Saturday, April 12, 2014

Photo Essay: Social Enterprise Law Symposium 2014 at University of California Berkeley, School of Law

The first Berkeley "Social Enterprise Law Symposium" took place in the first week of April 2014. The Boalt Social Enterprise Group (a student organization of UC Berkeley School of Law) and the Impact Law Forum hosted the insightful event to take a closer look at financing & exits for social enterprises. The event comprised of two panel discussions and surveyed the finance and legal structures for social enterprises from startup stages to scale-- focusing more on scalable social enterprises backed by foundation or grant funding.

From the perspective of covering social enterprise law in various posts on Innov8Social about the introduction and passage of benefit corporation legislation in California and beyond; hybrid corporate forms including L3C, CA flexible purpose corporation, and others; the merit of tandem structures (i.e. for-profit + nonprofit combinations); potential of crowdfunding for equity; and impact financing possibilities and constraints----the panel talks validated some overall trends that have been emerging and brought to light interesting nuances by active legal practitioners in the space, social entrepreneurs, funders, returns-focused venture capital, and policy experts.

Below is a photo essay from the talk, along with a few notes about notable quotes and points raised. You can also read literature handed out at the Symposium on the Impact Law Forum website.

Social Enterprise Law Symposium

The panel talks afforded legal practitioners continuing legal education credit and brought together a diverse group of individuals engaged or curious about the social enterprise space.


Interview with Jason Li, Teen Social Entrepreneur and Successful Participant of "Shark Tank" [AUDIO]

As an avid viewer of NBC's "Shark Tank" ---- my interest was piqued during a recent episode when one young entrepreneur mentioned his passion for building a social enterprise after reading David Bornstein's book, How to Change the World. The book was one of the inspirations for Innov8Social and my interest in this space.

By way of context, Shark Tank gives entrepreneurs the chance to pitch their startups and seek funding from  celebrity millionaire and billionaire investors including Mark Cuban, Barbara Corcoran, Kevin O'Leary, Lori Greiner, Robert Herjavec, and Daymond John.

Jason Li presenting at Shark Tank, 2014
(adapted from screenshot of Shark Tank)

iReTron at Shark Tank
(adapted from screenshot of Shark Tank)
Jason's company, iReTron, buys back used electronics for a cash value, and then re-furbishes and re-sells or recycles the products.  (See below for a video where Jason and the iReTron team explain the concept).

Jason was successful in raising his ask of $100K through an investment by Barbara Corcoran and Mark Cuban, for a 20% equity stake in his company plus 20% of any company he starts in the next five years.

Meet Jason


Jason Li
(adapted from screenshot of Shark Tank)
Jason's family immigrated to the US from China when he was 6. He observed their work ethic and discipline as they started a small business in northern California.  And as he shared on his show, one of his early passions was judo, which he has been learning since he was five years old. He had been actively competing in the sport until he broke his back in high school.

It was at that time that he began reading about social enterprise and social entrepreneurship, which helped spark his idea to launch a company that pursued profit as well as impact. 

Jason has been featured as a TEDxTeen speaker, was named "Next Teen Tycoon" for his work with iReTron, and has presented at events such as the Green Festival, all prior to his successful pitch at Shark Tank.



Listen to the Interview




More about Jason and iRetron







Saturday, March 29, 2014

Reframing What It Means to Be a Social Entrepreneur

As a follow-up to Innov8Social's recent interview with Kate Michi Ettinger, I wanted to share a reflection on part of the conversation we had after the recording.


Reframing What It Means to Be a Social Entrepreneur


I have known Kate for over a year now, through our participation in Impact Law Forum and other social entrepreneurship events and conferences. It was a sincere pleasure to have the opportunity to learn more about her the breadth and depth of her work.

We chatted after her interview and she shared a sentiment that reframed my perspective on social entrepreneurship. As you may know, the recent months have brought on exciting projects such as the social innovation book project co-author Shivani Khanna and I are working on, and my role in curriculum and business development at entrepreneurship education startup (Thinktomi). These responsibilities, in addition to feeding the blog (admittedly, less frequently), can sometimes feel overwhelming.

In talking to Kate---who juggles multiple roles, each incredibly demanding and each with its own layers of complexity, she said one line that particularly resonated with me--- "this is what it means to be a social entrepreneur."

As self-identified social innovators we have to balance the sometimes-chaotic, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, 24/7 ish demand by taking care of our health, seeking balance, and finding solace in what can feel like a perfect storm. In our efforts to do this, we set the stage to finding new ways to engage in the tasks, and work required to make social enterprise ideas into reality.

It was the perfect sentiment at the right moment--and helped reframe my own view from seeing these as challenges to 'handle' as invitations to redefine balance and innovate.

In reflecting on her observation this past week I feel that in the brevity of life, it is a sincere and humble honor to be able to dedicate my time and efforts to projects I believe in---even if the balancing act requires a little additional creativity and focus :)


notebook and pen

Interview with Kate Michi Ettinger, Social Entrepreneur in Health and Bioethics and Specialist in Integrity by Design [AUDIO]

Social entrepreneurs often find themselves in the spaces in-between what already exists. Case in point is Kate Michi Ettinger, a bioethicist by training, a researcher & design strategist by profession, and a serial social entrepreneur by practice. She is weaving her expertise and passion in an area called integrity by design (you can see her TEDxBarcelonaChange talk below).

Her current project is called OpenQRS, which creates open source community development tools focused on assuring the quality, reliability, and safety of health care devices. Her work spans the space in-between need for low-cost medical devices and government regulations for those devices. 

In her interview, she shares more about how she is working to not only build tools to enable affordable medical devices and appropriate standards but also to educate and collaborate with government and regulatory bodies to make her vision possible. 

Meet Kate


Kate Michi Ettinger
Kate holds a BA from Johns Hopkins, holds a J.D. and has been pursued certifications in mediation, bioethics, facilitation, and client counseling. She has taught at UCSF and has spoken at the University of Bangkok, the World Congress on Medical Law in Croatia, and International Conference on Clinical Ethics Consultation, Amsterdam.

Kate co-founded startup Planet-Well in 2000 and held a product development role at ePatients. Kate went on to found the Mural Institute, where she engages with foundations and other clients on topics of interaction design, healthcare ethics, and digital strategy.


Listen to the Interview






Watch Kate's TED Talk





Monday, March 24, 2014

Do the Most Important Thing - Paul Graham, VC and Founder of Y Combinator

"Do the most important thing." - Paul Graham

Simple, elegant, and something that has likely been said over millennia---this has been the phrase that has echoed over and again in my mind since I saw Paul Graham speak at the 2014 Launch Festival in San Francisco.
Paul Graham at #Launch 2014
Paul Graham, at Launch Festival 2014


In his afternoon keynote on the first full-day of the conference (Monday, February 24, 2014), Paul shared what he has learned at the helm of Y Combinator (YC)---arguably the accelerator that catalyzed the launch of hundreds of other accelerator and incubator programs designed to spur innovation and provide an alternative pathway for thinkers and founders to become companies.  He reflected on the past decade, the kinds of founders YC has selected in the past, his changing role in the organization, and his announcement that he will be stepping back from day-to-day operations at YC.

He said that when he meets with founders he often prods them to identify their most important next task----and to focus on doing exactly that thing.

It is apt advice for the entrepreneur and especially so for a mission-minded social entrepreneur serving multiple stakeholders.

All too often founders can get distracted, sidetracked and perhaps overwhelmed, causing them to spread ourselves thin and focus on multiple targets simultaneously. But, in practicing Paul's advice, much of the surrounding noise dissipates and is replaced with focused attention and follow-through.

I hadn't heard Paul speak before, and was struck by his easygoing, open style. After hearing him, I imagine this as a typical, garden-variety talk between Paul and a founder:


Paul: "Hey [Founder], so what's the most important thing right now?"

Founder: "X"

Paul: "Yeah, go do that."







Friday, March 21, 2014

Photo Essay: "Achieving Social Impact" Conference at Mills College #CSRB14

On a sunny Friday in mid-March 2014, social innovation-minded leaders, thinkers, and students gathered at the beautifully designed (and LEED Gold certified) Lokey Graduate School of Business at Mills College for the 6th Annual Center for Socially Responsible Business (CSRB) Conference. The theme for this year was "Achieving Social Impact: To Scale or Not to Scale?"

Speakers addressed the critical issue of "scale" for a social impact venture---how is it defined? How can it be effectuated? How does it apply to various organizational forms? How does the conversation about "scale" change based on sector?

These questions and more were addressed through keynote speeches, panel discussions, and hosted lunch table talks. Overall the day was enriching---complete with insightful speakers, engaged attendees, and a wonderful opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals in the impact space.

It was great to be able to share our book ideas and progress with fellow attendees, make connections, and hear valuable feedback on our research and focus areas. Below are a few snapshots from the day.

CSBR at Mills College 2014
Lorry I. Lokey Graduate School of Business, Mills College

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Interview with Social Impact Filmmakers Chris Temple and Zach Ingrasci---Speaking From a Syrian Refugee Camp [AUDIO]

Some months ago I watched "Living on One Dollar" through the recommendation of friends on various social networks. It was eye-opening and compelling, and was fully conceptualized and realized by a group of college students. The premise: What is it like to live on less than $1 per day, as more than1 billion people worldwide do?

Chris Temple and Zach Ingrasci along with fellow college friends, Sean Leonard, and Ryan Christofferson took this question head-on when they spent 56 days in rural Guatemala living on a dollar per day or less. Understanding that the dollar per day is an average, they picked a number from a hat each day signifying how much money they could spend that day. They share memorable experiences in understanding the most nutritious and cost-effective foods to eat, learning how to earn money, and building friendships in the village. The film has received acclaim and recognition, winning an audience award at the 2013 Sonoma International Film Festival.

Now, Zach and Chris have teamed up on another social impact film experience---this time halfway around the globe. According to their research, over 9 million people have been impacted by the civil war in Syrian, with over 6 millions Syrians displaced within their own country. Over 2 million Syrians have sought safety in numerous refugee camps in neighboring Lebanon, Jordan Turkey, Egypt, and Iraq. To give voice to refugees---in the Syrian crisis and across the globe---Zach and Chris have arranged to register as refugees and live at the Za'atari refugee camp in Jordan for 30 days.

They are just over a week into the experience, which will be the basis of their next documentary "Salam Neighbor" and have been blogging regularly. It was incredible to speak to them live from Jordan for the audio interview (below). They welcome feedback and comments, as they help to inform and impact their experience as refugees.

Meet Zach and Chris


[photo credit: image adapted from livingonone.org]


Zach and Chris met during their freshman year of college at Claremont McKenna College (CMC) in Southern California. They found that they shared an interest in social advocacy, microfinance, and creative storytelling and began to explore ways to challenge each other to think bigger. 

Chris, who was raised in Connecticut, majored in International Relations at CMC, with a focus on Economic Development. His experience in the social innovation sector includes an internships at the Grameen America in New York City and Whole Planet Foundation and his current work as Founder and Executive Director of MFI Connect, a large-scale student microfinance network. 

Zach, from Bainbridge Island in Washington, also majored in International Relations at CMC. His interest in the impact sector driven him to take leadership roles at MFI Connect and as Executive Director and Co-Founder of Living on One Media.  


Listen to the Interview


I caught up with Zach and Chris just after their first week as 'registered' refugees (i.e. they compensated the relief organization for rations, equipment, etc.)



Watch the Trailer for "Salam Neighbor" 


To learn more about their new documentary film project, "Salam Neighbor", take a look at their launch video below.


Monday, January 27, 2014

Interview with Nisha Kulkarni, Communications Consultant to Social Enterprises & Nonprofits [AUDIO]

Over the past 2+ years of founding, blogging, and editing Innov8Social I have learned a few expected and (even more) unexpected things about blogging. A blog can be your brand. It can be your calling card---the way you communicate ideas and experiences to others. And, interestingly, it can be the catalyst of things---such as collaborations, interactions, and great conversations.

Nisha Kulkarni, Communications & Content Strategy
Consultant to Social Enterprises and Nonprofits
[image adapted from LinkedIn]
It was through Innov8Social that I met Nisha Kumar Kulkarni. She reached out via social media to learn more about the blog and my interest in the social innovation sector. This could well have led to a great coffee meetup---but considering our coastal divide (Nisha is now based in NYC)---has led to multiple fascinating conversations instead.

See, Nisha has a unique global lens on social innovation. She is of South Asian origin but raised in the US---however she and her husband relocated to Mumbai in 2010 for three years. It was there that she really grounded herself in her conceptualization of the social innovation space.

Nisha's return to New York City had her excited about expanding her involvement on the US-side. However, she soon noticed that though social innovation in India and in the US may rooted in the same tenets of creating impact + value; they have taken surprisingly distinct forms. She details more about her path into social enterprise, her immersion into the field in India, and the differences she has observed on her return to the US in her audio interview below.

Meet Nisha Kulkarni


Before Nisha found a path in social innovation, she started off in the Economics and Finance realm--- holding a BA in Economics in addition to a Minor in English from NYU before taking on roles at Lehman Brothers.  After two years on Wall Street, she pursued her interest in development economics with an MA in International Economics and Finance from Brandeis University.

The move to Mumbai accompanied her growing interest in social enterprise space and she has since taken on roles and projects at Intellecap, Catchafire, Dowser---and most recently launched her own communications and content strategy consulting practice at nishakkulkarni.com.

Listen to Nisha's Interview


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