Innovators Support President Obama on YouTube

October 21, 2012

Back in August in San Francisco, I was interviewed by CNet Co-founder Shelby Bonnie on my thoughts on innovation in America and why I support President Obama in the 2012 election. The interview was part of the Technology for Obama Innovator Series and also included interviews with other entrepreneurs who support Obama like Drew Houston of DropBox, Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn, Craig Newmark of Craigslist, Jon Bischke of Entelo, Dave Morin of Path, and Aaron Levie of Box.

I, along with these leading innovators and entrepreneurs, believe that President Obama is the best candidate for business, innovation, immigration, and education.

Below is the intro video from Tech4Obama followed by five videos from my interview. Please feel free to share these videos with your network.

Intro – Tech Entrepreneurs on Innovation and President Obama (2:06)

1. Innovation In America (4:42)

2. Innovation and The 2012 Election (2:24)

3. Lessons Learned in Business (3:05)

4. The The Story of iContact & The Steps for Innovation (4:30)

5. Keys to Success & The Start of Connect (3:33)

You can watch the full series of videos on the Tech4Obama channel on YouTube.

President Obama Has Been Great for Business

Here’s how the stock market, job market, and corporate profits have fared the last few years. President Obama has truly been great for business.

  1. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 92% since March 2009
  2. The country has created 4.3 million new jobs since the bottom in March 2010
  3. Corporate profits have increased 64.8% since January 2009

Keeping in mind the depths of the Great Recession during which President Obama came into office, this performance is very strong for one term. Even in normal times, this would have been very strong performance as President.

I also like much prefer President Obama’s perspective on women’s rights, foreign policy, immigration, and creating the jobs of tomorrow in clean energy and advanced manufacturing here at home.

He’s earned my vote for a second term.

Today’s Fuel Explosion in Nairobi

September 12, 2011

I’ve got a special place in my heart for East Africa, having visited there three times and with investments in Pengo Loans and Think Impact, both with operations in Kenya. After visiting the Kibera slum in Nairobi in 2009 to see the work of Carolina for Kibera, I feel especially for those who are living day-to-day in the slums of Nairobi and other parts of the developing world.

Today in a Nairobi slum called Sinai a fuel pipeline starting leaking. Immediately hundreds of people gathered around, grabbing every container they could to capture the fuel. Soon thereafter, the pipeline caught fire and exploded. At least 100 people immediately burned to death in the explosion and ensuing house fires in the densely concentrated slums. Another 120 went to the hospital with severe burns.

Below is a news video of the story from the local Kenyan NTV. Take a look at the living conditions of these communities. Often without electricity, running water, and sewage. Yes, it’s true that 39% of the world survive on less than $2 per day (a per capita income of $730 per year), and yet so few people are aware of this. For those of us in the United States living on an average of $130 per day (the U.S. per capital income as of 2011 is $47,240), this type of existence is surely hard to fathom.

And here is another video from NTV showing some of the burn videos in the hospital (warning: graphic):

Here’s the NY Times article.

You’re Invited: A Metropolitan Safari for Rwanda at iContact

November 2, 2010

I wanted to invite Dare Mighty Things readers to a special event coming up at iContact. We are hosting a “Metropolitan Safari” on Monday November 8th at 6:30pm at our new offices in Morrisville.

We will have as guests two remarkable women from Rwanda who will share with us their perspective of the Rwandan genocide, how the country has turned their economy around through technology and entrepreneurship, and the role of women in rebuilding the country. We will also be giving the grand tour of our beautiful new space and offering rides on our new slide.

We will have African food, African music, and an open wine and beer bar.

Tickets can be purchased here. You can also RSVP on Facebook. You can use the discount code “ICONTACT” when you register if you wish. All proceeds from the evening will benefit The Akilah Institute for Women in Kigali, Rwanda. More information is in the invitation below. I hope you can come. Thanks for helping us spread the word!

You can also download a PDF invite for the event.



You’re invited to join us for a very special evening at iContact’s new offices in Morrisville, NC

What: iContact’s “Metropolitan Safari” Fundraiser for the Akilah Institute for Women Rwanda

When: Monday, November 8th, 2010 6:30pm to 8:30pm

Where: 5221 Paramount Parkway, 2nd floor, Morrisville, NC 27560

Purchase tickets here

(You Can Use Discount Code “ICONTACT”)

Join us November 8th and see iContact’s new offices in Morrisville for the first time while supporting a great cause.

We’ll be giving the grand tour of our brand new building on the Lenovo Campus that gives us room to grow to 550 employees and offering free rides on our slide.

We’ll start out with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres on the 2nd floor at 6:30pm then going upstairs for the Akilah presentation. I hope you will join us for this special evening.

Ticket Information

(Use Discount Code “ICONTACT”)

All proceeds from the evening will support the Akilah Scholarship Fund and empower young Rwandan women to become leaders in their communities.

About the Akilah Institute for Women

Akilah empowers young women to transform their lives by equipping them with the skills, knowledge, and confidence needed to become leaders and entrepreneurs in East Africa. Learn More | Make a Direct Contribution

Maximizing Social Return from The Giving Pledge

July 18, 2010

I originally wrote this post for the Social Entrepreneurship Section of You can find the original 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.

Source: Friends Committee on National Legislation Budget Chart for FY 2009

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?

Social Good With Market Returns at Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship

April 15, 2010

Why I’m At Skoll…

I’m in Oxford, England today for the first full day of the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship. I’m making great connections with investors who care about social impact equally to financial returns and learning how iContact can be a more socially responsible enterprise.

Our vision for iContact is to “Build a great global company based in North Carolina for our customers, employees, and community.”

So I’m here to ‘go to school’ for three days on how to truly maximize return for customers, employees, and community so that we can in turn maximize financial results for our shareholders. Fiduciary duty can go along with human social duty!

To me, having a formal CSR program and caring about impact for the customers, employees, and community is just good business sense that in fact maximizes financial return.

Increasing Financial Results By Focusing On Social & Environmental Impact

Personally, I strongly believe, in today’s new world, ensuring your business provides a positive social and environmental impact (or at least not a negative one!) will increase your financial return, not decrease it. I’ve seen this happen with numerous for-profit socially responsible companies like Ben & Jerry’s, The Body Shop, Whole Foods, Burt’s Bees, and

How can focusing on social impact improve financial results?

How can focusing on social return improve financial results? In three simple ways.

  1. The type of employees who want to work at companies that care–companies that put equal emphasis on profits and purpose–are the most productive and often most aware and intelligent team members.
  2. There is a growing movement toward consumers who care. Consumers will have much more brand loyalty to a company that they know cares and makes a positive social impact.
  3. When customers become passionate about a brand they talk about it more and more people will write about it.

The Tipping Point

After 30 years of so many in the social enterprise field working towards this, the tipping point has been passed wonderfully and thankfully. As the Dean of the Oxford Said Business School Colin Mayer said last night, the financial crisis has shown that short-term focus on only financial results does not lead to long term success.

Organizations like B-Labs have succeeded in changing public policy toward the benefit of companies who care. Self-interested (”greedy”) business owners who want to make money will now wonderfully benefit financially from implementing a formalized Corporate Social Responsibility program and ensuring they track and social impact and environmental impact.

The invisible hand is now starting to work toward social good with economic growth now that incentives are being realigned properly toward sustainable economic growth. While there is much more path to tread toward truly aligning policy incentives and consumer purchasing behavior toward companies who care–it is happening and the tipping point has passed! Eureka!!

Social Good With Market Returns?

Right now a panel called ‘Social Good With Market Returns’ is about to begin. I’ve been tweeting a lot about the conference via @ryanallis.

The moderator is Herta von Stiegel of Ariya Capital.

The speakers are:

Nick O’Donohoe, Global Head of Research JP Morgan
David Chen, Principle, Equilibrium Capital Group [video]
John McCall MacBain, Founder and Director, McCall MacBain Foundation

Nick from JP Morgan is talking about the Social Finance group at JP Morgan. Nick is not a “normal banker.” They invest in social enterprises that have a double-bottom line (financial and social). This social investing field is also being called “Impact Investing.”

Ensuring Off-Balance Sheet Externalities Are Positive

There is a engaging discussion going on now at the panel around off-balance sheet externalities (positive and negative) of impact (positive or negative). Nick says “every time we make an investment we are creating externalities.” He says these externalities can be positive (jobs) or negative (pollution). He says “for the first time the investment community is measuring the social impact of what they are doing and only investing in companies that create net positive externalities.”

This discussion is at the core of global history of the past 200 years as the ideological battle between communism, socialism, and capitalism has been waged. The new consensus that is emerging here is that what has won (and in fact what must win for the sake of humanity’s ability to continue) is socially responsible capitalism. As John Perkins points out in Hoodwinked, there is nothing inherent in the model of Capitalism and the competitive market economy that require off-balance sheet externalities that destroy the world.

Taking Into Account the Full Cost of Environmental Damage

Now the discussion is revolving around how to adjust public policy to enable the true cost of negative externalities to be accounted for in the financial accounting results. Some are saying the Holy Grail for improving the world through business is to make all investing ‘impact investing’ by taking into account the true cost of environmental resources that are not renewed into Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).

“Better accounting for negative externalities is really important” said John McCall MacBain of the McCall MacBain foundation just now on the panel. The discussion is revolving around environmental costs being forced on any organization that destroys a natural resource (public good) that does not replace it sustainably and the impact this would make on ensuring warped incentives are not provided to global financially-focused Boards of Directors.

The discussion has shifted to bringing the silos of philanthropy, impact investing, running non-profits and socially responsible for-profit entrepreneurship.

Borrowing a meme from my friend Judith Cone who worked at the Kauffman Foundation and now works at UNC as a Special Assistant to the Chancellor for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, perhaps it is all about where goodness lies. Goodness can be in the heart of the public sector official, for-profit socially responsible entrepreneur, non-profit executive, global multinational Board member, activist, or investor.

Nick O’Donohoe from JPMorgan is speaking about how JP Morgan can access capital high net worth individuals and institutions they work with which want to tap into investment funds specifically set up for investing in companies who put an equal emphasis on social impact as financial results.

Questions & Comments?

What questions are there on this topic of public policy changes and investing in companies that create social good while achieving market returns or above market returns? I’d love to discuss this more!

You can follow tweets from the Forum here.

Why Poverty?

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…



1 – 2008 World Development Indicators: Poverty Data Supplement, World Bank

From p. 10: “…the number of people living on less than $2.00 a day has remained nearly constant at 2.5 billion. From Table 3: “People living on less than 2005 PPP $2.00 a day (millions), 2005 – 2.564″

2 – UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2009

From p. 121, Statistical Tables, Table 1 Basic Indicators, Summary Indicators, Developing Countries “Annual Number of Under 5 Deaths (Thousands), 2007 – 9109″ 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.

25 Facts on Global Military Spending

August 23, 2009

25 Facts on Global Military Spending

August 17, 2009 · Print This Article

Last week on an airplane ride to Boston, I was reading the book Common Wealth by Jeffrey Sachs when I came across some statistics on military spending in Chapter 12, Rethinking Foreign Policy.

One statistic stood out to me from p. 274. I read that “One day’s Pentagon spending would provide enough funds to ensure antimalarial bed net protection for every sleeping child in Africa for five years.” I learned that while the Pentagon spent an average of $1.6 billion per day in 2007 only $1.5 billion in total was needed to provide nets for 300 million sleeping sites. This was interesting, and compelling.

I decided to do some additional research on global military spending, and here’s what I found. I’d love your thoughts and comments!

25 Facts on Global Military Spending

To make it on this list a statistic must be from a trusted primary source with a clear “as of” date or a reputable secondary source that clearly lists its primary sources. All statistics are sourced and cited at the bottom of the page. Please add a comment if you find additional good sources.

  1. Between 2000 and 2008, including supplemental war spending, U.S. military spending increased from 387 billion to 710 billion, an 83% increase. (1)
  2. In 2007, world military expenditure reached $1.339 trillion (2)
  3. In 2007, the USA’s military spending accounted for 45 per cent of the world total, followed by the UK, China, France and Japan. (2)
  4. In 2007, the 15 countries with the highest military spending account for 83 per cent of the total (2)
  5. Between 2001 and 2007 US military expenditure has increased by 59 per cent in real terms, principally because of spending on military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and due to increases in the ‘base’ defense budget. (2)
  6. Global Military spending increased 45% between 1998 and 2007 (2)
  7. In 2007, the United Nations and all its agencies and funds spent $24.9 billion, or about $4 for each of the world’s inhabitants (2)
  8. In 2007, the UN’s budget was 1.86% of the world’s military expenditure (2, 3)
  9. In 2008, world military expenditure reached 1.472 trillion (4)
  10. In 2008, U.S. military spending was $711 billion, 48.28% of the global total, followed by China with 8.28%, Russia with 4.75%, and the UK with 3.76% (4)
  11. In 2008, the combined military spending of the second through eighth largest military spenders (China, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, Japan, Germany, and Italy) was $300.2 million less than the military spending of the first largest military spender, the United States (4)
  12. In 2008, US military spending was more than the next 46 highest spending countries in the world combined. (4)
  13. in 2008, US military spending was 5.8 times more than China, 10.2 times more than Russia, and 98.6 times more than Iran. (4)
  14. In 2008, US military spending is almost 55 times the spending on the six states of Cuba, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria whose spending amounts to around $13 billion. (4)
  15. In 2008, the United States and its strongest allies (the NATO countries, Japan, South Korea and Australia) spend $1.1 trillion on their militaries combined, representing 72 percent of the world’s total. (4)
  16. In 2009, the U.S. Military base budget was $515.4 billion in 2009 plus 135.8 billion in emergency and discretionary spending for a total of $651.2 billion. (5)
  17. In 2006, including all military-related expenditures outside of the Department of Defense, the United States spent $934 billion on its military in 2006 (6)
  18. In 2007, one day of spending of the U.S. Pentagon ($1.6 billion) would equal enough funds to ensure antimalarial bed net protection for every sleeping site in Africa for five years (300 million bed nets at $5 each). (7)
  19. In 2007, the United States spent $572 billion on its military, $11 billion on international security, $14 billion on development and humanitarian aid, and $11 billion for diplomatic functions. (8)
  20. In 2009, the United States spent $710 billion in military spending (4), $18.8 billion in total bilateral economic assistance via USAID (9), and $5.2 billion in development aid to Africa (10)
  21. Military expenditure comprised approximately 2.4 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP) in 2008. (11)
  22. The combined arms sales of the Top 100 arms-producing companies reached $347 billion, an increase of 11 per cent in nominal terms and 5 per cent in real terms over 2006. (12)
  23. Between 2002 and 2007 the value of the Top 100 arms sales has increased by 37 per cent in real terms. (12)
  24. Forty-four US companies accounted for 61 per cent of the Top 100’s arms sales in 2007, while 32 West European companies accounted for 31 per cent of the sales. (12)
  25. The estimated financial value of the international arms trade in 2007 was $51.1 billion. According to national data, the USA was the largest arms exporter in 2007, with exports worth $12.8 billion; Russia was in second place, with $7.4 billion; France was in third place, with $6.2 billion; Israel was in fourth place, with $4.4 billion; and the UK was in fifth place, with $4.1 billion. (13)

Additional Facts in Graphs & Images:

Image Source: U.S. Military Spending vs. the World, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation
Image source: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)’s 2009 Year Book, Appendix 2A
Image source: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)’s 2009 Year Book, Appendix 6A
Image source: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)’s 2009 Year Book, Appendix 6A
Image source: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)’s 2009 Year Book, Appendix 6B
Image source: Nuclear Warheads by Country, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)’s 2009 Year Book, Chapter 8
Image source: Nuclear Warheads by Country, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)’s 2009 Year Book, Appendix 12A

Fact Sources:

  1. Travis Sharp, Growth in U.S. Defense Spending Over the Last Decade, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, February 26, 2009
  2. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)’s 2008 Year Book, Chapter 5
  3. Global Policy Forum, Total UN System Contributions
  4. U.S. Military Spending vs. the World, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation
  5. U.S. Department of Defense Budget 2009
  6. Robert Higgs, The Trillion-Dollar Defense Budget Is Already Here, using data from U.S. Office of Management and Budget, Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2008 and U.S. Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics of the United States, Colonial Times to 1970
  7. Sachs, Jeffrey, Common Wealth p. 274
  8. White House Office of Management and Budget, Budget of the United States Government, FY 2007
  9. USAID, FY 2009 International Affairs Budget Request, Summary and Highlights, p. 7
  10. USAID, FY 2009 International Affairs Budget Request, Africa Regional Overview, p. 2
  11. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)’s 2009 Year Book, Appendix 3A
  12. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)’s 2009 Year Book, Chapter 6
  13. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)’s 2009 Year Book, Appendix 12A

Please add comments below on any thoughts you have or additional good sources. Thank you!

25 Facts on Global Poverty

August 1, 2009

25 Facts on Global Poverty

August 16, 2009 · Print This Article

One of the challenges I’ve faced as I’ve sought to learn all I can on global poverty over the past few years has been how challenging it is to find accurate, trusted statistics on the topic. I spent a few hours tonight beginning a compilation of stats on global poverty, which I’ve added as a new page on The Humanity Campaign web site.

What do you think about these facts? What can we do to end extreme poverty in our lifetime? Please feel free to comment at the bottom of the page.

Special Thanks:

Thank you to the site for their work in collecting verifiable facts and statistics on major global issues. Their page “Poverty Facts & Stats” was of great help in compiling these statistics. Thank you also to the World Bank, UNICEF, UNICEF Cananda, and UNDP for vital reports neccessary for the compilation of these statistics. The United Nations report “The Millennium Development Goals Report 2009” was also particularly helpful.

A Collection of Sourced & Verifiable Facts on Global Poverty

To make it on this list a statistic must be from a trusted primary source with a clear “as of” date. All statistics are sourced and cited at the bottom of the page.

  1. As of 2008, 79.8% of humanity lives on less than $10 per day. (5.15 billon people) (1)
  2. As of 2008, 48.6% of humanity lives on less than $2.50 per day. (3.14 billion people) (1)
  3. As of 2008, 40.2% of humanity lives on less than $2 per day. (2.60 billion people) (1)
  4. As of 2008, 21.7% of humanity lives on less than $1.25 per day (1.40 billion people) (1)
  5. As of 2008, 13.6% of humanity lives on less than $1 per day. (880 million people) (1)
  6. As of 2008, the world’s richest 20% consume 76.6% of private consumption (1)
  7. As of 2008, the world’s richest 10% consume 59.9% of private consumption (1)
  8. As of 2009, 25,000 children under 5 years old die each day due to poverty (2)
  9. As of 2006, access to piped water into the household averages about 85% for the wealthiest 20% of the population, compared with 25% for the poorest 20%. (3)
  10. As of 2007, every year there are 350–500 million cases of malaria, with 1 million fatalities: Africa accounts for 90 percent of malarial deaths and African children account for over 80 percent of malaria victims worldwide. (4)
  11. As of 2007, 1.6 billion people — a quarter of humanity — live without electricity (5)
  12. As of 2007, the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the 41 Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (567 million people) is less than the wealth of the world’s 7 richest people combined. (6, 7, 8 )
  13. As of 2009, the poverty line in the USA for a single individual is drawn at $10,830 per annum or $29.67 per day. (9)
  14. As of 2006, 10.6 million children die every year from causes that are easily preventable – equal to 29,000 children every day (10)
  15. As of 2006, half of these deaths 29,000 daily deaths of children occur in just six countries – China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria and Pakistan (10)
  16. As of 2006, 2 million children die every year from pneumonia and other acute respiratory infections, making it the leading cause of death of children under five years of age (11)
  17. As of 2006, 1.6 million children die every year from Diarrhoeal disease, primarily from the resulting severe dehydration that can quickly result in the failure of vital organs in young children (11)
  18. As of 2006, 1.1 million children die every year in Africa from malaria, making it the largest cause of death for children under five in Africa. (11)
  19. As of 2006, 657,000 children under the age of 15 are infected with HIV every day, most through transmission of the virus from mother to baby during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding (11)
  20. As of 2006, 500,000 children die every year from measles. (11)
  21. As of 2008, on the whole, people are healthier, wealthier, and live longer today than 30 years ago. If children were still dying at 1978 rates, there would have been 16.2 million dealths of children globally in 2006. In fact there were only 9.5 million such deaths. This difference of 6.7 million deaths is equivalent to 18,329 children’s lives being saved every day. (12)
  22. As of 2007, each year, more than 500,000 women die from treatable or preventable complications of pregnancy and childbirth. (13)
  23. As of 2007, in sub-Saharan Africa, a woman’s risk of dying from complications from childbirth over the course of her lifetime is 1 in 16, compared to 1 in 3,800 in the developed world. (13)
  24. As of 2005, an estimated 15.2 million children had lost one or both parents to AIDS (14)
  25. In 2008, net disbursements of official development assistance (ODA) reached $119.8 billion. That is equivalent to 0.3 per cent of developed countries’ combined national income. (15)

Global Poverty Facts in Graphs







Source: UN Millennium Development Goals Report 2009, p. 51


Source: UN Millennium Development Goals Report 2009, p. 52


  1. World Development Indicators 2008, World Bank, August 2008
  2. UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2009
  3. 2006 United Nations Human Development Report, pp.6, 7, 35
  4. 2007 Human Development Report (HDR), United Nations Development Program, November 27, 2007, p.25.
  5. UN Millennium Development Goals Report 2007, p.44
  6. World Bank Key Development Data & Statistics, World Bank
  7. Luisa Kroll and Allison Fass, The World’s Richest People, Forbes
  8. World Bank’s list of Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (41 countries)
  9.“. The 2009 HHS Poverty Guidelines.
  10. UNICEF Canada 50 Year Progress Report 2006, Overview Sheet
  11. UNICEF Canada 50 Year Progress Report 2006
  12. World Health Organization, World Health Report 2008, p. 14
  13. UN Millennium Development Goals Report 2007, p.16
  14. UN Millennium Development Goals Report 2007, p.20
  15. UN Millennium Development Goals Report 2009, p. 48

Inside The White House Friday…

March 15, 2009

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On Sunday March 1 I got a voicemail. The call was from Elliott Bisnow. It said, “Come to The White House on Friday.”

Background on The Summit Series

I’ve written about Elliott before. He’s 23 and somehow, with an excellent team, has put together The Summit Series, designed to bring together the top entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs, and innovators under 40 in the world. The group started in April 2008 in Utah wanting to bring together cool people. The purpose has evolved and strengthened as the group as grown.

Today, the purpose of The Summit Series is to bring future global leaders together to figure out how to make the world better. They’ve brought together people like Jessica Jackley, co-founder of Kiva, Scott Harrison, the founder of Charity Water, Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry, co-founders of environmentally-friendly soap maker Method, and Blake Mycoskie, CEO of TOM’s Shoes, who has given away tens of thousands of shoes to children in developing countries.

They’re working to build a community of the most influential young entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs, and innovators to make a positive impact. It’s the Clinton Global Initiative, Davos, and TED for Generation Y.

At the next Summit Series in April in Aspen, the focus is on philanthropy. They’ll be bringing in Mikkel Vestergaard Frandsen (inventor of the LifeStraw) and Elizabeth Gore from Nothing But Nets, Lauren Bush from Feed Projects which sells bags that enable a contribution to feed a child for a year, Bobby Bailey from Invisible Children which works with child soldiers in Uganda, and Ethan Zohn from Grassroots Soccer, who took his $1 million from winning Survivor:Africa to set up soccer leagues in Africa that enable children there to get tested for HIV/AIDS.

In just one year, The Summit Series has grown through hustle, hard work, and word of month to 120 members, including some of the most well-known and respected ‘under-40′ entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs in the world.

This brings us to three weeks ago.

How The Meeting Transpired

On February 22, Elliott met David Washington and Yosi Sergant (the guy who launched the iconic HOPE poster) from the White House Office of Public Liaison at a DC event. Elliot told David and Yosi about Summit Series. They were interested in getting the message out on the Obama Administration’s efforts on job creation, the economy, energy, health care, transparency, and new media and building relationships over time with the attendees.

So it happened. David and Yosi told Elliot to find 30 people from Summit Series to come to a meeting at The White House on March 6th.

When someone calls to tell you to come to a meeting at The White House, you go. The White House has a “strong gravitational pull” as David Sutphen of Brunswick Group put it on Friday morning. And so I went.

Friday At The White House

So on Friday morning I flew to D.C. After getting a last minute haircut at an ‘old-school barbershop’ on 15th and H and running into my NASA-friend Stephanie Fibbs on the walk back, the Summit group met at 12pm at the Hay Adams Hotel for a reception.

At the reception I had a chance to meet Jake Nickell from Threadless, Evan Williams with Twitter, Mark Ecko from Ecko, Michael Chasen from Blackboard, and investor Chris Sacca from Lowercase Capital and reconnect with Tony Hsieh from Zappos, Aaron Patzer from, Ben Kauffman from Kluster, and Josh Abramson from College Humor.

Lunch followed. At the table was Jessica Jackley from Kiva, Aaron from Mint, Ivanka Trump and her fiance Jared Kushner of the New York Observer, Catherine Levene of Daily Candy, and David Sutphen of Brunswick Group.

Setting Expectations

Prior to heading to The White House, David Sutphen and Phillipe Lanier of Eastbanc set expectations. We were not there to add on to the endless to-do list of the Administration. We were there to understand what was currently being done, ask questions, and build a long term relationship.

We heard that the Administration members we were about to meet were “drinking from a firehose” currently. They explained that we not there to give lots of ideas, but rather to learn what was happening so that we could be the entrepreneurial implementers and doers in our own communities working toward addressing critical needs. It wasn’t just about one day, but an ongoing relationship that started that day.

They shared that the Obama Administration saw us as one medium to communicate what they were working on to others via new media and as one filter of constituent thoughts and suggestions. With the CEOs of web firms Twitter, Zappos, iContact, Threadless, Mint, and Blackboard in the room we could certainly do that. They wanted to build a long term relationship with us and authentically wanted our contribution and ideas–just not all at once and in a usable ’summarized, bulletted form.’

So we walked over. We got our security passes at The Eisenhower Building and then went inside. We went up three floors and down a hallway to a room with thirty chairs and a table.

The Agenda from The Meeting

The meetings during the 90 minute session went as follows:

2:00pm – David Washington, Ph.D – Assoc. Director of the White House Office of Public Liaison and Michael Strautmanis – Chief of Staff to the Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Relations and Public Liaison

2:15pm – Jason Furman – Deputy Director of the National Economic Council

2:30pm – Martha Coven, Special Assistant to the President for Mobility and Opportunity; Greg Nelson, White House Office of Public Liaison; and Heather Zichal, White House Office of Energy and Climate Change

2:50pm to 3:30pm – Macon Phillips, Director of New Media

Notes from The White House Meeting

Here are my rough notes from each session. All quotes are paraphrased and could be incorrectly attributed in some cases due to my sub-par note taking system

David Washington

  • We want to know your ideas on how we can make government more transparent.
  • We want examples of how the stimulus is helping–anecdotes and stories that you see.
  • Our focus is creating jobs–but we need your help in doing this.

Michael Strautmanis

  • Some of the stimulus may work. Some may not. We’re here for solutions not banter.
  • When I met Michelle Robinson, she treated me as if I had value.
  • President Obama challenged us to make government more transparent.
  • From transparency comes legitimacy.
  • The OMB is more transparent now. Longer explanations. Posting on
  • As entrepreneurs, I want you to think creatively about the world of making the world a better place for our children.
  • Only way to fix economy is to get on a sustainable path with fiscal responsibility.
  • We have to create dynamism and energy. It takes heart.
  • Other generations have had other challenges. Together we can meet these challenges.
  • We are partners for creating a sustainable future.
  • In response to question from Chris Sacca on will Obama start Twittering again: That is up to the Secret Service.

Jason Furman

  • We’re working on unfreezing credit, bringing down the cost of health care, energy independence, the climate, education, and fiscal sustainability.
  • In response to question on budget deficit from Aaron Patzer of Mint: Right now a fear is deflation. A deflationary spiral is the biggest nightmare for economists. The amount we’re borrowing today is small in comparison to our GDP and needed. Our economy can afford the deficit. We have a path to cut the [annual] deficit by 50% in 5 years. People are lending to the U.S. cheaply at 2.5%.
  • We have 12.5M unemployed. Some banks may have negative net worth. Housing was overpriced.

Martha Coven

  • We are working on creating green jobs.
  • I want the best ideas from the private and social sector to bubble up to Federal Policy making.

Heather Zichal

  • In response to question on solar power and home owners selling energy back to grid: We will think about homeowners selling electricity back to the grid.
  • We are focused on energy and climate change.
  • Administration making a commitment to CAFE standards and reducing dependency on foreign oil
  • Cap and trade revenues to start in 2012 according to budget

Greg Nelson

  • As business leaders you have a chance to redefine what the role of a business leader is.

Macon Phillips

  • Creator of,, and
  • We want to work with you on creating a PSA 2.0
  • I love free dissemination
  • We’ve made time for this because we want you to be empowered.
  • Wants abilities to get mass response, but with usable outcomes. 8,000 comments can be unusable sometimes.

What They Asked of Us

Overall, I was very glad to participate. Each of the 30 attendees has been asked to do the following:

  1. Act as a filter/community ambassador for the best ideas/suggestions/thoughts on what we can do on the economy, budget, energy, healthcare, education, and new media. Get feedback from your community and send the best to us from time-to-time in summarized, bulleted form.
  2. Send any examples/anecdotes/stories that we hear of due to investments from the Stimulus making a positive impact in your community.
  3. Send any ideas/suggestions/thoughts on how to make government more transparent and open.

Finally, they asked us to go back to our communities and work entrepreneurially to create positive change, address social needs, and create jobs. They said we must create a true partnership between the public, private, and non-profit sector for it to work.

My Thoughts on The Meeting

I very much appreciated the meeting. It was done with good intentions, and not as a media stunt. They shared with us what they were working on and how we could be part of it to increase the chance of success.

It was clear how smart, busy, and focused these people were. They were glad to meet us and we were certainly glad to meet them. They could be us and we could be them.

They gave us their direct email addresses and encouraged us to act as a filter for them for them on the best ideas. Finally, they invited us to build a long term relationship and explained that as we built trust over time, our influence as a group would grow.

After the Meeting

After the meeting, we all went to a local restaurant to discuss what we had experienced. We broke out into four groups to talk about our ideas and begin to refine them. The groups were:

  1. Economy and the stimulus
  2. Education and job creation
  3. New media and transparency
  4. Energy and the environment

I led the group on the economy and the stimulus. I’ll be writing up my notes and posting them soon.

Where It Goes from Here

So we’ve been asked to be one informal filter (of many) for these individuals in the Administration and Office of Public Liaison and help ensure they’re getting the best ideas from the best people filtered to them every few months in summarized form.

I’ll be holding an Entrepreneur & Social Entrepreneur Meetup at my house in Chapel Hill on Friday March 20th at 8pm at which I’ll present what we’ve been asked to do and start the discussion with the group.

We’ll likely hold a separate meetup (date TBA) in early April to discuss and debate ideas and policy proposals on the topics of: economy, budget, energy, healthcare, education, transparency, and new media. We’ll then filter the ideas and present a summarized form to our new contacts in the Obama Administration.

If you have any ideas or thoughts please post them below via the comment section.

The Tweets From The Meeting

Since Evan Williams, the founder of Twitter with 231,000 followers, Tony Hsieh of Zappos with 197,000 followers, and Chris Sacca with 132,000 followers were with us, we may have been in the most tweeted meeting at The White House in the history of the world.

The post-meeting Tweets were positive.

@ev wrote: “Lessons from today: Obama’s team: smart and committed. Learned a lot and was inspired.” and

@saaca wrote: “The folks from the White House are sharp. Obama made it cool once again for awesome people to serve in government.”

@tomsshoes wrote: “Just left the meeting – pretty inspirational. The administration really does want our input, each gave their personal email addresses and encouraged dialogue.

Feedback from Readers and Friends Prior to the Meeting

I was amazed at the response I got by soliciting feedback prior to and during the meeting on Facebook and Twitter. More comments flowed in than I’ve ever gotten before on a status update or Tweet.

I asked on Thursday night via Facebook and Twitter, “meeting at White House Friday to discuss ways to improve economy. Any suggestions?” I got 29 responses. Note that you’ll have to be my Facebook friend or in the UNC or Raleigh-Durham network to read them I believe.

I also asked on Friday, “just challenged by the Obama Administration to provide idea on how to make govt more transparent and open. Ideas?” I got 17 responses.

Comments Sought

What are your thoughts/ideas/policy proposals in the areas of economy, budget, energy, healthcare, education, transparency, and new media? Post and get the discussion going…

The Great Challenge of Our Generation

February 1, 2009

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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 Hill…

This weekend I had the opportunity to speak at StartingBloc’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 I’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 you’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 which…

  1. There is no killing of humans on a mass scale (genocide or warfare);
  2. All humans have access to the basic human needs of clean water, nutritious food, shelter, and primary education;
  3. We end preventable diseases like malaria, TB, and measles; and
  4. 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 we’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?

Your thoughts?

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