Entrepreneurs Will Save the World

Did I tell you I bought a treadmill?  It’s great.  Even on mornings when it’s not my morning to workout I can still get a run in.

My favorite thing to do while running is to listen to TED talks on my iPhone.  There is an app for it.  :)  This morning I listened to one by an Italian man, Ernesto Sirolli, that was particularly inspiring.  He discussed the importance of listening especially when trying to help others.  Long story short he explained that he has learned in years of experience trying to help people in underdeveloped nations in Africa and other places, the key to making progress in these nations is listening to the local people and doing so in a way that engages the local entrepreneurs.  His and his colleagues initial inclination was to hold Town Hall meetings but what they found was with the entrepreneurs didn’t attend and they didn’t get anywhere.  Once he figured out Town Hall meetings did not attract the right people to initiate change, he determined that meeting up with those who could, over a couple coffee in a restaurant or in their homes was the best way to spark big change.


I decided when I was 27 years old to only respond to people, and I invented a system called Enterprise Facilitation, where you never initiate anything, you never motivate anybody, but you become a servant of the local passion, the servant of local people who have a dream to become a better person. So what you do — you shut up. You never arrive in a community with any ideas, and you sit with the local people. We don’t work from offices. We meet at the cafe. We meet at the pub. We have zero infrastructure. And what we do, we become friends, and we find out what that person wants to do.

The most important thing is passion. You can give somebody an idea. If that person doesn’t want to do it, what are you going to do? The passion that the person has for her own growth is the most important thing. The passion that that man has for his own personal growth is the most important thing. And then we help them to go and find the knowledge, because nobody in the world can succeed alone. The person with the idea may not have the knowledge, but the knowledge is available.

Ernesto Sirolli speaking at TEDxEQChCh


He reiterated that entrepreneurship is “where it is at.” We live at the end of the industrial age where we have a lot of systems that are not sustainable for seven billion people.  Non-renewable fossil fuels, modern manufacturing, freon, the internal combustion engine, plain and simple, if we are to sustain our planet, we need alternatives.  It will not be governments or universities that will develop these alternatives, instead it will come from entrepreneurs.

To illustrate the situation, Sirolli shared a story about New York City in 1860.  At that time a bunch of the forward thinking individuals of the city at the time came together to discuss what the future of New York City would be in 100 years.  The conclusion was unanimous, New York City would not exist in one hundred years.  The reason was that if the city continued to grow on the same trajectory it would take six million horses to move everyone around and there would be so much manure that they would literally be buried in shit.

Little did they know that entrepreneurship would kick in and 40 years later there would  be over 1001 car manufacturers in the United States alone.

I found this talk really inspiring because it illustrated the power of entrepreneurship to change the world as well as reminded me that the possibilities for the future are endless.  Literally every day I think about what technologies will be coming out next and how it’s going to change my life and even more so, my kids lives.

I read another article today that pointed out current trends around consuming less, having less, owning less and living in a more environmentally friendly, green world.  Entrepreneurs are pushing these trends forward and starting to turn them into reality and yet we are only just getting started.

I pose the same question to myself (and to all of you) that was posed to the forward-thinking New Yorkers in 1860:

Where will we be as a planet in 100 years?

Will we have cured cancer? Will we know what causes illness? Will we still have books?  Will there still be hunger?  Will there be world peace?  Will we still own purses and wallets?  Will we still have mobile phones?  Surely keyboards will be long gone as even today I did the first draft of this post by voice. So many things will be simplified and optimized and improved it’s really hard to imagine what 100 years from now looks like.

Or are we being totally short-sighted, thinking there will be too much manure to exist in another hundred years?  With the rapid advancement of technology, perhaps 100 years from now looks so different, we cannot even comprehend it.

The one thing I am absolutely certain of is that I want to be apart of moving us forward helping invent and bring to market the things that will improve this world.  I just need to figure out how….and what is my next move.

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