January 20, 2012
On December 10th, 2011 I gave a TEDx presentation in Raleigh on “Creating a Better World.” Here is the video.
And here are the slides from the presentation:
June 24, 2011
Hello from Boston. I’m here today for year three of the EO/MIT Entrepreneurial Masters Program.
I am excited to be heading to Egypt tomorrow as part of a U.S. State Department and USAID funded program in alliance with the Egyptian and Danish governments. I’ll be headed there with American entrepreneurs Shama Kabani, Alexis Ohanian, and Scott Gerber of the Young Entrepreneurs Council.
We’ll be mentoring 48 young Egyptian tech entrepreneurs ages 18-30 in Cairo with the NextGen IT Entrepreneurs Bootcamp and judging a business plan competition. Four of the winners will be coming to the US in October to intern at iContact for three weeks. I’m passionate about using business, technology, and entrepreneurship as tools to make a positive impact in the world, so this will be a great opportunity to see Egypt and work with great tech entrepreneurs in an exciting part of the world.
This will be my fourth trip to Africa, but first in North Africa. In about 5% of my spare time, I invest in tech entrepreneurs in the US and Africa via the Humanity Fund, so when I was asked to go by Scott Gerber I knew it would be right up my alley.
Egypt is passing through a very significant time in it’s history and it will be fascinating to be there. Quoting one of the participants in the program, “Egypt holds an important place in human history as one of the birthplaces of commerce, and the knowledge and experience of Egyptian business people will lead to many exciting and valuable products, services, and innovations for years to come. This is a great time for Egypt to truly shine.”
Here’s some additional info on the program. More blogging to come as I’m there…
NexGen IT Entrepreneurs Boot Camp
The NexGen IT Entrepreneurs Boot Camp, is a collaborative effort by the Government of Denmark, the U.S. State Department’s Global Entrepreneurship Program, the United States Agency for International Development’s Egypt Competitiveness Project, and the Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre, affiliated with the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology. The NexGen IT Boot Camp is a series of training events that includes a Business Plan Awareness Class and an IT Master Class. The later will be taught by US and Danish Delegates in which prizes will be awarded to four winning teams. Two of the winning teams will travel to the US in October to intern at iContact, a very rapidly growing American tech company.
More on the US internship @ iContact
The US internship will be with iContact in October. iContact is based in Raleigh, NC and is working to make email marketing and social marketing easy so that small and midsized companies and causes can grow and succeed. Founded in 2003, iContact has more than 300 employees and more than 700,000 users of its leading email marketing software.
As a B Corporation, iContact utilizes the 4-1s Corporate Social Responsibility Model, donating 1% of payroll, 1% of employee time to community volunteering, 1% of equity, and 1% of product to its local and global community as part of its social mission. iContact works hard to maintain a fun, creative, energetic, challenging and caring company culture. The Triangle Business Journal has named iContact one of the best places to work. The company has been listed on Inc. 500 3 years in a row and its founders Ryan Allis and Aaron Houghton were selected by Inc. Magazine 30 under 30 in 2009.
Two of the winning winning teams, composed of two individuals, will win the opportunity to gain critical knowledge of how to grow a business during a three weeks internship at iContact in Raleigh North Carolina. The iContact internship will be an entrepreneurial rotation in which the interns will learn about the critical parts of the business including marketing/sales, IT, customer service and finance. The internship is paid for by USAID through the Egyptian Competitiveness Project (ECP).
July 18, 2010
I originally wrote this post for the Social Entrepreneurship Section of Change.org. You can find the original Change.org post here or read below.
A Vision in a Time of Peril
It’s hard to see the big picture in times of turmoil. Let’s go back to Wednesday, March 4, 2009. That day, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, the richest individuals in America, wrote a letter to David Rockefeller, President of the Rockefeller Foundation. The letter suggested a gathering of their billionaire friends to discuss giving.
The letter was mailed in the backdrop of a tumultuous week. By that Friday March 6th, the Dow Jones Industrial Average reached its lowest point in twelve years, free falling 52.9% from two years before in the good ‘ole days of 2007 prosperity.
March 6th, 2009 brings back vivid memories. I was visiting the White House with a group of young entrepreneurs with The Summit Series. The White House Office of Public Engagement had put together the session to discuss their plans for the Economic Recovery Act. As Jason Furman, the Deputy Director of the National Economic Council, spoke to our group, the market was in freefall.
While the media was anointing The Great Recession and debating whether it would become a depression, Gates and Buffet had the fortune and foresight, to bring together their friends for dinner in New York to discuss how to give back.
The Launch of The Giving Pledge
Out of this meeting in New York came an initiative called The Giving Pledge, “an effort to invite the wealthiest individuals and families in America to commit to giving the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.”
So through The Giving Pledge Mr. Gates and Mr. Buffet are encouraging other billionaires to give at least 50% of their net worth away.
In fact, instead of the recommended 50%, Warren Buffett has pledged to contribute 99% of his net worth to charity within 10 years after his death, all to be used for immediate need and none for endowments. Laudable indeed. Buffet writes in his usual matter-of-fact style,
“The reaction of my family and me to our extraordinary good fortune is not guilt, but rather gratitude. Were we to use more than 1% of my claim checks on ourselves, neither our happiness nor our well-being would be enhanced. In contrast, that remaining 99% can have a huge effect on the health and welfare of others. That reality sets an obvious course for me and my family: Keep all we can conceivably need and distribute the rest to society, for its needs.”
How Much Money Are We Talking About?
Mr. Buffet will perhaps give around $50 billion to philanthropy by the time of his death. Through The Giving Pledge, he and Gates have the opportunity to leverage their influence and connections to multiply their giving many times over and set the example for other billionaires, who can no longer give away just 10% of what they have and feel good about themselves.
The total net worth of the Forbes 400 in 2009 was $1.27 Trillion. If Gates and Buffet convince 20% of these billionaires to give half of their net worth away, they’d be able to drive another $120B into philanthropy, doubling the amount of they themselves can personally give away.
So let’s say The Giving Pledge is successful and it generates another $120B in giving over the next twenty years, or about $6B per year for the next twenty years.
While an additional $6 billion per year can certainly make an impact, this amount pales in comparison to the $3.8 trillion proposed spending in the U.S. Federal Budget for 2011. It also pales in comparison to the $303B in total annual private giving by U.S. citizens.
The Goal: Sustainable Economic Prosperity
The two issues in our world today that are causing the greatest threat to a secure and stable human society with access to opportunity for all are extreme poverty and environmental sustainability. Most people don’t know that 39% of the human beings on this planet live on under $2 per day. If our goal is global stability, not to mention justice, this cannot be allowed in our world. And most of us by now get the global economic and natural disaster that will be caused if we keep increasing our annual consumption of goods without decreasing our carbon emissions.
As an entrepreneur and social entrepreneur, I believe that our mission, challenge, and opportunity as a generation is to create sustainable economic prosperity for all. We will never have a truly secure or stable world until we do. So how can this extra $6 billion per year be used to get the maximum return toward this goal of sustainable economic prosperity?
While humanitarian aid is absolutely necessary and moral, providing funds with this extra private capital for short-term gap filling needs caused by the symptoms of these issues won’t solve the issues themselves.
How Can This Money Make The Biggest Positive Impact?
So how can these funds best be used to generate the highest Social Return on Investment (SROI) and work toward sustainable economic prosperity for all?
The funds of these Giving Billionaires can either be given to address immediate need or invested to change much bigger systemic issues that are at the root cause of so much human suffering. While I do not know which will generate the highest return, I believe that by investing in changing global public policy (in a few select areas mentioned below) to reduce the incentive structures that are at the root cause of much suffering, lack of access to opportunity, and environmental damage these new Billionaire Givers will generate the highest SROI.
In order for this relatively small amount of additional capital to have the biggest positive impact, it must be leveraged. Philanthropic money can be leveraged by investing it in changing how other, larger, capital flows occur within our global system.
To effect real long term global change this $120B should be directed to:
1) Change U.S. domestic policy so we stop spending on the very expenditures that block access of the poorest countries to the market and creates need for more humanitarian aid and philanthropic giving in the first place (e.g. farm subsidies, trade tariffs, some military spending);
2) Influence a change in International Financial Reporting Standards and laws of nation-states so that companies can no longer off-balance sheet their negative environmental externalities;
3) As Nathaniel Whittemore has recommended, invest in social entrepreneurs who can leverage these dollars and markets (the largest capital flow of them all) to create sustainable change with dignity; and
4) Launch a campaign to encourage not just billionaires, but millionaires, to make a giving pledge and generate many trillions of additional dollars to invest in one through three.
Leverage Point 1: Invest in Domestic Policy Changes to Gain Social Return
Imagine the social good that could come from a concerted effort focused on lobbying to reduce the gargantuan $721B per year U.S. military budget (which as of 2008 was 48% of the world total military spending and larger than the next 45 countries combined) by 25% so that we could increase the salaries of every teacher in America by more than 50%.
There are 6.2 million elementary and secondary school teachers in the U.S. according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2000 Census. The average U.S. teacher salary was $51,009 according to American Federation of Teachers Survey and Analysis of Teacher Salary Trends 2007. So in total, the U.S. spends around $316 billion per year on teacher salaries. Hence a $180 billion re-allocation from defense to education would enable us to pay teachers 57% more.
Having this type of dollars and cents carrot might just enable Chancellors to negotiate out the single requirement of Teacher Unions that is the most damaging to our children’s education–the inability to fire a teacher who is not performing due to the tenure system, allowing the best teachers to be paid well above $80,000 per year.
Take a look at the below graph showing the allocation of 2009 U.S. Federal Taxes and you’ll see where our priorities seem to lie as a nation (of course noting that most funds for education come from State Taxes). A few billion dollars per year spent on influencing our Government to re-allocate this pie a bit more toward butter and a little less toward guns might just provide a huge return.
Leverage Point 2: Invest in Global Policy Changes to Gain Social Return
If these giving billionaires that join The Giving Pledge really wanted to get a large social return they would allocate dollars to change the public policies that drive the economic incentive structures that are the source causes of many of the issues.
One of the biggest problems in the world today is of course environmental sustainability. Six billion dollars per year, if the funds were focused, might just be enough to lobby the largest world governments to make a change to their accounting principles.
If companies across the world were required by law (that was enforced) to pay for the replacement of any environmental resource that they utilize such that each company had a net neutral impact on the environment, we’d remove much of the incentive structure that causes investors to seek out companies with the highest returns, which often are companies that unethically but legally have off-balance sheet environmental externalities that are simply passed on to all human beings.
Any philanthropist who can begin to create a tipping point for governments to stop accepting off-balance sheet negative environmental externalities that are not reported in GAAP or IFRS statements would enable the return on their investment to be leveraged many times over.
Change the economic incentive structure and you’ve changed the flow of trillions of dollars of private capital that billions of dollars of philanthropic capital simply cannot compete with.
Leverage Point 3: Create an Investment Fund for Triple-Bottom Line Entrepreneurs
As Nathaniel Whittemore suggested two weeks ago, some of the funds from The Giving Pledge should be directed to a Social Private Equity Fund. Nathaniel writes,
“What I can imagine is an institutional actor whose specialty is helping great social businesses with good revenues get even bigger while retaining their social and environmental missions. These types of firms would bring companies into their portfolio by acquiring some of the stock that had previously been held by investors and founders, in that way providing that liquidity that is missing from the current social finance system without compromising the social mission. This would create more incentives for early stage social investors, and provide social entrepreneurs more plausible returns that could increase the variety of the people thinking about social businesses.”
I agree with Nathaniel that late-stage capital for socially responsible businesses would be a help to provide liquidity, and thus returns, to the early stage investment funds already investing in triple-bottom line entrepreneurial companies.
I would add however, that any company that gets to $30M or $40M in EBITDA positive revenues, regardless of whether it has a core social mission or not, will be able to raise private equity and provide liquidity to shareholders. I don’t think the gap in the market is lack of funding for profitable at-scale social ventures.
The gap in the market is lack of funding and assistance for small-scale socially-responsible businesses that have the desire and dream to grow their impact and their revenues but don’t know how–both in the developed world and the developing world.
The biggest market gap I see is investment dollars in for-profit businesses in the developing world, where “microequity” investments of $5,000 to $50,000 along with some guidance and incubation can generate huge returns for a local entrepreneur who requires capital greater than a microfinance organization can provide but isn’t able to take on the $50,000 to $300,000 that organizations like Acumen Fund are able to invest.
And so, to maximize both financial return and social return for the Billionaire Givers, I would recommend not just a late-stage PE firm for social ventures, but also expanding capital investments in existing or new growth stage funds for socially responsible companies, particularly those in the developing world.
The second area of leverage I see within the world of private capital markets, is to invest in putting pressure on publicly-traded companies to implement strong CSR programs and actually live up to them. A few billion dollars spent buying mass media advertising to publicly encourage (read:shame) large MNCs so they live up to global CSR standards would be dollars well spent for social return.
Leverage Point 4: Invest in The Giving Pledge for Millionaires
While I applaud Gates and Buffet’s effort on The Giving Pledge, in order to enable this pledge to truly make a substantial impact, part of the funds should be directed to extend the effort beyond billionaires and create a new social norm where it is simply expected that anyone who makes way more than they need will contribute half of their net worth by the time they die to making the world a better place.
For the millionaires out there, it will just screw up your kids if you leave too much money to them. So why not ensure your legacy by committing now, publicly, to giving at least 50% away?
There are 10 million millionaires in the world, with a total net worth of $39 trillion according to the 2010 Merrill Lynch and Cap Gemini World Wealth Report. The average millionaire has $3.9 million.
Excluding the $1.3 trillion of the Forbes 400 from this $39 trillion, there is $37.7 trillion in assets among millionaires globally. What if there were a Millionaire Pledge?
If through a directed effort we can get 20% of global millionaires to commit to give half of their wealth, instead of an extra $120B for philanthropy, we’d have an extra $3.8 trillion. If we invest much of this $3.8 trillion in the three key leverage areas to fundamentally change our global economic and public policy system and use the rest to invest in filling short-term societal needs we can make a truly meaningful impact in the world.
Every multi-millionaire should commit to giving at least 90% of their wealth away by the time of their death. I made a commitment to do this in 2008 (in my book Zero to One Million) and will uphold this commitment. You can’t take money with you.
So who will take up this charge? And what do you think about these four areas of recommended investment?
February 3, 2010
This post will require a certain degree of vulnerability. Sometimes we build a hard shell around us when we’re going through difficult times. This is a story of personal growth.
A year ago I was sitting late at night in my Durham office at iContact wondering if I’d become a corporate sellout.
Was I trading in some of my most productive years of life to build a company I was no longer passionate about?
I had gone from being an entrepreneur to a manager. I was 24 and we had 150 employees and $20M in sales. I was dealing with purchase order forms and paid time off policies. We had achieved all the goals we had ever set out for ourselves. Where was the entrepreneurial passion?
We had gone from #20 to #2 in the market in five years and I had no idea how we’d get to #1. I thought it might be the time to start thinking about finding my replacement.
Even though we were still growing very quickly, we weren’t quite growing at the same percentages as we were before and for the first time in our company’s history we were going to have a year in which we would not double sales.
My confidence was wavering. I had made some big mistakes:
- I had waited too long to launch a stock option plan for the whole company.
- I hadn’t hired a CMO soon enough.
- I hadn’t built the right ecosystem of mentors that could help me get to the next level as a CEO.
- I had focused too much on the surrogate-family side of our culture and not enough on the performance-focused side that was needed.
- I hadn’t created values that people believed in and used every day. I could recall just four of our ten values without looking.
- I had waited too long to start a formal manager training program.
- I hadn’t truly aligned my passion for social responsibility into the ethos of the corporation.
- I hadn’t created any effective mechanism for communicating strategic direction to the company and we had a lot of confusion as to what our focus was and operating choices were being made with different assumptions as to direction.
And these were just the mistakes I knew about!
Was I Right for the Job?
As I sat there in May 2009 I wrote in my journal “Iâ€™m not sure Iâ€™m the right person anymore to lead the company into this next stage of growth. We need to make some changes to keep the growth and hit our goals. Scary to think about. Terrible to have lost some of my confidence.” I wrote an email to our CFO on May 20th thinking about succession planning for me.
I wasn’t sure whether we should try to get acquired or keep the faith that we’d get to the $60M-$70M in annual revenue needed to go public and stay on track for the 2012 IPO. At certain points I lost the faith.
Finally in July we got the CMO we wanted. And things were looking way up by the end of the summer when we got an investment term sheet with a nine figure PMV. Wow!
But then came October. In the same week my business partner got cancer (he is now doing well!), my mom started having worsening chronic arm pain (she is now doing better), and a company that was looking to acquire us told us they weren’t going forward. I guess they say that difficult times are the foundry from which greatness is cast. But it’s sure not fun being the molten iron!
Through that baptismal fire I came to a critical understanding of self and what I needed to do to align what I love with what I do–something I’ve been preaching atop the mountain for five years in speeches but only half-heartedly living. It helped me discover my authentic self. It helped me find my Csikszentmihalyian flow.
Motivated More Than Ever
So I sit here tonight in my home in Chapel Hill motivated more than ever. iContact is now at a $34M revenue run-rate and growing that by more than $1M each month. We will hire more than 50 new team members in 2010. We had our first ever post-investment EBITDA positive month in December(!!!). We’re well on our way to fulfilling our dream of “building a great sustainable company in NC for our customers, employees, and community.” And we’ve got a plan to go from #2 to #1. We have a plan to win.
I no longer question whether I’m a corporate sellout putting in my time. I’m aligned, I’m focused. I’m learning. I’m surrounded by amazing people every day who know how to do what they do so much better than I ever could.
What I Changed?
So what did I do? Three things (and I’m still working on fully implementing them)…
- I worked to align my long term life mission with what I do everyday today. My life mission, the one that’s been on my bedroom wall since May 2007, is to “be a leader of our generation as we work to end extreme poverty in our lifetimes.” While I was learning a lot about leadership and management and being paid to do it, I was somewhat unclear how building a SaaS company aligned fully with a passionate desire to end extreme poverty in the developing world over the next fifty years. The incessant question in my head was whether I’d be better off finding my replacement and either applying to the Kennedy School of Government or moving to Africa to invest in entrepreneurs there. I learned a lot about the integrated 1/1/1 corporate philanthropy model of Salesforce.com and wanted to see if we could do that at iContact. On January 8th, 2010 we launched an expanded CSR model, what we call the 4-1s Corporate Social Responsibility Model, at iContact in which we take 1% of equity, 1% of product, 1% of employee time, and 1% of payroll and invest it in local and global non-profit organizations. Since we’ve expanded this CSR program I’ve been able to see the tangible and immediate connection between my passion for social responsibility and what I do going to work every day. In 2009 iContact contributed $109,000 to 63 different 501(c)(3)s and in 2010 we’ll reach $150,000. But it’s not just money anymore. Now, each of our employees has the opportunity to be paid to take 1% of their time (2.5 days off from work) each year to do community service during business hours, which we’re tracking through VolunteerForce. While we’ve got lots of work to do to improve it, the model has real impact and tangible value for us and the community and it’s significantly helped me to a much greater degree see the meaning behind what we do everyday. I love it!
- We changed our company values at iContact. I realized in July of last year that we had ten “Corporate Values” but I could only remember four without reading the sheet. At an EO entrepreneurial exec ed program at MIT in June I learned you should never have more values than you can remember and that to be worthy of being a company value you’d have to be willing to let someone go if they didn’t live up to it. Our values fit neither requirement. In December at our two day Senior Leadership Team (SLT) offsite in Chapel Hill we came up with WOWME. WOWME stands for 1) Wow the Customer 2) Operate with Urgency 3) Without Mediocrity 4) Make a Positive Wake and 5) Engage as an Owner. We launched these values last month at iContact and now every SLT member knows them by heart and we’re working toward all managers using them during every performance and coaching discussion. We will hire and fire by these values, live up to them, and hold each other accountable to them. They’ve even inspired me to pick up my game and get it in gear. I love it!
- I let go of control. The best thing I’ve ever done for the growth of iContact is let go of control (and I’m still working on this skill). We have a six person Senior Leadership Team at iContact that can all do their jobs much much better than I can. We now have a thirteen person Leadership Team underneath them all of whom have more business experience than I do. When I realized that my job was not to ensure they did their jobs the right way but rather to enable them to do their jobs and hold them accountable for the results, my world shifted. I’m still learning in this area, but this single realization is enabling me to scale. I now focus on 1) people 2) strategy 3) culture 4) investment. Each time we get to a new stage in our company’s growth ($100k, $1M, $5M, $10M, $25M) I have to reinvent myself and my job description. I love it!
And here are some other life changes that are less critical to helping me align what I do with what I love, but are still fun to share…
- I made an equity investment in an African company. On January 4th I became a 10% owner of Village Energy Ltd. of Kampala Uganda. For four years I’ve been personally making contributions to non-profit organizations focused on ending global poverty. My philosophy has changed on economic development over the past year. Today I believe that while effectively monitored bilateral aid is an important component of ending extreme poverty and emergency humanitarian aid is morally and critically necessary in many locations, an investment in a local entrepreneur in Africa will have much greater long term impact in terms of job creation, tax revenue base, and constituent-focused democratic institution building. I was very excited to invest in Village Energy which is bringing a $60 solar panel powered LED lighting solution to rural village homes through a microfinance and franchise distribution model for $3-$4 per month per home. The product is a substitute good for kerosene which often costs $5 to $6 per month, causes lung inhalation problems and often burns down the thatch houses. I hope this $15,000 investment turns out to have much greater social impact than a $15,000 contribution. There is SO much opportunity to invest in Africa and so many entrepreneurs and companies poised for growth. And there is a huge gap between the countless MFIs that loan out $50 to $1000 and the Acumen Fund which invests $50k to $250k. Ten years from now I dream of running a socially responsible venture capital firm on the African continent. The challenge will be finding a scalable model of investing $5000 to $50,000 at a time. I think it can be done. I know the pipeline is there.
- We started a new entrepreneurial division of Virante. Virante is a 11 person company downstairs in the iContact building that I started as “Virante Design & Development” in 2000 that is now run by CEO Malcolm Young. I won’t say much about this early stage effort now because the team is still acquiring all the related domain names and IP, but it’s a socially responsible ecommerce play that I’m extremely excited about. Fortunately we’ve already got the team to make it happen and it won’t take much time. With the help of the Virante team and a 17 year old intern Aneesh that comes in each Wednesday they’re making it happen. Here I must quote my new New York friend Kim Scheinberg, “Starting a company is like having a baby. By far the most enjoyable part is the idea conception phase.”
- I followed my passion for writing and started the next book. This post is the beginning of book #2. My plan–one 5 page blog post per week that by the end of 2010 will be a ready to become a book. The title–”Dare Mighty Things: How Entrepreneurs & Social Entrepreneurs Are Changing the World.”
I have had two wristbands on my wrist since November. The first one says “Make Poverty History.” The second, “$100M in 2012.”
Thank you to everyone who has supported me through this endeavor and to all who are with us in this journey.
Here we go…
Thoughts, comments, suggestions??? Feedback is the breakfast of champions!
November 20, 2009
As I sit on the 28th floor of a hotel in San Francisco I am angry, yet hopeful.
I wonder why in a world with as much wealth as we see, as much luxury that we experience, should 40% of the human species live on under $2 per day?
2.56 billion human beings, people just like you and I, live on under $2 per day. On average, 24,900 children under 5 die each and every day in the developing world, often from preventable diseases and starvation. 24,900 children under 5. Check out the sources below. This is absolutely unacceptable.
Why does no one talk about this?
Were you aware of this? Please comment…
From p. 10: â€śâ€¦the number of people living on less than $2.00 a day has remained nearly constant at 2.5 billion. From Table 3: â€śPeople living on less than 2005 PPP $2.00 a day (millions), 2005 â€“ 2.564â€ł
From p. 121, Statistical Tables, Table 1 Basic Indicators, Summary Indicators, Developing Countries â€śAnnual Number of Under 5 Deaths (Thousands), 2007 â€“ 9109â€ł We arrived at 24,956 deaths of children under 5 per day by taking the 9,109,000 total deaths per year for children under 5 in developing countries and dividing by 365.
February 1, 2009
I write as my roommates watch the sci-fi movie Anti-Body through the amazing new Xbox/Netflix partnership in a cold and icy Chapel Hillâ€¦
This weekend I had the opportunity to speak at StartingBlocâ€™s Greater New York Institute for Social Innovation at Yale University in New Haven. I had the chance to speak after Tom Szaky, the 27 year old CEO of TerraCycle, who is good work on upcycling waste into usable products.
In attendance were 150 of the smartest, most ambitious, and most caring individuals Iâ€™ve met, all from age 19 to 30. 25% were undergrads, 25% were grad students, and 50% were young professionals from firms like Goldman, JP Morgan, Acumen, Ashoka, McKinsey. They were all social entrepreneurs or future social entrepreneurs. If youâ€™re under 30 and interested in social responsibility you should apply for their future Institutes in New York, Boston, or London.
StartingBloc has now reached 1000 fellows who have gone through their program. I first met their founder, the 27 year-old ebullient Kenyan Jo Opot last May in New York. She and their Director of Programs Taryn Miller-Stevens are examples of committed, driven, caring world changers.
I challenged the group to over the next 50 years, work together to create a world in whichâ€¦
- There is no killing of humans on a mass scale (genocide or warfare);
- All humans have access to the basic human needs of clean water, nutritious food, shelter, and primary education;
- We end preventable diseases like malaria, TB, and measles; and
- We are environmentally sustainable
This challenge was based on the key simple principle from the Gates Foundation that all lives have equal value. I first shared the great challenges we face in the world including the most difficult economic news weâ€™ve seen in our lifetimes, then the great opportunities (subsequent post on these coming soon) to frame the debate.
So, can we actually end genocide, warfare, starvation, and preventable disease in our lifetimes?
And can we actually provide accessible clean water, food, shelter, and primary education to every human in our lifetimes?
January 23, 2008
Our generationâ€“those born in the 70s, 80s, and 90sâ€“has a great opportunity ahead of ourselves. We have the ability for the first time in human history to eliminate extreme poverty within our lifetimes and ensure shared access to prosperity regardless of color, geography, or nationality. This possibility is worthy of a boisterous cheer.
By 2050, weâ€™re projected to have 9.5B humans on this planet, however. Our planet will not allow a world of 9.5 billion humans living in the manner the average citizen of the Western world lives today, yet alone the 6.6 billion we have today.
Here inlies the great connection between sustainability and poverty. Unless we as a global society invest to develop the needed technologies to allow for humans to become sustainable in food, energy, and water production we will end up having less resources than are necessary for 9.5 billion people to live in a world without extreme povertyâ€“let alone a world in which there is true shared prosperity, mutual security, and equality of opportunity. This is the greatest challenge of our lifetime as entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs, scientists, technologists, and public servants. We must have sustainability to end poverty.
As a friend of mine from high school recent wrote me, â€śWe must work toward the creation of a world where the standard of living, human rights, basic freedoms, and sustainability are all compatible.â€ť
The two billion people that Goldman Sachs projects will be added to the global middle class by 2030 may never make it if sufficient food, energy, and water resources donâ€™t exist. Dominic Wilson and Raluca Dragusanu, showed in a Goldman Sachs Economic Research paper published on July 8 called â€śThe Expanding Middle: The Exploding World Middle Class and Falling Global Inequalityâ€ť that close to 70 million people a year are entering the global middle class. They define this range as those with per capital income $6,000 and $30,000, purchasing power parity adjusted. They foresee shifts such as:
- Changing spending patterns.
- Increased pressure and competition for resources
- Greater threat of environmental degradation
- Rising environmental consciousness
- Political and social changes
Through one lens, we could have resource wars, strife, famine, and terrible droughts, melting ice caps, biodiversity extinctions, and rising sea levels.
Through the other lens, we could have a world of growing prosperity, security through commerce, and gained respect among cultures and religion, a world of ubiquitous broadband, a world of communications technology that will enable humans to gain a common language and understanding, a world in which dictators can no longer use scare propaganda to wedge the false division of us vs. them, a world in which there is access to education, healthcare, nutrition, and opportunity for all, a world in which entrepreneurship thrives and technology drives improves food production, water access, and non-carbon based energies, a world in which our identity as human is so much more important than what divides us.
We have come to a turning point in history. This is both the challenge of our lifetime, and the great opportunity of our lifetime. How can we enable the great economic and creative potential for all humans while ensuring we leave a world of environmental stability to our grandchildren?
Will we invest in the creation of a new Apollo Plan for Energy? We will create the Global Bill of Rights that provides access to education, healthcare, and nutrition? Or will we fall into a once great society as the benefit of inexpensive petroleum leaves? Will Malthus finally get his way?
Is growing economic prosperity possible in a world of declining resources and increased commodity prices? Does our lifetime end up being marked in history as the time of resource wars, increased poverty, and environmental damage? Or does it end up being marked by global collaboration, shared prosperity, and sustainability. We have a choice.
This is the greatest opportunity of our lifetime, and our greatest challenge.
October 23, 2007
Hereâ€™s an excerpt video clip from my keynote speech at the Collegiate Entrepreneursâ€™ Organization Annual Conference in Chicago. Enjoy!
â€śEntrepreneur Ryan Allis dances to Crank That Soulja Boy during the middle of the Collegiate Entrepreneur Organization keynote speech, Finding The Purpose of Your Life in Six Lessons, presented November 3, 2007 at the McCormick Conference Center in Chicago in front of 800 college entrepreneurs.â€ť