Conscious Company Acceleration with Fledge

Conscious Company Acceleration with Fledge

Fledge Accelerators have helped 81 companies from 26 countries since 2012. Their goal is to help foster a wave of companies that make a measurable impact in the world, collectively improving in the lives of everyone on the planet.

Episode Summary

Listen in to hear the founder of Fledge talk through their learning-focused accelerator model and the community of impact businesses they are building across the globe.

  • What is the mission and vision of Fledge?
  • Can you share why you started Fledge?
  • Can you share more about how you structure the business model for Fledge?
  • What does the ideal business for Fledge look like?
  • Do you work with exponential tech companies? Why or why not?
  • Can you share more on the methodology to scale?
  • How are you measuring the impact?
  • What do you think it’ll take to solve the Global Goals?
  • Any final challenges to the audience?

Full Post

Introducing Luni Libes, founder of Fledge and Managing Director at the Seattle Fledge headquarters.

Luni’s Quick Bio from the Fledge.co website:

“Luni is a 25+ year serial entrepreneur, founder of six startups; Entrepreneur in Residence and instructor at Presidio Graduate School; and Entrepreneur in Residence Emeritus at the University of Washington’s CoMotion, the center for impact and innovation.

Luni is the author of The Next Step, a series of book and classes guiding entrepreneurs from idea to reality; plus blogger and incessant answerer of entrepreneurs’ questions on Quora.

If the pattern is not obvious, Luni spends most of his waking hours helping entrepreneurs.”

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What is the mission and vision of Fledge?

Fledge exists to help entrepreneurs who agree that the only way we can make an impact in the world at scale is through for-profit means.


 

From the Fledge.co website.

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Can you share why you started Fledge?

After 20 years of building tech startups (5 total), Luni went back to the drawing board. “In talking with others and pondering what could I do for the next 20 years of my life, I realized that the most fun I’d ever had across those 20 years was taking an idea and turning it into the first dollar of revenue.”

“The first million in revenue was pretty fun too. But really the idea to the first dollar was with the absolute most fun I ever had. And I got to do that for seven of the 20 years. So I asked, how can I do that for a living? How can I get paid to help others or work with others to do that over and over and over again? And the answer is a business accelerator.”

Can you share more about how you structure the business model for Fledge?

“Well, it’s not by growing fast. It’s growing at whatever speed they think is the right speed. So we’re working with what others are calling zebras instead of Unicorns.

Zebras Fix What Unicorns Break. Magical thinking drives the startup economy — but we need a strong dose of reality.”

So, the idea that we were looking at was, ‘how do you invest in a company that will never exit?’ At the time there were two options for a startup to get funding,: go into debt or hope for an exit, which is the California capitalism model, which has been around for about 40 years. But many of the entrepreneurs I talked to didn’t want to exit or sell their company.”

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How it works:

We use a 3rd option, called a revenue-based loan. And the terms are simple. The loan company hands over some money to a company. You just take round numbers, call it $100,000. And in return, the company actually promises something. They promise to pay back. Lighter capital three, four, five, 6% of their top line revenues until a 150 to $200,000 has been paid back. So once one and a half to two times revenue has been paid back, then they’re done. No equities changed hands, no, no interest rate is there. No timeframe is set ahead of time. 

That’s how it works for companies doing about a million in revenue. Fledge.co-created a way to offer similar loans to new companies, too: “We buy shares of a company and they buy back half of those shares for twice what we paid.”

What does the ideal business for Fledge look like?

In terms of sector or ideas and whatnot, now we don’t have anything in mind. We just look through the applications in and see the ones that pop out as promising and interesting.

Could you just be growing chickens? We do have two chicken companies in Africa because they need a lot of chickens and they’re just not getting grown enough. Or it could be novelty, like on Zirconia or our client down in Latin America, which is recycling plastics. Sometimes it’s a business model that pops out like a crop. It’ll on the Philippines, which is crowdfunding funding for farmers. MMM. Uh, in terms of sectors, uh, we use the UN’s sustainable development goals as, as an ontology. And, uh, we’re covering 16 out of 17. So far we’re missing education.

Do you work with exponential tech companies? Why or why not?

“Well, we’re not a tech accelerator,” Luni says.

“We don’t get excited by high tech solutions. We get excited by big, important problems of the world.”

“So if you have a solution to world poverty, it uses a blockchain. Yeah. We might bring you in and if you have a solution to solving hunger that uses AI, we might bring you in. But it’s, we’re problem first, not technology first.”

How does Fledge help companies scale?

Fledge has 3 parts to their scaling methodology.

  1. MBA program: Luni teaches the curriculum he developed that is in his Next Step books, and licenses the curriculum for other professors to teach as well.
  2. Mentors: Fledge has 660 mentors, and each company meets 12-20 of them face to face.
  3. Storytelling: Fledge doesn’t do pitches, they teach Ted-talk style storytelling. Companies present their stories on demo day.

How are you measuring the impact?

    1. The Pinchot Impact Index – learn about it in the video below!
    2. Showing the UN Sustainable Development Goals that are present in the Fledge portfolio
    3. Showing the gender equality in the companies they support – currently, Fledge has about 40% female entrepreneurs participating.

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What do you think it’ll take to solve the Global Goals?

“The anecdote I like to say is, you can blindfold me, stick me in an airplane, fly me anywhere in the world, drop me off in a village and within two hours I have a coca cola in my hand. Why? Why is that true? The answer is because Coca Cola makes money by making that trip. And that is not true at the moment for solar power in every home or good health care or even just food on the table to stop hunger.”

“When we have businesses who every day worry about how to get the next customer to earn more profits, thoseproducts solve a problem of hunger, poverty, inequality, whatever you like on that list of 17 goals, then we will have these things link and it will simply take a trillion or $2 trillion of investment to get all those companies up and running to scale. Then that’ll turn into four, eight, $10 trillion of returns for investors. So it’s a good thing for investors, but there’s just not woken up to it yet or not. Enough of them are woken up.

Any final challenges to the audience?

  1. Do impact investment!

“We just need to find more ways to deploy more capital in more mission-driven businesses. We need to stop worrying about maximizing returns so we can give a little bit of way to do good in the world… like, every dollar of every investor should be focused on doing good in the world.”

2. We need more fund managers to educate investors who were never entrepreneurs

“The other struggle that we see is that since most investors didn’t make their money as entrepreneurs so they don’t know how to support entrepreneurs as investors. They know how to do public stock market trading because that’s been going on forever, and they made money there. They know how to buy bonds because they’ve made money there.

But you know, if you’ve never been an entrepreneur, if you never worked for a startup, the idea of a lending or investing money in an early company early being less than a million in revenues are less than 10 million revenue a, it’s scary and they just don’t understand it.

So we need them to do more of that investment, which really means we need more funds and fund managers to help them do it. It’s changing the flow of capital, right? Changing where it goes.

 

B Lab’s Innovative Tools to Help Impact Companies Grow Sustainably

B Lab exists to support the cultural change happening around business: How can we create social change with business? And how can we operate sustainably, from sourcing to selling?

In this episode, we talk with B Lab executives Laura and Amanda to find out:

  • What is the mission and vision of B Lab?
  • Can you give us a quick background of B Lab and why you got involved?
  • How does the ecosystem work?
  • What stage of business would you recommend to take the assessment?
  • Why should people measure their impact? What are the benefits?
  • Can you share more about B Analytics?
  • What kind of companies are signing up to use this tool?
  • Can you share with us how you integrated the Global Goals with B Lab?
  • How can we get involved?

Tune in to discover how you can use the Impact Assessment as a guide for your own business growth, and how you can use the B Lab Analytics to inform your investments.

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What is the mission and vision of B Lab?

“B Lab is a nonprofit. We’ve been around for about 12 years, and our mission from the beginning has been to serve people using business as a force for good.

What we see our organization contributing is infrastructure primarily to make the cultural shifts that are happening in the nature of business become long-term changes. Also, we are recognizing companies that exemplify what this redefined for social environmental good looks like, which are called certified B corporations.”

Can you give us a quick background of B Lab and why you got involved?

“It must have been 13 years ago! It started with three friends from college who had all gone into the private sector. One of them was more on the investment side of things in private equity and the other two as entrepreneurs. They were growing a company in the apparel industry and sensing that there was something deeply flawed in business.”

“As they tried to run their business with a social conciousness, environmental purpose, and logic, they found barriers. They identified two main flaws in the system. One was legal – a legal definition of maximizing return for shareholders in the short term. The second was a general question: what is a good decision from the social and environmental perspective as you’re running a business? That was the beginning of it all.”

Laura: “I’m Colombian, so I started out as the executive director of the Labs to partner in Colombia. That was about five years ago. As of two years ago, I’ve been based in New York with Amanda working primarily on newer initiatives. We’re trying to sta ahead of the game and moving the market forward. What about you, Amanda?”

Amanda: “I’ve been with B Lab for about four years now. I came to this work after having spent some time in the federal government, really thinking and working on policy and federal initiatives that we’re about promoting economic development.”

“I think one of the things that was lacking for me was the pace in which the government was able to move around supporting sustainable business.”

“But the pace in the private sector was responding much more quickly. So, there I was after about three and a half years in Washington, deciding to leave because I really wanted to be on the cutting edge. I have seen B labs push the conversation forward and provide real solutions for businesses, for investors and stakeholders (not just shareholders), and redefining what the success of a business can look like. I’ve also seen B Lab being progressive about how we spread that change and make it actionable for all businesses.”

How does the ecosystem work?

Amanda: “When we think about the role that the Lab plays in this work, we see ourselves as one actor in this broader ecosystem of people using business as a force for good. We can take no credit for being the only actors in and thinking about the role of business and how it is changing and how it’s evolving.”

How it Works:

  1. Identify Leaders “Where we see our work really playing out, as Laura said, within the identification of business leaders that have put in best practices around their social environmental management. 
  2. Systematize Best Practices and Get Certified Companies have to go through a process to become a certified B Corp to systemetize those best practices. The first step is actually taking an assessment that assesses those policies and practices in place in that business. For example:
    1. Are you producing a certified organic product?
    2. Are you involved in fair trade
    3. How are you treating your workers?
    4. What’s your governance structure?
    5. How are you engaged with their community?
  3. Change the Legal Structure to a Public Benefit Corporation: Then we create a legal structure that allows companies to account for those shareholders, or excuse me, their stakeholders, not just their shareholders. And as they’re growing their business, as they’re making real business decisions in thinking about how they as a business can grow in the long term.”

Check out this video to see what it means to be a Certified B Corporation

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Can you share the origin of how you developed the assessment?

“The impact assessment has always been the cornerstone of our work around impact measurement, and a first point of entry for a lot of our companies. The first version of it was on an excel sheet. It was like an MVP, but it was about discovering those aspects of the business that we can measure and specifically asking, “how do we identify metrics that are objective and observable that a company can see where they are as an organization?”

At bImpactAssessment.net you can take the assessment. It’s a cloud-based, totally free tool that a company can register for, and as the buusiness goes through that assessment, we ask questions organized around specific stakeholder groups for a company.”

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What stage of business would you recommend to take the assessment?

“We got asked that question a lot about five years ago, so we started this new category of B groups, which is called pending B Corp. The pending B Corp group gives entrepreneurs clarity from the beginning: they take it as a learning experience and it’s only a year after they’ve been in business that they actually have to go through the verification process that the B Corp does go through. So they do have a year from the moment that they decide, ‘okay, I want to be a pending B Corp. I want in a year’s time to really understand what the B Impact Assessment calls for. I want to achieve that minimum threshold within a year.’ Then, they have that time to build the elements that they may be missing.

So, my general answer about the business stage is… as early as possible! There’s no cost involved, it’s a login. And no one needs to know what your score is.” 

“We are hoping that companies use the impact assessment as a tool for their development and growth. That way, they can build a sustainable company from the beginning.”

How many companies have taken the assessment?

Great question. So we have 55,000 companies globally that have registered and started the B impact assessment.

I think that’s because there’s a broader consciousness happening in the business community. We’re now at over 2,700 certified B Corps globally, and there’s been companies that are leading the way for others: “Hey, if that company can do it, I can do it.” Or, “I really believe in that company. I want to be just like them in the business I’m building.” So we’re seeing that community as a whole movement, which is exciting.

Why should people measure their impact?

First and foremost it’s important to have visibility onto those aspects of your business that are not just about financial performance.

Laura: I think there’s an interesting opportunity here for companies to distinguish themselves in a marketplace to say, “This is how I’m doing compared to other companies.” That’s really important to us. I think people are demanding it. Customers are demanding it, investors are demanding it, employees are demanding it. And being able to respond to that demand is a critical and central part of a business being successful is being responsive.”

Are there any benefits to doing this?

Amanda: “I think employee engagement is one of the first things that we hear from companies; that either they’ve gone through it and now they’re seeing it as a mechanism through which to engage their employees. Some of it are doing the assessment as a response to their employees, to Laura’s point, as their workforce may be demanding it and wondering, “Are we amongst the leaders that are doing this?”

The political part of it in tracking your progress over time is important in the same way that you would track your balance sheet over time and your profit and loss statement. And, the certification process built in that consistent review.

For me, Patagonia is a great example of this. They have been a leader in sustainability long before B-Corp. Since getting certified, they’ve used the assessment and certification to improve their company and practices.”

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Can you share more about B Analytics?

“The data in it is by individual companies going in and filling out the B Impact Assessment. Then, B Analytics is a business intelligence tool that lets stakeholders actually engage with that data and understand it in a more in-depth way.”

“I think one of the things that we’ve seen is that there are a host of other stakeholders that want to be engaged in helping that business grow. Often it’s investors. Often it is supply chain managers. Understanding and having visibility into these nonfinancial performance metrics of a company can add value. We’ve had about 150 subscribers since we launched the platform, and it is about helping companies understand where they are today, then use that data to make better decisions and improve their impact over time.”

What kind of companies sign up to use this tool?

It’s a variety. I’d say investors are about half of our community and some of them are venture capitalists, some of them are sort of traditional private equity firms and some of them are debt funds actually that have engaged and invested in providing debt instruments to growing companies.

We also have non-investors who are using the platform. We have supply chain managers who have said “it’s really important to understand our impact, but we want visibility into our supply chain as well because we know that a lot of the value that we’re providing more broadly in the ecosystem is actually coming through our supply chain.” So they may be engaging with the companies that they source from in order to measure and manage their impact.

We also have business networks and local economic development organizations that are using the analytics tool to support sustainable business development in their communities.

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Can you share with us how you integrated the Global Goals with B Lab?

“It fits perfectly into this conversation because we’ll be beta testing in November and then launching in January, 2020. It will essentially be a module of the B Impact Assessment and a module of the analytics that bring the Sustainable Development Goals.

We really listened to many of the companies that use the B Impact Assessment, then so many of the partners that use the analytics and they’ve been saying to us for years that the SDG framework is incredibly helpful.

Anyone who knows the Sustainable Development Goals understands just how tangible they make humanity-wide challenges, but they were developed for countries and by countries.

What can we do to get involved?

I would encourage folks to be the change, which is what our newsletter and our content shows you how to do. Our content highlights the good work of the community and the companies that we have the privilege of working with and serving, and also the broader community of change agents that are driving a different system of capitalism.

So if you need some inspiration, if you’re looking for a mid-day, pick me up, check out Be the Change. It gives you an opportunity to sign up for our newsletter. That would be the best place to get updates on this new integration and the SDG work that we’re doing and to stay up to date on all things B Corp.

 

Catalyzing Collaboration Across the Planet with Conveners.org

Catalyzing Collaboration Across the Planet with Conveners.org

The Conveners team believes it is critically important that people come together to address the greatest challenges facing the planet. Conveners host events, connect businesses to accelerators, and gather technology tools to help impact companies navigate the changing economy. We talk to Executive Director Avary Kent about their organization for catalyzing collaboration.

In this episode, we talk about:

  • What is Conveners.org and what are you set out to solve?
  • Why are these different components important to an ecosystem?
  • What are some of your favorite accelerators?
  • How do you address Global Goal #17?
  • Can you share the business model?
  • How do you see the future of partnerships playing into getting these goals done?
  • What’s next for Conveners.org?

See their top recommended accelerators, hear about their platform for finding accelerators, and experience a mindset-shift around collaboration for impact businesses.

What is Conveners.org and what are you set out to solve?

Well, I would say we’re the meta-meta. We are a global association of impact-focused conferences, accelerators, and mappers. So, anybody who is trying to build a more robust ecosystem, we love to build peer networks to serve them.

There are 3 major segments:

  1. Conveners Events
  2. Accelerators and Incubators
  3. Mappers

Why are these different components important to an ecosystem?

Group 1: Conveners Events

So when we see the conveners, these are the folks who aren’t doing conferences, they’re doing gatherings, they’re doing dinners, they’re doing meetings. But at the end of the day, they believe it is critically important that people come together, oftentimes in person to be able to address the greatest challenges facing the planet. And so, we think this is absolutely critical because every challenge we see from hunger to education, to poverty, to climate change, these are all really complex issues, which means that there’s a lot of pieces that are moving. You don’t know what they all are. And honestly you can only predict cause and effect in hindsight.

And so no one person, organization or even country is just going to fix these things overnight. It requires all of us to come together and to work together and to collaborate.

And so conveners believe that bringing people together is a critical ingredient to achieving their mission.

Group 2: Accelerators and Incubators

These are organizations that are enhancing the ability of enterprises and entrepreneurs to build organizations that are both doing well and doing good at the same time. Especially with social entrepreneurs, there’s a lot of help you need from your business model to your product market fit, how you’re going to run, how to grow your team and build your organization, and how to scale.

The incubators and accelerators have different curricula and most importantly relationships that they bring to the table with mentors and potential teammates and investors. We bring program managers together to learn from each other, share best practices, and hopefully identify ways that they can enhance one another’s programming and skills.

Group 3: Mappers

The third group are mappers, some of whom are incubators and accelerators themselves. Some are research institutions, some are conveners, but these are our people in organizations that are building tools and resources that help people navigate the impact ecosystem. It can be really hard to find your way around!

Can you share with us the background of how you got started?

I was working at SoCap at the time and co-founding what became Impact Alpha and impact space, the media site and was just really shocked by the number of accelerator program folks who didn’t already know each other. 

I had been really inspired by Ian Fisk, the Executive Director of the Mentor Capital Network and the work he’d done on ecosystem building. I took the banner from him to help bring together program managers from incubators and accelerators around the world to help create a common application and create a cross promotion directory.

So when Topher (CEO of Opportunity Collaboration) and I teamed up after an Agora meeting, he was showing his new conversations with conveners. I was exploring my years of conversations with accelerators and we realize that we were serving different audiences who are doing the same thing, which was building peer circles and pure connection for communities that are oftentimes really isolated. At the time I was exploring what to do next and had left my last startup, but Topher really didn’t want to leave Opportunity Collaboration. So conveners.org was born a few months later.

We focused on what happens when you listen to the communities that need help and design your programming to be really responsive to that.

The Accelerator Selection Tool

An Accelerator Directory was one of the collective impact projects that came out of conversations with Ian Fisk of Mentor Capital Network and Andy Lieberman from Miller Center for social entrepreneurship. Uh, and I worked together to start to map out like what are the fields, what does the information that people actually need to make these kinds of decisions? And at the time enable impact, uh, actually was building an accelerator directory.

However, the problem was that the data was out of date all the time, and the platform would be expensive to run and offer it we kept it up to date. So The Accelerator Selection Tool works a little differently in two main ways:

  1. They don’t list individual programs, but list groups that have websites. That way, the company’s website will be adding updated information on its own.
  2. They offer an embed code for websites to offer for free, to outsource distribution.

What are some of your favorite accelerators?

I would say Miller Center for social entrepreneurship, as they have incredible longevity. They’ve been going for over 15 years. In terms of working in emerging markets, they’re amazing and they have a great mix of both virtual and in-person programming, especially around investment readiness.

Mentor Capital Network is also exceptional. Anyone who applies is going to get an incredible amount of feedback from hundreds of mentors from all over the world, if not thousands.

I would say Uncharted is also incredible. You may have known them as the unreasonable institute in Boulder back in the day, but they had a rebrand last year and they are really at representing the next iteration of impact accelerators. So they’re really focused on solving a specific problem.

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Other accelerators Avary recommends:

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What do you think the role of an impact ecosystem plays into a city?

I actually love the metaphor of ‘the roadies who make that awesome concert a reality.’

It’s the folks behind the scenes who are connecting the dots who are helping you see and meet the people that you might not otherwise have access to, and to gain the answers to your questions. I mean, Google is awesome. Obviously, they’re gonna rule the world one day, but at the end of the day that’s not necessarily how you’re going to find, not just the answer to your question, but the person behind it who you can really build a relationship with.

I think especially when you look at how silo-ed government is from everything else, how siloed corporations are from everything else, how siloed corporations are internally, how hard it is for universities to connect across things. These that were coordinators are the glue that’s holding things together, and they are the catalysts. From a true chemistry sense of the word, they are speeding up the reactions that are creating an impact because they’re connecting pieces more quickly.

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How do you see Global Goal #17 going?

“So, partnerships for the goals (SDG #17) is obviously what we think we embody the most. There’s a lot of money and time and energy and focus going into ending hunger or improving education or fixing climate change and partnerships, many argue, is the most important ingredient.

You’re not going to achieve any of the other SDGs without it. And yet, there are very few funders and very few folks who are actually really prioritizing #17. It is overhead: it is salaries, it is people’s time. That is at the heart of the program that’s being delivered and it’s really hard to measure. You cannot attribute your impact nearly as easily as when you say, “Oh look, we, you know, sold x number of copies of this app serving x number of customers or we’ve delivered, why gallons of clean water to z communities.”

But there are metrics for it. They exist. They’re just much harder and take a lot more time to measure. We’ve been really focused on SDG 17 through our initiative convening 17 and this is bringing all of the parts of our work into one coherent strategy.”

Can you share the business model?

“We’re a 501C3 nonprofit, but it’s the first nonprofit I’ve run. Everything else has been for profit. So, no surprise, about 75% of our income is actually earned at revenue level.

We do a mix of a lot of training, a lot of capacity development, working with foundations to help improve the capability of their team to facilitate a very participant-focused design with many of these folks and over time we also designed and ran full events for them that use this methodology.”

How do you see the future of partnerships playing into getting these goals done?

“I think we need to get ego out of the way.

There is a lot when you look at collaboration, there are a lot of challenges that honestly emerge because people need the credit and they think they can do it better than anyone else. And I think to some extent that’s true. Kickstarter is always going to go faster and be able to do more because they don’t partner. They just know what they do, they do it well and that’s the thing that they’re going to do.

But when you are trying to tackle a complex challenge, you can’t go it alone because too often the intervention that you’re trying to have is going to have unintended consequences and you can’t predict what those are going to be in advance. Then, the only way to address them is through relationship.”

 

What’s next for Conveners.org?

Avary talks about partnerships and building their accelerator pipeline moving forward.

“I think doubling down on how to build collaboration between conveners and how to really catalyze action. On the collaboration side we are working on a number of core partnerships for 2019 and 2020 that will enable us to take on more SDGs like SDG 2, hunger, and SDG 5, gender equality, and start really building the playbook so more folks can leverage conversations or cost conflicts to achieve really specific and measurable outcomes.

We’re also really excited to be doing more to integrate the accelerator community into that process because they are such a valuable pipeline partner in this.

MIT solve has been doing incredible work for the last few years in identifying core challenges and connecting to a global network to find solvers from around the world, and we’re excited to be talking to them about ways we can connect into the accelerator network that we’ve built.”

Top Five Lessons Learned From Our Singularity University Series

Top Five Lessons Learned From Our Singularity University Series

In the SU series, we heard from some of the top minds at SU on how to leverage exponential technology and incorporate it into your own business. We saw some of the implications that exponential technology will have on our futures, and we saw the impact this technology will have in solving the Global Goals. Listen in to hear more about Chandler’s 5 biggest takeaways from the SU series.

In this podcast, our goal is to uncover some of the most innovative companies leveraging leading-edge technology, like Singularity University. Companies like SU are taking on the global goals with social-impact driven business models.

We want this podcast to be a resource for you to learn about the innovative tech of our time and integrate it into your business model.

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Top 5 SU Series Lessons

  • Take Away 1: Start by Building a Regular Company… Then Go Exponential

When you’re building out an exponential technology business, one of the best ways to start is just to focus on building a regular company and focusing on solving a problem that you think that you’re uniquely good at that you will be able to specialize in in the marketplace and watch how that company develops organically.

  • Take Away 2: Bring in an Outside Specialist to Integrate Exponential Tech

One of the best ways to bring technology into your business is to hire someone that specializes in the technology that you want to leverage. Then, they can help you gauge the timing and success rate when you’re building an ‘exponential’ solution… since solutions like these often seem slow to start, and then make great leaps in traction. Only a specialist would be able to gauge whether your pace is a problem or if you’re just days away from the next quantum leap.

  • Take Away 3: Learn About Exponential Tech Across Industries

Once you get into the technology game, it’s advantageous to actually study all the different kinds of exponential technologies so you can stay on top of the marketplace. The nature of exponential technology is that industries across the world will be disrupted more and more quickly, and you’ll need to keep your eyes on the horizon to keep up and innovate.

  • Take Away 4: The Data Will Tell You Where to Start Innovating

You don’t have to be a technologist to get into the business of exponential technology. The best way to start is just to become more data-centric. When you start to see patterns in buying habits, online habits, and gaps in the market, you can begin to innovate solutions.

  • Take Away 5: Seeing The Innovations in Tech and Business Through Singularity

Chandler says, “Maybe I’m a little bit biased on this, but I really enjoyed getting the inside scoop of the latest and greatest of what singularity is up to in the world and their game plan over the next 10 years.” Singularity has been collecting the most innovate companies and technologists all over the world, so following their work will keep you up to date on upcoming opportunities and trends.

We will be taking a short break and when we come back we will start a series Impact Venture Capital, Private Equity Firms and how to measure impact with your portfolio companies at scale. Stay tuned!

Listen in to hear more about my 5 biggest takeaways from the SU series.

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Sustainable Transportation: Levitating at 700mph in the Hyperloop

Sustainable Transportation: Levitating at 700mph in the Hyperloop

In the next 10 years, you will be able to fly above 700mph between cities in a levitating pod. In this episode, hear how the Hyperloop works and what this technological innovation means for city life in the 2020s.

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Episode Summary

With fast-moving pods magnetically propelled through tubes, people will be able to get to work in places hundreds of miles from where they live… and save time and costs in transportation.

  • 1:30 How the Hyperloop works
  • 7:15 How the project started
  • 14:30 The business model – a tech IP provider
  • 22:00 Is it safe?
  • 37:00 Less stress more opportunity
  • 40:00 Global Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities
  • 45:00 The vision: making cities a wonderful place to live

Listen in to hear how transportation innovation will transform cities as soon as 2028.

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Full Post

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The Mission & Mechanics

1:30 The mission of Hyperloop is to create “effortless journeys that expand possibilities.” Leslie says,

“So what that means is that we’re taking a look at mass transportation where we haven’t seen a whole lot of innovation since rail or the interstate. Things that are decades old. We’re thinking, how can we disrupt those systems and innovate? How about mass transportation that is three times as fast as a train? All electric, on demand, direct to destination, and the idea is that we’re really trying to build this system that can give people back time and connect to cities like their metro stops.”

“So we’re looking at speeds that are up to 600 miles per hour where you can get from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 30 minutes.”

It works in a few basic steps:

  1. A tube is built between two cities, and all the air is sucked out.
  2. Electric copper wires line the bottom of the tube to create a magnetic field that will propel the pod
  3. A fusilage just like an airplane – but without wings – goes into the tube
  4. Since the air pressure in the tube is the same as thousands of feet above sea level, and the tube levitates in the tube with little friction.

How did it get started?

Elon Musk was stuck in traffic in 2013, and an idea that was first introduced in 1913 became a new challenge for him to tackle. Virgin Hyperloop One was founded in 2014 and has been testing and gaining investment ever since.

The Timeline

“We’re looking at the end of the 2020s to get this tech to market,” Leslie says. By 2023 they’re looking to get safety regulations approved, and then by 2028-29 they plan to open the travel to the public.

This means a New York to DC trip will take about 30 minutes on the Hyperloop, and one-hour total accounting for door to door. That trip is usually 4.5 hours if you take a flight door to door, and 4.5-8 by car.

The team is looking at cities that have local desire and momentum for transportation innovation – so, Colorado, Texas, California, etc.

The Business Model

14:30 Hyperloop One doesn’t plan to own all the construction and distribution and setup in cities. They plan to own the IP of the levitation technology and let regional companies manage setting it up with their support.

“When you’re looking at local governments who come to us, who want to see a hyperloop within their region, part of the reason they want to do this is because they see hyperloop as something that’s going to bring in an enormous amount of investment. They see it as a kind of fourth industrial revolution, with new jobs and innovation and things like that. So what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to leverage local expertise, local firms as much as possible to build these routes, which is really a win-win situation.”

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The Infrastructure

The funding, or customer base, is comprised of:

  • DP world, Virgin and other investors
  • Governments that request the project or make it possible as a civic engineering innovation
  • The passengers creating demand
  • Shipping initiatives during downtimes or off-hours

“The system is built to support 16000 passengers per hour per direction.”

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Is it Safe?

22:00 “The truth is, is that about a third of all train accidents have to do with track failure. And about a third have to do with human failure. So together that’s two thirds. Our system is fully autonomous, meaning we don’t have human error and we also don’t have mechanical switches so nothing has to be pulled, nothing moves for our pod to be able to switch at high speeds. And that’s due to our proprietary limitations system.

So already we’ve kind of designed out a lot of the safety concerns with rail and obviously a lot of the questions that we get when it comes to safety. People say, “I saw this crazy YouTube video and if there’s one hole in the tube then the whole thing is going to collapse like a coke can or something!” Um, and the truth is that that’s not the case.”

What’s the difference between The Boring Company and the Hyperloop?

27:00 “We’re really focused on inter-city travel. So if they’re multiple stops within a city or going to an airport, and also connecting with other cities, that’s where we really see our value proposition.”

The Boring Company is more like highways in-between cities for ultra high-speed travel. Also, the method is more individual or small group travel instead of 16,000 at once.

Less Stress and More Opportunity

More than 2/3rds of the population will live in cities in the near future. This means there’s an urgent need to create transportation for people. One of the benefits of the Hyperloop is that a once dense city can spread out over hundreds of miles, lowering the cost of living and the cost of transportation.

Also, the idea is to have less stress and more convenience. You don’t have to spend a ton of money and plan ahead to live somewhere other than where you work.

37:00 “With Uber, you know that when you click the button, when you click pick me up and you see the price, it’s within a predictable range. It’s somewhat reasonable. I don’t even look at the price anymore. I know that the car was going to come to me. I know that the person is going to care about actually trying to find me, so I don’t want to have to fight to find them for example.”

Global Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

40:00 Here are some of the ways Hyperloop One helps us envision a more sustainable future…

  • Allowing people to live outside of the city easily, lowering cost of living
  • Reducing transportation stress
  • Lowering transportation costs
  • Using electricity and sustainable materials
  • Opening up jobs for people who don’t live in cities and have not been able to commute

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What is the ultimate vision for Hyperloop?

45:00 “We want to see thousands of kilometers around the world with national hyperloop networks. We’re seeing thriving megaregions that allow people to make the choice for themselves: Where do I want to live? Where do I want to work? If I’m starting a small business? Is there a market opportunity in a city that’s 300 kilometers away? What we really want to support is this future… one where we’ve transitioned off of fossil fuels, where we’re employing highly efficient transportation, and where cities are really just a wonderful place to live.”

Takeaways

1. The business model – Hyperloop One wants to be the best in the world at their tech IP. They’ll build on that IP with partnerships, and let others own the implementation while they own the levitation & tube propulsion technology.
2. The partner economy- That’s how businesses will work in the future – we’ll specialize in what we’re good at and partner with others to implement.
3. The future of cities – What will it be like to live our lives? The job market will open up, real-estate will change… we’ll have more options for our lifestyle as transportation becomes easier and faster.

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