Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Recognizing wealthing in others

Ashoka has just realeased the selection of Senior Fellows... If you ever think the world is going backwards or sideways... you've got to know about these amazing folks!


Alito Alessi, Mexico, Senior Fellow
Eliminating prejudices and misconceptions towards disabled people through mixed-abilities dance that enables expression for all people.

Tasneem Siddiqui, Pakistan, Senior Fellow
Overhauling the traditional housing scheme by granting former slumdwellers access to affordable and developed plots of land.

Asad Danish, Afghanistan, Fellow
Bringing harmony to war-torn Afghanistan and the Pushtoon tribal belt in Pakistan by encouraging a culture of reading and increasing the literacy rate.

Junior Smart, UK, Fellow
Providing new avenues of reintegration for prisoners through a peer mentoring system led by ex-offenders.

Sanjeev Arora, USA, Fellow
Spreading a new model to treat complex chronic diseases in rural and underserved areas by connecting urban healthcare specialists with rural providers through communication technology.

Albert Jovell, Spain, Fellow
Democratizing healthcare by giving patients a platform to play a more participatory role in decisions concerning their health.

Jorge Gronda, Argentina, Senior Fellow
Creating a self-sustaining, alternative healthcare system for bottom-of-the-pyramid patients.

Anna Alisjahbana, Indonesia, Senior Fellow
Combating high infant mortality rates and child development problems through a model that combines early monitoring and intervention and strong doctor-patient relationships.

Julia Borbolla, Mexico, Fellow
Transcending traditional methods of child psychology with new forms of multimedia treatment.

Pierre Rabhi, France, Senior Fellow
Offering an alternative to agricultural industrialization patterns by demonstrating technical and philosophical relationships between human beings, food production, nature, and modernity.

Ingrid Munro, Kenya, Senior Fellow
Providing urban poor and slum dwellers access to business and housing loans, health and life insurance, and business education through the largest microfinance institution in East Africa.

Zeinab Al-Momani, Jordan, Fellow
Empowering female farmers to organize unions and gain access to economic and social opportunities.

Lucie Chagnon, Canada, Fellow
Bringing a new solution to help employees manage their personal responsibilities through the first online provider of work-life balance services.

Jean-Claude Decalonne, France, Fellow
Increasing the performance of at-risk youth by teaching them teamwork, discipline and self-esteem through participation in school orchestras.

Fairouz Omar, Egypt, Fellow
Normalizing the idea of counseling for all individuals through training in-school counselors in methodologies adapted to Egyptian culture.

Connie Siskowski, USA, Fellow
Bringing recognition and value to youth who have dual roles as students and caregivers for ill, frail or disabled family members.

David Castro, USA, Fellow
Building the capacity of marginalized communities by identifying grassroots leaders and teaching them the life skills to be agents of change.

Manon Barbeau, Canada, Fellow
Restoring damaged aboriginal culture through a professional film-making process that connects indigenous communities internationally.

Olivier Gaillard, Belgium, Fellow
Transforming the youth years in Belgium by organizing teenagers as agents of social change.

Tom Steinberg, UK, Fellow
Demystifying politics and democracy through participatory internet technology interfaces.

Raziq Fahim, Pakistan, Fellow
Countering the recruitment of young people by militant and extremist groups by engaging youth in the development of their region.

Rob Hopkins, UK, Fellow
Providing a holistic, bottom-up solution to the problems of climate change and peak oil.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Entrepreneurship and Innovation vs Corporation

Jim Hesket, from Harvard Business School posted a very interestig dilemma...

Do Innovation and Entrepreneurship Have to Be Incompatible with Organization Size?

I love the dilemma, for when I met my husband I told him I've never knew a happy and successful corporate executive... and he told me he had never met a happy and successful entrepreneur. The reasons why we both succeed is a powerful combination of the three Ps: passion, purpose and prosperity.

What works for me is creative destructionism... what works for him is impecable execution. Eventually I hope we'll find a way to meet in between -instead of complementing each other!

The main issue with innovation is that it has been poorly executed, the main issue with entrepreneurship is that most tools are about safety, and invariable, as I was telling my friend Nicolas Erdordy in New Zealand, it's all about playing 'safe' and setting goals so low that they are reachable. The main issue with corporations is that risk and chaos is poorly managed. In all cases, we forget the most valuale lesson: Businesses don't make decisions, people do!

See what others have to say about Jesket dilemma in Harvard here

Are corporations againgt entrepreneurship and innovation?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Communal Justice

A decade ago I invited Sally Bendersky -the CEO of Chile's Intec- to visit Boston. We met with Howard Stevenson, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at Harvard; Ed Dunn, director of MIT forum and the superb Edward Roberts (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Edward_B._Roberts), brain behind the MOT program at MIT.

At that time Stevenson told us about the four factors he believed promoted or hindered an entrepreneurial culture. I do not remember three of those factors, but one kick me in the head: the joy of other's success.

As a typical immigrant, having been in Chile only for a couple of year, I still longed for Boston (not its winter) and Switzerland (no its rules) but more than anything else I longed for the Venezuelan happiness. We seemed to be always celebrating, any minute achievement was a reason to rejoice. We not only enjoyed other's successes, we took it as our own.

The issue has always been in my mind and popped up recently when reading a very interesting book. In his book 'Sway' cousins Rom and Oru Brafman mention an unusual finding in a popular TV show in France and Russia.

"Who wants to be millionaire" is a TV show broadcast locally in several countries of the world, using the same format: A contestant selects a question and picks an answer amongst four choices. If correct, he or she wins a certain amount of money and have an option to take it or to continue to the next level to answer another question, if correct he or she will advance to the next higher level, otherwise he or she will lose the money.

Respondants have the option to use help for an emergency by calling a person once, asking the audience once or asking the programmer to reduce the number of selections from four to two once. This program has become very famous thanks to the movie called "Slumdog Millionaire", filmed in India.

In his book Sway, the Brafmans commented that, in both France and Russia, when contestants asked for the audience's help, they were lied to on purpose to make them lose. It seemed that the audience believed that if they couldn't win, they did not want the contestant to win. This attitude contrasted sharply with other countries including the United States, where the audience genuinly tried to help the contestant win.

Why would an audience of a TV show would prefer to see a person lose for no reason? Reading these reflections make me think about my own personal evolution. In my work with entrepreneurs I always had the intention of creating win/win propositions. Later on, when talking to Linda Holcman who joined us, she mentioned the triple win (including of course, the customers).

The joy of other's success, mentioned by Howard Stevenson seems a key issue. What do you think?

The book is here by the way...

The best part is that you can listen and preview it all BEFORE you buy. With so many people now looking at creating their own wealth - so happy about it- it is the perfect time to think about it.

The book is coming up soon, but in the mean time.. ENJOY IT!

and if you have ANY comments, I am all eyes for them.

and many many thanks to Goran Paunovic from www.artversion.com who created the art -as well as all my corporate id- and to Justin Woodward from www.wormwoodstudios.net for editing and polishing the video.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Arabian Mystery

I wrote this wealth drop in the first leg of my round-the-world trip in April. Unfortunately, I had not been able to send it until now. I will be posting more notes hoping to bring the world together a bit more. We only have one world, let’s do our bit to make it better.

April 11th…

I am sitting inside the private rooms of Effat University, the first private college for women in Saudi Arabia. The external walls avoid any contact with the outside world; most girls are wearing the abaya (the black overcoat) because some professors are men… although they have been relegated behind blue curtains in the area furthest from the campus’ centre. Two very distinctive differences to where I live are evident: separation and segmentation. Women and men are separated. Women were the abaya and head cover in public, they enter public places and restaurants through the back door, the “family entry”. Banks have exclusive areas for women, also through a back entry, and no man is allowed in. Extreme care is taken to restrict the view of “private” or “family” areas from the outside. Doors to the outside world are designed in zig zag, so there is no clear view from the outside. Walls are very high and completely shut out, the windows are facing internal gardens, inwards. Men can wonder around in areas designated for 'single people' in the public areas, that do not have that sense of inwardness. If they are not in the company of a female relative, they cannot enter the “family” area. No doubt there is a strong gender separation.

The second difference relates to praying time. I decided to call this ‘segmentation.’ Muslims pray 5 times a day. The shops are closed, everything sit stills whilst praying takes place. I get the impression that the rules are a bit more relaxed for women, but they do not work in stores or in public areas, at least I have not seen, except for the few in the market by selling water, spices and foods. When we went to a café in the evening, all seemed to stop for about 20-30 minutes, the lights were turned off, the window blinds closed, the doors locked, and the waiters' disappeared '… Shops that had clients closed their doors, sometimes leaving them inside. The world seemed to stop at praying times… early in the morning, at noon, mid-afternoon, just before sunset and an hour or so after sunset. There is no fixed schedule for the praying times, as they are regulated by photoperiod (daylight period) and change a little every day.

These differences surprised me and made me think about how different we are. I used to think about differences between the tropics and temperate climates, or so many other smaller cultural differences, yet I can only imagine how hard it must be for a person raised in Saudi Arabia. In Jeddah, we found a small café by the ‘corniche’, a beautiful walk by the ocean –by the way, almost across from Somalia.
Jeddah has a stunning cornice, with date palms, giant sculptures, and a beautiful view of the sea. On a Friday night families linger in large crowds, dressed in black (women) or white (men), with children trotting along. And the market (entry below), a market that has been here for ages, where the pilgrams to Mecca and Medina can come to sell their products.... it is a magical place.

I met with a group of women and was pleasantly surprised by the liveliness, the humour, and the interesting conversation. Actually I felt internally embarrassed by my own ignorance, what was I expecting? I dunno.

These women have been meeting for years, they are active, intellectually astute and very funny. Something poetic and inspiring pops up here and there, one of them makes a statement that I love: rights are taken, not given. Ta da… the highlight of the visit to Jeddah.My conference takes place in an open area, and the young women fill the space. I am surprised by their participation; once again a hint of poetry and inspiration, yet their questions and answers are so clear and assertive. Where is the chauvinism?

I note that behind the black robe there is something many westerner women lack: assertiveness. In my few days here I have noticed the spontaneity and ability to speak freely and fluently. Very authentic. Perhaps because I am the foreigner, there is no need to conform.

I cherish the energy of the Saudis I’ve met so far. It is not the restrictive culture I expected. People are vibrant, appreciative of their culture and the ‘other’ culture, curious –after all not many Venezuelans living in Australia come to visit.

The role of women seems to me a mystery, the Arabic mystery. Their rights taken not given. It makes me think about MY rights, something I have never thought about. How many of us or how many times have we waited for our rights?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Solving the puzzle

This wealth drop comes as a result of a very interesting interaction with Naman, one of our readers from India, as we explore how to manage ups and downs.

Around when I turned 40, I had enough evidence that life was not a straight line going up, but a series of ups and downs. When we are up, we feel we have accomplished something, get a better view, and enjoy our contentment. Ahhh it is all about how “we made it”. When we are down, we feel incomplete, have lost our vision, and can’t understand why we are there. Ahhh it is all about “life is hard”. Looking at life as a series of dots of “ups” did not do it for me. I found that connecting the dots was a much better way of living my life. Staying up on the top is only good for a short period of time, otherwise we become arrogant and stop growing. Somehow we get the urge to explore other areas, even if it means coming down. Like the chaos theory that claims that the world evolves towards order until it can’t stand it anymore and explodes.

The problem when thinking in ups and downs, is that we miss the complexity of going sideways. So I was looking for another analogy and found out multidimensional puzzles? Have you ever worked on a puzzle? What is more enjoyable? The ‘moment’ when you are done or the “period’ where you are testing this or that, trying to find the best possible piece and realizing it has a perfect fit to then go to the next empty hole? Well, that is exactly what happens in life. You get the pieces all rumbled and scattered and life is but a journey to find the pieces and put them in the perfect fit spots… some pieces are there for no reason, simply because we can’t connect them.

Some people have a vision of their puzzle, and they move quite fast… until the chaos theory kicks in and mmmm we want to explore without a vision. Others go around and as they find a piece they put it somewhere, they are less efficient but they also reach a point where the chaos theory kicks in and voila, time to get a vision and move faster. Sometimes we throw away pieces, sometimes we even have to create them. (been there, done that)

Regardless of how we put the pieces in our puzzle one thing is sure: There is no use in trying thousands of times to put a piece where it does not belong!!! If the panorama changed, you are in a different part of the puzzle, perhaps the one you don’t know, perhaps the one you are comfortable with.

Your experiences and knowledge are the pieces already in your puzzle. Would you take them out? No way. What is new? What needs to be added? What direction do you want to take?
At the end, the fun part is creating the puzzle, not finishing it.

Here is to your game!


PS: I’ll be going on a world tour in April and May, to Jeddah and Dammam in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Houston, Guatemala, Caracas, Maracay, Santiago de Chile, Montevideo and Buenos Aires. If you are in any of these places, drop me a line and I’ll try to meet with you or to get you a discount ticket to the open events or an invitation to the private ones. More to come as I go along.

PS2: tomorrow is my birthday, couldn't find a better way to celebrate than having my dream of a world tour done! that piece was a hard one!

Monday, March 9, 2009

what to do

You may know a student, faculty, or community entrepreneur who is diligently working on a technology product. If so, please share with them an opportunity to receive $15,000 this summer by applying to the N2TEC Accelerator Program www.n2tec.org/accelerator/. Up to 10 teams or individual will be awarded a grant while spending 8 weeks in South Dakota during June/July 2009. During that time, they will receive access to industry exports, coaching, investor access, incubator space and networking events. There is no obligation on the part of the individual or team to remain in South Dakota or launch their venture there. However, the State of South Dakota will do its best to make a launch most attractive!

Applications are due April 1, 2009 and can be downloaded at the website.

Thanks to Maureen Boland, from Perth, Australia for keeping us posted!!!

Thursday, March 5, 2009


My friend Rafael Rubio, who is organizing my tour in Uruguay, suggested the topic of “Crisimiento” for one of my workshps, which I’ve freely translated to Crowth. Crisimiento is a made up word in Spanish involving 'crisis = crisis' and 'crecimiento = growth'. I laughed because the word can be separated into 'crisis = crisis' and 'miento = I lie'. I guess the Venezuelan blood shows up in me sometimes. I leave it up to you to interpret … In English it seems though that Crowth can involve some crows, and once again, I leave it up to you to interpret.

This wealthdrop took form as I thought about my last trip to the US whilst going for a walk. I love walking, it clears my mind, releases endorphins –aka good mood- and keeps me in shape. Even in unknown cities I find a way to walk early in the morning; I get a sense of the environment, I imagine the decisions that were taken in the past, I recreate and compare worlds in no particular shape or form.

So, here I was, overlooking at the River in Perth, and thinking about the gloomy economy in the US. How can I send hopes and dreams, and the ability to make things happen? With the reality of our losses behind us, mine, yours, and others, the flow of the river kept me company. Watching the flow turned my thoughts from the past to the future: How can we improve, grow, innovate, and create? Do we need to do more? If so, of what?

Somehow the memory of a teacher telling me that I had to do more emerged, and something inside of me rebelled. People ARE doing more: more marketing, more efforts, more hours of work, more social networking, and networking activities, more studies to understand clients or potential clients, more sharing their curriculum, more giving freebies, more courses, reading more books, more and more and more ... That’s life in the US, a whirlwind of activity.

I also succumbed to it, hiring a consultant in Silicon Valley, I also want to achieve more, but I did not like his approach of doing more, work more hours, more networking, and put more effort. He sent an article on the best 100 sites for networking. By the time I’ve gotten down to the third I was already tired.

I prefer to optimize and simplify, leaving a space to build something new. His suggestions implied using more of my time to build up my speaking career: giving free workshops, producing a series of free reports, spending my nights networking at events. I rebelled to that approach having built several companies before. I know that working MORE does not necessary helps one ACHIEVE more. It reminded me of Henry Ford, yes, the visionary that created a car for the every day person, the founder of the same company that now makes more of the same hoping to achieve more of the same. Ford said: “if I had asked, people would have told me they needed faster horses.”

Back to my teacher, she tried in vane to convince me that to learn the 9 times tables, I had to recite them 20 times per day. My niece’s teacher uses a different approach, telling her to add the numbers… At an early age, I thought about doing something different: you multiply by 10 and subtract the number. Or a mathematical trick that my dad taught me: you subtract 1 from the number and add the difference to complete nine. So 9 x 6 = 54 (5 is 6-the number- minus 1, and 4 is what 5 needs to create a 9). Sharing these out-of-the-box ideas with my niece was absolutely magical: it feels absolutely divine to figure out unconventional ways of
getting results. She loved it. So did I.

The world seems to think that more is more… Let’s put more money into the system… I prefer to think that we are OVER doing more of the same to get MORE of the same. It is true that if we counted 9 times 9 we would get to 81, but I’ld like to think that if we subtracted 9 from 90 we would get there faster. We also thought that we would be healthier if we ate more, and we are now obese; that we needed to invest more and more we lost; that our economy was better if more people owned their homes, and more value was lost. Is MORE the answer?

Not for me. I do not want to learn to 'be' more, to 'give' more and to ‘have’ more. I want to learn and explore how to be 'better:' More efficient, more unique, more extra-ordinary. One of my talks in April in Guatemala, it is precisely this: how to reinvent companies. And I want to invite you to explore this for you and for us all.

The crisis is an ideal time to think about doing something different and unique. Let’s be more like ourselves and stop making more of the same. Let’s nurture our capacity to be extraordinary and spectacular. Let’s break the paradigm of doing more to achieve more.

That is what crowth is about.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Looking for Indian, Chinese and US students for a collaborative project!

I'm still digesting my last recent trip and have a lot of interesting materials and thoughts to share. In the meantime, I don't want to miss the opportunity to collaborate in this very interesting project. I wish my kids were doing science!!!Unfortunately it is only available to students with the Indian, Chinese or US citizenship OR to undergraduates in those countries. I'm sure the program will be a success and expand onto other regions soon!

Mike Snyder, CEO and founder of iFEST sent me this invitation. Please forward it to students you might know and if you are one yourself, consider applying. The deadline is coming up soon, so act FAST.

"It is a pleasure to let you know about the US-China-India International Innovation Camp that we are planning at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) for July this year. iFEST and RPI would like to invite applications from the best and brightest undergraduate students in these three countries to join us for hands-on lab projects, and in-depth learning about how real world problems can be addressed by technology driven entrepreneurship.

The deadline for students to apply is March 6th, fast approaching. Although we can be flexible for your students until about March 20th or so.

The application process is very simple:

Students can download the application form on the 1st page of our website at http://www.ifest.info/iFEST-RPIInnovationCampApplicationInfoForm.doc. Prospective students just need to fill out the application form and return via email attachment or hardcopy, along with recommendation letters, etc. Also, please see more details about the Camp in the flyer on our website at http://www.ifest.info/iFEST-RPIInternationalInnovationCampFlyer.pdf."

Just for the record, RPI is one of the best Universities in terms of technology and entrepreneurship. My father was a student there decades ago, and I participated for years in a program for young (mjm young...) researchers on venture capital. This is a one in a lifetime opportunity to participate in an amazing experience. Please help spread the word.

All the best,

Alicia Castillo Holley

Thursday, February 5, 2009

No, we are not dead

I write this note as I fly from San Francisco to Houston. I have just been in Silicon Valley for few days, an amazing place for innovation, entrepreneurship, and venture capital. Many think and say that venture capital is dead. Nothing farther from reality. Silicon Valley's energy is impressive. There, one feels a bit removed from recession, politics (Obama's inauguration) and the global crisis. I like the mentality. Not much time to think negatively. Each problem requires a solution and every minute used to think about the problem is one minute lost in seeking solutions.

Yes, investments by venture capital fell by 8% during 2008, reaching almost US$11 billion in Silicon Valley, more than one third of the US$ 28.3 billion invested in the USA. The number of transactions fell by 4%, only 4%! Many thought that venture capitalists take their money to invest elsewhere, and especially the seed capital
would suffer considerably. Well, we are not dead yet.

However, with less available capital, a uncertain market, and few exit alternatives, the seed stage is
actually the most interesting. It makes sense, although some VC Funds will continue to provide cash to support their existing investments.

On the other hand, there is an explosion of business plan competitions. We made an investigation and over US$5 million dollars will be given away, mostly associated with a College or University. We came up with a list of 60 top notch business plan competitions. Drop me a line if you want some info. I'll add it all to my upcoming book: Funding your million dollar company. Stay tunned. And I would love some stories on funding too.

Now, more than ever, we need to nurture entrepreneurship, even in large corporations.
ryone can do something. Overlooking at Silicon Valley I feel inspired, but I know that inspiration is only HALF of success, the other half is ACTION.

The financial crisis represents many opportunities, being in crisis does not mean we are paralyzed; we are no fools and definitely, we are not dead.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The power of intent

Welcome to 2009. The year starts with an interesting mix of uncertainty and hope. In moments like this we need to be more like players than watchers of our lives... and there is nothing like the combination of purpose and group support to do so. I don’t know of any successful person who has not used intention and leverage. Do you?

Let’s start with purpose/intention. I like to use the word intention better, as it is more mmm flexible. Intention gives power to effort because how we live is partially determined by our actions. It is true that circumstances beyond our control also have an impact of our lives, but why worry about something we can’t control when we can take care of something that we do control, like our thoughts and actions?

This is why I chose the theme of the intention to start 2009. Our intention serves as a focal point, a point of support out there in the future, against which our actions can be leveraged. Without it, many of our efforts are spent in vain. When we are clear about our intention, we can rule out distractions and focus on what we want to achieve, whilst having more time, not less, to relax and enjoy life.

But having an intention in our mind is not good enough; it needs to be expressed. It requires a statement, a declaration that can be shared with and by others. An explicit intention is like a mark, a note, a piece of information, it creates a reaction, it invites others that share your intention to be part of it. It tells the world: this is my boat, come ride!

Sometimes we don’t want to be focused because we can be inefficient, what we want is not aligned with what we think we ‘must’ want, and for many other reasons. Truth is that having an intention sends a clear signal to others, and helps you manage your life much much better. Successful people recognize that life is easier and much more fun when we invite others to be part of our success and viceversa. Collaborating and exploring in a group gives great benefits to all involved.

Therefore I invite you to think about your intention for 2009 and express it out loud…

My intention for 2009 is to continue building my career as an international speaker and author. I plan to publish two books, give presentations in 10 different countries, have an impact on 500 people and generate US$100,000 in speaking fees in 2009. I’m off to a great start, visiting San Francisco and Houston. In April/May I’ll be in the Middle East and in Central America and South America, and in September in California again. I am planning my activities around my intention, my friends and providers are able to help me inmensely because what I want is very clear. It is working beautifully.

I hope I can help with your intent for 2009, and specially I hope that what I do has an impact in your life (then I’ll be short by 498 others :-).

So, what is your intention for 2009?