Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Passing it forward

This morning at the biweekly Boulder Open Coffee Club I was struck by how so many startups are based on a lame premise. I'm talking about your garden-variety Internet or iPhone-only social-networking tool.

Although I occasionally use Twitter I haven't found a need for it. It's inconvenient to check in to let friends know what I'm up to, and often when I do check in it turns out I just missed something cool, like Brad Feld inviting all his followers out for ice cream -- two hours ago. Plus so few people follow me I feel like the kid who's chosen last for the kickball team.

When you ask the founders of these types of startups how they intend to make money, they often don't know. They are so in love with their premise they haven't given the business model much thought.

So as we laggards stood around sipping the dregs of our lattes before going back to face the onslaught of to-do list items, I proposed that if we took the collective intellect of every coffee club entrepreneur and put it toward a socially responsible project -- like developing a car that runs on coffee grounds -- we could do something good for the world and make money, too.

The gang, millennials all, shrugged.

"Why would I go out and buy an fuel-efficient car when my car is only two years old?" one wanted to know.

"Detroit would just stomp on it," another declared.

We baby boomers have our hearts in the right place but in our dotage tend to lack the energy to follow through. Many in the generations that follow us tend to institute socially responsible initiatives into their startups. I'd like to see fewer startups based on popularity contests and more based on those socially responsible initiatives.

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