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November 21, 2006:     Organizing Knowledge in the New Media:  Notes on New Business Models at the Intersection of Education and Media

                        The traditional academic system of refereed articles is limited in offering a solution to the new problems of organizing usable knowledge in a rapidly-changing world.   The incentive structure of traditional academics does not value public education and encourages hyper-specialization.   On the other hand, even though the collaborative knowledge of the open-source era has produced new patterns of organizing knowledge, it has also created   risks for those who want safeguards against unverified writings and the blurring of the lines between opinion and analysis.     There is still an essential role for "credentialized" or "certified" expertise.    Some in academia view this as an inevitable tradeoff between relevance and reliability.   The market appetite is for both.  These issues are not new, but they are now encountered daily.     With this in mind, it is worthwhile to look at new media blogs, wikis and new designs for organizing and validating knowledge.

                        If one looks at blogs systematically, it is easy to be extremely optimistic about the new trends for dissemination of knowledge and debate.   There is a need for symphony conductors or intellectual traffic cops (the new credentials and certification).  The symphony conductor and traffic cop are potentially new business models.   Where there are people playing this role, there is extraordinary innovation on the web.   There has always been an assumption that specialized knowledge based web-sites would flourish in the Long Tail world of new media.   Certainly "boutique" websites like Nathan Hamm's synopsis on Central Asia , Registan  or Marianna Gurtovnik and Denise Mishiwiec  on Azerbaijan fit this description, aggregating information which was inaccessible in a pre-new media age.   It is impossible to imagine this kind of information organization in a pre-internet age and is an instant refutation of skeptics regarding the value of new media.


                        While the world of internet media contains many websites which are self-referential and basically on-line diaries, there is also a remarkable development of academics providing current and analytical commentary at a level which was simply inaccessible five years ago.     There are obvious examples like Daniel Drezner and Andrew Sullivan that represent this fusion of academic research and thought-based journalism.   

                        While not pretending to be comprehensive, here are six web-sites which serve as case studies of "the new curriculum", replacing the slow-moving knowledge-construction of academia and going into more rigorous debate than journalism can do.

In designing the University of the Future, these are the new building-blocks and are cited for that purpose.          FDNF  (Eddie Beaver),     TDAXP  (Dan Abbott),   Abu Aardvark  (Marc Lynch) ,  The Duck of Minerva,     Oxblog  and  Davos Newbies  (Lance Knobel) all fit this role.   

                        In sociology of media, this is a new trend.  In the business model of post-internet universities and the new commercialization of knowledge, these models will be of increasing importance.    The venture capital community is looking at ways in which search engines can be combined with collaborative knowledge capacities to create value-added organization of knowledge.   Start-ups like Radar Networks are prototypes of business models in this space.   John Battelle's Federated Media is an innovative attempt to aggregate content as is, in a different manner, Nicholas Denton's Gawker.  Both seek to use brand to become content navigators and aggregators of content.     The new media will become a cornerstone of educational content and customized curriculum when there are clear brands in validation of content.   The wisdom of crowds creates the extraordinary value of Wikipedia, but there will be many other models as the contours of the new information society takes shape.   It is hard to imagine a wiki-model doing the kind of investigative journalism which one associates with the CBS newsmagazine 60 Minutes.  It is also hard to imagine a wiki formula replicating a BBC seminar with Nobel prize-winning scientists.   Brands and maintaining brand credibility becomes more, not less important is a new media world.   

                        The informal links between blue chip online media is a first step towards validation, not quite wisdom of crowds, but a new branding equivalent to the earned influence of movie critics like Roger Ebert and A.O. Scott.    Within these innovations are some winning venture capital models and the potential for a valuable innovation in the manner in which educational content is organized for the next generation of learning.  In a new era where collaborative knowledge and certified expertise achieve a workable synthesis, there could be a variety of successful new business models for both education and new media and in the area where the two increasingly overlap.   In this era, business models which create products that serve as intellectual "symphony conductors" or "traffic cops" will be much in demand.

July 11, 2006
Transparency, Innovation and Branding Honey

September 2006

Jim de Wilde

            The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, supported now by Warren Buffett's new contribution will change the way entrepreneurial capital markets function.  Target-oriented social entrepreneurship will replace bureaucracy-building as the new economic development paradigm.

            Microcredits, remittances and venture-capital have focused economic development on wealth creation.   The transformation of the global economy has many characteristics, but the role of a global labour market has transformed the practical realities of capital formation, creating opportunities for new investment models.

            A network of global innovation is now possible to facilitate the incubation of "cultivated pearls", strategic entrepreneur-led growth in emerging markets.  From Dubai to the Malaysia Supercorridor, from science parks in Scandinavia to economic clusters in wired hubs in emerging economies, the economics of knowledge commercialization is creating new entrepreneurial opportunities.

            Global assistance now focuses on targeted, mission-oriented social entrepreneurs, focusing on specific measurable results and operating according to the efficiency standards of private sector companies.             


            These changes have created opportunities for innovation in much of the emerging market.     They have transformed the serious debate and discussion about international development assistance and economic growth.     This presents a different challenge for educators and political activists than has existed before.


             From George Soros' Open Society , to organizations like SIFE , this intellectual revolution in putting the development of entrepreneurs front and centres    is now widely recognized.  In economic terms, entrepreneurship is at its core about the creation of new sources of value in a society.  In political terms, an entrepreneurial economy triggers the kind of innovative problem-solving which leads to collateral social benefits.   

            In Canada , the promotion of this kind of activity has long been backed by the Dobson Foundation, with its centerpiece at McGill's Dobson Centre, where I am proud to be a fellow.   Now the teaching of entrepreneurship is reaching a new stage.     In conjunction with friends at many institutions around the world, this lecture is intended to start to design a framework for teaching global entrepreneurship without turning great ideas into ideologies.

            The cautionary notes are important: 

            (i) we have to be very careful not to confuse teaching entrepreneurship with studying entrepreneurship.       There is some excellent research on entrepreneurial trends:  the work of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, which usefully tracks patterns of entrepreneurial development, work done on verifying the assumption that venture-capital backed entrepreneurship facilitates the development of export products (or the globalization of local enterprises).  Many excellent MBA courses are now being developed around these new trends, including Stephen Sammut at Wharton, MIT's G-Lab and Philip Anderson at INSEAD.   We can benefit greatly from seeing how entrepreneurial models are developed and how transfusions of entrepreneurship into established businesses can be managed.       But entrepreneurs cannot be taught like accountants or anesthesiologists.  They have to be discovered and developed like football players and innovative musicians.   They can be encouraged with case studies and demonstration effects.  Also as we now globalize the experimental culture of the dotcom world of the 1990s, we learn by collaboration and comparison.   

            (ii)  Those of us who love discovering and developing entrepreneurs have to remember that entrepreneurship doesn't happen in a vacuum.     There have to be stable capital markets and a reliable rule of law to assure that capital is efficiently allocated and that companies can grow to their natural side without the distorting effects of corrupt economic systems, variable political rules and regulations.   I already have heard entrepreneurship being presented as a panacea, as though simply injecting a few entrepreneurs into Equatorial Guinea will change a stagnant country ranked very low by Transparency International into a Denmark or Korea .    One also has to recognize that in malfunctioning economic systems, entrepreneurs are often people living on the edge of a system, creating markets for connections, or selling goods outside the existing (ill-regulated) legal system.  This is the message of Hernando de Soto's analysis of "informal markets" and C.K. Prahalad's work on creating wealth at the bottom of the economic "pyramid".  There is useful academic work to be done in understanding this relationship in countries like Egypt and Russia where entrepreneurship functions best in areas where it doesn't conflict with state power.  

            (iii) I continue to argue that we need new capital market instruments (African pension funds) to develop the pool of capital required to back an entrepreneurial economy, in the manner which the CDP played that role in Quebec .   For those interested in sustainable longterm international economic development, this remains at the top of the agenda.   Financial intermediaries are prerequisite to sustainable prosperity.   They organize strategic thinking, network creative ideas with disciplined capital and organize the strategic talent in a community to increase the competitive advantage of an investment.   Remittances and returning global workers offer a new kind of capital formation,  but the real challenge for the next decade remains turning billions of dollars of resource rents into productive investment capital  - something I have referred to elsewhere as the political challenge of the 21st Century.

            (iv)  In designing innovation networks, educational policy-makers create virtuous circles, focusing creative talent on commercializeable activities and creating evergreen capital for reinvesting in new projects.   Kevin Maney describes the global phenomenon in a recent USA Today article: 

                   Ten years ago, Malaysia hung its hopes on its Multimedia Supercorridor outside Kuala Lumpur . Singapore launched a national broadband project called Singapore One, hoping it would create a tech haven. Finland two years ago handed the job of sparking entrepreneurship to charismatic former prime minister Esko Aho. Dubai is in the process of building a tech zone it's calling Internet City .

Of potentially the greatest impact, China 's leadership has begun pushing for entrepreneurship, saying the nation needs to come up with its own innovations.

Yet success in most countries has been elusive. The Multimedia Supercorridor has attracted little money or business. Finland still has no comparable follow-up to its one superstar company, Nokia.

            To teach global entrepreneurship effectively, one of the things we need to do is to create relevant case studies.   Case studies inspire and provide strategic templates.   They can also produce demonstration effects, signposting the importance of cultural values,  efficient capital markets, and access to strategic support.    Entrepreneurship is a broad category, often applied to people who take advantage of a positional good to dominate a market.    For our purposes, entrepreneurship will be defined as the "creation of new value", eliminating appropriation as a means of politically-enabled entrepreneurship and focusing on the kind of entrepreneurship associated with the venture capital-backed model of the 1990s.

            Before we turn to case studies, I want to examine   some of the general trends in global entrepreneurship which have changed the way global economic growth is occurring:

1.      Entrepreneurship will occur most rapidly in areas where individuals have access to capital (remittances and microcredits), because this provides a model of capital formation conducive to entrepreneurial activities:  Globalization has changed the pattern of fertilizing new enterprises.  Initiatives can now  take place anywhere.  This can only happen if there is access to efficient and realistic capital, either though remittances or microcredits.   There are still worryingly few formal institutions that serve  this function: 

                         (a) the importance of remittances as a new form of investment in entrepreneurial activities.   Over the years, there have been a number of attempts to turn the model into a way to create a pool of syndicated capital targeted to entrepreneurs, which would turn remittances into leveraged   investment capital. This model theoretically would make it possible for an    entrepreneur in Nigeria being able to     access capital and strategic advices from a, but the model    has proven to be difficult to implement in practice.

                        (b)    microcredits make possible a serious social policy goal of promoting entrepreneurship.   This has proven to be uniquely successful in empowering women entrepreneurs who would otherwise have no access to capital.  

2.      There are now global hubs of entrepreneurial finance, e.g. the Stanford Business School network,  Indo Silicon Valley communities.  Certain networks, e.g. the Indo-Silicon Valley or the Tamil community in South East Asia have demonstrated a capacity to create satellites which ties to a hub.   This is another model of economic support available to some of the most globally-oriented of communities.   B-Schools like INSEAD and Stanford have been able to create incubators linking their students in collaborative projects sometimes formally and sometimes informally.   Given the global base of the Montreal B-School alumni, new models of global entrepreneurship are developing as we speak, but in an improvised manner (e.g. Mediascrape). 

3.      It is possible to create serious concentration of expertise in a particular location.  There is no reason that the world's leading educational toys company would be in Denmark (Lego) or the world's leading producer of urban transportation technology in Montreal (Bombardier):   Innovation can take place anywhere.   Science orients itself to local specializations and the precision engineering of Switzerland, the development of a food preservative science base in Denmark are all part of a brad pattern of competitiveness.      There is also no reason that the next innovation in specialized activities could take place anywhere there is satellite broadband:  Mozambican tropical wood products,  Chilean marine ecology based nutritional sciences.     Case studies of success stories which didn't come from geographically-based competitive advantage are particularly valuable.

4.      But there are geographically-based products which result from local skills and knowledge being commercialized into an exportable product:  Bamboo and Ginseng are examples of emerging markets finding entrepreneurs who can create a global market for a local product.    Many of the next generation products being developed around the world require entrepreneurs who can commercialize local competitive advantages.   The development of brands in crafts and artistic products is an example of this kind of entrepreneurship, as is the customization of specialty products like wines in Georgia and coffee in Ethiopia .   A well-capitalized company that made Ghanaian cocoa butter, Indonesian bamboo furniture or Kenyan honey could be   a Lego or Danisco of the future.

5.      Commercializing intellectual property is a global entrepreneurial opportunity.  There is no reason that medical products from herbal remedies to new pharmaceutical products cannot be created in Brazil or China from local knowledge:   The case of poisonous Brazilian tree frogs or Botswana cactus shows the extent to which emerging market intellectual property has already been commercialized.  The problem in that the original discoverers of the intellectual property were not the ones compensated.  As we create an intellectual property regime which recognizes that there is no Modigliani without West African art and fewer pharmaceutical products without Mayan shamans, there will be a limit to growth in places where knowledge and creativity originate.

6.       Science parks as models of  collaborative knowledge can exist in Kazakhstan or Angola   : The most important thing that public policy can do is to create functional universities/science parks/economic incubators in new places.  A University in Kazakhstan   does should not be built on an economic or social model equivalent to Canadian or U.K. universities.   (Nor should a greenfield knowledge incubator in Canada   or the U.K. )  But it can be designed to incubate and develop engineering and applied skills.    Local science parks have developed clusters, from multiple companies commercializing acoustic engineering knowledge and sound design in Switzerland , to industrial biotechnology in Scandinavia .    This model has relevance to entrepreneurial growth in Kazakhstan or Angola in a networked world where collaborative knowledge can commercialize talent and indigenous intellectual property.

7.      "Cultivated pearls":      Cultivated pearls are a good metaphor as they were a conscious attempt to create a new industry in a geographically remote region.  In the cultural industries, Senegalese and Mauritanian artists like  N'Dour and Sissako have generated an industry around their activities.    By making films in Kurdistan, Bahman Ghobadi entrepreneurially created dozens of job, incubated an industry and became the major foreign investor in the region outside the resources industry.      Fashion has been a means to generate entrepreneurial activity in South Africa and India . 


There are many case studies which are worth developing.   These are merely meant for demonstration effects.   They represent geographically-diverse sources of entrepreneurship and as case studies address a number of the themes discussed above.

Honey Care and the development of African entrepreneurs.   The possibility of developing companies which produce for export markets and use local labour organized in a collective manner provides one more example of how branding can produce a global product.


African music centre
 and the rise of a music recording hub.   The Senegalese music industry now has an infrastructure of operation and a number of dynamic entrepreneurs (producers)


Wireless telephony in Cameroon and Ethiopia    Wireless enterprises are the first choice of many young western-educated entrepreneurs because they can circumvent the constraints of local political systems.

East African Botanicals
 is a case study of commercialization of Chinese knowledge in the medical treatment of malaria, and integration of east African agricultural land into the production of a medicinal product.  As a company designed to be "global" in its operation, it is an important case study.


Mauritanian film:   The financing of Sissako's films: a case study in cultural industries.  The development of a film industry infrastructure is an excellent case study of entrepreneurship in many countries.   From Bollywood to the Iraqi Kurdish experience, film-making provides a large number of skills-adding jobs to a local economy.  By looking at the development of a film industry in Senegal-Mauritania-Mali, we can understand how this can be designed as a strategy.

Digital Theatre in Brazil:   Rain produces an example of a company generated from local talent.

Dubai Internet City and Malaysia Multimedia Supercorridor:    These two high profile attempts to create large incubation capacities for high technology development are a large capital-intensive approach to creating the preconditions for entrepreneurship.  

Adapting Best Practices Internet Business Models to the Chinese Market:   In the portfolio of top Chinese venture capital firms there are examples of "MBA-led entrepreneurship", adapting best practices internet and new economy business models to the Chinese marketplace.  

            There are many stories of building companies in emerging markets with returning MBA and engineering talent.  Network365 in Sri Lanka   offers those kinds of case studies.   Increasing sophistication in financial markets through financial analysis like Mbendi and Liquid Africa have increased the potential of regional economies.  

            There are   of course, other possible strategies for accelerating entrepreneurial start-ups.  There are social entrepreneurial funds like Foursome which have invested in companies like Forestrade, creating a business model for exotic spices.     

            The expansion of entrepreneurial activities of this kind in an organized global entrepreneurship in  which individual entrepreneurs can be backed by syndicated web venture capital capabilities to build companies in emerging markets.  This "" idea was floated during the dotcom boom, modeled on what was not then called social networking, but syndicated small-cap venture capital.  One of the business models that inspired this was  The strategic assumption was that    global management teams and global investment structures could be put together so that, for example, a music studio in Dakar could have 100 $1000 investors from London , Paris , Johannesburg and a management team drawn from a network of linked talent through the   graduates of top world Business Schools. If 100 companies could be created by this means, the management talent which turns into the future Legos and Bombardiers   of the global economy would be kept in place.    

            Teaching entrepreneurship requires an inventory of case studies.   Entrepreneurship is inherently creative and risk-taking.   An entrepreneurial economy requires a rule of law legal system,  disciplined and longterm oriented capital markets and a network of sophisticated management talent.   If the social capital of learned experience in Silicon Valley or Montreal creates a network of knowledge about entrepreneurial activities, then the more experiments, the more successful the entrepreneurial economy will be.

            If we are advising resource-rich economies, like Kazakhstan or Angola on how to grow an economy,  there are six  steps to  building an entrepreneurial economy which invents value:

(i)                  to create the longterm institutional investors who will create venture funds in which this network of experimentation can take place;

(ii)                to ensure that there is a digital network of "directors" or mentors to start-up activities, along the model;

(iii)               to ensure that there is a knowledge network around the university system and the indigenous sources of knowledge in the local economy, a Malaysia Supercorridor model adjusted to scale and local competitive advantages;

(iv)              to look at and learn from proven entrepreneurial models especially in the technology-driven new economy.   There are companies which replicate tried models elsewhere, creating a Chinese or an Argentine version of successful internet business models (like the Chengwei model);  

(v)                to build local brands through value-added activities, Honey Care in Kenya or flower cultivation in Costa Rica or China ;

(vi)              to ensure that creative talent is commercialized around indigenous art, music, and film, exportable products in a global economy and a base for profitable industries in the Bollywood or Korean film models.


            These steps can provide the foundation of an entrepreneurial economy, focused on organizing next generation talent around the exercise of creating value.  With capital markets that are designed to create disciplined growth and export strategies for domestic entrepreneurs, this approach to economic development could be the basis of a  sustainable prosperity throughout the entire global economy.





Global entrepreneurship conference San Francisco   

Regional venture capital funds:  Mekong Capital in Vietnam and Chengwei in China . 

ILO report on Migrant Worker Remittances, Micro-finance and the Informal Economy     by Shivani Puri and Tineke Ritzema  (excerpt below)

5.3 The potential role of micro-finance in linking unrecorded remittances to development

On the whole, then, the attempts of Governments of labour-exporting countries to attract unofficial remittances and influence their uses domestically have had a mixed record. There are a few schemes for self-employment and vocational retraining, but these contribute only marginally to the re-absorption of labour. Clearly, it is difficult to convert successful migrant workers/savers with no prior business experience into dynamic entrepreneurs. It could be argued that it is more realistic to introduce financial intermediaries that capture migrant remittances as deposits and channel them to existing small and micro-businesses, rather than transforming migrants directly into entrepreneurs.

In other words, rather than focussing on 'migrant-specific' investment programmes, labour exporting countries might wish to induce micro-finance institutions to capture remittances. The basic idea would be to design policies to transfer funds of the migrant workers through to entrepreneurs. Savings and credit schemes and investment instruments specifically designed to suit migrant workers' risk profiles could be important vehicles.

This could involve elements of a payroll deduction scheme and a fund mechanism offering competitive remuneration and little restriction on withdrawals. Partnerships with commercial wire transfer and courier service companies could help share risks and costs.

Migrant worker savings could also be managed similar to pension funds. These options need to be explored in greater detail by policy-makers. It is plausible that these types of savings-credit schemes are attractive to migrant workers who often consider overseas employment as a means of saving money for the undertaking some investment upon return.

June 28th, 2005:   Markets in knowledge about benchmarking in healthcare:     Barry Meier's reporting in the June 23rd New York Times ( entitled "A Choice for the Heart: It's Easier to Get Data on a Car than on a Medical Device",  points out the need for better information-mining in areas that  show how competing drugs and medical products compare in both safety and effectiveness.   This article should help us return to a modern discussion about health care, one that suggests that reformers can advocate strategies that improve health care quality   and produce cost containment simultaneously if the information benchmarking treatments was better mined.   The market in knowledge about health-care effectiveness suggests a number of new business models and corresponding opportunities for venture capital firms.  A recent conference at Harvard Business School reported a relatively increasing venture capital interest in medical devices,.  However, there continues to be an unexploied opportunity to create companies mining and analysing data concerning the effectiveness and cost of various health care procedures to insurance companies, governments and consumers. 

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May 24, 2005

Venture capitalists and movie producers:  Gary Rivlin's excellent article in Sunday's New York Times ("So You Want to Be a Venture Capitalist" May 22nd, 2005 ) raises some fundamental questions about predictors of success in the venture capital industry.   Like sports scouts and movie producers, institutional investors backing new venture capital funds have to be prepared to acknowledge that there is more "art" than "science" in predicting the next winner.   By definition, emerging trends change, and someone who spotted the last "next big thing" will not be well-positioned to spot the next next big thing.    While part of entire capital activity (like movie producers) is technical (e.g. cost control, team-building, strategic financing, management of investors), some of it is also about timing and scanning the horizon.    Successful venture capital firms will continue to mix the two, finding the next Quentin Tarantino,  but remembering what it is the allows Clint Eastwood to be continuingly successful.