a KIND act – which could range from things as simple as giving a flower to a neighbor to holding the door open for a stranger! Essentially, the more votes your projects receives, the more KIND acts will be spread out into the world.
SEED SPOT Alumni venture, Paper Clouds Apparel, beat out 79 other businesses to win the $10,000 KIND Snacks grant. Paper Clouds Apparel raises funding for special needs schools and organizations while showcasing the artistic talents of those with special needs. Paper Clouds Apparel also creates jobs for adults with special needs by hiring them to package ALL their shirts.
Robert Thornton is the founder and CEO of Paper Clouds Apparel. Robert’s project, in particular, inspired more than 5,000 KIND acts out of a total of 18,000 for the month of November and we were glad to present him with the grant, which will be dispersed over the next couple months and people can follow the progress and help this grant will bring all those that Paper Clouds Apparel is helping.
Read more at: www.papercloudsapparel.com
My time with SEED SPOT has given me a unique window into the mental mechanics of social entrepreneurs. As a result, I’ve learned that the mind of the entrepreneur can be a bizarre–yet highly efficient machine–indeed.
It’s early to rise, quick to act, and slow to rest. It understands high risk almost exclusively in terms of rewards. It perceives in the status quo an indication that someone, somewhere, gave up on the hard work of innovation.
Similarly, the behaviors of the social activist and pioneer of social justice reflect a kind of cavalier disregard for, and profound dissatisfaction with, the norms and expectations born of what those less disruptive folks around them would call “conventional wisdom.”
The mind of the social entrepreneur represents a special hybrid tendency to calculate business risk and financial reward while simultaneously assessing the value of their work in terms of the less-tangible positive social impact made in the world as a result of their work.
More often than not, building a business where social responsibility intersects with profit potential requires the single-minded dedication to the art and science of creative, ethical, and sustainable problem-solving.
I have identified 3 modes of thinking and acting that are common to most–if not all–successful social entrepreneurs.
If you want to begin thinking like a social entrepreneur, heed the following advice:
1. Think Wrong
This doesn’t mean “throw out your old logic textbook.” Quite the contrary. It means that for every instance of suboptimal equilibrium in any system, the social entrepreneur will focus less on what is good about that system, and more on what is preventing that system from being better. In other words, they look for what’s wrong, and then work tirelessly to make it right.
2. Think Backwards
To generate new, innovative, and often counter-intuitive solutions, social entrepreneurs will approach problems by working in the opposite direction (toward the source) of what would appear to be the obvious solution, or the most simple way to fix a problem.
If this sounds a little complex and a lot abstract, that’s because it is. Let’s bring this back to earth with an example of a local Phoenix entrepreneur who developed a solution from thinking:
Jon Irons, of SitGreen fame identified a problem:
Furniture waste is off the charts, and damaging the environment.
He hypothesized that if furniture was recycled, we could live in a better, less wasteful, world.
The most direct solution to this problem would be to make a system by which people could recycle the furniture they already had.
While that may in fact solve some symptoms of the furniture waste epidemic, it fails to address the real problem, which is that most furniture, as it’s generally constructed is difficult to recycle. Furthermore, furniture is almost one of the last things consumers think of when it comes to recyclable household materials.
To bridge the cognitive gap between sustainability and furniture, Irons began making chairs, benches, bike hangers, etc., from recycled materials and marketing his products as sustainable alternatives to conventional furniture designs.
3. Think Fast
Starting a new business means being a dynamic administrator over a complex business organism as you navigate its early-growth phases and scaling. You’ll pivot. Your value proposition will change. Your target market may drift out of your scope, requiring you to reassess the nature of your business. All of the above requires an almost endless supply of flexibility.
The role of the social entrepreneur is a relatively new and ever-changing one.
As such, exciting developments in technology, society, and startup incubators regularly make waves that reshape the landscape in which we operate as agents of change within a larger community that prizes innovation and progress.
THE BIG IDEA: If you want to succeed in the world of social entrepreneurship, think wrong, backwards, and stay on your toes!
SEED SPOT seeks to grow and nurture social ventures by encouraging those habits and thinking skills that contribute to excellence in social entrepreneurship.
If you recognize the above entrepreneurial traits in yourself or business partners, we encourage you to apply to our social venture incubator.
FROM: The SEED SPOT Team
TO: Venture Program Applicants
The Big Question
How does SEED SPOT define and assess a venture’s social impact?
The Big Answer*
We measure social impact according to a 32-point scale of 8 equally weighted components of social impact.
When you apply for admission into a SEED SPOT venture program, assess your social impact score. Ask yourself if your venture has the potential to make a positive change in a complex world.
*Because SEED SPOT is in a perpetual state of experimentation, development, and validation, any answers we provide to questions like, “what is social impact,” should be understood as representing one iteration, one presently effective way of answering the question.
I think we’re all aware that the world today is full of problems. We’ve been hearing them today and yesterday and every day for decades. Serious problems, big problems, pressing problems. Poor nutrition, access to water, climate change, deforestation, lack of skills, insecurity, not enough food, not enough healthcare, pollution. There’s problem after problem, and I think what really separates this time from any time I can remember in my brief time on Earth is the awareness of these problems. We’re all very aware.
Why are we having so much trouble dealing with these problems? That’s the question I’ve been struggling with, coming from my very different perspective. I’m not a social problem guy. I’m a guy that works with business, helps business make money. God forbid. So why are we having so many problems with these social problems, and really is there any role for business, and if so, what is that role? I think that in order to address that question, we have to step back and think about how we’ve understood and pondered both the problems and the solutions to these great social challenges that we face. [Listen Here...]
Social entrepreneurship is attracting growing amounts of talent, money, and attention. But along with its increasing popularity has come less certainty about what exactly a social entrepreneur is and does. As a result, all sorts of activities are now being called social entrepreneurship. Some say that a more inclusive term is all for the good, but the authors argue that it’s time for a more rigorous definition. [Read on...]
Article from the Harvard Business Review Blog Network: Original article here
During my first year at Harvard Business School, I decided to start a new business. I set up a team, choose a name, secured a URL, and Zoosa was born. My theory was that by leveraging the collective expertise of skilled professionals, we could have a significant impact on the social sector. Zoosa was intended to be a platform where volunteers shared their activities and connected with others, creating a positive feedback loop. The idea was that this would encourage some people to deepen their efforts and others to become new volunteers. Unfortunately, I had never worked for an early-stage business or in the social enterprise space. The result? My business failed.
Business schools have new competition for students with startups on the brain. A number of programs, from General Assembly in New York to Starter School in Chicago, have cropped up recently to cater to people seeking to launch their own companies or join fledgling ones.Offerings are à la carte and the mission is stripped down. The idea, founders say, is to give students just enough instruction in everything from coding to marketing and operations to get an idea off the ground. [Read on...]
We had a great time welcoming some of the new interns to the SEED SPOT team today!
UNITY Pledge is a concerted effort by Arizona businesses and individuals to advance workplace equality and equal treatment in housing and hospitality for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) individuals and their allies. The business community and like-minded individuals understand that if we want to compete for top talent, we must have diverse and inclusive workplaces. UNITY Pledge was created by ONE Community, a member-based coalition of Arizona businesses and individuals dedicated to growing Arizona’s economy and otherwise improving our community.
The goal of UNITY Pledge is simple: encourage at least 10,000 Arizona businesses and organizations to stand up for diversity. Businesses and organizations of all sizes who sign the UNITY Pledge publicly join thousands of other businesses and organizations that support workplace equality and equal treatment in housing and hospitality.
Total new capital invested in the United States tech industry rose from $1.9 billion in April to $3.8 billion in June, a 100 percent increase in two months, according to quarterly data from CrunchBase. The data, which is specific to the United States, breaks down new venture capital raised by round type, investor, company, geography and more. [Read on...]
The Open House was a FULL HOUSE on Wednesday night at our new office! We had a blast with our awesome community that came to check out the new space and learn about our exciting upcoming year!
We did promise pony rides…
We believe that taking time to live will only inspire your work! Today we took a moment to enjoy the day with an impromptu photo shoot.