Tagged: Education

Civic Duty

I just can’t get over how blatant the republican politicians around the country are being about how much they don’t care about their constituents – including those that voted for them.

There’s of course those in the federal government trying to ram things through as fast as they can before people notice what they’re doing. But there are also problems at the state and local levels.

One main example is South Dakota – one of the most corrupt states in the country. On election day, voters passed the South Dakota Anti-Corruption Act. The purpose was to stop the bribery going on in their government. Within days of the new legislative session starting, the South Dakota GOP used emergency powers to repeal the new anti-corruption law. I read through some of the finer points of it and the only problem with the law was that it made it difficult for politicians to accept bribes.

The GOP government in Iowa is acting the same way – proving again and again that the voters are irrelevant. A couple recent items are 1) their net reduction in funding of public schools (again) and 2) their work to remove workers rights on collective bargaining.

At a recent hearing on the collective bargaining bill, a police officer stated, “Half of law enforcement folks I work with are Republicans. And we voted for Republicans because of conservative values. But we didn’t vote for Republicans to get stabbed in the back while we’re trying to dodge cars and bullets.”

I don’t personally have a horse in the race on the collective bargaining issue, but I do care about education, a lot. Education is one area where this country (and Iowa) has been slipping recently. I feel for those in the public education system in Iowa since these two issues combined must feel like a personal attack. Teaching is hard enough. People say, “we could always use more good teachers.” Are these legislative choices going to help or hurt the education of our children?

Iowans have been showing up in large numbers at hearings at the capitol, and at a legislative forum in Ankeny, IA. It doesn’t seem to be doing any good, however. They’re being pretty brash about saying they won’t make changes no matter what their constituents think.

A reason for the GOP’s actions? Money. Plain and simple.

At the Ankeny forum, Iowa state representative Kevin Koester indicated one sure fire way to fight back, saying that he’s “on the ballot every other year, and that’s one way you hold me accountable.”

In this last election cycle, a way higher percentage of registered republicans went and voted compared to other groups. So if you don’t like what’s going on with our government, get your ass to the polls next time!




What’s a Startup?

Startup word cloud

Startup word cloud courtesy of Startup Weekend

[Note: there are a couple affiliate links in this post for relevant books on the subject that I’d recommend.]

Startups are not two guys in a garage or a kid in a dorm room (although some of them can be).

Startups are everywhere.

Startups are in large and small organizations in every sector of the economy, in non-profits, and in government.

The media likes to portray startup entrepreneurs as plucky underdog protagonists up against a big mean behemoth monopoly. It makes a good story, but it isn’t a true representation of reality.

So, what is a startup?

When I talk about startups, I use Eric Ries‘ definition of a startup:

“A human institution, creating something new, under conditions of extreme uncertainty.”

Also, when I talk (and write) about entrepreneurs, I’m generally talking about startup entrepreneurs – the people that found and run startups, as defined above.

There are many new businesses that aren’t “startups” – such as restaurants, stores, plumbers, construction companies, CPA firms, etc. These businesses still have uncertainty (most businesses fail within the first few years), but they don’t have unknown and untested business models like a true startup.

For example, if you’re opening a restaurant, the structure of your business model will be the same as that for about any other restaurant. You know where your expenses and revenues will come from. Sure, you’ll have different costs, partners, clientele and competitive advantages from your competitors; and your success will be uncertain and you will work very hard to try to ensure your success. But unless you do something revolutionary with the standard restaurant business model (e.g. giving away the meals for free), your business is not a startup.

I own and run two different businesses. One is a startup and one is not. The non-startup is a custom software consultancy. It works pretty much just like all other similar businesses. I’m not doing anything fancy with the business model because I don’t have to – it works just fine the way it is.

My startup is quite different. I’m trying to create something brand new in the world. Its value proposition isn’t fully verified. I don’t know who the eventual customers will be. The business model is continually evolving – it may end up being one of (or a combination of): ad-based, freemium, multi-sided, or virtual goods.

Another startup I’m involved with is in the education space. I’m working with some administrators in the Ankeny, Iowa school district to reinvent education. We’re working to create a new system of education and are unsure how it will turn out or what it will look like when we’re done. Our effort matches all three parts of the definition of a startup and we are thus startup entrepreneurs.

In this example, whether it’s a startup is not as obvious. However, I choose to think of it as a startup because it’s then more natural to think about applying principles and techniques designed to help startups (such as those in the Lean Startup movement) to our endeavor, and thus increase our chance of success.

(I’m sure I’ll write more about the Lean Startup and related principles and techniques in future posts.)