Three university presidents, one shared entrepreneurial vision

Earlier this year I had the occasion to attend the AshokaU Exchange being held on the sunny Arizona State University campus in Tempe. The day and a half of packed conference schedule culminated in a dinner panel of three university presidents, each a giant in his field.

The dinner panel brought into sharp focus the challenges facing our higher education system and the three different but equally innovative approaches taken by each of the colleges. Continue reading

Why can’t we sell Charity like Perfume?

I realized t has been a very long while since I last wrote an article for my blog. I hope to get back in the swing of things again.

To kick things off here is thought-provoking article that was in the Wall Street Journal on Saturday,  Why Can’t We Sell Charity Like We Sell Perfume?

It raises several issues about how we could allow charities to operate differently and perhaps more effectively. Some excerpts from the article – recommend you read the entire piece. What do you think?

We have two separate rule books: one for charity and one for the rest of the economic world. The result is discrimination against charities in five critical areas. Continue reading

12 wonderful wishes you can share for 2012

As we tick down another year and look back at all the milestones of the past year and plan for the next, it is time to also consider some of the wonderful organizations that are making an impact around the world.

Here is my list of a dozen that are making a difference in no particular order. Most of them are young organizations that are just getting started and an opportunity for you to get involved and help them on their way.

  • Greentown Labs http://greentownlabs.org/ An incubator for clean technology ventures that allows entrepreneurs to get down and dirty constructing their next generation green machines. Setup as a nonprofit and collaborative, Greentown provides a unique location for startups that need to build stuff.
  • Sol Solution http://www.sol-solution.org/ A nonprofit that helps underprivileged schools to save on expenses by installing solar solutions to offset their electricity expenses.
  • Social Capital http://www.socialcapitalinc.org/  Social Capital inc has worked over the past 10 years to strengthen communities by connecting diverse individuals, neighbors and organizations and bringing them together through civic initiatives
  • ABAN http://www.aban.org/ Is a young organization that I came across during a visit to University of North Carolina that was started by a team of passionate students that works with the street girls of Accra to help them learn a trade, make a living, and secure a future as well as helping them transform their city into a healthier environment.
  • Space with a soul http://www.spacewithasoul.org/ is another innovative nonprofit that provides shared office space and services to nonprofits. A great landing place for emerging nonprofits as they get started.
  • Peace First http://www.peacefirst.org/site/ Peacefirst works to build a safe and productive environment at schools by teaching students the skills of conflict resolution and civic engagement.
  • Samarthanam http://www.samarthanam.org/ Samarthanam is a nonprofit registered in India and the US that provides quality education, accommodation, nutritious food, vocational training to help empower the visually impaired, disabled and underprivileged in India. It runs a free middle school for underprivileged youth including the visually handicapped.
  • Merrimack Valley Sandbox http://www.uml.edu/mvsandbox/default.html Launched in 2010 November by the Deshpande Foundation, the Merrimack Valley Sandbox works with students in the Lowell/Lawrence area through partnerships with colleges and community organizations to build leadership and entrepreneurship within the Merrimack Valley.
  • LifeCity http://mylifecity.com/  LifeCity helps encourage green businesses in Louisiana through its membership organization where customers get discounts to green businesses and products and green businesses certified by LifeCity get greater visibility and support from LifeCity members.
  • Peacetones  http://peacetones.org  Peacetones supports talented, unknown artists from developing nations build their careers while giving back to their communities.
  • Vision Aid http://visionaid.org/ VisionAid works to help people with visually related disabilities in underserved areas to lead a life of independence and dignity.
  • Ummeed http://ummeed.org/ is a nonprofit that works with children with developmental disabilities in Mumbai and is one of the few that helps bring professional support to this segment of society in India.

Startups have a chance to share $1 Million in prizes in MassChallenge, world’s largest competition

Image representing MassChallenge as depicted i...

Image via CrunchBase

Last year I had the opportunity to participate as a judge and mentor in the inaugural competition, MassChallenge. This is a serious business competition that has shown it can attract top quality concrete job creating ideas from round the world. Over 450 entries applied and 110 finalists were incubated for 3 months including free office space, introductions to VC, funders, customers and team resources.  Sixteen finalists split $1 Million including $100,000 for the top finisher. Seeding Labs, profiled elsewhere on my blog, won $50,000 as the Social Impact finalist and also was offered free office space for another nine months.

If you have a venture and are looking to make it to the next level I strongly encourage you to apply to the 2011 accelerator. If you have any questions please reach out to the organizers at contact@masschallenge.org or apply online at www.masschallenge.org/enter. Continue reading

45 Finalists to Raise $200,000 and vie for a slot in this year’s Unreasonable Institute

In 2009 we had the distinct honor of being one of the first locations where the Unreasonable Institute was announced when we had one of its original founders sign up as a judge for the Pitching SE contest at ForSE 2009. Following an incredible launch of this new format for jump-starting  social enterprises in the summer of 2010, the Unreasonable Institute is in the process of selecting the final list of 25 potential attendees for the 2011 summer session. Unreasonable Institute Marketplace

This year there are several candidates that have strong ties to the TIE Social Entrepreneurs Group and ForSE. Some of them are:

  • Zubaida Bai founder of AYZH, who presented her idea at ForSE 2009 in the Pitch contest. AYZH provides appropriately designed health and livelihood products to address rural women’s needs.
  • Sana: Care Anywhere, presented last year at ForSE 2010 on the Technology panel about their mobile platform for delivering healthcare in developing countries
  • EGG Energy also was one of the panelists in our Technology panel last year at ForSE describing their work on providing electricity to  remote Africa by creating a service infrastructure that recharges and supplies batteries to their customers
  • Deepak Ravindran, a fellow in the Startup Leadership Program from TiE Boston and founder of SMSGyan a mobile is also one of the finalists

You can help these and other entrepreneurs by helping them raise the $8000 it costs to attend the Unreasonable Institute.  Continue reading