Monthly Archives: May 2008

Social Enterprise

What exactly IS “social entrepreneurship?” According to Wikipedia (very much a social enterprise in its own respect), it is the practice of using entrepreneurial principles and practices to make a social change. While this is certainly true, I think it also calls for the healthy balance between idealism and realism. Oftentimes, what we see in non-profits is the amazing passion to do good, to change the world. However, what I think it lacks is the type of structure and healthy skepticism that prevents it from transforming that passion into action, into tangible, SCALABLE results. More importantly, I think what it encourages is a sense of collaboration at levels that we have not seen in the traditional non-profits. In economics, there is the rule of comparative advantage, where each party produces what it does best. In the world of social entrepreneurship, however, I believe that to see it through most effectively, there can no longer be individual silos in which any one entity operates — rather, there is a call for greater levels of collaboration, for valuing BREADTH in addition to depth, and recognizing that there needs to be an overlap at times.

The World Affairs Council in Northern California hosted an event last night that addressed this very issue, with the target audience being the 20-something year olds. Everyone was asked to choose an issue they felt particularly passionate about, and discuss it within their groups. Among the issues outlined were: health, human rights, education, disaster relief, fair trade, microfinancing, and the like.

For me, that issue has been education, particularly for children, because I believe that only through education can we truly “lift all boats.” I guess as the saying goes, you can give a man a fish and feed him for a day, but you can teach him how to fish and feed him for a lifetime. While I know that sounds like the very idealism I had discouraged earlier on, I think that by combining the tools that we have already developed in technology with the market-driving principles of scalability and replication, we are at the cusp of something revolutionary.

However, I don’t think that any of the issues mentioned above — health, human rights, fair trade, environment — can truly stand on its own. As I mentioned earlier, the issues brought forth are all intertwined and connected. Education should not only be about the fundamental principles of language, mathematics, or the sciences. Rather, imbued within it needs to be a curriculum that makes all of the issues social entreprise aims to address as part of its overarching objective.



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“fifty thousand”

… and the efforts continue.

now if only chinese non-profits had the same kind of transparency — one of the things i worry about most in the aftermath of this earthquake is the accountability of the millions of dollars of funds that are pouring into china. while so many people in china have turned this into a discussion of how much the “rich” and “privileged” SHOULD donate and give, what about the stewardship that is associated with the funds that have been contributed? giving is on an individual basis — and no one should be “forced” to give because of their status, or wealth

in any non-profit or social-based work, there are two levels to consider: funding, and execution. one without the other would simply be futile, and funding — without proper stewardship — would be particularly dangerous. next step for china — how to address the issue of stewardship and accountability?

regardless, i think that increasing awareness is something that is still especially crucial.

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Dear future self … (relating to work)

Dear future me,

These are some things I hope you remember somewhere down the line when you are in a position of power and greater decision-making. Little things that you, friends, or acquaintances have noticed that would make life so much easier for everyone.

1. Remember that you are first and foremost a teacher.

No matter what, remember that your role isn’t only to serve your clients. It’s to teach. Teach those who are just embarking on their professional journeys the skills you wish you had known back then. It will make their job more enjoyable, and will thus make you happier as well.

2. Set and manage expectations.

Learn that everyone is different. Set realistic expectations. Learn to gauge abilities early on. Don’t be afraid to delegate. Give people the opportunity to surprise you. Pleasantly. Like teachers, push people forward – gently. Understand that everyone learns differently, at their own paces. Praise openly often, but provide constructive criticism privately. It will allow for growth.

3. Take interest in people’s lives.

Know that life isn’t just about work. Remember the little details people mention to you. Take interest in their personal aspirations. Inquire about the little things that make people tick. It’ll make work more worthwhile – for everyone.

4. Say “hi”

Create a culture where people can just come by and say “hi,” without having any questions in hand. Create an atmosphere where people can just walk in and strike up a conversation about something that has nothing do with the meeting you have in 15 minutes. Take feedback from every meeting you have.

5. Be a great communicator.

I think no matter what, you should always strive to be a great communicator. Learn to deal with situations with poise, tact, and an articulate tongue. Learn to parse down large quantities of information into three-sentence summaries.

So future self, I hope you will remember this as you go forward. I’m sure this list will grow with time and experience. But for now, remember these things that you had already learned in kindergarten. Remember them and carry them through.

Good luck!


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China: The World’s Hottest Market

Attended a conference this past weekend on “China: Strategic Implications and Challenges of Doing Business in the World’s Hottest Market.” Whilst quite a bit were reiterations of trends that have been generally accepted into mainstream thought, I feel that the speakers presented several interesting points.

Professor Paul Tiffany from the Haas School of Business gave the keynote positing the question that has long been on everyone’s minds: The 21st Century Global Economy — Is China Destined to Dominate? It was a talk I found particularly interesting as he stressed not only China’s growing role in the global arena, but also the rise of the inevitabilities of globalization. While he didn’t mention it specifically, a general trend I saw emerge not only in his discussion of China’s modern day rise to its current state, but also in looking at recent history and the cultural aspects of Chinese society, is the Chinese way of change.

Culturally, Asians are less inclined to question, to challenge, and to change than Western society. This is evidenced in all aspects of the Asian community — on the business front, how many NEW and DISRUPTIVE technologies have emerged from Asia? While this may be attributed to the developmental stages this region is still undergoing, think about what Chinese companies do best — copy, and enhance. At schools, Asians are known to excel at test taking, and processing information from rote memorization. However, when it comes to the analytical, American students — who are often held up at the opposite end of the spectrum — fare far better. As a result, America still produces the world’s most advanced innovations (for the most part), and is still considered the entrepreneurial hotbed for the young, restless, and the visionaries. Of course, without China or India, it can be argued that there is no Silicon Valley. By that same token, however, think about how many new and disruptive homegrown companies have come out of recent immigrants to the area. I’m sure that this is something that will change given time, but just mere observations at the present.

Consequentially, this has been reflected in the way that Chinese society digests change. From the leadership, they obviously have an interest of maintaining power. However, they know that in order to maintain power, to keep the long recognized “mandate of heaven,” the people must first be happy. How then, do you successfully serve 1.3 billion people, from over 50 different ethnic backgrounds? What the government approach to this situation has been gradual change, in successive steps, following Deng Xiaoping’s initial declaration of “to be rich is to be glorious.” While these steps have strayed from the often referred to “Washington Consensus” as a formula to bring emerging economies up to speed, it has brought with it its fair share of achievements (pluses) and challenges (deltas).

Achievement: China has lifted millions of its population out of poverty in a short span of time.
Challenge: There are still millions and millions left to go, and an inequality gap as large as ever.

Achievement: A large population that will not only represent growth opportunities, but continue to attract FDI eager to tap into the ‘world’s largest market.’
Challenge: “The Emperor Syndrome” — while China’s one-child policy has done much in the way of checking explosive population growth, it has also resulted in a generation that is largely male-heavy (1.4 males for every 1 female). Additionally, this generation has been characterized to be more self-centered because of the additional attention.

Achievement: A disciplined population that are advent savers.
Challenge: Uncertainty with using credit cards, and lack of financial knowledge. Changing demographics.

And perhaps most importantly …
Achievement: The will to win.
Challenge: Execution.

The 21st century has often been described as the “Chinese century.” This is a sentiment that many Chinese carry with them, and because of this hunger and drive, makes it more of a reality than a speculation. As Albert Einstein once said, success is 1% intelligence, and 99% persistence.

In the words of another wise sage, Mahatma Ghandi, “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” The meaning echoed in these words are ones I think are true for individuals, companies, schools, organizations, and countries alike. 

While China’s “market size” may create an advantageous playing field, what will ultimately determine its success is the will, spirit, and enthusiasm of its people. As Professor Tiffany alluded to, what China will now need to do is to support a group of innovative entrepreneurs who rather than improving upon existing processes, create their own, as they once did two thousand years ago with what we’ve come to know as firecrackers.

Next post: China’s business environment – perspectives from a VC

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remember burma –

It is true when they say that there is strength in numbers.

Not to make light of the situation in Sichuan, but the number of people who have responded and voiced their concerns over the situation in the aftermath of the Chinese earthquake makes me wonder about what the fate of those in Burma will be. I am among the Chinese who feel more intimately related to the recent events in China because there ARE personal ties for me to the region.

However, do the hundreds of thousands of people in Burma not also deserve the same type of attention, and the same type of support? Where are the cries of support for these individuals? Where are the masses of helping hands? What they lack is the network of millions of concerned citizens around the world who still feel deeply passionate about the well-being of their nation and their people.

As a result, the earthquake in China has captured the lion’s share of the media, and people’s mindshare and pocketbooks. The fact that the Burmese government has placed a tight lid on access to devastated regions have only worsened the situation. Unlike the coverage from China, where there is a flood of images, videos, and first-hand accounts, much of what has emerged from Burma is a tense silence — a silence that carries with it the weight of unspoken voices and cries. Looking at it from a purely statistical viewpoint, the death toll in Burma currently is estimated at 100,000, with 2 million more unaccounted for. 2.1 million in total.

Regardless, it is still amazing to see how we can all mobilize and focus on common goals in times of crisis. Now if we could only bring that same sense of unity together in times of calm …

In these coming days, please remember those in Burma as well, especially as aid continues to be blocked by the Burmese government:

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In thought, prayer, and heart — Remember those in Burma and China

Please keep those affected by the recent cyclone in Myanmar as well as those in the earthquake in Sichuan, China in your thoughts and hearts during these trying times.

If you can help out financially, please consider supporting these individuals:

The American Red Cross – Myanmar Cyclone Relief Efforts

Donation Guide to support earthquake recovery efforts
Facebook group with support resources

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Kokkari: Greek Food

City: San Francisco, CA

Three point five yummy leaves: *** 1/2


Price: $$
K, gotta make a pitch for great Greek food. I wish I had pictures but since I don’t, I guess you’ll just have to believe me and try it for yourself. 🙂 Their moussaka was absolutely delicious, and the stuffed calamari … highly recommended. Attentive staff with a lively atmosphere, the fish here is always fresh, and according to them, imported directly from Greece (not sure how fresh that can really be … o.O)

Great meal to be topped off with a classic Greek coffee — heated over sand and all.

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Through Your Lenses

The National Geographic is offering a program that allows those (age 18-30) who will be living or studying abroad in Fall 2008 the opportunity to share their experiences through their gift of storytelling, photography, or film (crossroad of passion, skills, and marketplace perhaps? :)). Sounds like an amazing opportunity!

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the power of … balance

People have always said that in life, all you need is passion. If you follow your passions, and follow your heart, then there is no limit as to what you can accomplish. They reason that because you pour your heart and soul into it, it gives it the magic touch that travels from your actions to God’s ears.  However, I think that is only half true. 

Someone once told me that success happens when three things align — passion, skills, and the marketplace. Even though these may be terms that are more frequently used in the corporate world, I believe that they are principles that can be applied throughout.  Passion, without reason, without pragmatism, is empty. Skill without passion will slowly dwindle. A marketplace needs both to thrive, and meet the demands and needs of society. 

Where then, lies your intersection of passion, skills, and the marketplace? Where then, will you leave your legacy, in the music world, the political world, the public health world, the technology world, the world of images, the world of entrepreneurs? 

I guess to come back to the title of this entry … balance. I’ve learned over the years that there is no such thing as balance. In order to accomplish anything — WELL — you inevitably have to give up something else (like sleep).  Rather, it’s about long term balance, and realizing that you can’t always accommodate everyone or everything (until Google comes up with a WebApp to do that with that is). 

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American Foreign Policy — Meet AdWords

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