Scott Anderson

Roundup – 3/18/12: When Sharing Makes Sense

I once traded business cards with a man who had the dubious title “master of flawless execution.” A few months later, I called him up at his office. I was told by the person who answered the phone that he was recently let go.

The manager of flawless execution had been fired. (Insert joke here).

Being a media site, we publish our flaws on a regular basis. Old links, a broken RSS feed which by the way has been fixed and you can subscribe to HERE, and the occasional grammatical error. When you’re constantly in broadcast mode, as we are on NextBillion, there are few places to hide. We do our best to avoid showcasing our flaws, but we also count on readers and our partners to let us know where we need to improve. Essentially, our audience is our collaborators.

For businesses, and in this case, social businesses, the perpetual pursuit of a model that works, a reliable customer base, honed relevant products, and a social impact can blot out all but the sun. Exposing your company to collaboration with a competitor to share technology or distribution networks, is an anathema to most social entrepreneurs Yotam Ariel argued this week. Ariel lamented the lack of collaboration in the solar lantern space, and how many social enterprises are reticent to share resources, let alone technology, with the more important goal of helping those without access to energy.

Yotam Ariel noted the case of Kristine Pearson of Lifeline Energy and Steve Katsaros of Nokero, two solar solution providers who shared business opportunities for mutual benefit.

“To be selfish about or to be concerned about fighting for the market share that we have would be very short vision, because none of us have solved this,” Katsaros told him.

When does it make sense to collaborate? Obviously, if your intellectual property, say, a longer lasting battery, gives your company a massive edge, it would be a very bad idea to share it. There is a time for fierce competition and a time for collaboration and shared value. Working on components, sharing suppliers or linking up to serve different types of customers, perhaps are places where linking will benefit competitors.

Here’s where the concept of co-opetition, comes into play. Introduced in the book Co-opetition, it’s a theory that I used to scoff at it, that there are advantages to customers tying up. But macro-economic shifts have born out the core argument of the book. For example, at the onset of the great recession in 2009, when the U.S. federal government bailed out General Motors and Chrysler Group, fierce competitor Ford Motor Co. was among the biggest advocates for the move. Ford knew the loss of one and certainly both domestic competitors would cripple its suppliers and therefore hurt its business in the long run.

This thinking might serve many social enterprises well in the long term as well.

We’re interested in hearing more stories of sharing and collaboration. So please share them with us on this thread or on Ariel’s post.

In Case You Missed It … This Week On NextBillion

NextThought Monday: From Job-Takers to Changemakers – Nurturing Entrepreneurship, Social Innovation in Higher Ed By Diana Hollmann

A Wish for Sharing: Why Social Entrepreneurs Don’t Need A Bottled Genie to Gain By Yotam Ariel

So You Want to Start a Social Enterprise? 10 Legal Questions Founders Should Ask Themselves and Their Partners First By Pankaj Jain

MobiPrize: Moving Minds, Moving the Urban Poor By Nilima Achwal

Word is Bond : At Duke’s Sustainable Business Summit, Excitement Around Social Bonds and Online Impact Investing Platforms By Rose Reis

Village Capital Expanding to Kenya, China in partnership with ANDE, Potencia Ventures By Ross Baird

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