Day One: EO/MIT Entrepreneurial Masters Program

June 23, 2009

Print This Article

I’m in Dedham, Massachusetts tonight (pronounced Dead-um I think) just southwest of Boston.

Tonight, I started Day One of the Class of 2011 EO/MIT Entrepreneurial Masters Program. The program is a four day a year/three year program open primarily to members of Entrepreneurs’ Organization who are founders or co-founders of companies doing at least $1M per year in sales. It is held here at the MIT Endicott House.

Tonight we started with introductions. So far, I’m impressed with the group. I’m particularly impressed with the international diversity of the attendees. Of our sixty four classmates, twenty eight are from outside the United States. We have classmates from 16 countries including the U.S., Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, Spain, South Africa, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, India, the Netherlands, the Phillippines, Australia, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia.

Going into this evening’s introductory session, I knew only one other attendees, the 26 year-old brilliant phenom Sachin Duggal of Nivio. I met Sachin while in New Delhi in February and have to say he is on the list of the 10 Most Impressive People I’ve Met in the Last 12 Months.

During the introductions, I circled the names of a few folks to ensure I speak further with; Craig Fuller of Transcard, Chris Hanahan on Rotten Gorilla, Itu Kgaboesele of South Africa’s Sphere Holdings, David McMullen of RedPepper, Cam Mochan of The CRUX Company, Francisco Prado of El Salvidor’s d’Anconia Investments, Shashi Reddy of Case-mate, Susan Hrib of Signum Group, Sebastian Ross of Spain’s Grupo Intercom, and Martin Schuurman of the Netherland’s fastest growing company, Inkoopcollectief Yiggers.

I’m also glad to have learned that at least two of the attendees are iContact customers so far.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow. We’ll be hearing from Verne Harnish on the Rockefeller Habits, Patrick Thean on the One Page Strategic Plan, John DeHart on Nurses Next Door, and Geoff Smart on TopGrading.

I look forward to posting tomorrow night about what I learn!

MIT IDEAS Competition Slides – The Great Opportunity of Our Generation

April 13, 2009

Print This Article

I wanted to post my Powerpoint slides from the presentation I gave at MIT for their 2009 IDEAS Competition on Monday night. You can view them on Scribd or below via this blog post.

The topic was “The Great Opportunity of Our Generation”

Some of the formatting is off in Scrib but mostly OK…

MIT IDEAS Social Entrepreneurship Competition, Ryan Allis, The Great Opportunity of Our Generation, May 200…

Here are some notes from the award ceremony following my presentation from Joe Chung. Congratulations to the winners! AquaPort, HeatSource and EGGTech were especially interesting to me.

Opening: Nick Fontaine
Keynote: Ryan Allis

Chancellor introduced
$2.5k IDEAS Award Winners
Oladapo Bakare
(water filtration)

Professor Thomas Byrne introduced
$2.5k winner
Vision Group (seeing machine)
Quinn Smithwick
Brandon Taylor
Yi Fei Wu
(project image directly into eye, bypass distorting part)

Barbara Baker introduced
$5k IDEAS Award winner
sponsored by Baruch Family
Global Citizen Water Initiative
Scott Frank
Stephanie Bachar
(place water in tube for 24 hrs to see if clean)

Allan Powell introduced
$5k IDEAS Award Winner
sponsored by The MIT COOP
Saba Gul
Dr. Ishrat Hussain
Nadeem Mazen
Ghanzala Mehmood

Presented by Dean Stephen Lerman
$5k IDEAS Award Winner
sponsored by the office of dean of grad education/Yunus Challenge Winner
EGGTech Blandine Antoine Emmanuel Cassimatis Alla Jezmir
(providing battery for lighting to those in tanzania without electricity)

Yunus Challenge Winner
$7,500 IDEAS Award Winner
Alexander Fabry
Aviva Presser
Hugo Van Zuuren
(microbial fuel cell solution for providing electricity)

Presented by Professor Thomas Byrne, MD
$7,500 IDEAS Award Winner
Braille Labeler
Aleksander and Anna Anita Leyfell
Adelaide Calbry-Muzyka
Josh Karges
Karina Pikhart
Maria Prus
Rachel Tatem
(electromechanical braille labeler)

Presented by Professor Michael Cima
Sponsored by the Lemelson – MIT Program
$7,500 IDEAS Award Winner
Amy Qian
Celeste Chudyk
Scot Frank
Allen Lin
Mary Masterman
Catlin Powers
Saad S
(encapsulating solar radiation through textile/material that provides heat during night)

Winner’s Retreat 2 Days at Endicott House

Malaria Kills – Send a Net, Save a Life, Go to Africa

April 10, 2009

Dare Mighty Things Blog Readers–

I am in a Social Media Giving Contest to see who can generate the most unique contributions by this Sunday April 12 at 8pm ET to Nothing But Nets, a campaign to eliminate malaria in developing countries. So far I have 7 unique contributors and if I can get it above 50 I’d be in the lead. I think I might have a good chance with this blog post and announcing it at The Public Policy Forum Meetup tomorrow night at our house to get in the front.

Would you contribute ten bucks at

If I get the most unique contributions by Sunday night at 8pm ET I will win a trip to Africa with Nothing But Nets and the UN Foundation to distribute the nets. Wouldn’t that be awesome!

You can win a trip to Africa too. One contributor will be selected at random to receive an all-expense paid trip to Africa to distribute the malaria nets later in 2009 with the UN Foundation. A $10 donation will provide an insecticide treated malaria net that lasts five years that two children can sleep under.

It’s not about how much we raise, but how many unique individuals I can convince to give. Malaria infects more than 500 million people a year and kills more than a million. One person dies about every 30 seconds from malaria.

This contest is part of The Summit Series, an event I was at last weekend in Aspen. All proceeds of the contest benefit the Nothing But Nets Campaign of the UN Foundation.

Nothing But Nets is a global, grassroots campaign to save lives by preventing malaria, a leading killer of children in Africa. Inspired by sports columnist Rick Reilly, tens of thousands of people have joined the campaign that was created by the United Nations Foundation in 2006. Founding campaign partners include the National Basketball Association’s NBA Cares, the people of The United Methodist Church, and Sports Illustrated. It costs just $10 to provide a long-lasting insecticide-treated bed net to prevent this deadly disease. To date, Nothing But Nets has raised more than $25 million and distributed over 2.5 million nets to children and families in Africa.

All contributions are secure and tax deductible and are run through the Nothing But Nets Cause on Facebook. Thank you so much for your help!

The link to make a contribution is

Thank you so much for your help!

Ryan Allis

Inside The White House Friday…

March 15, 2009

Print This Article

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…

Welcome to Bengalaru…

February 13, 2009

Print This Article

I arrived in Bangalore, known officially as Bengalaru, last night around 8pm. Bangalore is known as the Silicon Valley of India due to the large number of IT firms here including Wipro, Infosys, Tata, SAP, Talisma, and HP (many located in Electronics City 30 minutes to the south).

It’s Saturday afternoon here in Bangalore, the third largest city in India with a population of 6.2 million people (twice the population of Chicago). I’m watching “A Taste of Iran” on BBC World News. I’ve re-fallen in love with BBC News while here. I happened to come here on the weekend of the Aero Show 2009, the largest annual military air show in Asia. They are due to fly over at 4pm. I had enough time between my business meetings today to venture out.

I just returned from a journey to buy Saffron (a spice) for a friend. I found it at the market on Brigade Road, a popular shopping area in town. After a stop by Bangalore Palace and the Karnataka High Court, I went to the Cottage Industries Exposition, where I learned all about traditional mountain rug making before coming back to write this post.

Here are some observations and pictures of Bangalore so far.

Bangalore has a new airport built one year ago that is very nice. It gives the impression that Bangalore is much more modern than Delhi. The National Highway 7 runs the 37km from the airport to the city, although it can still be congested at 9pm at night. The city seems to have much less litter than Delhi. There are millions of motorcycles, often with 3 or more riders. I was amused to see Iron Maiden concert ads everywhere. Also common are recruiting ads for the Indian Air Force.

The most amusing thing I’ve seen has to be the police, many of which wear cowboy hats as part of their uniforms. The car horns remain busy here and the traffic is just as chaotic as Delhi and Kampala. The city commission have made many of the roads one way to attempt to help congestion. There seems to be much less pollution than Beijing or Hong Kong.

There are so many brilliant people here in India. If they can get investments in rural education and infrastructure right, this country will boom.

Beware: The Beijing Tea Ceremony Scam

February 10, 2009

Print This Article

The fireworks are blasting outside my window as I write. I happened to have arrived in Beijing on the night of the Festival of the Lanterns, which involves hours upon hours of continuous fireworks all over the city. Today is the 15th day after the Chinese New Year on January 26, and thus the fireworks. Here’s a photo from my hotel window about 20 minutes ago.

On the way from Chicago this afternoon, instead of flying West like I expected we would, our plane flew North to the North Pole, and then South down to China. Here’s a photo of what the map looked like from the video monitor on the plane seat. What an interesting way to view the Northern Hemisphere.

So after flying over Canada, the North Pole, Siberia, Russia, and Mongolia I landed in Beijing at 4:30pm this afternoon. I got into my hotel around 5:30pm and although tired decided I’d go out. I decided to go see Tienanmen Square and the Forbidden City and walk around a bit.

Here’s where the scam begins.

Walking right in front of the Forbidden City, two English speaking Chinese students came up to me and asked if they could practice their English with me. Having seen plenty of pickpocketing during planned distractions throughout travels in Europe (especially in front of the Coliseum in Rome), I was very aware and was skeptical of what these two young girls were after. They were dressed conservatively, so it didn’t seem like they were trying to sell themselves.

I said sure to them practicing their English. They explained they were in Beijing for two weeks studying English and had decided to come out to see Tiananmen. They asked lots of questions and gave lots of compliments. After about fifteen minutes of talking and them explaining the Festival of the Lanterns and their backgrounds they frankly had gained my trust. Seemed like they were actually two 22 year old college students named Jing Li and Ling studying English. Since I didn’t have anything to do until the morning I said yes when they asked me to get tea with them.

We walked for about ten minutes and ended up at the Si Zhu Xiang Tea House at 15 Nan He Yan Street in the Dong Cheng District. We were led into a room where 10 very small sample teas (less than an ounce) were poured (without ever being provided a menu). When I got the bill for my tea, it was of course in Yuan. I foolishly didn’t know the exchange rate. So I paid the bill thinking to myself, OK 10 small tea samples adding up to about one full cup of tea, this can’t be more than US$20.

When I got back to the hotel, I checked the exchange rate and found out $1 was equal to 6.7 Yuan. They had charged me 2112 Yuan or in U.S. Dollars, $308.90 for the tea.

I then Googled the name of the place, Si Zhu Xiang Tea House and found that I wasn’t even close to being the first to get taken by the now infamous Beijing Tea Ceremony Scam. Those “friendly college students wanting to work on their English” are paid by the tea house. It seems that ‘entrepreneurship’ is alive and well here.

Yep, I was taken on my first night in Beijing. In the very first hour too. Here’s to Visa’s fraud protection.

And hey, I even got a picture with Jing Li in front of the Forbidden City. Here she is, the girl who scammed me with a victory sign…

At least I’ve got a good story now. :-) . Here’s to the Festival of the Lanterns and to “becoming a more experienced traveler.”

Tomorrow, the real work begins.

Quick Observations from Beijing, Hong Kong, and Delhi

February 8, 2009

Print This Article

I got onto Air India 315 in Hong Kong and arrived in Delhi tonight around 10pm. After police checks, gates, and baggage screenings I arrived in my hotel around 11. I wanted to post some quick observations so far from Beijing, Hong Kong, and New Delhi…


Spoken language is Mandarin. Written language is Simplified Chinese.
Need to know 3,000 characters to be literate.
13.3 million residents
Massive highways, drive on right side of road, steering wheel on left, road signs like America
Modern and developed in the business district
Few people know English. Taxi drivers mostly don’t. But numbers are growing.
Overexpanded airport due to Olympics, too much capacity
3G coming in May
Give and receive anything (especially business cards) with two hands
Pollution restricts view
Nuclear power plant visible from airport to downtown
Poor villages clearly purposely hidden from view from highway with new fences
Lots of luxury shopping, cafes for expats
Known for roasted duck
Free speech reduced, political speech against the government not allowed. You would likely be deported (as a foreigner) or arrested (as a local) if you held up a sign in Tienanmen Square saying, “I believe in Free Speech”
Newspapers very thin (4-6 pages), little actual analysis or transparency. Owned by State (Communist Party). Same exact picture of Wen Jiabao watering crops in drought-filled West was on front of every single newspaper.
Massive internet firewall stops anything even close to crude or anti-government on the Internet
Use pinyin (phonetic spelling in Western alphabet) and stylus character drawing to input text into cell phones and computers
Major websites are:,,,,,,,,,,

Hong Kong

Spoken language is Cantonese. Written language is Traditional Chinese.
East meets west (eastern and western cultural melting pot)
Culture toward ‘making money’
Road signs like those in Britain
6.9 million residents
One country, two systems (same country as China but different currency, more political freedom)
Was under British rule until 1997
No internet filter like in the mainland
Drive on left side of road, steering wheel on right
Can get any type of food
Lots of high-rise condos
Safe to walk around
Double Decker buses
Ferries from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island
Lots of Karaoke clubs
Business dealings often happen late at night at Karaoke clubs
Waiters will not come to take your order or bring the check to you unless you ask them to come (the culture is ‘do not chase’)
Business dinners tend to occur in private rooms at restaurants
Lots of Tapas restaurants
Good dim sum (small Chinese plates)
Some roundabouts
Give and receive anything (especially business cards) with two hands
Lots of product sourcing expos (for every imaginable product, produced in Shenzhen or Guangzhou (The World’s Manufacturer) in SE China
Pollution haze ruins the beautiful view. Can barely see 300 yards in front of you.
Beautiful mountain behind the Hong Kong Island skyline
2nd largest skyline in the world after New York City
One of the most beautiful skylines in the world at night, at 8pm every night have light show, best viewed from Kowloon
Gets extremely excited, decorated for Chinese New Year
Billionaire Li Ka Shing seems to own half the city

New Delhi (early observations, only been here 3 hours and it’s night)

Official languages are Hindi and English
Hindi is written in Devanāgarī script
Men who are friends commonly hold hands like in Uganda
Men with rifles at car checkpoints leaving airport
11.9M residents
Main religion is Hinduism
So far, seems to be more like developing country than Hong Kong or Beijing (the chaos, dirt, and guns reminded me of Uganda), but will post more observations tomorrow once I can see the city in the light
Have to go through gate and metal detector and luggage screen to get into hotel
Lots of green and yellow rickshaws
Fewer highways (at least from airport to hotel)
LOTS of roundabouts, thanks Britain :-)
Avoid touching anyone’s head, as it is sacred
Don’t shake the hand of a women unless she offers to shake yours. Instead say Namasté and bow with hands under chin
Namasté roughtly means, I honor the spirit in you which is also within me.


Comments/corrections/other observations are welcomed!

Oh, and go Tar Heels tonight!!

Reflections on South Dakota, Beijing, New Delhi, & Bangalore

February 8, 2009

Print This Article

It all started with barbeque wings in a bowling alley in South Dakota. We were playing “dares” over drinks after a speech to the University of South Dakota on for their annual entrepreneurship event. So there he went, dared to do a swan dive onto the slick bowling lane. And then, she, dared to exchanged shirts with the guy at the table next to us. Next, he was given a dollar for every belt he could get from someone he didn’t know within 120 seconds. He got 6. Ahh it was fun to act my age for once.

After a late night of dancing and fried cheese balls in Vermillion, back to Omaha we went for a 4:30am arrival at the hotel. The next morning, I flew the common Omaha to Chicago and then Chicago to Beijing route.

7,000 miles and an Excedrin with caffeine later, I took a taxi to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. I walked around, only to be duped and fooled by two Chinese students wanting to practice their English as they led me into a unexpected $300 tea ceremony.

Ego humbled, I had six meetings the next day in Beijing with some brilliant EO expats, only to hurry to the Olympic-sized overexpanded Beijing International TC3 terminal. Next stop: The most beautiful skyline in the east, Hong Kong Island.

I checked into my hotel in Kowloon at 10pm, just a Star Ferry ride away from HK proper. I met up with my old friend David Sui, who proceeded to show me what a traditional Chinese massage was (yes, they do step on you) and then what it was like to do business in Hong Kong. Yes, it involves lots of Karaoke.

After five meetings with customers and EO members and a three hour meal of Dim Sum, I was off to New Delhi, India.

The orphans in the dirt under the highway surprised me, but shouldn’t have. The beggars in beautiful Saris didn’t. The four person motorcycles and the green and yellow three-wheel taxis allowed three lanes to be made into five. The kid entrepreneurs in the streets were omnipresent. The hotel security at code red. And the chaos. It was expected, but not at that level. The roundabouts confused. The traffic was *almost* as crazy as Uganda—and nothing can hold a candle to Ugandan traffic.

The complex disparity of rich India and poor India was clear. Only clearer was the need for continued large investment in education and infrastructure and what was possible for India. The subcontinent was bursting with intellect and potential. Sachin Duggal of Nivio (the desktop OS in the cloud), Sanjay Gupta of Mobisolv, and Mohit Maheswari of New Media Guru represent the future of India. As does Raul Gandhi, the 37 year old future prime minister so many believe.

After seven meetings in New Delhi, off to Bangalore I went. From the old domestic airport of New Delhi to the shiny Bengalaru International. The Aero Show 2009 pierced supersonic while the horns chorused. The police protected in their cowboy hats. After meeting with Kunal David of Directory Maximizer and the brilliant young Sudeep Aditya, I was ready to sleep—but Kunal insisted we go out. It was Valentines Day, and we had to protest the banning of dancing in Bangalore clubs (yes, they actually have banned dancing in Bangalore pubs and clubs). The hip hop dancer in me shed a tear.

A fundamentalist conservative Hindu group called Sri Rama Sene led by Pramod Mutalik had attacked couples holding hands in public and trashed greeting card stores that day. They had already banned dancing and wanted to ban love. The 15 year old rebel with red hair inside wanted to start a protest with an organically organized street team.

The flight back from Bangalore to New Delhi was on the “Good Times” airline Kingfisher. But an unexpected challenge followed for me in Delhi. The flight from Bangalore arrived at the domestic terminal. I had to get to the International terminal and had four hours to do it. No big deal, right?

Unfortunately the International Terminal of Indira Gandhi International airport is 20 minutes away from the Domestic Terminal and they wouldn’t let me on the transfer shuttle as I didn’t yet have my ticket printed out and couldn’t as there wasn’t an American Airlines desk in the domestic terminal.

And so, back to the streets of Delhi I went with my ‘pre-paid taxi’ driver. This guy was exceptionally aggressive. You must know, these taxis in Delhi don’t have seatbelts, making the ride exceptionally adrenaline-filled. He in fact hit another car after running a red light and it didn’t seem to phase him.

After passing the sandbagged automatic rifled soldiers and machine gun turrets on top of armored vehicles, I attempted to enter the International Terminal, but they wouldn’t let me enter without a ticket, which I couldn’t get without going inside to get it. A logical circle of death. I wasn’t getting anywhere with this policeman.

They directed me to an office building across the street, to room number 23 in corridor number 2. I found a shut padlocked door. They told me to wait until the representative came back. I found this to be bad advice, so I kept asking and finally found the actual American Airlines office in another building, with a sign on the front that said open from 1000 to 2000 hrs. It was 9:30pm (2130 hrs of course), but they let me in and I finally got my ticket printed. I wonder how many people this happens to.

And so I sit, on the last hour of the 15 hour flight from American Airlines from New Delhi to Chicago, glad, yet somewhat nostalgic, that it will be some time before I ever again get asked for my meal choice, “Vegetarian or Non-Vegetarian?”

Ahh America, the land of non-roaming 3G and potable tap water.

Here’s to having a fuller perspective of two other cultures, appreciation of the complexity of life, and awareness of the great potential of these countries. They are two rocks held back in a giant slingshot.

Video: Speaking at Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization 2008

October 23, 2008

Print This Article

Speaking in front of 1,500 people can be a little scary. Especially when you’re about to pull your pants off and dance in front of them.

When I was 16, I ran for President of the Manatee High School Key Club, a community service organization. I got up to give my speech. My knees knocked. My hands shook. My voice faltered. I lost to Mark Pinto.

Going into college, I was still a nervous public speaker. I tried to imagine the audience in their underwear but that was just awkward and didn’t help at all.

I didn’t get over the fear until my 2nd year when I had to speak to 60 attendees at the UNC Entrepreneurship Club every Tuesday at 6:30pm.

Finally, I could speak to a group of college students without nerves.

But them came speaking to ‘old people.’ You know, those scary adult-people. I didn’t really get over that fear until early 2006. I spoke to 500 economic developers at the Southern Growth Policies Board Conference in New Orleans and then 400 professors and administrators in Orlando at the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship Educators.

In 2007, I ended up speaking in front of about 3,000 people over the course of many different events. In 2008, I spoke in front of 8,000.

But none larger than the speech on November 8, 2008.

I had already introduced Robert Kiyosaki to the group the day before–one of the great honors of my entrepreneurial life. His book Rich Dad’s Guide to Investing planted the seed in my mind and provided the path at 17 to “build a company and take it public.”

I had been the emcee of the conference along with Gerry Hills for the past two days. It was my 7th time at the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization conference. I knew my audience. I was them–just four years removed.

But it was still scary. 1500 people.

What if I messed up? What if I fell while running onto the stage? What if too many clothes came off while ripping my dress pants off to reveal track pants for the Soulja Boy dance? What if, what if?

After practicing “Finding The Purpose of Your Life in 6 Lessons” all the way through in front of Jenna and some amused caterers, I was fired up and ready to go.

Here’s the video… (The dance to Soulja Boy’s Bird Walk is in part 3 at 1:20)

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Sustainable Capitalism and The Role of Aid vs. Trade in Prosperity Creation

October 23, 2008


I picked up a glossy investment prospectus from a firm called Legatum Group at up at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference today. A statement inside caught my eye. It stated:

“While aid can play an important role in alleviating immediate needs, its impact is naturally limited since it is neither sustainable nor scalable.” Separately, it states, “Quite distinct from the limited scope of charitable initiatives, businesses are both self-sustaining and scalable. Legatum directs its attention towards promoting entrepreneurship and business for all its social benefits within developing communities.”

I wanted to to take a chance to think more about the nuance of the right type of aid vs. the right type of trade and investment.

I feel presently that the answer to reducing poverty and increasing access to opportunity and prosperity in developing nations is three fold. The answer is A) for-profit private capital investment into sustainable companies that are socially responsible (or at least not socially irresponsible) AND B) direct “aid with standards” to community-based non-profit organizations run by local social entrepreneurs that are efficiently serving the needs of their communities AND C) efficiently run transparent government that creates and protects a system of law and property rights.

The question that should be asked cannot be as black and white of aid vs. trade. It’s not aid OR trade. It’s accountable aid AND sustainable trade AND efficient goverment. It’s a public/private/community partnership that does not succeed without participation from each sector. The questions that we as a society should be asking is how to make direct aid measurable and accountable AND how to make trade and investment sustainable AND how to make government efficient and transparent.

These methods of human and capital investment are on the spectrum of socially responsible venture philanthropy that builds human capital, infrastructure, and standards of living through education, medicine, nutrition, and technology that enables us to do more with less resources. At the end of the day–all private sector and public sector investment should come back to efficiently serving the needs and desires of the local population in a sustainable manner.

What the answer to prosperity creation seems not to be is the traditional bi-lateral government to government aid (read: loans that local populations will have to pay back to buy our stuff from our companies) nor traditional private capital investment in companies that are not socially responsible and end up hurting local environments. This of course is the very common and very key “aid vs. trade” question that so many like Sachs, Easterly, Collier, Stiglitz, Pralahad, and Gates have debated.

So what is the import of this debate and why is a tech CEO talking about it? The great war of ideas of the 19th and 20th Century between pure communism (total state control of the economic sector) and pure capitalism (total market control of of the economic sector) is giving way to an “end of history” state that could be simply called “Sustainable Capitalism.”

Sustainable Capitalism could be defined as a state in which competitive market economies that are based on environmental sustainability, democracy, transparency, communication technology, an educated populace, and a government with a limited but very important role in setting the rule of law, thrive while efficient social entrepreneurs with services that produce a public good are invested in with capital with measured returns and public servants integrate the same communication and ERP systems of the best-run companies in the world.

In this new Zakarian model of economic system, companies that destroy the environment, provide a negative net benefit through off-balance sheet externalities, or exploit their populations are video blogged and written about and pressured through market forces to reform or wither. This is perhaps somewhat idealist today–but it is the path I believe we are on. The fact that all companies must be sustainable soon enough for the system to scale and prosperity to be possible for all humans is clear. This trend will accelerate as we enter into the coming age of ubiquitous broadband and improved technology of the citizen blogger and as resources become less available. Governments, non-profits, and businesses will have a much higher level of accountability. This assumes of course people have incentives to work toward shared prosperity that can continue beyond the short-term, and I think that is a fair assumption and a vision shared by the global connected youth of today that I know.

What’s the common denominator for human invesment in either the public or private sector? Return on invested capital, as long as the definition of return is broadened to include social returns and the definition of cost is broadened to include environmental degradation. This is the Net Domestic Product (NDP) approach versus the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) approach.

So am I criticizing the Legatum brochure statement? No, not really–I just hope they share the belief–and I am sure they do–that prosperity in the developing world and continued sustainable improvement can only be possible if we find methods to enable entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs, and public service entrepreneurs to transparently, efficiently, and sustainably make investments that maximize individual utility, return on investment, and the public good.

The effort toward sustainable capitalism and efficient government requires an improved ability to communicate, collaborate, and measure results. There’s a digital generation of entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs that gets this who will be the global leaders sooner than you might imagine.

« Previous PageNext Page »