Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Silicon Valley's ideal entrepreneur is about 20 years too young, research shows

There is a powerful new study about entrepreneurship with great implications for the economy and those of us in the second half of life.

"A new study found the average founder of the fastest growing tech startups was about 45-years-old — and 50-year-old entrepreneurs were about twice as likely to have a runaway business success as their 30-year-old counterparts."

"The new study by Jones, Javier Miranda of the U.S. Census Bureau and MIT's Pierre Azoulay and J. Daniel Kim, looked at an expansive dataset and found the most successful entrepreneurs are middle-aged.

"Take David Duffield, who founded Workday in 2005 at the ripe age of 65.  Workday went public in 2012 and today has a $26.47 billion market cap.  Whereas younger founders may benefit from their creative thinking and lesser degree of entrenchment in an industry, the exact opposite qualities work to the benefit of their older counterparts."

"Older entrepreneurs have had years to build their business, leadership, and problem-solving skills, as well as to accumulate the social and financial capital needed to get a startup off the ground. Jones also points out that even companies like Apple and Microsoft that were founded by exceptional young entrepreneurs didn't achieve their most rapid market capitalization growth until later, when their founders were older. The iPhone entered the market when Steve Jobs was in his 50s"

There are almost endless opportunities for older entrepreneurs to meet business and community challenges with inn
ovative entrepreneurial solutions.  Take hold of this option.  Give yourself permission to explore, then plan, then take action.  The world needs you, and the challenge will make you stronger.

Link the CNBC article quoted above

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Endeavor. To exert oneself. To strive.

Endeavor is an old word with great possibilities.

Its current meaning as a verb means 'to exert oneself to do or effect something; make an effort; strive'.  As a noun in means 'a strenuous effort; attempt.'

When you are starting a new enterprise, you are launching an endeavor.  You are making an effort.  You are striving.

If you are looking for permission to consider entrepreneurship, if you are looking to plan or to expand your own business, don't look for external rewards.

Look to yourself.  Strive to do change the world in small and large ways.  Increase your focus.  Do the little things with meaning and effort.  There is no better path to making progress.

Endeavor. Strive. You'll build the strengths you need as you go forward.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Tom Waits quote. Explaining about not having a 'normal' job.

If you think you need to follow a prescribed career path, you've missed the train.  The world no longer works like that.

As this blog shifts over to writing with intention about the opportunities for those of us in the second half of life, it is especially relevant that we give up fixed expectations.  We need to go with what we have.  We need to make opportunities out of every hand we've been dealt.

So, a parable from Tom Waits.  Consider this when you are choosing options that don't fit molds that other people want to put you in...

Tom Waits:

My kids are starting to notice I'm a little different from the other dads.  'Why don't you have a straight job like everybody else?' they asked me the other day.

I told them this story:

"In the forest, there was a crooked tree and a straight tree.  Every day, the straight tree would say to the crooked tree, "Look at me... I'm straight, and I'm tall, and I'm handsome.  Look at you... You're all crooked and bent over.  No one wants to look at you!  And they grew up in that forest together.  And then one day the loggers came, and they saw the crooked tree and the straight tree, and they said just cut the straight trees and leave the rest.  So the loggers turned all the straight trees into lumber and toothpicks and paper.  And the crooked tree is still there, growing strong and stranger!"


Today is the 13th anniversary of this Sustainable Work blog.  Growing stronger and stranger.  Thanks to all the great visitors over the years.  I look forward to sharing many more with you all.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Sustainable Work blog anniversary coming up. 13 years and growing!

The thirteenth anniversary of this Sustainable Work blog is coming up this week.

I've been neck deep in startup work for the last year or so.  It's time to catch up with the story and the goals I set up at the start of all this.

This is a moment in history when we need a revolution in entrepreneurial thinking.  Major parts of the conversation about entrepreneurship have been taken over by big money and academics.  There is a place for all that, but it leaves out the thousands of years of history that real people have been motivated to fix a problem, and small enterprises grow out of their solutions.

People can act entrepreneurially within their existing gigs, and we can also begin to plan and launch small community-oriented enterprises to fix the broken stuff all around us.

I'm reposting the original blog post from Sustainable Work below.  Thirteen years this week and I still feel just as passionately about the work that needs to be done.


Tuesday, April 12, 2005


I'm glad you've found you're way here. Welcome!

I've got this idea that I'd like to start a million more small, sustainable enterprises. However, I'm 50 something and I have a perfectly wonderful 90 hour a week job now. So I'm just going to have to talk about it here in my spare time. Hopefully I can help other people along this path. Can we get to a million new small enterprises? Come on along. Let's try. I look forward to sharing this site with you.

All the best,



You can link to this original piece below:

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Opportunities in the midst of accelerating change

Everything is getting faster.

Everything is getting crazier.

Many people say that everything in our lives needs to get radically reordered to keep up.

I don't think so.  I think that old school values matter increasingly.

In 1965 Intel co-founder Gordon Moore published an idea that has become know over the decades as Moore's law  Moore extrapolated that computing would dramatically increase in power, and decrease in relative cost, at an exponential pace.  

You can't match wits with Moore's law.  We can stay ahead of it by leveraging the oldest of pass times - conversation, unexpected collaborations, and building networks.

This is a good quote from Thomas L. Friedman's new book 'Thank You for Being Late':

"If you took Intel's first-generation microchip from 1971, the 4004, and the latest chip that Intel has on the market today, the sixth-generation Intel core processor, you will see that Intel's latest chip offers 3,500 times more performance, is 90,000 times more efficient, and is about 60,000 times lower in cost.

To put it more vividly, Intel engineers did a rough calculation of what would happen had a 1971 Volkswagen Beetle improved at the same rate as microchips did under Moore's law.

These are the numbers:  Today, the Beetle would be able to go about three hundred thousand miles per hour.  It would get two million miles per gallon of gas, and it would cost four cents!"

Our computational skills haven't matched Moore's law exponential growth for decades.

However, for those willing to ride the bronco, our people skills can.  And we can do it through the oldest of mediums.  Conversations. A willingness to understand and consider.  A penchant for building new networks.

Are things getting faster?  Yes.

Are things getting crazier?  Only if you let them.

Thomas Friedman's book 'Thank You for Being Late'.

Moore's law

Eastern Screech Owl.  Wisconsin, late winter, 2017,

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Persistence overcomes resistance.

Adam Steltzner led the Entry, Descent and Landing team in landing the Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars.

This quote is from his book, 'The Right Kind of Crazy', a great book about breakthrough innovation in the face of the impossible.

"There comes a moment in every creative or innovative process when you're not only lost; you're not even sure where to find a map.  Spending time in this Dark Room is terrifying, but there is no easy way out.  You have to stay calm, to hold on to the doubt, listen to the problem, and keep thinking of solutions while avoiding the mind-locking panic that you won't find one in time.  We were in the Dark Room and the only way out was persistence."

Persistence can overcome a lot of unknowns.  When you persist, the problems you need to know about show themselves, rather than waiting to grab you as you go by.  It's always best to meet problems on your own terms rather than waiting to wander into them unprepared.

Problem solving requires a strong heart, a calm demeanor, and diverse skills you can mix and match on the fly.  The problems you'll face typically get more daunting the closer you get to your goals.  This is especially true for innovators, artists and entrepreneurs.

As Steven Pressfield says so eloquently in the War of Art,  "The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death."   

"That's a law of nature.  Where there is a Dream, there is Resistance.  Thus, when we encounter Resistance, somewhere nearby there is a Dream."

Adam Steltzner and his team delivered the Curiosity Rover to Mars with perfect landing almost 5 years ago.  Just prior they were stuck and terrified with no easy ways out.

We all face those moments.  Dreams are nearby.

Persistence overcomes resistance.  


The Right Kind of Crazy.  Adam Steltzner

The War of Art.   Steven Pressfield

Purple Gallinule (photo).  Mauston, WI, 2017.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

How We Dream Up Things That Change the World - Make the Tools That Fix the Problem

I'm reading a good book called 'INVENTology.  How We Dream Up Things That Change the World', by Pagan Kennedy.

Ms. Kennedy, former innovation columnist for the New York Times, advances the idea of a 'Lead User' and how people in that role - all of us looking to solve a problem - can infer world changing solutions no one has yet seen.

The term Lead User was first coined in the 1970s by economist Eric Von Hipple as a name for people who struggle with problems for which no off-the-shelf solution is available.  Along the way he became a Lead User himself, as the inventor of a solution people needed for a specific problem that few even recognized.   In the end there were many, and various problems his solution solved.

When Von Hippel later switched carreers and became a researcher he was struck by the question:  Who really dreams up breakthrough ideas?

First he identified about 100 scientific instruments that had made a significant impact and then dug in.  "He learned that about 80 percent of the scientific instrument products had begun with someone who needed the tool."

This is the lesson my engineer/inventor Dad taught me:  if you want to make a real impact you design the tool that makes the tool that makes the product.  That is, you get into the problem deeply enough to personally understand what's needed to make the tools that help solve those problems.

Here is the author's summary of this phase:  "Of course, only certain types of problems are valuable.  Ideally you would want to suffer from a frustration that is rare now (so that no one else knows about it) but that one day will bother lots of people.  'Lead Users are familiar with the conditions which lie in the future for most others', Von Hippel wrote, and so 'they can serve as a need-forecasting laboratory.'"

This is my take away.  The world has problems.  Our job is to understand what's needed next and invent tools to help get us through what's coming.

Seems about right.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Welcome back. Buckle up.

Welcome back.  I've taken about a year off from this blog to launch a new business.  That work is well underway and it's time to get back to writing.

I’m mashing up for-profit enterprises with non-profits to develop new regional food networks.  We're making jobs for people with disabilities along the way.

It looks like a promising way to leverage entrepreneurship in support of non-profit needs and goals.

In my first post back in 2005, I said I wanted to help launch a million new small businesses.  I still do, now more than ever.


I used to try to match a photo up with the nature of the blog post.  Going forward I’m going to use photos I’ve taken of birds.  Because I can.

Ring-necked Pheasant, male.  January 2017, Middleton, WI.  Rick Terrien. 

Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ring-necked Pheasant.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Inspiring Purpose Prize leaders.

In 2015 I was fortunate to be honored as a Purpose Prize Fellow.

The Templeton Foundation, a major supporter of the Purpose Prize, just published a great report about this year's prize winners.  It's an inspiring group that I'm very proud to be associated with.

From a remote corner of Alaska to Harlem, from micro lending to the arts, these 'encore career' leaders are demonstrating beautifully the many ways that age and experience can help solve intractable problems.

The world needs 'encore' contributors.  To a person, we're all doing this to help create a better world for the next generations.

It's an honor to be sprinting along with this group.

Intergenerational Inspiration Marks 10th Year of The Purpose Prize.  Templeton Report.  Dec. 10, 2015.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

My Kiva report. Thanksgiving 2015

really like working with KIVA to support entrepreneurs around the world through micro loans. is a non-profit organization with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty.

As of Thanksgiving 2015 I've made 108 loans to entrepreneurs in 69 different countries.  73% female.  27% male.

I've supported 7 of KIVA's 7 markers for social performance.

The business model is called a revolving loan.  You make the loan on your terms and when you get paid back you get to loan it out again. 

The interest you make is paid in gratification for being able to help your global peers build a better world.

As Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus said:  "A charity dollar has only one life; a social business dollar can be invested over and over again."