.: on the frontiers of venturing and venture investing :.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Hello... I have just relaunched this blog at http://igniter.com/blog. Please reset your feeds as I will not be maintaining this blog here... there are plenty more things to maintain at http://igniter.com :-).



Thursday, July 31, 2008

Exploring Open - Investing and Organizations

The OpenEverything retreat is coming up and in prep I've setup a wiki to begin exploring attributes and examples of Open Organizations and practices for/what's different with Investing in Open.

Have some thoughts? Jump in here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The influence of open in venturing.

So what does 'open' mean for 'venturing' and venturing on 'the frontiers'.

From some prior definitions, venturing is process of creating and evolving a venture, where a venture is an agreement among people to do things in service of a purpose and according to a set of values. More simply it's about the process of organizing resources (social, financial, and human capital) toward realizing a certain intent.

If 'open' really is about a new mode of organization, then it is central to the process of venturing. It will inevitably impact every venture, the leadership and culture required, and the way in which we go about it.

Where strategy has been a dominant management driver in the past 3 decades, design will require greater attention. Conventionally, the control of financial and intellectual capital allowed organizations to directly control action and influence outcomes. In open, social and human capital are more dominant factors. They are also inherently less controllable which means we have to pay more attention to the design of systems versus control of action to influence outcomes and fulfil the organization's purpose.

If this shift to 'open' is truly a product of the evolution of our society, as I believe it is, then this is inescapably important.

Furthermore, ventures that are themselves focused on the evolution of our society toward a just and sustainable state have to pay particular attention to open. These frontiers are necessarily about dealing at the edges of our current systems and structures - the turbulent space where 'open' is most effective.

Pulling this together - venturing on the frontiers requires a focus on:

  • social and human capital
  • a shift in culture, values, mindset, and leadership
  • systems design
That said, this doesn't mean it's time to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Strategy is still a useful tool, and we are still in the midst of a culture dominated by the conventional mode of organization. What it does mean though is that the compatibility of our underlying organizational culture, values, mindset, and leadership will determine the ability to make the most of convention in context of where we are going.

The point of 'open' - a new mode of organization.

In working on Open Everything I've been struggling to come up with why it matters and what it means to the common person. For people in the open source community or other fields where 'open' is a already at play they don't tend to ask this question but if we are to 'open' the open meme, we certainly need to be able to answer it.

So here's how I answer it now. (Ad-lib seesmic video answer below)

Open is about a new mode of organization.

  • Enabled by pervasive adoption of communication technologies and an emergent culture of people comfortably communicating with greater numbers of people, independent of geography or in-person relationship. (it's a product of the evolution of our civilization - not just some fad formula for success)
  • Rooted in and requires values and mindset rooted in interdependence, contribution, collaboration as opposed to the currently dominant culture of independence, competition, and zero-sum competition. (it's not about tools and techniques)
  • Relies more on social and human capital than financial and intellectual capital. (requires a different type of leadership)
  • Much more flexible and responsive to immediate context (great for situations where there is systemic turbulence like we are increasingly facing).
The implications of this are:
  • It will inevitably become a factor in your organization or industry whether as a result of: strategic intent ("let's do some of this web 2.0 stuff" - "we need to listen to our customers/community"); the shift in our society and culture; or an increase in turblence/instability the systems that impact your organization
  • Working with it requires some deep shifts in culture and leadership
  • May (likely will) result in significant unintended changes to the organization, what it does, and how it does it.
While this is a quick first take - it certainly expresses what's attracted me to this 'open' meme. I'm looking forward to mixing this into the conversations we'll be having at the Open Everything Retreat in September (the agenda is starting to look good) and seeing what we come up with.

Of course, if you have any thoughts, ideas, opinions we need them all in working this through. Comment here, at any of the Open Everything events, your own blog posts (tagged with openeverything), or even in the Mapping Open wiki are all welcome.

What's the point of open for you?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A crack in the dam - opening a new domain.

It's been in the works for awhile and I now think we're really starting to make a connection between web tech (2.0+), venture investing, social innovation. That connection is going to unleash some tremendous innovations and a surge in the activity directly working on the challenges facing our civilization. It feels like the emergence of a new domain that will take some very different approaches to change and influencing the course of civilization. It seems inspired by open source, technology innovation, financial risk taking, a venturing culture, and now a deepening and deeply felt realization that there are more important tasks to tend to.

I've been digging deeply into this for a while (Venturing on the Frontiers, Open Everything <site>, and The Great Remix) and these two posts (Umair Haque and Fred Wilson) have me feeling that something just shifted. What I love is that this isn't just the same old folks getting into this AND that they are coming at it from an understanding of how systems emerge. Umair uses the language of DNA and Fred is living it through his investment approach in web tech companies.

Maybe what it is, is that all the different groups I've been working/having the conversations with (MaRS, SiG, CSI, Renewal Partners, Communicopia, Causeway, Tides Canada, and Good Capital) are using different language to talk about the same things.

I'm not sure. What do you think? Is this just a personal moment are others sensing that some thing has shifted too?

Friday, June 20, 2008

An open quote from Michael Edwards

Cross posted from my tumblog.

Open: "more radical innovations in ownership and production that change the basis on which markets currently work"

In the conclusion of “Just Another Emperor” by Michael Edwards, he poses the above quote which I think is a great description of what ‘open’ is actually playing at. Full context here: “Philanthrocapitalism offers one way of increasing the social value of the market, but there are other routes that could offer equal or better results in changing the way the economic surplus is produced, distributed and used: the traditional route that uses external pressure, taxation and regulation; the philanthrocapitalist route that changes internal incentives and gives a little more back through foundations and corporate social repsonsibility; and the more radical innovations in ownership and production that change the basis in which markets work. We don’t know which of these routes carries the greatest long term potential, though all of them rely on civil society as a vehicle for innovation, accountability, influence and modified consumption, and especially for getting us from reformist to transformational solutions.”

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Benevolent dictators in the open movement

One of the interesting things coming out of OPEN everything (Toronto) was the idea that open projects are driven by what we were calling 'benevolent dictators'. That phrase, while abrasive to some, seems to be resonating in a number of different conversations that I and others are having.

What it seems to do is counter the notion that open is a touchy-feely, everyone has to agree, happy place where everyone gets along. At the same time it reinforces the important and evolving role of leadership. What I'm starting to try and tease out is what are the qualities of open leadership that we're really getting at? And which of those are core values - and which are situational reactions?

So far I've been seeing some aspects such as:

  • willingness and authority to make quick decisions based on intuition and sense of purpose and values (the DNA of the project)
  • a relentless focus on near-term goals vs. controlling tasks
  • ability to command/wield social capital vs. financial capital
So what do you think? What are you experiencing? What's different?

Photo credit: invisible consequential