Friday, December 14, 2007

Bootstrap Austin Speakers in 2008

We are incredibly lucky to have so many successful bootstrappers in our city - and Bootstrap Austin has been privileged over the years to have many of them share their stories at our monthly meetings. 2008 is no exception with David Ansel (Soup Peddler), Paul Carrozza (Runtex), Clayton Christopher (Sweet Leaf Tea) and Larry Warshaw (Constructive Ventures) already confirmed to speak. The sheer diversity of this group alone - food, retail, fitness, beverages, real estate - is a testament to the broad applicability of bootstrapping beyond technology.

I didn't realize we would be embarking on an incredible learning journey about the bootstrap process when I invited Neal Kocurek to be or first speaker in October, 2003. Neal explained how he realized that Radian's ability to grow was constrained by its ability to develop leaders. This led to his 12-step leadership recipe, which he implemented at Radian and generously shared with anyone willing to listen. With the trusty Bootstrap Map, it's now clear that Neal was describing a key action associated with building the organization in the Growth Stage.

It is striking that these natural bootstrappers navigated their (ad)ventures without the benefit of formal training, yet they resonate and agree whole-heartedly with the Bootstrap Map when I share it with them. Is bootstrapping innate to the individual or can it be taught? I suppose the implicit assumption at Bootstrap Austin is that the latter is indeed the case. Furthermore, through the activities and interventions we have evolved over the years, our community can be a place where that critical learning can happen just-in-time. Our modified tagline might therefore read: right learning right time --> right action right time.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Entrepreneurial Imperative

If you're an entrepreneur, we need you.

The videos shown at my kids' elementary school are touching. Small cinder-block rooms are shown, lined with basic shelving for books donated by American students and parents. Smiling, singing black children pull at the heart strings.

And the shelves are almost empty.

The empty shelves are promising. The books are in the hands of ravenous minds in dusty villages of Africa. This year Laurel Mountain Elementary will build four such libraries in Africa. By and large this is considered a good thing.

Doris Lessing presented this in her Nobel Prize acceptance speech. She can do much to raise sympathy for the plight of African children, but it takes a different energy to create action.

The entrepreneur doesn't ask, "how can we build another library." The entrepreneur asks "how can we build an organization that builds hundreds of libraries."

It means creating a business where it is really needed.

It means ignoring norms that says the government of Uganda spends 110% of it's revenue on the bureaucracy, much of which is foreign aid.

It means creating jobs in the communities that need them.

Andrew Mwenda makes a compelling argument for the dire need for entrepreneurs instead of foreign aid on the African content.

Building a business and making money is what we as entrepreneurs are supposed to focus on, but it's not why we're here. Our unique powers may seem odd to others, and this is something that often stops us. But these intuitions that plague our thoughts are important when we focus them.

For the sake of this country and others, find your partners, focus on the possibility that only we can see, and take action on your vision. For entrepreneurs, it may be the only way to stave off madness.

A hunger for books | Review | Guardian Unlimited Books


Image by Duncan Walker

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