Sunday, October 19, 2008

Entrepreneurial Connections

One thing leads to another...
Purpleslog links to the kind of article that I really love reading.

"If you have a good product that you can produce, or that someone else can produce within the appropriate margins, you have access to a worldwide network for promoting it," Welytok said.

Welytok is pounding on that message with what she says are more than 100 clients of the Milwaukee law firm she started in 2005, Absolute Technology Law Group LLC. She's also hammering out her message at monthly meetings of three inventors and entrepreneurs clubs that meet in Mequon, West Bend and downtown Milwaukee.

Welytok has been facilitating the Mequon and West Bend groups for two years. She formed the Milwaukee group last month with some prodding from David Linz, southeast regional director for the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs' Network.
Since returning to work, she's started her law firm and the three inventors groups, and she's written two more books.

The books cover a range of topics, with titles such as "The Entrepreneur's Guide to Patents, Copyrights, Trademarks, Trade Secrets and Licensing." She says she has another book scheduled to come out in February, which she is writing with Louis Foreman, creator of the PBS invention series called "Everyday Edisons."

"Jill should be the celebration of this town. She understands innovation, entrepreneurship and how moms and pops can take their dreams and convert them into real businesses or markets...

"If you get this groundswell of grass-roots entrepreneurial activity, you're going to get some winners."
Whipple organized Wisconsin's first inventors and entrepreneurs club in Juneau County in 2001 to create a "contagious" entrepreneurial environment where people could investigate ideas with group support.

The kind of meta-entrepreneurship Welytok is engaged in can also be adapted to serve a role in our post-war operations as Tom Barnett points out in a recent column:

The only exit strategy is jobs.

Soldiers and aid workers don't know anything about entrepreneurship and can't possibly build a national economy - only businesspeople can. The most crucial handoff is to the private sector, not the United Nations.

Creating private sector enterprises to foster "contagious entrepreneurial environments" can be a significant component in our counterinsurgency and post-war planning, as well as in shrinking the gap more generally, especially where the local community already has an entrepreneurial culture as in Najaf:

The boom also is strengthening ties between the Supreme Council — al-Sadr's main rival — and Najaf's merchant class, which takes pride in the city's famous entrepreneurial spirit.

It is that spirit, say residents, that has cost al-Sadr support here back in 2004 when his militiamen controlled Najaf, driving visitors away and forcing most businesses to shutter down.

Identifying communities with this kind of entrepreneurial spirit should be part of our human terrain research and we should already have a plan in place for dealing with them when we find them.

It is also something that should be part of our strategic communications operations by both government and private actors. In another post PurpleSlog looks at the glamour of the jihadi and how that contributes to attracting recruits. In addition to an effort to de-glamourize the jihadi, we need to offer an alternative. One of the advantages that we have is that there are long-standing commercial cultures throughout the Middle East. Therefore we should be able to champion the entrepreneur as the hero in the story of the liberalization (economic and otherwise) of the Middle East. The entrepreneur serves as a bridge from the pre-modern commercial culture to the modern commercial republic.

This includes Europe as well. The Europeans have long been prejudiced against economic liberalism. I think it is essential that we should wage a campaign in Europe (customized to the different countries of course) to further an entrepreneurial liberal economic order and the entrepreneur offers the best symbolic vehicle to do this. But we are going to have to overcome some very weird European prejudices:

Europe could use more people like Ehssan Dariani. The 26-year-old entrepreneur runs a hot Internet start-up called studiVZ—Europe's fastest-growing social network for university students. Since setting up in a cheap Berlin loft only last fall, he's already hired 25 people. Yet when Dariani looks back at his high-school days, a decade ago in the west German city of Kassel, he remembers his teachers warning against exactly what he's doing. "They taught us the market economy was a dangerous wilderness full of risk and bankruptcy," Dariani says. "We never learned how prices affect supply and demand, only about evil managers and unjust wages." If he'd listened to his teachers, he'd be among the vast majority of German students who dream of becoming civil servants or fitting into the comfortable hierarchy of a traditional corporation. Instead he set out and created some desperately needed jobs.

Ask any European what he learned at school about how the economy works, and you'll likely hear a similar story. A recent study of German high-school textbooks by the Institute for the German Economy, in Cologne, found entrepreneurs—instead of getting credit for creating jobs—taking the blame for everything from unemployment to alcoholism to Internet fraud and cell-phone addiction. Some high-school social-studies textbooks teach globalization as an unmitigated catastrophe; students are advised to consult the radical anti-globalization protest group Attac for further information. In France, books approved by the Education Ministry promote statist policies and voodoo economics. "Economic growth imposes a way of life that fosters stress, nervous depression, circulatory disease and even cancer," reports "20th-Century History," a popular high-school text published by Hatier. Another suggests Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were dangerous free-market extremists whose reforms plunged their countries into chaos and despair.

Such blatant disinformation sheds new light on the debate over why it is that Europeans lag so far behind Americans in rates of entrepreneurship and job creation. It also helps explain widespread resistance among Europeans to accepting even the smallest reforms of their highly regulated economies. But recently there appears to be a small but growing backlash against the popular vilification of capitalism. Unthinkable only a decade ago, business associations, think tanks and a whole slew of capitalist and libertarian activists, many only in their 20s and 30s, are leading a tiny but noisy counterattack. Their common goal: making sure the next generation of Europeans is less in tune with Karl Marx and more with Adam Smith.

Fighting windmills? Maybe not. In Germany, the Banking Association is helping change attitudes by supplying instructional materials explaining markets to more than 20,000 teachers. "A few years ago the Education Ministry would have kicked us out," says the association's Wilhelm B├╝rklin. One participating social-studies teacher, Christel Stoldt at Winkelmann High School in the town of Stendal, reports rising interest among students about how the market economy works. "I have to overcome a lot of prejudice against companies and entrepreneurs," she says. In France, the Centre de l'Entreprise has sent several hundred teachers on internships to companies. Director Jean-Pierre Boisivon says they often return astonished that the corporate world isn't the Darwinian struggle between bosses and workers they'd been taught it was. Junior Achievement, a U.S. organization promoting student entrepreneurship, now has three dozen European chapters and plans to reach 5 million students by 2010. JA Europe chief Caroline Jenner says that 30 percent of the kids who participate in its programs later start their own companies, compared with just 7 percent in the general population. "How else are we going to get jobs for 19 million unemployed Europeans if we don't teach kids that entrepreneurship is OK?" she asks.

You don't win this competition of ideas with a lot of theory, rather you win it by appealing to people's aspirations, imagination, and visions of what they can be. The entrepreneur is the hero of the modern liberal democratic order.

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