Though we are just crossing the halfway point, the weekend has been exciting so far—it has been interesting to see the kinds of ideas that have cropped up and the unique effect adding an impact focus has added to business models. Here are a few photos from the first night.
Keynote Speaker Nick Ellis talks about his social enterprise, Job Rooster, which connects anyone, anytime, anywhere to local employment through text messages–addressing issues of access to job listings for non/low-tech job seekers.
Stanford BASES Challenge competitions:
1. E-Challenge — teams compete to present the best business pitches for for-profit business models. Previous winners have included Courserank, LightBit, Ingenuity. A total of $50K is awarded to the winning teams.
2. Social E-Challenge — teams compete to present exceptional ideas that generate positive social impact in areas including health, education, economic development, and the environment. Prior winners include Kiva, One Acre Fund, Embrace. $50K total is awarded to winning teams.
3. Product Showcase — teams compete to present the most compelling prototype ranging from mobile devices to hardware to medical devices.
*Note: Entries are due by January 25th 2012, and can be found here. All teams must have at least one Stanford connection (i.e. current student, alumnus, professor, etc.) to enter.
The main event of the evening was kicked off by the keynote speaker and Silicon Valley luminary, Mary Meeker. As General Partner of Kleiner Perkins her focus is to identify and support promising startups and to detect trends. Her background in analysis paved the way to her current role She was named #43 on FORBES’ 2012 Midas List of VC royalty.
Meeker spoke about trends and shifts in the tech startup space. She reviewed the replacement of prior (and current) technologies with what is new and what’s ahead. Find her full slides here:
We live in a world where there are so many privacy policies and terms and conditions agreements that it could be pretty time consuming to peruse them each time we use the site, device, page, form, or service. So we often end up not reading them—not just each time of use, but ever.
For those of us who took a year or more of coursework on Contracts Law, that can be potentially problematic. Most people don’t really know what we’re signing up for at any point. We don’t know if our privacy is being protected—and to what degree.
That’s a problem, a pretty formidable pain point. And you and I aren’t the only ones who think so.
Disconnect a startup that creates tools to let people manage the data they share online, was drawn to work on a groundbreaking project that could change the way we analyze privacy policies on sites we use every day.
The overall idea was to crowdsource the reading of privacy policies and to bucket major components by designating a different icon for each bucketed response (i.e. “iconifying”)
1. Does this website sell your data or share it with third parties or affiliates without your express permission, or as you’d reasonably expect given the site’s service?
2. Does this website collect and use your data other than as you expressly allow or as you’d reasonably expect given the site’s service?
3. Does this website disclose user data to the government and other third parties without proper legal procedure (E.g., the presentation of a valid court order)?
4. How long does this site retain user data after the service is provided or a user requests deletion?
MIT/Stanford Venture Lab (VLAB) hosted its first event for Fall 2012 yesterday, September 18th 2012. The topic on tap was gamification.
The event brought together start-up entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and other tech, media, social/mobile types against the backdrop of a sunset at the Stanford University’s Graduate School of business.
Panelists from successful gamifying endeavors provided their insight, points, and counterpoints on topics ranging from the term ‘gamification’, to its actual meaning, to what makes a game successful.
Though the event was geared to address the general practice of gamification, i.e. applying elements of game design to non-game processes, there were some tactile takeaways for social entrepreneurs.
1. Gamification is a relatively new, debated, and trending term. Considering that Panelist Rajat Paharia spoke about coining the phrase “gamification” in 2009, a few years after founding Bunchball—it may seem like the term is still a toddler. But, as moderator Margaret Wallace of Playmatics pointed out, according to the 2012 Gartner Hype Cycle, the term has nearly reached its peak.
10. There is growth in non zero sum games through social and mobile apps. Panelist Amy Jo Kim discussed the rise of non zero sum games, i.e. refocusing the spotlight from winners v. losers to win-win situations, where users can share their experiences and guide others as they start their experience with a game.Key takeaway: win-win gives you two ways to win
Margaret Wallace (moderator): CEO/Co-Founder of Playmatics | @MargaretWallace
Courtney Guertin: Co-Founder/CTO of Kiip | @courtstarr
Rajat Paharia: Founder/Chief Product Officer of Bunchball | @rajatrocks
Amy Jo Kim: Founder/CEO of ShuffleBrain | @amyjokim
Joshua Williams: Senior Software Design Engineer Microsoft Corporation | @joshuadw
Andrew Trader: Venture Partner, Maveron
Mr. Esposti gave a little background on his experience in crowdfunding, which he began exploring 4 years ago. He entered the field to determine the ‘why’ of why bets are placed on whether companies succeed and to dive deeper into determining if crowdfunding companies would eventually lead to job creation. Since his entry into crowdfunding he noted that crowdfunding has taken on larger platforms and payment systems.
Crowdfunding.org conducted a survey which found a growth in the number of crowdfunding platforms from 450+ as of April 2012 to a projected 500+ by the end of 2012. He noted that the steep expansion of platforms is partially attributable to the ‘low cost of admission’ since there is often not much required in the way of setting up a crowdfunding platform.
He highlighted the U.S. as home to the greatest number of crowdfunding platforms, but noted that Europe is on the heels, and there are increasing efforts in Britain, Brazil, Netherlands, Australia, India, and China.
A key point Mr. Esposti set forth is the impetus behind crowdfunding as a way to support and grow entrepreneurship. He stated that crowdfunding is largely grounded in our desires for social experiences, to be part of something bigger than ourselves.
Ryan Caldbeck recently founded CircleUp as a platform to present investment opportunities to investors. He explained that investors visit the site, read about various new companies, invest in them, wire funds over, and become an owner in the company.
Mr. Caldbeck expressed his skepticism about the new federal crowdfunding legislation which opens investment to non-accredited investors in addition to accredited investors (the current rule). He is concerned that venture capital (VC) firms will just make a decision to pass on companies seeking crowdfunding.
Mr. Zimmerman is a partner at WilmerHale, a corporate law firm with offices in a dozen cities across the globe. His specializes in corporate and transactional law. Regarding the new crowdfunding legislation, he said it would be interesting to see what specifics the SEC arrives at with regards to implementation and compliance.
He provided a background explanation of the crowdfunding legislation stating the JOBS Act laid groundwork for the bill. Mr. Zimmerman mentioned that where existing crowdfunding efforts and platforms are aimed at simplifying the raising of capital through loans and donation, there is a possibility that the new legislation may complicate the process.
Don Ross provided a venture capital perspective to the conversation. In addition to being the Founder and Managing Director of HealthTech Capital, a funding group made of private investors supporting startups at the intersection of healthcare and technology, Mr. Ross is also a Board Director of Sand Hill Angels. Sand Hill Angels is a consortium of successful Silicon Valley tech professionals who are dedicated to supporting formation and growth of startup companies.
Mr. Ross stated that rewards-based crowdfunding has generally been ‘totally embraced’ by the VC community and noted that equity-based crowdfunding models may have hidden ‘landmines’ and issues, especially with regards to the how the new crowdfunding legislation may be implemented. He pointed to messy capital tables, liability issues, and requirements for public disclosure of business plans (eliminating the ‘stealth mode’ advantage most startups aim for) as issues that could become further complicated by legislative requirements.
He also stated that allowing non-acredited investors could raise accountability issues, increase responsibilities of entrepreneurs, and may even create situations ripe for abject fraud.
On April 27, 2012 San Francisco University and B Lab hosted the (B)enefit Corporations West Coast Forum. It was a day of seminars, talks, and networking intended to connect academia with social entrepreneurs, and to provide an overview of the benefit corporation movement.
One of the interesting panel discussions featured three social entrepreneurs who actively pursue triple bottom line results in their companies. It was moderated by San Francisco-based B Lab Director of Business Development, Dermot Hikisch.
Here is a rundown of the speakers and a few of their key points.
Mike Hannigan, President of Give Something Back
Give Something Back (GSB) is the largest business to business office supplier in California, and has been running for around 20 years. What makes the business socially entrepreneurial is that the company pays competitive wages, but invests 100% of its profits to community non-profits.
Hannigan reiterated that the community was the key stakeholder in his company, which is a registered B corporation. (Note: a point of confusion is b corporation v. benefit corporation. They aren’t the same thing! Learn about the differences here). He noted that when the company was launched two decades ago, it represented a new and novel way of doing businesses, but that he is noticing more and more new companies being started with social mission in mind.
He also underscored the concept that his business has been successful because, at its core, it has a strong business model and can beat out its competition. In fulfilling the company’s vision to support the community and environment, employees receive competitive wages and full health benefits.
Hannigan outlined the democratic process the company engages in to decide on where to redistribute profits within the community. GSB polls their 10,000+ customers and clients to decide on the causes and organizations to support.
Kirsten Saenz Tobey, Founder and CEO of Revolution Foods
If the audience wasn’t already wowed by the history, and operations of Give Something Back—Kirsten Saenz Toby’s story about how and why she started Revolution Foods surely inspired the room.
Tobey started the company six years ago after to change the way kids eat at school and with the vision of fundamentally changing the relationship between food and kids.
She outlined her company’s founding value with simplicity: food should be real. Tobey and her team found ways to replace processed foods (with numerous additives and preservatives, high salt content, and too many grams of sugar) with healthy, nourishing alternatives. And they found ways to mass produce and deliver these healthy meals to local schools on a daily basis.
Tobey also spoke about honoring and respecting the workforce, and shared that in addition to providing full health benefits, her business model makes each employee part-owner of the company.
As they say, the proof is in the pudding, or in this case maybe in the fruit and yogurt parfait. The company has grown fast, very fast. Revolution Foods has gone from preparing and delivering 500 meals per day in 2006 to 120,000 meals per day in 2011. And, it is expanding to eight different regions across the country.
Revolution Foods certified as a b corporation (not the same as a benefit corporation) in 2011. Tobey spoke about the certification process, saying that it was valuable in outlining a roadmap for how her company wanted to grow, expand, and operate. She mentioned that as a social entrepreneur, she has often found it her role to educate potential investors about what b corporations are and what the triple bottom line entails.
In answering an audience question about the future of Revolution Foods, she didn’t rule out an exit strategy such as an intial public offering (IPO) or acquisition by a larger company.
Vincent Siciliano, President and CEO of New Resource Bank
Turning to a banking state of mind, the third panelist Vincent Siciliano of New Resource Bank opened his presentation by asking if we knew where our money “spends the night.” He spoke about his company’s goal of ensuring that every dollar of depositor’s funding is invested in building a sustainable community.
Founded in 2006, New Resource Bank has aimed to bring new resources and create new opportunities for sustainable business. Siciliano mentioned that the bank became a certified B Corporation in 2010.
He expanded on the ways his bank evaluates impact for its stakeholders, mentioning a client sustainability assessment that identifies learners, achievers, leaders, and champions in sustainability. New Resource Bank actively practices slow banking because it does not consciously seek an exit strategy, but instead focuses on long term growth and reach, franchising, and creating lasting economic impact in communities.
Answering questions from the audience, Siciliano mentioned foundations as an emerging source of funding social entrepreneurs, in addition to VC funding and crowd sourced funding. For example, Kellogg Foundation became an equity investor in Revolution Foods.
When asked about the academic community’s role in the (b)enefit corporation movement, Siciliano reiterated the need for impact metrics to support data-driven decision-making.
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