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The pomodoro kitchen timer after which the technique is named.

The pomodoro kitchen timer after which the technique is named.

Since March I’ve been working from home full-time, with frequent trips to the city for meetings and events (it’s only 8 minutes on the train away). There’s a lot I like about this, especially being close to Bodhi and Kate and having a nice blend in my days: I’m able to play with B in the yard for ten minutes, or take him for a walk, have lunch with the family and make sure I’m here to put B to bed. But I miss the energy of having other entrepreneurs around me getting stuff done. The rapid-fire conversations, the sense of comradery and support, the greater ease in achieving focus when others around you are also focusing.

So I decided to start inviting some entrepreneurs I know to come and work with me at home every few weeks. We’ve done it twice and so far it’s been great so I thought I’d share the model here.

Here’s the email I sent:

Hello friends,

You’re getting this email because I think you’re great and I want to invite you to something new and different which I’m kinda excited about.

You’ve probably heard of Jelly, a day when people come together to co-work, often at people’s houses. Well I want to do that, basically, but with a twist I’ll get to in a bit.

Since Bodhi’s birth I’ve mostly been working from home and since we had to move out of our subsidised StartSomeGood office in the city a couple of weeks ago I’ve been working from here basically full-time. This has lots of advantages but I miss having awesome people around me and the focused and creative energy produced when everyone is getting shit done.

So I want to invite you over to work with Kate (who is also working on a new business) and I periodically. We’re thinking every second Thursday if there’s interest.

Everyone getting this email is a) an entrepreneur and b) someone I’d be happy to have in my house. So it’s a select group! You’re all people I want to learn from and collaborate with.

Our house is very easy to get to being only two blocks away from Waverton station, which is eight minutes from Wynyard Station. We have a lovely open and light-filled back living room/kitchen where we can work and a back patio and yard with a fantastic view down the harbour and to the blue mountains in the distance where we can also work weather-permitting.

Thursday Bodhi is at daycare, so it’s a day Kate and I both aim to get a lot of work done and is a good day to have people around between 9ish and 3ish.

So, to the twist.

You may have heard of a productively method called Pomodoro. For those that haven’t it’s very simple. It basically divides up your day into a series of “pomodori’s” or 25 minute sprints, where you pick one thing and finish it. Then you take a five minute break. Than another 25 minute sprint where you finish something. Every four of these you take a longer break.

I want to run the day strictly along these lines, with time at the start and end and a longish lunch break for general catching up and conversation, but with four pomodori sprints on either side.

So this isn’t just for people who like working in social settings, it’s for people who like working in social settings while getting heaps of stuff done.

I’m excited to try this and I think it’d be work best in a group to hold me accountable and to task. Doing it together will make it more effective and more fun. We’ll play a bit of music, enjoy the sunshine and crank out work alongside each other. I guess we’d call it Pomodoro Jelly, which sounds like a very weird culinary experience but might just work as an awesome working experience.

Speaking of culinary experiences during the third small break we can order thai food which will arrive in perfect time for the long lunch break.

Here’s how the day breaks down:

9am – arrive, general catching-up, drinking coffee, etc. Please arrive by at least 930am so there’s time for hellos before we get our pomodoro on.

1000 – 1st pomodoro

1025 – break

1030 – 2nd pomodoro

1055 – break

1100 – 3rd pomodoro

1125 – break – order food

1130 – 4th pomodoro

1155 long break for lunch.

1pm – 5th pomodoro

125 – break

130 – 6th pomodoro

155 – break

2 – 7th pomodoro

225 – break

230 – 8th pomodoro

255 – finish, move to Botanica (great local café across from the station) for coffee, chats and debrief.

We think the right number of people would be no more than 8 including us, so there are a maximum six spots available for visitors. I’d ask that if you do RSVP with me you be genuinely committed to coming, as we’ll be saying no to other people. But I know the unforeseen happens (regularly!) so if you are unable to make it that’s fine just let me know asap so I can offer it to another. If more people want to come than can fit I’ll keep a waitlist.

I hope you’ll be part of this experiment with me.

Cheers!

Tom

Image

So far we’ve done this twice and it has been fantastic! The hardest thing is actually committing to the breaks. And then sticking to only 5 minutes for the break, because everyone is so nice and so interesting. But when everyone is focused and working the energy is very productive, and the chance to catch up with awesome people and quickly share ideas and news is very cool.

I’m open to extending this invitation to a few new people in Sydney so if you’re working on an entrepreneurial initiative and you want to be added to the list please drop me a line and let me know. If I don’t know you already tell me more about what you’re up to. And if you’re doing important work but feeling isolated think about organising something like this in your house or a friend’s house. If you decide to run with it let me know how you go!

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Me, presenting at ConspireNY

Presenting at ConspireNY

Life has been ridiculously busy lately and I’ve obviously let this blog go by the wayside for a bit. I hope to properly pick it up again soon, but in the meanwhile this is a post I wrote for the StartSomeGood blog recently and I figured I should also share here.

During February, thanks to the generous support of Renata Cooper and Forming Circles, I had the opportunity to attend two great conferences in Thailand and the US respectively where I was thrilled to meet changemakers and social entrepreneurs from at least 16 countries and learn more about their projects, challenges and insights.

The trip started at the Ci2i Learn/Share Lab for Co-Creative Impact and Innovation outside Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand (I know, I know, it’s hard work this whole social entrepreneur thing sometimes). This was a very different sort of event from the norm: more intimate, focused and generative. It involved 25 of us living together for three days while exploring the practice of co-creative changemaking through a variety of case-studies and conversations.

The participants had come from every continent on earth. Their stories and their commitment to a style of leadership which encourages participation, empowers others and shares successes were inspiring and very often moving. Many were working in incredible challenging environments, against entrenched systems of inequality, supporting refugees, the disabled or those seeking an alternative to business as usual.

What did we mean by “co-creative leadership”? We didn’t let ourselves get too bogged down in definitions (you can see the raw notes from the event here) but for me it came down to a few key elements:

  • a vision for a different future (the why) but an openness to collaborate on the right path to get there (the how);
  • a preparedness to share or forgo credit;
  • a belief that the process to create change is as important as the outcome. A belief in fact that empowering people through the co-creative process is an outcome.

I learned about the incredible work of Edgeryders in catalysing new ways of thinking, working and living in Europe, of The Barefoot Guides out of South Africa, a co-created resource to deepen and develop approaches and initiatives that contribute to a changing world, of the struggle and progress of the Initiatives for Community Transformation in Uganda, as told by Peter and Grace, who had never left that country before (and who we will soon be supporting to run a campaign on StartSomeGood) and of Christina Jordan, our host and Ashoka Fellow, who has worked in Uganda and Belgium and now Thailand (and ran this campaign on StartSomeGood recently to support a refugee community) and is now spearheading the formation of Ci2i, a global community of co-creative changemakers.

Then it was on to the US and, after a week of meetings in San Francisco and Washington DC, the AshokaU Exchange in Providence, Rhode Island.

Speaking at AshokaU Exchange 2014

Presenting at the AshokaU Exchange

The Exchange was in some ways the opposite of the Learn/Share Lab: more expansive, relentless and individual. But no less inspiring and valuable. It brought together 800 people to explore how we embed and support social entrepreneurship on university campuses, split approximately 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 into students, faculty and funders. The students gave it a great energy, the faculty members shared incredible programmatic insights and the funders gave it gravitas and a sense of possibility. Together it was an exciting mix, with several concurrent streams of panels and workshops, short TED-style talks, banquets, small-group dinners and many side meetings.

I was able to share the work we’ve been doing bringing traditional grant funding and crowdfunding together through our Crowdmatch model and present on how student-led projects can raise the funds they need to launch and grow. I’m hopeful we’ll be able to announce a US-based Crowdmatch partnership in the near future.

The trip ended in NY where I presented at the first ConspireNY, a night of conspiratorial Pecha Kucha presentations. This was beyond nerve-wracking for me, as the requirements of the Pecha Kucha format (short talks with automatic slides, in this case 5 minutes with 20 slides which advanced every 15 seconds), brevity and perfect timing, are not at all my public speaking fortes. But given that I only prepared the talk that day (I was busy!) I was very pleased with the result and received great feedback. The video should be online soon.

Thanks again to Renata and Forming Circles for making this trip possible with their sponsorship! I learned a lot, made new friends and contacts and am confident it will lead to some exciting new partnerships and projects for StartSomeGood, so watch this space!

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If you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go far go with others.

 

Let height differences be no impediment to finding the right co-founder.

Let height differences be no impediment to finding the right co-founder.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the different experience between founding Vibewire in 2000 and StartSomeGood ten years later. There were some pretty amazing technological and social shifts during that time which I want to explore in a separate post. What I want to talk about today is, I think, the single biggest difference for me experientially between founding Vibewire and StartSomeGood and that is that with StartSomeGood I have a co-founder.

While I had some truly amazing collaborators over the eight years I led Vibewire, I didn’t have a single person right from the start who was as committed, as on the line, as I was. Having Alex as my constant collaborator at StartSomeGood has been an extraordinary contrast. Even in the midst of our most stressful moments, and they’ve been many, having someone else that you can be completely open and raw with, who is as invested and committed to finding a way forward as I am, changes everything.

Practically, of course, having a co-founder means you can do more from day one, allowing each of you to focus on different critical areas. Having two heads instead of one leads to more and better ideas. But most important, I think, is the way having a co-founder alleviates some of the stresses of startups by making those stresses shared, allowing each of us to express it and get it out rather than bottling it up, and the encouragement and support that comes from this.

One of the keys to sustainability with a cofounder, and with a romantic partner as well for that matter, is compatibility in your freak-outs. One of you needs to be strong when the other is weak. If one person’s freak out triggers the other to freak out it’s just an emo mess. But it just seems that when I’m having a hard day and questioning everything Alex is strong and when he’s struggling I feel able to be practical and optimistic enough for the two of us, and so we continue.

Judged solely in terms of the skills and experience we bring to the table we are not perfect co-founders. Neither of us is technical enough; our skills and preferences overlap more than is optimal. We have too really push ourselves to pick up and stay on-top of things neither of us is naturally inclined to do and, bless him, Alex has stepped up to more of that than me and kept the good ship StartSomeGood moving forward with his leadership and commitment, such as during the recent site re-build. But what matters most this skill-set match is our attitude match; it’s what makes it possible for us to work through the ups-and-downs of a startup together, even as we’ve never lived in the same place.

I’m working near as hard as I ever have at the moment but there’s a lightness and satisfaction to it, a sense of progress and possibility and pride in our achievements. This is not simply from having a great co-founder but a great team, a group of people who share our vision and commitment to making it happen, who bring great energy and innovative thinking to their roles, who I trust to get the job done without supervision or micro-management.

One thing I’m certain about: I’ll never launch a venture without a co-founder again. The difference it makes to your enjoyment, sustainability and ultimately your chances of success are just too great to set out on the epic journey which a startup represents without one.

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Runner - The Happy Rower on flickr
You are running coach, the analogy goes, and you have to choose between two runners. One of them has textbook form, smooth and efficient in his stride. The other is a mess, straying out of his lanes, arms and legs flailing unattractively. Despite this they are neck-and-neck at the end of the race. Who would you want to coach?

You would choose the worst runner, the guy with terrible form but who somehow managed to stay in the race despite this, because your coaching has the possibility to make the greater impact. You can’t do much with the guy with perfect form; he’s just not fast enough. But the sloppy guy, with refinement and coaching, might just be able to be really fast. In sporting parlance his ceiling is higher.

I feel like that’s where we are at with StartSomeGood right now, as we stand on the brink of unveiling the new version of our site to the world.

It’s been two years since the first version went live and, simply put, we have done almost everything wrong.

We built the first version of the website with only conceptual feedback from our target market – we didn’t show them the actual site until it was live. We didn’t talk enough about what we were doing while we were building it, and so failed to prime the community for our launch. We didn’t even have a LaunchRock page up to collect emails, so we started with zero on day 1. We put far too much time and effort into coaching efforts which didn’t sufficiently move the needle. We recruited the wrong people and compensated them in an unstrategic fashion, giving away more entity than we should have to people no longer with us.

We failed to test or monitor a lot of what was happening on our site. We were so tech-resource constrained I think it was too depressing to constantly focus  what couldn’t, in the short-term, be fixed. We just worked harder and harder to connect with and serve entrepreneurs, but these efforts couldn’t all be scaled and didn’t overcome all the shortfallings of the site itself. This lack of attention to metrics and testing meant we didn’t have as much data or insight as we should have when we became (slightly) less constrained in our tech resourcing and were able to invest in this new site.

So many mistakes.

But we’re still here. Along the way we listened, we learned. And now we are ready to show you some of those learnings embodied in this next iteration of our platform.

We interact constantly with our community, social entrepreneurs and community benefit organisations looking to raise funds in a new way. We’ve been intimately involved in over 300 campaigns now, and have seen what has and hasn’t worked. We’ve been knocked back by organisations we wanted to work with and have always asked why. We recruited an amazing advisory committee LINK who have helped stretch and inspire our thinking, as have a wide range of informal advisers and friends.

I can’t claim that we’re doing it all perfect now because we’re not. We’re busy and over-stretched and making compromises. The new version hasn’t had enough testing or rounds of user-feedback, but it’s had infinitely more than the first version. We would have done more but our updated UI/look-and-feel was done probono by Source Creative, who were lovely and generous and did a great job but didn’t have capacity for ongoing testing and additional rounds of tweaks, which was fair enough. It’s often better to put something out there and learn from how people actually use it anyway.

Raising a small amount of family-and-friends investment has allowed us to get this new version shipped and we’re committed to being much more focused on testing and analytics than we were with the first version.

There are a number of key improvements I’m excited to show you:
•    We’ve simplified our navigation and lightened the feeling of the site, giving it a cleaner and more modern look
•    We’ve put more emphasis on success stories and user-interactions, highlighting the people-powered nature of the site.
•    We’ve added alternatives to paypal, initially just for US ventures but coming soon for everyone else.
•    We’ve upgraded the venture dashboard, to help you launch and manage campaigns and;
•    We’ve improved the how to info and resources on the site to educate people about how to succeed at crowdfunding.

So where are we as a business? I truly believe we stand on the brink of great things.

Despite our abundant shortcomings we have built a vibrant community of entrepreneurs and changemakers. We have 10,000 subscribers to our newsletter, 10,000 followers on Twitter and 30,000 followers on Tumblr. We have successfully funded over 130 projects in 22 countries, and this is just the beginning.

We have a fantastic, talented, passionate team spread Australia, the US, England and Sweden. Everyone is involved because they believe in our mission and are driven to scale our impact and help changemakers around the globe. You can meet our newest colleagues here.

We have just announced a number of exciting partnerships, including with ING Direct who have committed significant funds to social entrepreneurs running campaigns on our site, and with the Global Food Startup Challenge, for which we are the global crowdfunding partner.

In terms of our financials we have started slow but all sites of our sort do. Crowdfunding is boom or bust. Once you pick up pace it tends to accelerate, but the vast majority of sites never even reach the point we are at, remaining extremely limited in terms of scope or traction.

I can understand the skepticism some feel about whether there is enough room for StartSomeGood in an extremely competitive crowdfunding market but I know we provide a unique service and truly believe we are the best home for most social entrepreneurs looking to raise money from their communities. The creative crowdfunding platform are simply not built with nonprofits and causes in mind. Our success rate (comparable with the creative crowdfunding sites), incredible partners and growing traction are strong positive indicators for this belief.

So if you’ve been holding off on getting your idea out there and launching a campaign for any reason I hope you’ll reconsider and give our site a try. If you launch before April 2 you’ll be in the running for the ‘Like-Off’ we are running, with a bonus $200 grant to the project with the most likes during a 24 hour period starting at midnight April 3 Greenwich Mean Time.

Please check out the new site and let me know what you think.

Onwards and upwards!

Image by The Happy Rower made available on a Creative Commons license via Flickr.

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In November 2011 Ilya Zhitomirskiy, only 26 and one of the co-founders of Diaspora, the “open-source Facebook” which received notoriety after raising over $200,000 on Kickstarter (at that stage the most successful project on the crowdfunding platform) killed himself. His mother still believes that if he didn’t start the project he would be alive today.

On January 11 this year Aaron Schwartz, a celebrated and much-loved hacker and activist took his own life. He was also 26. I never met Aaron but several friends were very close to him. One was his partner. Reading the tributes that poured in it was impossible not to be deeply saddened that someone so young, so talented and with so much to contribute had given up like this. The loss not only to his friends and family but to all of us is immense.

And just two weeks ago I read about the passing of Jody Sherman, co-founder and CEO of Ecomom. I didn’t know Jody either but he was also admired by people I admire. The initial reports avoided specifying a cause of death but he too had committed suicide.

As Jason Calicanus asked  over the weekend, should we talk about this?

Yes, we should.

Entrepreneurship is a really hard road, filled with rejection, misunderstanding and self-doubt. You pour yourself into a project only to see the world disparage or, worst, ignore it. You must deal with people telling you to get a real job, with the stresses of poverty and uncertainty, with the constant possibility, indeed the likelihood, of total failure. But your job is to project constant positivity, to always be selling your vision and product, to inspire people to join you on this mad mission.

You probably work long and unhealthy hours. You might struggle to find time for exercise, or to socialise, or to take time out to be alone and reflection.

In other words it can be a very unhealthy pursuit, not only physically but emotionally.

During the eight years I led Vibewire I had many dark days, days when I was so exhausted I was reduced to tears, days when I couldn’t see how we would continue. But then I’d go to a meeting with the Vibewire team or a potential funder or a media interview and I’d have to summon all my positivity and energy and pitch our programs and vision of the future, convince them all that there was a pathway to the future we sought.

After I left Vibewire in March 2008 my successor as CEO had an emotional breakdown just a few months later, crushed by the complexity of our projects and the constant workload and stresses involved in bringing in the funds required to keep them alive.

So how did I survive for the eight years before that? First of all, I didn’t entirely. By the time I departed I was utterly burnt out, and for the year prior to that I was just barely nursing myself through, on many days just focusing on the day before me and what I needed to do to get to the next one, like a prisoner in jail, desperately pushing myself to get what needed to be done, done to get the organisation to the point where I could walk away. Once I did it took me months to feel like I could be productive again.

I pushed myself through thanks to incredibly supportive parents, sibling and partner and a group of friends outside the world of social entrepreneurship, who cared about me rather than Vibewire, who valued me as a person, not just an entrepreneur. I would go out with them to parties in the forests which wrap around Sydney at least monthly and stomp my frustrations and stresses into the dirt dance floor until there was just the freedom and joy of movement and dancing and friendship, and my heart filled up with love, community and connection to nature. Being part of this creative, DIY community kept me balanced, with dancing allowing me to be in my body, not my head, and the friendships I formed giving me an identity outside of Vibewire, outside of entrepreneurship.

I don’t know what drove each of these innovators to take their own life. For Aaron an over-zealous prosecution and the threat of jail was clearly a unique and significant factor. All of them struggled with mental health issues at different times. But I do know that as entrepreneurs we are all prone to driving ourselves to breaking point and that one of the hardest but most important things we must learn is how to be personally sustainable, how to take care of ourselves, in the midst of stress and uncertainty and repeated failure.

One of the hardest things about entrepreneurship is that you can become your venture in the eyes of many people. People would often say in introducing me “Tom is Vibewire” and I would cringe, knowing that wasn’t what we were going for at all, that it was in many ways a sign of failure to build the broad base of leadership we needed to be successful but also that it was such a narrowing of me as a person. And it’s also true that in entrepreneurship, unless you are truly gifted or lucky or more likely both, you’ll have as many bad days as good ones, as many set-backs as successes.

As Jess Lee, founder and CEO of Polyvore pointed out in a great recent blog post titled “Why are startup founders always unhappy?” even a successful growth pattern is wiggly, and as entrepreneurs tend to live mostly in the moment and also be very ambitious it’s easy to get depressed during a down phase even if you’ve experienced extraordinary success over the preceding period of time. And if you are your organisation, when the organisation is struggling you feel a failure personally.

Jess puts it this way:

Humans are terrible at understanding absolute values. We are best at understanding acceleration and deceleration, or rate of change. You are happiest when your growth is accelerating. When growth slows down, you start to become less happy. When you’re not growing, you are in unhappy territory.

This is why it’s so important to have a life outside your startup, to have an emotional floor that doesn’t undulate with your company’s fortunes.
I am not trying to generalise the experiences of Ilya, Aaron and Jody. Each was unique. But I have been finding myself thinking about these issues repeatedly over the past few weeks as tragedy followed tragedy, about my own struggles and what it takes to survive as entrepreneurs and changemakers. Ultimately it comes down to balance, however you find that, to relationships, and community and love.

So please be good to yourself everyone, and give yourself what you need to be sustainable and happy and whole.

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money - davebarger on flickr

A fascinating debate broke out yesterday, on Christmas Day in the US, between a number of prominent tech journalists, investors and founders, regarding the existence or otherwise of a “Series A crunch.”

Jason Calacanis, founder of Mahalo (soon to be Insider.com) and LAUNCH, led the contrarians, declaring that there was no such thing as a Series A shortage, that the available money for investment would expand to match the available investable opportunities and that with revenue you would always get investment. The fact that there was much less investment available than demand for that investment simply shows that there is a lack of companies worthy of investment. From his blog post yesterday:

Capacity increases along with opportunity.

VCs are a greedy lot (and us founders and GPs love you for it), and the world has mountains of money sitting in bonds, gold, corporate stockpiles and plain old devaluing C-Notes (aka cash).

If 10 companies with the metrics of Fab, Dropbox, Yammer, Uber or AirBnb were to walk into a VC firm with only the money to fund five, you know what they would do? Raise more money!

Capacity expands all the time, and it could turn on a dime.

I’m a huge fan of Jason and always find his views thought-provoking and often insightful. His point here, however, is ridiculous, or as Sarah Lacy put it in Pando Daily, “bullshit.” What fascinates me about this debate though is how classically American it is.

The view Jason is expressing is s classically neoliberal view of the world: capitalism is a perfect sorting machine, with supply (of investment-worthy startups) always meeting demand (for these opportunities by professional investors) thanks to the magic of the profit motive, the “invisible hand” that makes it all work.

This is not, of course, always the case. There are mismatches in supply and demand all the time and investment is particularly prone to herd behaviour and strongly influenced by social networks, pressures and fads. The fact there was a huge amount of money for Series A investment in 2000 didn’t mean that all (or even most) of the startups receiving that investment were investment-worthy by any conventional definition. If we can see the dotcom bubble as an example of the mismatch of investment availability and “good” startups then the reverse is clearly also true, and it’s perfectly conceivable that we could currently be in a time with the quality of startups genuinely exceeds the funds made available by Venture Capitalists.

Jason is absolutely right that great entrepreneurs can survive and thrive in any conditions, that visionary companies can create markets not simply be subject to them, but counter-examples exist for these as well: inventions which could have been (or later were) super-profitable but which no investor had the courage or foresight to back, or who had the misfortune to require re-capitalisation at the wrong moment, during  time of economic uncertainty, and failed to survive, when only a few months the task would have been easily completed.

And it is also true that some mediocre entrepreneurs become spectacularly successful by being in the right place at the right time, by being lucky, having the right connections, having the money to survive long enough.

Claiming that all the ‘good” companies get funding is like claiming that all “good” bands get record deals (back when you needed one) but this is clearly ridiculous. But we know the Beatles were rejected by every major record label in London before finding someone prepared to release their music, we know that many more deserving artists never made it through the gatekeepers and plenty of other made it without their help.

The idea that capitalism is meritocratic is at the heart of the American ideology, the idea that those who are successful create their success due to their own special characteristics: because they were smarter, harder-working, more entrepreneurial. But markets matter, timing matters, location matters. As Malcolm Gladwell explored in Outliers (my favourite of his works) being in the right place at the right time (such as attending one of the only High Schools in America with an advanced computer to learn programming on, or being given computer parts by a founder of HP as a teenager), the family and group culture you grow up in and market and legislative contexts have a huge influence on who becomes a success.

Gladwell’s point is not that you don’t have to be smart, hard-working and entrepreneurial – you generally do to be a big success – but that these qualities alone are insufficient. Simply put there is a greater supply of smart, hard-working and entrepreneurial people than there are available economic winners in our societies.

And so it is with startups, and this is why many “good” companies and talented entrepreneurs will fail to raise the additional funds they need to survive this year despite the soundness and potential profitability of their ideas.

Image by davebarger made available on a creative commons license via flickr.

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Academy for Young Entrepreneurs poster (get a hard copy here)

Bill Drayton, founder of Ashoka and social entrepreneurship visionary, is fond of asking parents, firstly, “what would you do if your child was failing maths?” Parents instinctively have an answer for this. They would spend more time with them doing their home, get them a tutor, buy a math training program. Then he asked, “what would you do if your child was failing to develop as a changemaker?” and the answers come much less readily.

How do we create a culture of changemaking in young people? By giving them opportunities to share their ideas and participate in creating change of course!

You get better at maths by doing more maths. You get better at sport by joining a team,  practicing and playing. We have clear pathways for gaining expertise in academics and sports but it’s only more recently that we’ve begun to see a focus on providing changemaking experiences for people at a younger age and preparing them for active citizenship.

This is something Ashoka has understood for some time, having launched Ashoka Youth Venture over ten years ago to support 16-20 year-olds to develop their own initiatives, and more recently establishing AshokaU to foster a culture of entrepreneurship on college campuses.  In Australia we’ve seen the establishment of the School for Social Entrepreneurs, who run year-long courses supporting emerging social entrepreneurs of all ages to launch and scale social impact ventures and, on the opposite end of the spectrum, of Social Startup 48, a startup weekend-style event for aspiring changemakers. I’m proud to say all the above organisations are partners of StartSomeGood.

I’m also thrilled to see more and more organisations using StartSomeGood to fill gaps in this ecosystem of opportunity, inspiring, mentoring and training young people to create the future they wish to see.

One Can Grow finished a successful fundraiser on our site just a couple of weeks ago and is piloting a social entrepreneurship training program for students at three high school in Sydney. Hope Empowered is currently raising funds to engage an even younger cohort in entrepreneurial activity with their Academy for Young Entrepreneurs Initiative which will focus at the primary school level. (If you like the sound of this please chip in here). And the organisation I founded 12 years ago, Vibewire, has just, as of this writing, hit the tipping point of their StartSomeGood fundraising campaign to support three younger social entrepreneurs (under 35) to work on issues of critical importance including mental health and sustainable design.

At StartSomeGood we believe that social entrepreneurs need three types of capital to succeed: financial, intellectual and relational. Our mission is to reduce the barriers to raising early-stage financial capital for nonprofits and changemakers through peerfunding (also called crowdfunding). As these barriers come down more social entrepreneurs are stepping up to launch programs which general these other forms of capital, teaching skills and providing community for aspiring social entrepreneurs.

So these initiatives and those like them expand the answer to how to encourage your child to learn changemaking skills will become more apparent and a new generation of changemakers and entrepreneurs will, from an early age, know they can create the future we all need.

How do you think we could better support young changemakers?

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