One of the highlights of A Better World By Design 2011 was the fantastic panel on Young Entrepreneurship Networks on the morning of day two. The panel, which was moderated by Giles Holt, RISD ’13, included Mathias Holzmann of Palomar5; Adriana Pentz of Starting Bloc; Fabian Pfortmuller of Sandbox; and Dylan Reid of The Kairos Society.
Pfortmuller characterized Sandbox as a network for "identifying young people who are too young to be doing what they are doing." Members must be under 30-years-old and referred by one of members of the closed community. "Age," said Pfortmuller, "is more important than what they happen to be doing."
Pentz described Starting Bloc as a "global fellowship program of entrepreneurs" and "bridge builders." The network looks for members from all backgrounds to great bridges across different sectors of business. Starting Bloc runs a 5-day program called the Institute for Social Innovation, which teaches new members about the design thinking and innovation process.
Holzmann recalled how Palomar5 grew out of the fact that TED conferences most often include only established innovators. Instead, Holzmann wanted to "get people in their 20's while they're doing these [TED-worthy] things," as well as to "help out young entrepreneurs so they don't have to take another job." Holzmann described Palomar5 as an "incubator for people."
The Kairos Society, said CEO Dylan Reid, came from a bunch of UPenn students wondering "what would the world look like if all the world leaders... were best friends 20 years ago." The Society seeks to build trusting relationships between it's members, as "entrepreneurs take a sizable risk and can only do that with people they trust."All of the organizations' leaders talked about struggling to keep their members engaged and dealing with newly forming alumni networks, especially for the age-restricted groups. Kairos's Reid said that it's difficult to measure the Society's success as "the nature of the organization is experiential."
Reid also recalled an amusing story where an advising investor, Dave McClure, instructed bored Society members in a game where one student says a word, another student says another word, and a last student pitches the now-titled company to a venture capitalist. However, Pfortmuller topped this with a story about a Sandbox member trapped in London during the Icelandic volcano disaster organized TEDx Volcano in a mere 32 hours by tapping into the organization's network.
Sandbox is starting to spread across the globe
On the one hand, these entrepreneurial networks appear to offer a great deal to their members, whether in terms of making connections for new ventures or teaching innovative design thinking processes. On the other hand, the networks seem to really embrace, perhaps a bit too much, a fraternal organization-like societal structure. Either way, the networks are really starting to leverage this latest generation of innovator-designer-entrepreneurs and, hopefully, for the greater good.
See all of our Better World by Design 2011 coverage:
» Day One recap
» Day Two recap
» Interview with Panthea Lee
» Day Three recap