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,, 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 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.

Top 50 Social Entrepreneurship Blogs

Evan Carmichael has a list of the top 50 social entrepreneurship blogs. Broad range here: from and Guy Kawasaki to  The Grameen Foundation and TriplePundit. The list is organized in categories such as new blogs, big ideas, organizations, and such. Check em out. Lots to learn here.

Chron of Philan Interviews Sonal Shah and Melody Barnes

Details are still slowly emerging about what Obama’s Office of Social Innovation is going to do. Here are a few more via The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s interview with Sonal Shah (Director of the office) and Melody Barnes (Dir of White House Domestic Policy Council). From the piece by Suzanne Perry:

Q: The office does not have the budget to award grants. How do you see your role? As a bully pulpit?

A: Ms. Barnes: We’re more than a bully pulpit. There are four staff people, several of them with significant experience in this area. We’ve got some good and experienced minds working on this. They’re also working with the staff in the cabinet agencies and the departments to leverage all of our resources as we’re reaching out and working with business and philanthropy.

Ms. Shah: We’re also a coordinating body, so we can bring different groups together from different agencies. We can bring someone from health care, someone from the social-innovation fund, and someone from education together to have a conversation about doing things similarly across the board and working across agencies.

As we see ideas that may not necessarily fit into one agency or another, we can also help direct and create partnerships that might not otherwise have existed. A lot of the foundations will come here and we’ll know about projects or programs taking place in different agencies and being able to link them up with the right groups that are working on it and figuring out ways that partnerships can happen.

Q: Will you have a formal structure—an advisory board, for example?

A: Ms. Barnes: We are investigating and thinking about that now and engaging with our senior colleagues here. But we already have had so many meetings and conversations with the philanthropic and business and NGO [nongovernmental organization] community that we’re getting great ideas.

Q: Are you planning any kind of formal unveiling of this office?

A: Ms. Shah: What we wanted to do, to be fair, is accomplish a few things and then talk about how the social-innovation fund is working. We didn’t just want to announce an office and not have anything backing it.
We’ve been working away; the national-service legislation is a big part of what we were working on, we’re working on a few things for the summer. As those pieces come together, you’ll see more discussion about it.

Q: What are your immediate priorities?

A: Ms. Shah: We’ll be focusing on the social-innovation fund, which we believe is critical for setting a precedent for other types of programs. We’ll be working closely with our colleagues in various agencies to see if there are ways to create parallel funds or at least to harmonize some of our discussions.

Uber Philanthropists Plotting Global Takeover?

Chronicle of Philanthropy is reporting that America’s top philanthropists held a secret meeting earlier this month to discuss global problems. According to their post:

In a quiet meeting closed to the news media and the public, Bill Gates, David Rockefeller Sr., Oprah Winfrey, and other leading philanthropists met in New York this month to discuss ways to promote efforts to solve growing social problems in America and abroad.

Together, the philanthropists in the room have committed a total of more than $72.5-billion to charitable causes since 1996, according to Chronicle of Philanthropy tallies.

The unusual event occurred May 5 at Rockefeller University and was organized by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Among the high-profile participants were Ted Turner, Warren E. Buffett, George Soros, and New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

While I respect many of the folks mentioned and think they are some of our best social and commercial entrepreneurs. I find this meeting, however, a bit obnoxious and am interested to know what kind of actions these folks would recommend to ‘save’ the world. They are all (or were) ‘disrupters’ who forced change on the establishment. Clearly they are now the establishment.

I also find this interesting given Zoltan Acs work looking at the importance of philanthropy to American dynamism.

Obama Nominates Micro-Lender to State Dept

I don’t know much about Accion International, but one of its leaders, Maria Otero, was nominated by Barack Obama for the position of Undersecretary of Global Affairs, Department of State. According to ACCION International’s release:

Under Ms. Otero’s leadership, the number of poor microentrepreneurs served by ACCION’s partner network has grown from 460,000 to 3.7 million, in 25 countries. Over the same period, the partners’ combined active loan portfolio grew from $274 million to nearly $3.6 billion. Since 2000, ACCION has expanded significantly beyond its core microfinance work in Central and South America, launching operations in Africa and India, securing preliminary approval to begin microlending in China, and opening hub offices in Accra, Bangalore and Beijing. Under Ms. Otero’s direction, the ACCION staff has grown more than threefold, from 65 to 220.

ACCION’s work to create inclusive financial systems for the poor that are both sustainable and scalable has also brought both Ms. Otero and ACCION widespread recognition and awards, including her selection by Newsweek as one of America’s 20 most powerful women. Among ACCION’s awards are Fast Company’s ‘Social Capitalist Award,’ for five consecutive years; Charity Navigator’s highest rating, four stars, for efficiency and sound fiscal management; and, most recently, the Inter-American Development Bank’s ‘Juscelino Kubitschek Award’ for ACCION’s contributions to economic and financial development in Latin America and the Caribbean.

This is another big social entrepeneurship/enterprise player within the executive branch of Barack Obama. It will be interesting to see how these folks bring social entrepreneurs into the official policy world to solve national and international problems.

Mason Continues Social Entrepreneurship March

George Mason University continues to move forward in the Social Entrepreneurship space. From a new article by Dave Andrews in the Mason Gazette:

Mason was recently awarded a Governor’s Volunteerism and Community Service Award by Gov. Tim Kaine as part of the university’s partnership with the Phoenix Project, a Virginia-initiated project to develop and implement effective social media tools to create high-quality student service learning.

The award highlights the “efforts of outstanding citizens of the Commonwealth who seek to enhance the lives of others in their communities. The awards are presented to groups, individuals and families whose efforts exemplify extraordinary volunteer service,” according to a press release from the governor’s office.

Philip Auerswald, an assistant professor of public policy who directed Mason’s involvement with the Phoenix Project, says this recognition positions Mason well to launch future social entrepreneurship initiatives.

“Our mission in partnering with the Phoenix Project was not simply to increase volunteerism among Mason students this year,” says Auerswald, “but rather to build a social networking infrastructure that would draw students to engage and collaborate on service activities at a level not previously attained.”

Mason was selected to partner with the Phoenix Project because of its expertise in technology and ability to evaluate the program to provide the tools necessary that enable university students to engage in community service.

Mason’s work with Phoenix, Ashoka, Innovations, and the pending Quality Enhancement Proposal highlights its aggressive moves to participate in the growing field of social entrepreneurship and take advantage of its location in the DC Metro.