Entrepreneurship Acumen [1 of 7]: The Birthday Fund

In 2008 I had written 6 one-pagers as part of my application to become an Acumen Fund Fellow. Although I had been shortlisted I did not get the position and subsequently forgot about the whole thing. In the (almost) 3  years since then many things have changed and I somehow now find myself in Cambridge – the “Silicon Fen” – working in an organisation charged with creativity and a passion for entrepreneurship (and intrapreneurship): Red Gate.

In Cambridge, where every other person you meet is either brilliant, doing a start-up, or both, it’s hard to get away from entrepreneurship fever but I wanted to, and I did. Now, with some distance, my thoughts have been inevitably turning towards finishing the book I consistently failed to finish in the past 4 years: “Smart Idea”. [Corny I know — working title.]

In trying to figure out my motivations for once again wanting to write about business idea generation I spent some time digging through my MacBook’s attic. I was surprised to find that that what I’d written 3 years ago for Acumen Fund still rings true. So I decided to post my 6 pages (in 6 posts) about why I believe entrepreneurship is important and why I feel so strongly about promoting and encouraging ethical entrepreneurship.

This is the first one. It is in response to the question “How does entrepreneurship fit into your life goals?”

I spent summer 2001 in Budapest as an IAESTE intern, living with around 50 other ‘impoverished’ students in a large hostel by the Danube. One Friday, some of us were bemoaning our meager paychecks and how, after accommodation, precious little remained for Budapest’s famous beer gardens.

Later, together with a Greek friend, a simple plan hatched…

Next weekend was a friend’s birthday. We set up a “Birthday Fund”, collecting $5 from all students and invited the hostel staff to make ‘donations’. Within 2 days we had enough money not only for a gift but also to arrange – through some Mediterranean-style haggling – with a local beer garden for half price drinks. We had a grand party and the next day, 10 hungover students and 1 receptionist gave me their birthday dates. When I left Budapest, the staff and students said that they had never had such a fun and cheap summer…

At 21, I hadn’t heard of ‘social entrepreneurship’, but I recognized in the “Birthday Fund” the power that the simplest of entrepreneurial spirits has to improve a community’s quality of life. Since then I have been an ‘entrepreneurship activist’ – helping set up the Startup Malta Foundation for Entrepreneurship and encouraging and helping start-up entrepreneurs.

I strongly believe entrepreneurship to be a powerful force of change in the world both for individuals as well as society. My life goal is to ensure that ‘force’ is used positively by infusing social perspectives into ‘normal’ business and bringing ‘corporate’ skills to social ventures thus creating an all-round culture of ‘ethical business’.

Why this is still relevant to me today:

Although my ‘life goals’ are different today, having for the past year or so experienced working within an ethical business (as opposed to almost all those I worked in before) has reaffirmed my belief that for entrepreneurs to succeed they need not be assholes and, indeed, can be more successful when they’re not.


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