First, I want to thank Dom and Jake for putting the time in to work with VentureF0rth on these upcoming events that were mentioned in the previous post. The motivations behind these events are obviously close to the collective BDQ heart and I hope that we can capitalize on this great opportunity. I look forward to seeing ya’ll there.

I was reading an article today from Steve Blank about his lean startup class at Stanford. Looking over the presentations that were posted, its awesome to see this kind of entrepreneurial teaching getting traction in curriculums. If you read through to the bottom of the article, you’ll notice that Steve talks about the volume of interest in the class and how going forward, getting into the class will essentially be an application process. Day to day we are well accustomed to the logic of meritocracy. To steal from a TED talker (who at this point I can’t remember), there is a strong argument to be made that the most talented should be given the best stuff. Society as a whole arguably benefits more from the best violinist getting the best violin, rather than a random or an equal distribution scheme. Meritocracy in theory is great, but it is also subject to abuse.

A few posts ago Dom posted about a fascinating article concerning the higher education bubble which I wanted to play off of. The so-called higher education bubble, to me, is a perfect example of the perils of bastardizing meritocracy. Too many students go to school believing that the education system is transparent: if you crush that entrance exam, you go to the highest ranked school you can, and you are justly rewarded upon graduation. I believe that is at issue here, is a question of incentives. We as students are led to believe that educational programs are incentivized to maximize our future societal potential. You work hard, you get your due. Period. Educational programs, however, also have interests in accepting the largest applicant pools that they can. Problems always surface when a certain class of actors is either unaware or misled about the incentives of another actor class. Ex. Student debtors believe that those issuing the loans would not issue them if the loaner knew that the student couldn’t pay them back.

The business lesson of my diatribe is this: incentive analysis is crucial. Given the bottom line focused business world that Dom mentioned, not understanding the motivations of those we do business with is a potential disaster for both parties. You never have the benefit of costlessly gathering data, but making efforts to understand the incentives of parties is important whether you’re making an HR plan, doing a VC deal, or making an app. So go out, be a skeptic and don’t let the man get you down.

It’s Been Emotional

Holy smokes, I’m back bitches! My first BDQ post in forever, although admittedly in part due to the $30 bucks Georgia bullied me into putting up as a monetary incentive.

For my reunion tour I wanted to briefly mention my experience at StartupCorps‘ mid-semester business plan competition that they hosted for their students. First, it was great to see a real show of force from the Temple MBA’s. I’m hard pressed to think of a mutually beneficial relationship with more potential and can’t wait to see how things develop. The event, for those that weren’t there, was made up of 50 or so high school students (mostly from the Student Leadership Academy) pitching their business ideas to a panel of judges. The finalists from each of the separate judging panels then went on to present in front of everyone in a final round.

Having done a couple pitches and listened to more, I was quite impressed with the skills exhibited. True, there wasn’t much in the way of financials or competitive strategy, but it did not matter. Listening to these pitches, you couldn’t help but edge forward. The listeners visibly wanted to be a part of what these students so clearly believed in. It was, in a word, contagious. Can a business pitch be anything better?

Of the 8 or so pitches that I heard, there was a diversity of ideas, but they all shared a common thread: emotion. Clothing lines were battle cries of identity, acceptance, and individuality. After school communities were bastions of understanding and support. Given the emotional turmoil of everyone’s teenage years, its no surprise the emotional growth and expression played such central roles in these business ideas. Nonetheless, it was still amazing to see such clear examples of how entrepreneurship can serve as a mechanism for engaging the world around us.

Listening in on these pitches reminds me that emotions are powerful forces to tap into. The next time that I think about my game-plan, you can be sure that I will consider whether I need to build something to spark the change I’m interested in. Perhaps all I need is an emotion and a message.