Tag Archives: Social Entrepreneurship

Tom Friedman Calls for Year of “Start-Up America”

Just got an email from my friends at the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) that Tom Friedman calls on President Obama to make 2010 the year of ‘Start-Up America’ as the cure for what ails us (and his political fortunes). Friedman suggests Obama turn to programs such as NFTE and National Lab Day that teach students about innovation, entrepreneurship, and science.

Friedman writes, “We need to get millions of American kids, not just the geniuses, excited about innovation and entrepreneurship again. We need to make 2010 what Obama should have made 2009: the year of innovation, the year of making our pie bigger, the year of “’Start-Up America.'”

Here are some snippets describing the programs.


“NFTE works with middle- and high-school teachers to help them teach entrepreneurship. The centerpiece of its program is a national contest for start-ups with 24,000 kids participating. Each student has to invent a product or service, write up a business plan and then do it.”

National Lab Day:

“Introduced last November by a coalition of educators and science and engineering associations, Lab Day aims to inspire a wave of future innovators, by pairing veteran scientists and engineers with students in grades K-12 to inspire thousands of hands-on science projects around the country.

Any teacher in America, explains the entrepreneur Jack Hidary, the chairman of N.L.D., can go to the Web site NationalLabDay.org and enter the science project he or she is interested in teaching, or get an idea for one. N.L.D. will match teachers with volunteer scientists and engineers in their areas for mentoring.

‘As soon as you have a match, the scientists and the students communicate directly or via Skype and collaborate on a project,’ said Hidary.”

While Friedman doesn’t mention it directly, perhaps Obama’s Office of Social Innovation is talking with these groups. Anyone know if Sonal Shah (a former Google philanthropy director) has been active on these fronts?

New Social Venture Seed Fund

Technology Underwriting Greater Good, a new seed fund for social ventures targeting teenagers has been created by venture capitalists in New England. TUGG was highlighted by Brian Gormley at the Venture Capital Dispatch Blog at the WSJ. From his blog post,

“We wanted to look at this [as] more of a movement than an entity,” Fagnan said. “The most impactful thing we can do for this community is to start to focus on social entrepreneurship and social innovation.”

Which groups receive funding will be partly up to a network of entrepreneurs and community members. Through its Web site, http://www.tugg.org, anyone can submit an idea for a project to be funded. Fagnan and Taneja also envision a system in which community members vote on the most worthy programs. Their vote would be factored into funding decisions.

The hope is that this “crowd-sourcing” approach will enable the best ideas to bubble to the top, Taneja said.

Sparkseed Social Innovation Calls for Undergrads

Just received an update from Sparkseed, a social venture fund/accelerator that provides “offers a comprehensive program for collegiate social innovators.” Ten students will be chosen to participate 

Sparkseed Innovators receive:

  • Six months of comprehensive support, including:
    • Mentoring from entrepreneurs and executives
    • $20,000 in pro-bono services, such as legal counsel, accounting, design, etc.
    • $1,000 in seed money and up to $10,000 in follow-up funding
    • Skill-building webinars on topics such as writing a business plan, managing a team, pitching to investors, leveraging social media, and measuring impact
    • A four-day summit including networking, skill-building, and strategic planning.
    • A national network of young social entrepreneurs

What else you need to know…

  • Applicants must be college students, but not graduating seniors.
  • You can apply individually or with a partner.
  • This is not simply a grant; this is a social innovator development program. While we do provide seed funding to our social innovators, you should not apply for this reason. The training, tools, and connections that we offer are the real value-adds.

The Sparkseed Competition’s first round is open until Feb 7, 2010. You must submit a video pitch and also fill out a profile on the Sparkseed page.

Its Global Entrepreneurship Week!

Its that time of year again: Global Entrepreneurship Week. The organizers have done an amazing job this year and there are events all over the place. Get out and get active — there are over 5200 events that are listed on the website.

Entrepreneurship is the most powerful human activity and its great to see people celebrating, expanding and supporting it this week. Good one Kauffman Foundation and Make Your Mark for putting this together.

In addition to teaching New Venture Creation this week, I will be celebrating this week by giving a guest talk in Zoltan Acs Social Entrepreneurship Graduate Seminar at GMU’s School of Public Policy and will also be attending one of the events taking place as an ‘official’ Global Entrepreneurship Week event. I will blog and tweet that one (@campus_entre). (I am still choosing between two events, will let you know when I finalize the schedule)

CU Social Entre Builds Urban Chicken Coops

A group of Colorado University engineering students has built a better chicken coop that is targeted to the growing number of urban chicken farmers in the U.S.  From the article by Melanie Asmar of the Colorado Daily.

But the idea behind University of Colorado senior Jeff Troutman’s coop is decidedly down-to-earth. The architecture student set out to build a chicken-house that could be manufactured easily and inexpensively — and sold at an affordable price to Boulder’s burgeoning set of urban hen-keepers.

“I would love to see it become a functional coop in people’s backyards,” he said.

Keeping a flock of chickens next to the lawnmower shed is a practice that’s taking off across the country and across Colorado, as more and more cities make allowances for backyard birds. Boulder allows them, as do Superior and Longmont.

For proponents like Troutman, who, as a renter, has never had a flock of his own, backyard chicken-keeping is partly about knowing where your food comes from — and where your waste goes.

“That’s the idea behind this — to create a cycle, instead of this throw-out culture,” he said.


More Disruptions in the Textbook Market

Wow, it appears we are on the cusp (or in the midst) of a textbook revolution. Students, parents, and campus entrepreneurs should be dancing in the streets. We have been talking a lot about e-books lately, but have talked textbooks more generally here (Godin), there, and other places.

Today brings even more news, Barnes and Noble is buying back its College Booksellers (it was independent), digital textbook maker Akademos just took in more VC, and the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation has given money to the Community College Collaborative for Open Education Resources. Doug Lederman has a nice post on the subject at InsideHigherEd.com. From Lederman:

The third and last of Monday’s news developments also comes in the digital textbook arena — but from the free, rather than for-profit, perspective. The Community College Collaborative for Open Educational Resources said the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation had given it $1.5 million in new funds to expand its work, which focuses on increasing the number of free, online textbooks and training community college instructors on how best to use such books. Its main resource, the Community College Open Textbook Project, has dozens of college members and seeks to significantly expand the number of freely available digital textbooks it makes available.

“This grant comes at an opportune time,” said Mike Brandy, chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District, which leads the online collaborative. “It coincides with the growing interest in open educational resources, such as President Obama’s proposal to invest $500 million over the next decade in developing free high school and college courses. Open textbooks are moving into the mainstream as financially distressed states such as California look to free digital textbooks to reduce the cost of public education.”

By the way, I also read (h/t TechFlash) that the iPhone now has a textbook reader and a small catalog of textbooks from CourseSmart.