July 10, 2007

PBS announces search for social entrepreneur

NOW, the PBS newsmagazine, in collaboration with Ashoka, the association of  leading social entrepreneurs, have announced a search for the next leading social entreprenuer.

In a press release NOW executive producer, John Siceloff, explains the goal of the competition.

“The PBS mission encourages our viewers to ‘Be More, and Do More. Project Enterprise is a great way to see what it takes to hatch and execute an amazing idea with a sustainable business model,This is the first time a social entrepreneur will be voted on and followed in this way, and we hope it inspires as much as it enlightens.”

To get more information or to nominate someone visit: http://www.pbs.org/now/enterprisingideas/project-enterprise.html

According to the press release, “the ideal nominee will be someone who is launching or has recently launched a project that draws on business practices as well as other innovative strategies to achieve a social mission and that has potential to lead to widescale pattern change. Finalists will be announced in August. The competition winner will be announced in September, then followed with coverage deep into 2008.”

A good idea doesn’t mean a fundable idea

You may have a good idea for a business. You may have thought through the opportunity. You may have created a solid business plan. This means you have a fundable company, right? Well, not quite. Brock Blake, FundingUniverse CEO explains.

“I had the chance to help judge the BYU Idea Competition. There were 10 judges analyzing around 140 business concepts and ideas. While there were some ideas that were a little wacky and others that were not very feasible, I was very impressed with most of the ideas that were presented. Our goal was not to select a winner or even decide if they are “fundable” ideas, but to decide if they are good ideas or not.

Some might say that a “good idea” and a “fundable idea” are synonymous, but I disagree. One of the main reasons that they aren’t the same is because a lot of really good ideas are not scalable. Let me explain…
When investors are analyzing an investment opportunity, they will traditionally look to see if the company will grow very rapidly in the first five to seven years, providing an opportunity for the investors to exit with a high-multiple return on investment. When I say “high-multiple ROI,” we’re talking 10-30 times their money (so if you’re looking for $500k, they are hoping for returns of $5M or more).

There are other businesses that are very good ideas, but don’t pass the “scalability test.” Most investors refer to these ideas as lifestyle businesses. Examples of lifestyle businesses may include: restaurants, real estate, local mom & pop shops, and other human-intense opportunities (i.e. consulting, etc.). These businesses can be very successful and provide a very good living for their founders, but aren’t necessarily good investment opportunities.”

Energy vs. Experience

While industry and work experience is an important part of what makes a good entrepreneur. Brock Blake, FundingUniverse CEO, explains the energy of the entrepreneur may sometimes outweigh her experience or lack there of.

Brock explains, “An inexperienced entrepreneur must be teachable. The last thing you want is a know-it-all inexperienced young entrepreneur. On the other hand, an ambitious high-energy businessman who is willing to learn from his/her mistakes and the mistakes of others will be a valuable asset to any team.”

Brock offered a few suggestions for the inexperienced entrepreneur.

  • The entrepreneur must dedicate herself to learning. How much time do you spend each day learning new things? Are you reading the latest news, blogs, magazines, and books? If you do, this will help you to be experienced beyond your years.
  • A young entrepreneur must surround herself with experienced mentors. There is (almost) nothing that can replace experience. I am very grateful for the many mentors that give me help and advice on a daily basis.
  • Finally, the entrepreneur must use energy to their advantage.

What do you think? Have you invested in an entrepreneur who lacked experience but had the energy and drive necessary to succeed?