Codex #FutureLaw 2013 ConferenceOn April 26th 2013 hundreds of attorneys, law students, legal startup founders, informatics experts, and venture capitalists gathered for the first ever Codex FutureLaw Conference (i.e. #FutureLaw) hosted by Codex— the Stanford Center for Legal Informatics .Codex #FutureLaw 2013 ConferenceThe day was structured in 5 panel discussions with a kickoff keynote by Charley Moore (Founder of RocketLawyer) and capstone keynote by Daniel Martin Katz (Co-founder of ReinventLaw Laboratory and Asst. Professor at Michigan State Univ). It was a day for thinkers and doers in the legal tech space to talk shop, exchange notes, and ask tough questions about the field.The Reinvent Law movement has been making its voice heard in Silicon Valley. You may recall our recap of #ReinventLaw Silicon Valley through a compilation of tweets and photos. That event, in March 2013,  brought together 40+ speakers in a rapid-fire format to discuss major issues, inefficiencies, and challenges facing the current legal system—and solutions that tech + design + delivery can provide.

The #FutureLaw Conference at Stanford was a logical follow-up to the March event. It took place in a more intimate setting featuring fewer speakers, many of whom were leaders in this emerging space, in  interactive small panels featuring significant audience participation. The exploration into the topic was genuine—with many of the panelists posing questions from the audience in other panel sessions. The atmosphere was collegial and conversations of concepts raised in the panels continued between participants during the breaks and lunch hour.

Recaps of #FutureLaw

There are a few excellent recaps and summaries of the event that have been published. I am including Stanford Codex’s Storify recap of the event below. Here are a few additional resources and recaps:


8 Takeaways from #FutureLaw Conference Hosted by Stanford Codex

As the day progressed I began scribbling broad concepts in the margins of my notes. Things that left me…wait for it… #mindblown, or that provided fresh takes on enduring concepts. The field of law is ripe for innovation. The industry has been one of the hardest-hit by the Great Recession. And while select firms and attorneys have survived, if not prospered, for each success there are countless numbers of law school graduates and attorneys who struggle to find a foothold in the field, and perhaps no longer even seek one. Idle/restless legal professionals + tech innovation has given new pathways to take a look at the field through telescope, microscope, and 3D glasses. What has resulted is a movement to disrupt the status quo, and examine the success of law through the lens of its constituents rather than its practitioners. This change of viewpoint lends to re-prioritization and re-thinking of what law should be, and what data and design-driven innovation can lead law to become.

I wanted to share a few broad brushstroke takeaways from Codex FutureLaw 2013.

1. Contracts don’t need to be written documents. The second panel discussion of the day was on computational law and contracts. Panelist Kingley Martin (of KIIAC) brought up the fascinating question of “what is contract?” He reframed the traditional concept of a contract by specifying that above all, it is a “workflow design” and noting that we have chosen to express the workflow through words on a document. However, contracts could also be expressed as code or in a variety of other formats—some of which might be more suitable to replicating, customizing, and operationalizing.

2. Legal startups should choose a VC wisely. The third panel was all about financing legal startups. VCs and founders shared their experience in the funding process. One legal startup founder made it clear that legal startups are a unique animal, and that founders trying to line up funding should seek out a VC who understands nuances of the field. Another panelist summed up his thoughts on exit strategies:  “acquistion is a reasonable outcome, but a terrible plan.”

3. Design for people first.  Budding law students are instructed that one of an attorney’s duties is to zealously represent his/her client. That makes sense for the lawyer, and the client…but not for the field of law. The result is a field that contains, gaping disconnects and inefficiencies, essentially by design. Instead, new legal startups are thinking about the participants in law as they design tools, UI, and resources. They are leveraging what people want to know about the law in designing tools to provide those resources efficiently, cost-effectively, while leveraging copious amounts of relevant data available.

Codex #FutureLaw 2013 Conference4. Open source hybrids are OK. In one of the panels it was brought up that open sourcing legal information is particularly difficult because libraries of contracts, filings, documents, and research are precisely what distinguishes various attorneys and firms. Instead of a full open source mode, there might be innovative hybrid models that will enable attorneys and firms to retain their valuable information while also contributing to the overal open law movement. It doesn’t have to be an either/or thing.

5. Law can be “automated”.  As consumers are already used to “boiler plate” language for everything from online shopping to buying a new car. Instead of recreating the wheel, maybe there’s a way to standardize it to make the content more accessible and understandable. Awhile back Innov8Social covered the movement to standardize #PrivacyIcons, lead by a group called Disconnect. Movements such as that one are showing us that parts of law can be made more efficient through smart automation.

6. Law can be re-imagined. When you are sitting at a library studying the Rule Against Perpetuities in law school or slogging away memorizing key concepts and case law for the Bar exam, there is little room for thought on ways to re-imagine the field of law itself. But the truth is, of course it can be re-imagined. Entrepreneurs and attorneys complain that the patent law system and taxation mechanisms haven’t changed or adapted to emerging needs and industries. The influx and availability of digital data also changes how we interact with the field. Not only can law be reimagined, it is almost feels imperative that the movement to do so continue.

credit: Margaret Hagan

7. Law can be beautiful. One of the house favorites of the day was the panel on design. The startups and designers presented beautiful, simple, mindblowing ways to think about legal tech data. It becomes quite clear that the proof is in the pudding when you view the work of these designers, such as Margaret Hagan

8. Lawyers can re-invent law. It may be tempting to wait for changes to the field. But the conference showed that there are already a number of attorneys who are taking bold steps to reinvent the field. The final speaker of the day, Daniel Katz spoke to tangible ways that law school education can be tweaked to prepare the next generation of legal professionals—who have studied not only Torts but also computational law, informatics, and have actually worked with a team to pitch, code, validate, and launch a project leveraging law, tech, innovation, design with data and delivery.

Stanford Law’s Storify: A Look Back at Codex FutureLaw 2013

[View the story “A look back at CodeX FutureLaw 2013” on Storify]

We may know that one man’s junk is another’s treasure; however, today’s social entrepreneurs are showing us that one industry’s waste can be another’s fuel.  You may arrive at the idea of commercializing waste from different angles, but whatever view you take on the topic, it seems to  make plenty of dollars and sense.This post highlights six startups that utilize and repurpose waste created by other industries to create their core product or service. The industries span biological waste, heat waste, food waste, and–yes, human waste.


Commercializing Waste: 6 Industries that Turn Waste Into Profit

1. Making plastic out of phosphorous and other chemicals from waste water.

Algix, LLC, a startup out of Georgia, started in 2010 when its founders became fascinated with the idea of using algae to scrub wastewater of chemicals such as phosphorous that were deposited into water streams from carpet mills and dairies in northwest region of the state. Their efforts yielded pounds upon pounds of algae. After experimenting with various techniques, they found that blending the aquatic biomass with base resin could yield a durable plastic that can be used in injection molding, compression molding, and thermoforming.

2. Converting wasted heat from a car engine’s exhaust into an adsorption-driven car AC unit.

For the past three years,  Warwick Energy Research Lab at Warwick University has been exploring ways to utilize adsorption of wasted heat to power refrigeration, heat pumps, and air conditioning. An adsorption heat pump essentially uses a chemical rather than mechanical processor and is driven by heat, rather than mechanical rotation.
3. Processing human waste into fertilizer and electricity as part of an urban slum sanitation system. 

While some may hear the statistic of 2.6 billion people around the world lacking adequate sanitation and feel jaded. The founders of Sanergy, saw it as a commercial and social entrepreneurial opportunity. In 2010, nearing the completion of their degrees from MIT’s Sloan School of Management, they developed a sanitation system for urban slums that establishes a pay-as-you-use system of sanitation centers for local use that collects and transports waste to processing plants that converts it into biogas through anaerobic processes. The resulting methane converts to sellable electricity and solid waste that be used as organic fertilizer.

4. Spinning farm waste into biofuel, cellulosic ethanol. 

Canada’s Iogen Bio-Products, recently acquired by Danish enzyme manufacturer Novozymes for $67.3M, has been producing and selling enzymes it generates from agricultural waste to companies dealing in pulp & paper, textile, grain-processing, and animal feed. Iogen is one example of a company that has found a niche in creating cellulosic ethanol, which is a renewable fuel made from farm waste and used to power cars.

5. Upcycling non-recyclable waste into retail inventory. 

For the past 9 years Terracycle has been diverting trash from landfills—to the tune of 2.5 billion pieces. Not only does it reuse and “upcycle” the waste, it has donated over $6M to local charities and schools. All while expanding its revenue growth. In 2012 the company extended its reach to Turkey, Hungary, and Puerto Rico—for a portfolio of over 20 countries. TerraCycle was tarted by a Princeton freshman in 2001 to collect non-recyclable waste such as drink pouches, chip bags, and toothbrushes and use them to create a broad range of consumer products. TerraCycle products are now carried by major retailers including WalMart and Target.

6. Growing gourmet mushrooms from coffee grounds. 

Innov8Social has covered the work of Back to the Roots on a few occasions. Their story bears mention here as well. Started by two Berkeley seniors in 2009, Back to the Roots mushroom kits utilize used coffee grinds to grow 1.5 pounds of gourmet oyster mushrooms in a grow-at-home mushroom kit. The kits have gained an ardent following, and are now carried in over 300 Whole Foods locations as well as at a number of other retail outlets. BTTR is especially proud of the 3.6 billion pounds of coffee grounds it has diverted from landfills and the over 130,000 pounds of fresh produce it has enabled individuals to grow at home. The duo has met President Obama and were named in the Forbes List of Top 30 Under 30 for Food and Wine.

Accelerator programs have emerged as a popular way to experience the startup process, especially within the social innovation context. One of the most visited pages of Innov8Social is the expanding list  accelerator and incubator programs for social entrepreneurs.The ingredients for an effective accelerator program for social innovators appear to be:

  • a balanced combination of resources (in-kind and seed funding),
  • a focused purpose or social innovation niche,
  • a robust panel of mentors and supporters, and
  • a non-intrusive take (i.e. limited equity hold or monetary stake in the startup).

Meet Tumml, A New Urban Innovation Accelerator ProgramTumml

Tumml is a new social enterprise accelerator program that seems to fit the bill for success. Its focus is supporting urban innovation—that is, harnessing entrepreneurship to address issues related urban development. Tumml is poised to become a platform for meaningful social impact addressing the unique problems and issues that arise in city settings.

Tumml is structured as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and has received funding from sources including a grant from the Blackstone Charitable Foundation and sponsorship from Accela.


julie and claraMeet Julie and Clara

Innov8Social had a chance to talk to one of Tumml’s Co-Founders, Julie Lein about the accelerator—which is a startup itself gearing up for its first cohort of startup teams.

Julie hails from a background dedicated to social innovation. After her undergraduate degree at Stanford, she pursued social impact through local politics and gained experience in polling and political consulting. She furthered her interest in social innovation through pursuing an MBA at MIT Sloan where she received the Sloan Social Impact Fellowship and Peer Recognition Award and served as Co-Chair of the MIT Sloan Women in Management Conference in 2012—where is also where she met her future co-founder and Tumml CEO Clara Brenner.

Interview with Tumml Co-Founder Julie Lein

Julie Lein
Q1 | Innov8Social:  What is Tumml?

A1 | Julie Lein, Tumml President and Co-Founder:  Tumml is an urban ventures accelerator, with the mission of empowering entrepreneurs to solve urban problems. As a nonprofit, Tumml’s goal is to identify and support the next generation of Zipcars and Revolution Foods. Through a four-month program, Tumml invites early stage companies into its office space to receive hands-on support, seed funding, and services to help grow their businesses and make a significant impact on their communities.

Q2 | Innov8Social:  What is the problem that the Tumml accelerator program is addressing?

A2 | Julie:  From growing obesity levels to a less competitive education system, our generation has a huge number of challenges to overcome. And, in the current economic climate, we cannot rely on government alone to tackle these problems. More than half of US cities canceled or delayed infrastructure projects in 2011 and 2012 was the fifth straight year of declining city revenues. These cuts are having profoundly negative impacts on the safety, education, mobility, and health of the 81% of Americans who live in and around cities.

Q3 | Innov8Social:  What do you envision as the solution?

A3 | Julie:   Urban impact entrepreneurs can fill an important role in the current economy. From Recyclebank to Alta Bike Share, entrepreneurs start companies that are nimble and scalable – and we believe that there should be more of them tackling urban problems.

Q4 | Innov8Social:   What are the unique challenges that urban impact entrepreneurs face?

A4 | Julie:  

1) They have trouble securing seed stage funding – In a Tumml survey of 106 entrepreneurs, 33% of traditional entrepreneurs had secured venture capital or angel investment, compared with only 15% of urban impact entrepreneurs.

2) They’re more than twice as likely to want to connect with civic and government leaders – These entrepreneurs aren’t looking to get hired or embed themselves in government, but they need help when it comes to navigating the urban landscape.

That’s where Tumml comes in. Applications launch in March — look out for it on our website at

Q5 | Innov8Social:   What inspired the launch of Tumml?

A5 | Julie:   My partner Clara and I met at MIT Sloan and co-directed the women’s conference. We had such a good time working together that we decided to start a company after business school. Clara came from a real estate and sustainability background, and I came from a local politics and polling background, so urban challenges were very core to both of our passions. And then Tumml was born!

(By the way, the name is Yiddish for a “shake up”, which Clara’s grandmother came up with).


Apply for the Tumml Accelerator Program

Applications to be part of the first cohort of the Tumml accelerator program for urban innovation, taking place from June 2013 to September 2013, will be available in March 2013. You can find out more on the Tumml program page.
Participants of the Tumml accelerator program will receive a few key benefits to help launch their urban impact idea, including:
  • $20,000 of seed funding (in exchange for approximately 5% equity)
  • $10,000 of in-kind resources including legal support, mentorship, and access to a co-working space
  • An opportunity to pitch to VC’s, angel funders, urban policy, experts, and potential customers and gain valuable feedback, as well as an opportunity to scale their projects

Meet Nathan

Behind the big idea of social enterprise Goodjoe—a community-based T-shirt company with a passion for doing good—Nathan Pham, GoodJoeis co-founder Nathan Pham.

Nathan’s path to social entrepreneurship started  in tech and marketing. He graduated from UC Davis in 2003 with a degree in computer science before going on to work as a sales engineer at a few different hi-tech firms.
For him, the idea for a social enterprise sparked when he came across a Life is Good store in Chicago in 2007. He began researching the tshirt industry and crowdsourcing and reconnected with college friend Jourdan Yeh.

Meet GoodJoe, a Social Enterprise for Crowdsourcing Design

Together they worked on the concept of creating a platform to sell t-shirts with social impact messaging by crowdsourcing design from professional and amateur designers. In their business model, they built-in avenues to support non-profits looking to use Goodjoe by providing the service free of charge and promoting the non-profit ‘stores’ on the website and through design contests.The concept gained momentum and Goodjoe officially launched at the end of 2008.
Goodjoe now carries thousands of products featuring the work of numerous designers, has hosted over 60 themed design contests, and has raised over $100,000 for artists and non-profits.

Read the Interview

Interview with Natham Pham, Co-Founder of

Innov8Social had a chance to catch up with Nathan to learn more about GoodJoe and his path to social entrepreneurship.

Q1 | Innov8Social:  What inspired you to start Goodjoe? Did you feel like something was missing in the online shopping experience—or did you have an innovative take on it?

A1 | Nathan Pham, Founder of GoodJoe:  It all started when I was on a business trip to the East Coast in 2007. I was caught in a snow storm and got stuck at the Chicago O’Hare airport for the night. When I was there bored and curious, I wandered around and saw a Life is Good store. I was instantly attracted by their smiley face logo. Then I went on to learn more about them. Then became inspired and obsessed and wanted to start a similar business.

After tons of research, in addition to me not knowing how to design, I applied my understanding of the crowdsourcing concept to launch goodjoe, in Dec’08, as a community-based company. By hosting contests, goodjoe utilizes the talent of the graphic designers community to help nonprofits spread their message and engage with their users.One key differentiation of goodjoe and a couple crowdsourcing t-shirt sites out there is that we zoom in and focus on working with nonprofits and using their causes as design themes. We believe that there is a huge need in helping nonprofits expose their cause, solicit and engage supporters, and to us t-shirt design competition is the solution.

As far as online shopping experience, in addition to offering cool and unique graphic t-shirts and products, we thrive to be transparent with the way we do business and how goodjoe operates. That way each person that interacts with goodjoe can see their impact either through a purchase, a vote for a design, or simply sharing a nonprofit that they’ve learned about on goodjoe to their peers.
Q2 | Innov8Social:   What is the mission of Goodjoe? What are your greatest hopes for it in the next 5 years?
A2 | Nathan:  The Goodjoe Mission: We strive to empower and creatively inspire individuals to contribute to our local and global communities.
To elaborate…our hope is that the goodjoe t-shirts and products become a conversation starter in local communities. Every design is intended to create conversation about its origin, the artist that created it and what is the inpsiration behind it. When this happens, the message of the nonprofit and the cause travel far and wide offline, to wherever their supporters might be.Our goal in the next 5 years is to be the online marketplace of choice for socially and environmentally aware customers. For every product purchased, they will be able to connect with the designers and the nonprofit, which are supposedly aligned with their interest and values.
Q3 | Innov8Social:  How did your team decide to monetize your social venture?
A3 | Nathan:  From day 1, when we brainstormed the idea and concept, we made sure the business model can generate revenue, and not depending on things such as ads. Our philoshophy has always been to create cool products that end customers would want to buy and support us, the artists and the causes. That way, we don’t have to do things that require us to charge the nonprofits for using our platform. The end goal is that when a customer buys something, everyone benefits.
Q4 | Innov8Social:   What were some of the unexpected challenges you faced in launching and growing GJ? What did you learn?
A4 | Nathan:  Oh man, where do I begin? ;O) Before and in the early days of launching, the biggest challenge was to understand the ins and outs of the t-shirs production and the industry. Prior to launching goodjoe, we never had any experience with the industry. So we had to everything from scratch. Up until now, the constant challenge is the catch-22 that all the internet social startups must solve. For us, the catch-22 problem is attracting quality graphic designers so that the nonprofits can be interested in signing up and working with us. And with the designers, we need to show that they will receive exposure and monetary benefits from nonprofits promoting the contests and designs, which indirectly promoting them.

Up to date, we have been learning a lot from working with nonprofits. We’ve learned that the needs and wants of each nonprofit are very dynamic. So it has been difficult to pinpoint a formula that capture the consistent needs so that we can do the next build to service more nonprofits. We are almost there though. Also, we’ve found out that nonprofits are quite behind with adapting new technology and new ways of doing things. Most of them are barely catching on with the whole social media. And so when we explain the goodjoe model, most of them do get overwhelmed. Base on these experiences, we have been able to figure out how to better articulate our model so that nonprofits can see the benefits.

Q5 | Innov8Social:   What are 3 tips you have for social entrepreneurs starting out in the online space?

A6 | Nathan:   (1) Find a sector that you are very passionate about making a difference in; (2) Do extensive research to validate that there is a business opportunity there; (3) Find a couple people that share the same values and passion to take on the challenge. And don’t give up until you’ve tried every angle you can possibly think of.

You can read more interviews with social entrepreneurs on Innov8Social as part of our ongoing efforts to profile individuals active in the field. You can also nominate a social entrepreneur.

Take Action: Submit a Design for Democracy Today

One of the ways Goodjoe engages with t-shirt designers across the country is through hosting various contests calling for design. Designers can submit a shirt design idea to a weekly or daily contest or to one of the themed contests.In honor of inauguration day, Goodjoe and GlobalGiving are launching design contest today.

The call is to “create a design that evokes the power and importance of programs around the world that ensure that all people can participate. Design for democracy.”

You have from today until February 8th to submit a design and vote on designs you love.

A Logo to Fit

A post about Goodjoe would be remiss without mention of its own logo design. It is a creative doodle that incorporates the letters G and J for Goodjoe in a fun, quirky ensemble evoking sense of wisdom and gentle happiness—not unlike the calm, kind, and passionate presence Nathan himself evokes.
It is unique, clever, and is a great fit for the goodjoe concept.
The world of cleverly-phrased social entreprise buzzwords can mask a basic question: is there really a difference between a ‘social enterprise’ and socially-minded people just doing business?The question came up at a recent event. When asking a new startup founder if he was part of a social enterprise his response was that he and his co-founders preferred to think of themselves as socially-minded people starting a company.  He was seemingly hesitant to commit his new venture to the accountability and cache of being a social enterprise. Yet, he acknowledged his company’s commitment to social ideals and their company’s goal of somehow incorporating impact-oriented practices in their work. 

Is It a Distinction without Difference?

Arguably he and the leaders of many other startups and companies are guided by their social compass. They may be individuals who regularly volunteer, recycle with gusto, and support  underserved sectors of society with donations, free product/software, or mentorship.

Extending one’s own persona of social awareness to the company could be the start of a corporate social responsibility (CSR) plan. For example, if you volunteer, donate, mentor, give back as an individual and individuals around you at work do the same—it may feel like you are part of a socially responsible business. Plus, if your company takes steps such as creating a CSR team, it will further validate your notion that you are part of something that is doing well by doing good.

So, in some ways—the distinction may seem to be without distinction. If a rising tide carries all ships—then shouldn’t we aspire to antiquate social enterprise buzzwords in exchange for a broader adoption of social impact at all levels of entrepreneurship and enterprise?

It’s All About Intention

Yes, but arguably—we’re not there yet.

While social innovation, social entrepreneurship, social enterprise are gaining ground in public and corporate consciousness (hey, we’ve been writing a blog dedicated to it for over a year!), these concepts are far from reaching critical mass adoption.

It deserves mention that a corporation is a separate legal entity, so there is a good argument for building social impact goals into the core of a new company, as articulated by is bylaws and mission. It is powerful to have discussions based on the intention of founders to incorporate a social impact-related premise as part of the company’s overall mission.

One reason to do so is that there is a possibility that, using all of these buzzwords could be a fad.

It could just be in vogue to say you’re a social entrepreneur, that you focus on impact, that you innovate to create social good and profit. Sparkling phrases that show a commitment to profit and purpose are alluring, especially when other companies seem to be using them too.

The difference in committing to actions or behavior, is intention. Arguably, if a company includes a social intention as part of its mission statement and provides some ways of assessing progress, that could be far more powerful than engaging in buzzword-wizadry.

Likewise, there are numerous ways for a company to manifest its social impact intention. For example…

Ways a company or startup can show its intent toward social responsibility:

  • Certifying as a B corporation
  • Incorporating as a benefit corporation, flexible purpose corporation, L3C, etc.
  • Sharing your company’s progress toward sustainability with transparency
  • Choosing to be part of communities of companies also dedicated to goals, and sharing best practices
  • Supporting the study and progress of impact innovation through funding, dedication of resources, etc.
  • Attending conferences and events to stay on top of trends in social impact initiatives


More than a Dream

As it is often repeated “A goal without a deadline is just a dream.” And while a company doesn’t have to associate itself with social innovation labels—-if its true intention is to make good on social responsibility, it serves it well to not just adopt social impact buzzwords but to the commit to the intention that powers them.

Back in Fall of 2011, Innov8Social interviewed Sustainable Silicon Valley’s Executive Director Marianna Grossman to learn about the organization and its efforts in building a consortium of diverse partners (corporations, non-profits, research institutions, agencies, consultants) dedicated to sustainability.

And now, Sustainable Silicon Valley (SSV)—in partnership with NASA Ames Research Center—has launched a bold, innovative initiative to actively encourage and seek out the best, viable, scalable solutions for advancing global sustainability.

SSV is calling for submissions for its Solutions for Planetary Sustainability Competition in conjunction with its 5th annual Water, Energy, Smart Technology (WEST) Summit set for May 23, 2013. At that event, sustainability solutions are usually showcased.

This year, for the first time, SSV is leveraging a competition style entry process (in addition to its regular registration) with professional review by a panel experts. The competition will also including a crowdsourcing component which will open up voting for solutions to the general public.

Innov8Social had a chance to catch up WEST Summit Program Manager, Martina Frndova to learn more about the Sustainability Solution Competition.

Here are a few highlights she mentioned:

What Do I need to Know Before Applying?

There is no cost for applying.
The deadline for submissions has been extended to Thursday, January 31st, 2013.
Finalists will receive recognition, marketing resources, as well as the opportunity to deliver their pitches in front of VC’s, angel investors, and NASA Ames experts.  There is a possibility for a cash prize as well.
Solutions should be comprehensive—specifying technology, policy, processes, and ability to scale within a community, city, country, and even globally.
Solutions can be at any stage—they can exist at the idea level, or be further along.

What is the Timeline for the Competition?

  • Submit a Solution: Oct 1, 2012 to Jan 31, 2013
  • Vote for Solutions: Feb 1, 2013 to Feb 22, 2013
  • Finalists Announced: March 7, 2013 (evening event)
  • Showcase Conference: All day May 23, 2013

How to Submit a Sustainability Solution

1. Register with Sustainable Silicon Valley

2. Submit a sustainability solution

Here is SSV Executive Director, Marianna Grossman explaining the competition.

The final component of a StartUp Weekend is the pitch presentation. Starting early evening on Sunday, all of the teams pitch the startup company they have been building over the past 50+ hours, including any multimedia or live demos.


The pitches are judged by a panel notable by some achievement—participated in a successful tech company early-stage, founder of a successful startup themselves, hail from a VC background, etc. And they are open for friends, family, and other interested tech folks to attend.

At some StartUp Weekends prizes include medals or even tools to help the startup venture—such as online ad credits, or co-working space passes. Prizes can be awarded however judges see fit—including rewarding things like innovative design, or most promising concept.

The pitch is five minutes—but can be enough to cause bouts of anxiety or even strains in the group. It can also bring out the best in a team–because by the time you do a practice pitch in front of organizers a few hours before the actual pitch, everyone on the team can feel that it’s crunch time. And the common enemy of limited time can unite a team and facilitate honest conversations of what needs to happen in the next hour or two in order for the startup to put its best foot forward in front of their peers, friends, and judges.

Develop a Pitch Itch

Your team pitches, judges ask questions (or don’t), and winners are announced. Teams celebrate another successful StartUp Weekend, swap contact info, and opine on how much they learned.

And that can be it—when the clock winds back to Monday morning, the pitches might remain a fond/anxious memory.

But, if you are  budding social entrepreneur, I might suggest you take the weekend as an opportunity to develop a pitch itch.

If you can cultivate the desire and acumen of delivering a focused, friendly 30 second pitch for almost anything in your life (i.e. your startup, your own skills, what you do, your education, what you are looking for in a significant other, what you New Year’s resolutions are)…it can lead to an effective way of framing those things for yourself and expressing them to others.

Pitch Early, Pitch Often

In the first StartUp Weekend I attended we started a practice of turning to someone random in our group and asking them to pitch. At first, it felt a  little random and awkward—especially when the idea was itself still changing and evolving. But after a handful of times—it became easier, and I would even venture to say we enjoyed the challenge of the pitch.

Oftentimes when we are working on something really important, we tend to want to wait until it’s ‘done’ to explain or summarize it. A neat thing I’ve learned through two StartUp Weekends is that it can be immensely helpful to pitch early and pitch often.

Even if the pitch changes, or is incomplete, it helps the process of articulating conceptual ideas into words.

Get out of the building #swbay

We are wrapping up Day #2 of Startup Weekend for Social Good in San Francisco.

It’s 11:26 pm and the Hub–the co-working space for social entrepreneurs in SOMA—is still abuzz with groups working on coding, building out a business model, asking for feedback, socializing, swapping life stories, and figuring out what to include in their pitch at tomorrow evening’s presentation.

It’s not every day you can say you’ve worked on a couple of ideas you’re passionate about, given feedback on a few others, connected with people from backgrounds ranging from high-tech to social media to venture capital to poverty alleviation—who are from places spanning France, Arkansas, SF, and Denmark (to name a few).

There’s one theme that captures an essential aspect of StartUp Weekend. And it’s repeated over and over again (for good cause)…”get out of the building.”

Teams are told to get out of the building to ask as many people as they can about their startup idea, the platform, the product, whether people use something like it, or whether they would.

And though it may seem obvious to do so—in reality sometimes it’s just much more comfortable to work quietly or with your team or in solitude behind your laptop or at your desk. It can be daunting to think about going outside, approaching strangers who are too busy/disinterested/borderline-irritated to hear about your latest and greatest startup idea.

But that what makes it thrilling.

You have no idea what people will say—they might love it, totally not understand it, and even tell you something your team hadn’t even considered.

And getting out of the building builds character. You have to stick your neck out—pull yourself out of a comfort zone—and into something much more unknown.

If you make it through the excursion, and through the weekend, your team will enter into a whole new phase of startup entrepreneurship. From ideation to something a little less romantic—into deeper strategy talks, pivots, building, implementation, and execution.

And, it will be thrilling too.

We are in the middle of StartUp Weekend for Social Good in San Francisco, hosted by Hub Ventures. The concept of Startup Weekend is to bring together budding entrepreneurial-minded coders, designers, business folks, marketers, media, and just about anyone to dedicate 54 hours (Friday pm through Sunday) to work on a startup idea.There is an emphasis on pitching ideas, forming teams, validating concepts through customer feedback, and building as much of a prototype as time allows.This StartUp Weekend has an extra layer of focus. It is being held to bring cultivate startup concepts that focus on social impact in addition to entrepreneurship.

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.

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Wes Selke, Founding Director of Hub Ventures, introduces his organization’s social enterprise accelerator program.

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StartupWeekend SF participants respond to questions from the speaker.
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A few areas in which social entrepreneurs create impact.
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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.

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Startup Weekend organizer John Beadle explains the game plan for the weekend.


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After the speakers it was time to test our pitching skills with a pitch exercise.
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After individuals presented, attendees ‘shopped’ around for ideas they wanted to work on.
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Groups met and strategized how to begin building a startup in a weekend.
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Burning the midnight oil, groups stayed late to map out an approach to do well by doing good.
In whatever stage of your social entrepreneurial dream you find yourself in, there is something you may have noticed. There is a power in momentum. Here’s insight on the momentum that led to the launch of BlendedProfit and to my involvement with the new site.

The Momentum Effect

Momentum. It can be challenging to build, and once achieved you have to think strategically about how to maintain, pace, or even shift it.

One interesting aspect of momentum that I have noticed is that once it is set in motion, it can actually build on itself.  I have been writing on Innov8Social for over a year this week. It has been amazing, exhilarating, and eye-opening. Parts of it have been marked by solitude and self-motivation, and others have been built on collaboration, attending events, and meeting thought leaders.

One aspect of my social innovation journey that I realized I wanted to build a few months ago, was working with a team.  I think some of our best work emerges when we work with and alongside dynamic thinkers, dedicated to exploring a field or concept from various angles.

So it was a welcome surprise when one Brian Weinberg connected with me over social networks after reading one of my blog posts. He talked about his idea about a new site featuring podcasts by thought leaders and helpful resources for social entrepreneurs and innovators (he had seen Innov8Social’s list of fellowships), and he wanted to know if I was interested and what I might be able to bring to the table.

And just like that, a wheel was slowly put into motion.

Push Start — BlendedProfit emerges

That was months ago, over half a year even. The idea was big and, in some ways, amorphous. Conversations, emails, Google hangouts, text messages, and cloud-based documents slowly chiseled it into something we could understand, participate in, and contribute to. Brian’s podcast interview with Sam Daley-Harris (former Director of Microcredit Summit Campaign and thought-leader in micro finance) was not only informative and professional, but provided a footprint of possibility for how these interviews can give useful insight on past and current social innovation efforts.

When the website mockup of BlendedProfit was released, it further fueled the momentum.

The Team

Through our connection, the entire BlendedProfit team has been inspired by Brian as the ringleader. He has taken the role to heart, welcoming ideas, infusing input, and facilitating collaboration. And if Brian connected individuals, the idea of a blended economy sustained the connections. Says Dhruva, one of the team members, “Inspiration to join the team was first and foremost Brian’s passion…In addition, I think that the blended profit economy is the most sustainable way to build the world most people would want to live in.”

It has been inspiring virtually working with dynamic individuals spanning the realm of social innovation. Here’s a snapshot of the founding team, broken down by the various section of the site:

Content Team

Operations Team
  • Graphic/Web Design: Carol Nguyen
  • Marketing: Kristin Schultz and Carol Miller
  • Business Development & Strategy: David Dimmock and Dhruva Rajendra (@drajwfu)
  • Social Media: Pelpina (@pelpina)
  • Audio Engineer: Emre Yagni

Mission-Inspired Momentum

As simply posted on the site, “ seeks to aggregate actionable resources for a community of people committed to a lifestyle that supports good business. By shifting how we interact with business throughout our societal roles, we can grow the good economy together.”

BlendedProfit + You—Together Ahead

Our journey with BlendedProfit is on its way, and no doubt the months ahead will show evolution and growth in content, organization, and a better sense of how the site will engage and serve the audience.
But the journey for you is just beginning. Now is the time for you to connect with the idea of a good economy, one based both on profit and on values of sustainability, social responsibility, and environmental tenets. You can connect with BlendedProfit on Facebook and Twitter, so we can continue the journey together.