Stanford alumni fund new innovation center in Ghana

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Emerging markets are the key to unlocking the next billion users

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The American University Education and the International One

As my college career is coming to an end, I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes an American University different from an American one.  

One of the biggest things is our football game culture.  Going to the University of Arizona, which is a big sports school, puts a huge emphasis on making football games an all day event.  For a game that starts at 7 pm, people begin tailgating as early as 11 am on our “Mall” (basically a huge patch of grass along the middle of campus).  People walk around and talk to other fans.  There’s a lot of food, beer, games, and team spirit.  It really brings your school together and the pride you have for your football team, even if they aren’t the best.  And that doesn’t happen at small schools or even around the World.  It’s a defining characteristic of an American school.

Besides that culture difference, there’s also the academic difference.  Now it’s no secret that the American education system is having a huge problem.  The cost of attending school is rising more than the rate of inflation (which is going to get worse as our economy feels the backlash of QE3).  But there are valuable things we emphasize here that other countries don’t.  

I spent a week at the University of Washington competing in a Global Business Case Competition.  There was us Eller students, UW Foster students, Concordia University of Canada, The University of Aukland, De La Salle in the Philippines, National Singapore University, American University Cairo, The University of Hong Kong, Tech de Monterrey Mexico, The University of Belgium Brussels, and The University of Navarra Pamplona.  

I had the unique opportunity of being on the Global Team which was myself, a student from UW, a student from NSU, and a student from the University of Koba Japan.  We had 48 hours to come up with a business case and present it to judges.  Now on our team us American students were focusing on being creative and thinking outside of the box, while our Asian team members were focusing on data and financials to back it up.  I’m not saying it’s bad, but it was nice to get a different perspective on solving this case.

Now my team didn’t make it to the final round, which is fine.  In the preliminary round we actually went against the winning team of the whole competition.  And watching the final round presentations was outstanding.  The Eller team also went to the final round, but their focus was more about being creative and confident. While the Canadian, Hong Kong, and Singapore team were not only creative but had the financials to back it up.  I saw over 100 backup slides all with financials and market analysis.  It was incredible and I’ve never seen anything like it.  

I thought I learned a lot from all my travelling, but it didn’t prepare me for this. I am fortunate enough to attend Eller and learn everything I have, but this just shows the importance of studying abroad.  Not only learning about different cultures, but from different experiences, different learning styles is important to survive and be successful in our rapidly evolving World.  

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China investing in Africa- what I saw

I haven’t had the time to write out my full Global Water Brigades Ghana experience yet, but there’s something I do need to write about.  Our drive to and from the community (around 1.5 hours one way) every day something caught my eye.  Not only the construction on the roads, but most importantly the construction was next to a school “supported by the Chinese government.”

For true country investment to work and for an developing economy to become an emerging one it must have the infrastructure and resources.  This could include: roads, electricity, water, education, and internet.  

From my previous blog post and other new resources we know that China is investing huge in Africa- I mean why not it’s the final frontier (it has over 50 countries!).  But in order for the economy to develop there has to be education- but why would someone want to teach there without accessible roads?  Or sell a product if the community doesn’t understand what it does.  

Seeing an actual Chinese school being built and a road really opened my eyes- this is happening.  China is full on investing in Africa, because this school I saw was very random. They have people on the ground and doing everything right from a business stand point.  Keep your eyes peeled on the news people. 

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Why did IBM do a free analysis of a water system in rural Africa?

I just read this article on Bloomberg Business Week called: “For IBM, Africa is Risky and Rife with Opportunity.”  IBM has been spending massive amounts of R & D everywhere in Africa, but why?  And if they are a services and hardware company why water?  

Apparently they did this free water analysis on the sources of water (streams, tanks- which were broken, ponds, etc.) so that they could start building relationships with local government.  If the local government and organizations could trust IBM they would begin working with them more to incorporate IBM’s goods, services, and strategies.  

IBM not only began building these ties with the government, but now they were starting basic human infrastructure in the country.  With a sustainable amount of clean water, people are most likely not going to get sick (or die) from water borne illnesses, which accounts for over 40% of deaths in the developing World.  On an average children miss 18 days of school a year because they are sick due to the water they are drinking.  Additionally  girls miss school if they have to help their moms collect water which is usually 2 hours away, one- way.  It’s important for girls to be educated because they will one day be mothers, and make household related decisions in the family.  Without a proper education the vicious cycle of poverty continues.  Which is why water is so important not only for health reasons, but for basic economic productivity.  

Educated children will move toward cities to work and send money home to their families, but also start a new family in the city where education access will be easier and better.  Sustainable clean water starts everything on the triple bottom line of economic functions, and the primary way to begin human infrastructural development in these rural areas.  

This article might not have talked about it, but IBM did way more than creating relationships- they sparked the future of a potential new market.  

**And of course I dedicate everything I have learned from Global Water Brigades.  Building water systems does help business majors :).  

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Small Business- For Profit or Vision/Passion?

I was sitting in class today discussing a Harvard Business School case study on the online crowdsourcing t-shirt design company, Threadless. Basically designers submit unique designs which the community of over 500,000 votes on based on a rated scale model.  After the voting period of a week the Threadless team picks the winning designs out of the top 100 to make into t- shirts, which they sell on their website.  From the case I saw that in 2006 they had “sky rocket growth” from the dramatic increase in t- shirts produced per unit.  They rely on the community of participants and designers to vote on their favorite designs, share with their friends, and enable a sense of trust in the Threadless team.

But the case objective was to see if the Threadless should go into a partnership with a “large retailer.”  This large retailer would have access to the collection of designs that Threadless receives and pick the ones they like to make into their own shirts, and market that in their stores.  Threadless would experience more revenue, a larger customer base, and a brick and mortar distribution site.  But doesn’t this take away from their whole business model “of having the community/ customers make decisions based on what they want?”  This would take away their loyal members’ sense of ownership and the uniqueness of Threadless products.

Which brings to me to the argument I had with my friends in class.  Some of my friends thought that they should go with the large retailer because they’ll make more money.  And a businesses main objective is profit.  BUT then I retaliated and said entrepreneurs start a business from a vision and passion, knowing that the either the money will come or they accomplished his/her dream.

We went back and forth for a while as our Professor watched us in amusement.  So here’s my conclusion: Although businesses main objective is to earn profit in the long run, in the short run it starts with a vision to create something out of nothing.  It’s with a strong passion to pursue this dream and overcome the obstacles of starting a new business.  It’s to solve a problem in the World, innovate, and make waves in whatever industry you go into.  Ask any entrepreneur why they started and they’ll tell you it’s cause they saw a gap and wanted to fix it.  They large corporations today started from nothing and have grown from there.  (On a side note this is the heart of the American dream and what our country was built on.) My belief is, if you are passionate about what you are doing and work hard enough then the money will come.

Please comment and let me know your thoughts!

**My assumptions and beliefs don’t come from nothing.  I read business, technology, social responsibility, and small business articles like a maniac.  I read the WSJ, The Economist, Bloomberg Business Week.  And I read books like Purpose & Passion  and The Start Up of You.  And of course what I learn from business courses.  So these are all educated assumptions :)

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Some Thoughts Lately

My classes this semester have been everything I’ve been waiting to learn about.  I feel like all my classes are coming together to form one big theme for me, but I don’t know what it is yet (I’m only 1 week in).  

My classes include: Consulting and Implementation, Technology Ethics, Macro Econ and Global Implications, Sustainable Cities, Law and Ethics, and a International Business course.  

I’ve seen that what I’m learning in my Tech and Ethics class, Macro Econ, Sustainability, Law, and International Business course all have to do with the intersection of: social business, technology, social responsibility.  Which is what I’m trying to achieve or contribute to in life.  

For example so far in in my Econ class we’ve learned about GDP from other countries and wealth, in my Sustainability class we talk about the different theories of Sustainability and why it’s important for planning for the future and the poor, in my Law class we learn about the “right and wrong” of business with frequent talks about offshoring, and my international business course which talks about the implications of doing business abroad especially for the people and cultures there.  In my Consulting and Implications course I can learn about all aspects of a engagement perse which I will start my career as and hopefully move that on to social entrepreneurship aspect and in my Tech Ethics course I’m going to focus my blog on how tech startups are changing the World for everyone. 

It’s really exciting for me to get everything I’m so passionate about in my last semester of college. I haven’t really developed how everything connects yet but I think I will find that moment soon thanks to these classes, fingers crossed! 

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