Scott Anderson

Weekly Roundup (2-23-13): : Just ‘showing up’ – that’s not enough for these entrepreneurs

Woody Allen once famously said that “90 percent of life is just showing up.”

That might apply for some professions (mine included, perhaps), but I don’t think the comic filmmaker had entrepreneurs in mind when he coined it.

For those with the drive to start a business, particularly a socially inclined one, I’d say only 30 percent of their success is merely showing up – with a basic business plan in hand, that is. The balance consists of speaking up for their priorities, focusing on the task at hand, sticking up for their values, and enthusiastically stepping up for the hard work that’s required to run a business day in and day out. And you can’t just show up for your job as an entrepreneur by doing the same routine over and over again and expecting positive results. Flexibility, resilience and grit are every bit as important as smarts and business acumen.

This week, several entrepreneurs who do far more than show up also made the cut initial cut for two of the more prestigious social business plan competitions on the calendar: Echoing Green and the Sankalp Forum. Angel investor and grant funder Echoing Green reviewed nearly 3,000 submissions and invited 44 semi-finalist applications to continue on through its fellowship program, which invests more than $2 million in seed capital to a handful of enterprises upon its conclusion. It also announced the finalists for its Black Male Achievement Fellowships initiative.

I’ve had occasion to speak with several business plan competition managers over the years. Many have noted that entrepreneurs often go through a shape-shifting process when they enter a particular contest; catering their business plans to appeal to the judges and improving their chances of winning the prize money. But many of these competition managers have told me that while the business plan is important, it’s not as important as the individual submitting it. Rich Leimsider, director of the fellow and alumni programs, and Cheryl Dorsey, president of Echoing Green, would agree.

“We use other criteria to find new people and ideas that can create large-scale social change,” they wrote in the Harvard Business Review this week. “In short, the business plan is overrated.”

When judging a business’s potential, it’s as much about the person as it is the plan. In the world of the social entrepreneur, “traditional business planning processes are less relevant to bootstrappers — where resilience trumps planning and energy trumps experience.”

Meanwhile, the Sankalp Awards, part of the India summit managed by Intellecap that brings together dozens of investors and investment firms with social entrepreneurs this spring, announced its list of finalists for its contest. The finalist group is shorter than Echoing Green’s, so I’m including it in its entirety below.

Agriculture, Food and Rural Business

Eco Tasar Silks

Fabric Plus

Barrix Agro Sciences

Vindhya Infomedia

Health, Water and Sanitation

Banka Bio

Pharma Secure

Axio Biosolutions

ERC Eyecare

Kanungo Institute of Diabetes Specialty Wild Card Entry

Clean Energy and Clean Technology

Avani Bio Energy

Claro Energy

Frontier Markets

Green Power Systems

Education and Vocational Training

ACE Experiences/Dialogue in the Dark

Hippocampus Learning Centre

Sudiksha Knowledge Solutions

Best First Step Education

Technology for Development

Transerve Technologies

Awaaz De

Rain Concert Technologies


In addition to those two long-term challenges, another big contest on the horizon comes from Rockefeller Foundation, which this week announced the 2013 Centennial Innovation Challenge. The competition will evaluate up to 10 finalists to apply for a $100,000 grant. The challenge focuses on solutions to improving the livelihoods for poor workers in informal economies, workers who by their very status fall through the safety net – if one even exists.

The foundation reckons that informal employment accounts for around 50 percent of all employment in North Africa and Latin America, 65 percent of employment in Asia, and 72 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“The Rockefeller Foundation is looking to tap the ingenuity and dedication of today’s social innovators to address the world’s most urgent challenges and ensure that informal workers can achieve equitable growth, all while building resilience in an increasingly volatile world,” said foundation President Judith Rodin.

A new Global Envision

A quick shout out to our content partner, Mercy Corps and their fantastic blog site Global Envision, which is the source for many a cross-post on NextBillion. Global Envision unveiled a new design this week, and well, it’s pretty slick.

Personal thanks

On a personal note, I just wanted to say thanks to everyone who pitched in over the last two weeks to keep NextBillion humming; specifically Dan Shine, James Militzer and Heather Esper. As many of you already heard, my wife and I took time out to celebrate the arrival our first child, Daisy. Thanks for everyone’s kid wishes for our new arrival, who is a bit of a night owl. So please email or Tweet me any time, if only to make sure I’m awake during business hours.

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