SEEED 2013: Social Enterprise Ecosystem for Economic Development Summit April 26-27, 2013

Heads up, here’s an interesting conference coming up: Social Entrepreneurs, Policymakers, Students, Academics and Business Leaders to converge in conference to explore maximizing the impact of social enterprises for economic development Providence to host second annual SEEED (Social Enterprise Ecosystem for Economic Development) Summit April 26-27, 2013 PROVIDENCE, RI (February 27, 2013): Brown University and Social Venture Partners Rhode Island (SVPRI) will host the Social Enterprise Ecosystem for Economic Development (SEEED) Summit April 26-27, bringing together stakeholders from the social enterprise ecosystem to share best practices for economic development. SEEED ( is the first national conference that focuses on building an effective social enterprise ecosystem to drive economic development. Over 500 ecosystem stakeholders will convene to share best practices for maximizing the impact of social enterprises on economic development. Continue reading…

Book Review: Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City

I just finished reading Startup Communities: Building An Entrepreneurial Ecosystem In Your City by Brad Feld.  This book codifies the steps aspiring leaders need to take to create a startup friendly community anywhere. Several years ago when I was living in Northern California, I was engaged in a debate with a startup veteran on why Silicon Valley was what it was—a place where new transformational technologies would be invented every few years and create billion dollar industries overnight.  There are a few old reasons: – The defense industry had left a legacy of technology companies and these companies form the foundation of innovation
– The amount of venture capital money in the area is the glue and magnet that keeps drawing entrepreneurs to the area
– Stanford and UC Berkeley are very good engineering schools and they continue to feed the area with smart and technical founders

What my opponent argued, and convinced me, is that it’s not really about one of these things but rather the ecosystem where various firms were the organisms that had give and take relationships with the environment around them. A corollary to this was that Silicon Valley was extremely unique and it would be very difficult to replicate the model elsewhere.  I still believe this but that doesn’t put me at odds with Startup Communities. Brad Feld’s point in Startup Communities is that instead of trying to replicate Silicon Valley, the better approach is to support the growth of a community that takes advantages of the strengths and resources of the locale. Startup Communities is the manual for aspiring startup community leaders.  It dives into the who, how, and why of building an ecosystem.  What makes this book so good is that Brad’s experience really shines when describing certain personalities you might meet, classical pitfalls, and the best attributes for leading the growth of a community. Every town or city can sprout a startup community that’s unique to that particular locale.  This book is definitely worth checking out if you are passionate about startups and want to create a local ecosystem to support it. Here’s a link to the book on Amazon.

Amicus Uses The Social Graph To Improve Non-Profit Fundraising

Amicus is a new startup that recently came out of Y Combinator, a well known and highly regarded startup incubator based in Silicon Valley. They’ve recently raised $3.2 million in venture capital to launch their product which uses the social graph to improve non-profit fundraising. Description from TechCrunch: > Fundraising phone calls from strangers make people hang up. But if the caller’s a friend, friend of a friend, or is similar to you, you’re more likely to donate. Amicus has just raised $3.2 million to offer this social graph intelligence to non-profits. Y Combinator, FF Angel, 500 Startups and more have put money down because they think fundraisers will put money down on Amicus to get donors to…put more money down. Non-profits spend $0.20 of every dollar they raise on overhead, and a lot of that goes to inefficient fundraising. That equals $60 billion last year for U.S. non-profits alone. Until recently, though, there was no way to know who on your giant potential donor list was connected to your teammates. But now there’s Facebook. And there’s Amicus CEO and co-founder Seth Bannon. “I’ve been involved with causes since I was 14 and I’ve always been super frustrated,” he tells me. “I thought crappy tech was holding the causes back and wasting my time and my volunteers’ time. So a few colleagues challenged me to fix it and here we are.” Other plays in the social fundraising space like Causes and Fundly are focused on using Facebook and Twitter as channels for sending indirect invitations to donate. But Bannon thinks “those mediums are still very spammy. They’re not really great at compelling donations.” Anyways, only 11 percent of donations are raised online. The rest come from the tried and true methods of fundraising — phone calls and snail mail. Just think of it this way, Bannon explains: If a friend sent me a Facebook invite to donate, I have no problem ignoring it, because they probably wouldn’t even know. If a friend sent me an email, I might ignore it but I’d feel guilty. If a friend called me, I’d call them back. If a friend sent me a postcard I’d be giddy. So Amicus concentrates on getting non-profits more donations per phone call or snail mail. How? It combines the non-profit’s mailing and phone call lists with the Facebook data of all their supporters. It looks for matches and assigns staff members to call or mail people who are their friends, friends of friends, or who they have interests or other biographical data in common with. “Hi, I’m Josh calling on behalf of the Red Cross. We went to the same high school / are both friends with Eric Eldon / both love the San Francisco Giants. Can I tell you about our fundraiser for Hurricane Sandy?” The answer is more likely to be yes. And that’s why non-profits are willing to pay for Amicus. The startup is already profitable, in fact.

What are benefit corporations?

Benefit corporations are new legal structures that we should know about.  It is one of several new legal structures to emerge alongside the rise of “social entrepreneurship” in recent years.  The interesting thing about these structures is that they shield the board from investor lawsuits.  In a regular corporation, any actions other than those taken with the purpose of maximizing shareholder value could be liable.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

What is a ‘benefit corporation’?
A company whose charter allows the board to consider social or environmental objectives ahead of profits.

What is the advantage?
Protection from investor allegations of not maximizing shareholder value.

Does that make it a nonprofit?
No, a benefit corporation isn’t a nonprofit nor is it tax exempt.

How many states allow it? Seven. With bills introduced in four additional states.

What are the downsides? ‘For an investor, this is a terrible idea’ due to lack of accountability, says Charles Elson, who teaches corporate governance at the University of Delaware. If management makes a bad decision, ‘there’s very little you can do about it as a shareholder.’

Continue reading

WSJ: New Legal Structures for ‘Social Entrepreneurs’

WSJ outline some innovative legal structures designed for entrepreneurs who are driven as much by mission as money. The cost of using one of these new legal structures will vary depending on lawyer fees, but generally those fees shouldn’t exceed more than $10,000 for a start-up with fewer than 10 employees.

Here’s an overview:


Ideal for: companies that want to blend traditional capital with “philanthropic” capital, such as from foundations

Available to start-ups in: Vermont, Michigan, Wyoming, Utah, Illinois, North Carolina, Louisiana, Maine and soon in Rhode Island.


Ideal for: companies that want to create a measurable positive impact while and providing greater transparency to the public

Available to start-ups in: Maryland, Vermont, Virginia, New Jersey, Hawaii, California and soon New York


Ideal for: companies seeking to do good on their own terms

Available to start-ups in: California.

continue reading…

The Tech Awards 2010 Call for Nominations

The Tech Awards is an international awards program that honors innovators from around the world who are applying technology to benefit humanity.

The Tech Awards program inspires global engagement in applying technology to humanity’s most pressing problems by recognizing the best of those who are utilizing innovative technology solutions to address the most urgent critical issues facing our planet. People all over the world are profoundly improving the human condition in the areas of education, equality, environment, health, and economic development through the use of technology. It is the goal of The Tech Awards to showcase their compelling stories and reward their brilliant accomplishments.

To submit a nomination, click here.

MIT Legatum Center Accepting Applications for 2010-2011 Fellowship

The Legatum Center is now accepting applications for the 2010-2011 Fellowship, with a deadline of February 10, 2010.  Led by Professor Iqbal Quadir, the Center administers a competitive fellowship program for incoming and current MIT graduate students, across all academic and professional disciplines, who demonstrate the potential to create innovative, sustainable, for-profit enterprises that promote prosperity in low-income countries.  The Fellowship provides financial assistance, business plan coaching, specialized seminars, and opportunities to engage with some of the world’s leading thinkers and change-agents.  Recognizing that even the best innovations can be rendered useless if not distributed effectively, the Center works closely with Fellows to design not just innovative products and services, but also workable, affordable, and sustainable business distribution methods.

Applicants will need to submit an online application and two letters of recommendation.  Prospective applicants can find more information, video, profiles of current and past Fellows, and the online application at  Please direct any questions to

The Mind Trust Education Entrepreneur Fellowship

The Mind Trust’s Education Entrepreneur Fellowship is a nationally  unique incubator for transformative education ventures. The Fellowship offers  promising education entrepreneurs the opportunity to develop and launch their break-the-mold education ventures and the support necessary for success. Fellows  receive two years of salary, benefits, a stipend for travel and professional development, and more. With this support, fellows will be able to realize their  visions and achieve extraordinary results for some of the nation’s most underserved students.

Fellowship ventures target underserved or disadvantaged populations with  solutions that attack the root problems in the delivery of public education.  The Fellowship is for people who envision entirely new approaches to the challenges of public education, and possess the relentless drive necessary to exploit opportunities to fulfill their visions.  Fellows join a growing network of education entrepreneurs dedicated to forging dramatic change in public education.

For the third cohort of fellows, The Mind Trust plans to select three highly capable people by November 20, 2009.  Each fellow works with The Mind Trust staff to establish an appropriate start date.

Fellows are full-time employees of The Mind Trust throughout the Fellowship. Fellows receive a $90,000 annual salary and a full benefits package that  includes medical, dental, and retirement benefits. Fellows will receive a $20,000 stipend to support their work, which can be used for customized  training, travel or other reasonable purposes.  The Fellowship is a full-time responsibility; fellows should not have additional employment, consulting  contracts, or other professional responsibilities.  Fellows may live anywhere in the United States during the Fellowship, but will be required to participate in meetings with their cohort of fellows in Indianapolis at least quarterly.  In addition, Fellows must include Indianapolis as part of their initial growth  plans.

Important Dates and Application Information

The Mind Trust is now accepting Statements of Intent online through July 31, 2009.  Select applicants will be invited to submit Full Applications.  Full  Applications are due September 25, 2009.  Statements of Intent and Full Applications are accepted only via The Mind Trust’s online application form.  Visit for the application form and more information on the Education Entrepreneur Fellowship.  Fellowships for the third cohort will be awarded by November 20, 2009.

CALL FOR APPLICATIONS: 2009 SVN Innovation Awards

After 22 years inspiring a community of 500 entrepreneurs, investors and nonprofit leaders working together to build a more just and sustainable economy, Social Venture Network (SVN) is looking to honor and support the “next generation” of social entrepreneurs with the 2009 SVN Innovation Awards. Winners of the 2009 Awards will be honored during a special ceremony at the 2009 SVN Fall Conference at the Estancia La Jolla this October 22-25, and will also receive a year-long membership in SVN, waived registration and travel and hotel expenses to attend the Fall Conference, waived registration for the 2010 SVN Member Gathering, recognition on SVN’s website for a full year, publicity in other media outlets, and advice and mentoring from members of the SVN community.

To be eligible, applicants must currently hold positions as C-level executives (CEO, President, Executive Director, etc.) at a business or nonprofit having a positive social or environmental impact, and their organization must be less than five years old. The Awards are open to both current SVN members and individuals who aren’t members of SVN.

To learn more about the Awards or to download an application, please visit