The Third Wave, Steve Case and How to Create a Social Enterprise

One of my all-time favorite reads is a book by Steve Case called The Third Wave. Case, the founder of AOL, shares with readers his vision of the next technological revolution and believes there are only five sectors left that have yet to undergo complete change and re-innovation. These five sectors include:

  1. Education
  2. Healthcare
  3. Fintech
  4. Energy
  5. Social Enterprise

If you’re surprised by any of these sectors, you shouldn’t be. They all share a common denominator that prevents rapid innovation within each of these industries: government.

Unfortunately, investors tend to shy away from companies that are closely tied to the government Also known as “cross-sector partnerships”, there are two key things to keep in mind if you hope to get investors on your side:

  1. Your intellectual property is your ability to build relationships
  2. Your barriers to entry include taking those relationships and creating formal partnerships

When I used to work in the angel investing and venture capital space, I noticed a correlation between raising capital and selling it to the government. But raising money, especially in the first round, starts with a strong relationship between entrepreneurs and angel investors. I recommend meeting your prospective investor every few weeks for coffee and following up every three weeks with progress updates. Not only does this show you know how to cultivate a working relationship, it also demonstrates your ability to deliver promised milestones to your angel investors.

One thing you should be careful to avoid is treating the government like another customer as you try to solidify a formal partnership. While you can consider the government as a client, they aren’t going to be the ones you turn to for advice on innovation. Asking for the government’s feedback can diminish your credibility as a thought leader. Instead, I suggest finding board members and co-founders who share the same passion as you to add to your leadership team.

Start by positioning yourself in front of thought leadership working within your space and convincing them you have something of value to them. Look for individuals who come from a variety of industries and bring unique experiences to the table. Potential board members should see you as a relentless entrepreneur who can also help prospective partners with the network you’ve built up to this point. Remember to be patient; board members are going to evaluate your passion, ability and value before coming to a final decision. Only after you’ve won their trust can you approach them with the offer of joining your company’s board.

My directors and legal counsel, for example, come from diverse backgrounds and each individual brings years of experience to the table. Here are some of my directors and their work experience:

  • Ernest Sanders
    • Instrumental figure in creating the safe passage model and recipient of 2014 University of Chicago Medicine 74th Annual Community Partner Award
  • Todd Belcore
  • Jamal Jackson
    • Current legal counsel for Solve Smart Cities

Together, my directors fill the roles that are crucial to the success of Solve Smart Cities and have helped us quickly build and formalize relationships with our partners. Solve Smart Cities is currently meeting with employers and expanding our nonprofit partners.

If you’d like to learn more about our vision or would like to discuss potential partnerships, please visit SolveSmartCities.com.