Fixing “Social Entrepreneurship” – Pt. I

Idea of the day:

I’ve had a lot of issues with the notion of “Social Entrepreneurship” for a long time now. Instead of white guys going into predominantly nonwhite countries, acting all patronizing, as if they are the “only ones who are willing to help these people“, it might be more efficacious (and less colonialist) to train/teach, empower locals such that–gasp!–they could run their own businesses for themselves: independent of the (invariably affluent and college-educated) white guys. Might this be the end of the dependency-trap into which the third-world is drawn by western aid–including many ostensibly socially-conscious enterprises operating in the third-world? Yes.

What to call this model? Low-Latency Social Entrepreneurship. More on this later.

Thiel’s 20-20 Vision: Stop Out of College

Here is the first paragraph of a post I wrote for Flyover Geeks, the remainder of which can be found here.

The average cost of a college education at a private institution is just short of $37,000 per year, according to an NPR survey last October. One important question students ask themselves when entering is, “What will I get out of this?” It’s a question I’m asking myself right now, and although I’m still uncertain as to its answer, I am confident in answering that question’s converse: “What will I put into my college experience?”

Careerism is Dead.

I’m now blogging for Flyover Geeks, a Chicago-based blog aiming to be the TechCrunch of the midwest, the “flyover states”. I’ve been tasked with writing about college, entrepreneurship, and my opinion of both/either of them. Here, on The Halcyon Days, I’ve posted the first paragraph of my Flyover Geeks post, “Careerism is Dead”. It is a pared-down version of a Halcyon Days post from the summer.

From the time they’re young, kids are told to go to college and get a good job. Well, I’ve been doing some thinking about what it means to have a “good job”, and I find myself unimpressed. Look no further than the movies to find examples of Good Jobs. Charlie Sheen’s character in Wall Street had a good job selling stock to rich people. What about Leo DiCaprio’s Frank Wheeler in the film adaptation of Revolutionary Road? He had a good job at Knox Business Machines doing… something. What he did, exactly, is a little unclear. In fact, there are dozens of such characters who worked hard to graduate from Brand Name University only to get a Good Job that utilizes precisely 0% of what he/she learned in school. I don’t know who came up with the whole Good Job idea, but they were a spot-on marketer. Good Jobs, to be frank and a tad crass, suck.

To read the whole piece, click Here.

#LessonsLearned @SWChi

It’s kind of like speed-dating. You’ve got this little window of 10-20 seconds in which you must capture your audience’s attention and engender the ineffable, refulgent glow of potential recognized. You know, to kick that internal monologue: “That, man… THAT idea’s got LEGS!” How’d I get me summa that?

Or at least that’s how I imagine it. Like speed-dating, speed-entrepreneurship competitions have are populated by people at the extremes of competence and credibility. There are the pros, who spit their game like it’s the only sixty-second syntax chain their brain holds dear. They articulate each phrase well, and their eyebrows waltz in perfect time with the words they animate. But with prowess comes the other side of the spectrum. The desperate at Startup Weekend were, um, very much so.

After pitches we congregate, collaborate, extrapolate and incorporate; Chicago’s new tech potentates cerebrate. From team-based co-mingling and fifty-four hours of incubation come ideas brought to the edge of happening. Winners might Y Combinate.

Rhyming aside, I found my experience at Startup Weekend interesting. It forced me to think quickly and with a degree of granularity I’m not used to applying to the “real world.” I met marketers, tech bloggers (for one of whom I might be contributing a column on college students and technology), lawyers, students, hipster organic cycling enthusiasts, and the most preternaturally energetic 30-somethings ever. I ate a dozen tiny bags of PopChips and several WaoBao baos, but my real fuel was autogenous norepinephrine and the three xanthines found in yerba máte, which was imbibed by the double-brewed mugful. I met people and had many of those “Ohmigod I’ve followed your Tweets for months! It’s a pleasure to meet you in person!” moments. I actually found out what Twitter’s target-audience is: them.

The degree to which I’m ignorant of the technological space is astonishing, and I now understand that I’ve been looking into the wrong end of the telescope: the universe of aforesaid ignorance is much larger than I ever imagined. I introduced myself as a Luddite, they called me a “normal” and spoke their acronym-heavy language slowly and loudly to me. Now, I can’t build out a UI over a back-end API, but I can understand what’s being talked about.

I asked myself as I stumbled into my room on Sunday night , remembering that I had school the next day, and realizing that I’d gotten no work done over the weekend whether I’m doing this again. Hell yes. It says something that an undergraduate-led team won SWChi, and I’m proud to say that the winning idea’s progenitor, Colin Young, is a good friend of mine. I’ve attached a video of the Uber Cmd pitch, delivered by Mr. Young himself. It begins on the embedded video below at 1:23:00.

Congrats again, UberCmd.

Introducing Oratorize.

Of many things, the prime one that precluded me from writing on The Halcyon Days is not my college workload (which can be largely shirked and/or explained away) but the fact that I’ve been doing a lot of freelance writing for a couple of websites and fleshing out the skeleton I built for Kairos Praxis.

It looks like I’m going to be writing the promotional documents for their NYC 2011 Global Summit, which will be a solid long weekend of writing. In light of these requests to put my noetic machinery to some constructive cause, I’ve founded a company I call “Oratorize.”

Oratorize is a copywriting, copyediting, and “special situations” writing service. Oratorize seeks to provide competitively priced writing and editing services with prompt, highly responsive, and intuitive user interface. A list of specific services is forthcoming, as is the website, which will be at

How to get in great shape, get a comprehensive education from the world’s best institutions, make friends, and earn almost $75k… All in less than a year!!!

Lately, I’ve been asked “What are you going to [when you are] out of college?” The answer to this question is “Probably something in finance, and venture capital or PE in particular.” Then I follow this up by an explanation that I’d probably get out of that pretty quickly, you know, because it’s kind of soul-killing, and nobody really likes “vulture” capitalists to begin with. Then I’d probably write, or do some consulting, and otherwise spend my time reading and composing snarky blog posts. Continue reading “How to get in great shape, get a comprehensive education from the world’s best institutions, make friends, and earn almost $75k… All in less than a year!!!”