How Social Entrepreneurs Can Use Design Thinking and Lean Methods: My Interview with Danielle at

My Definition of Social Entrepreneurship: The Intersection Between the Business World and Changing the World

Danielle Carruthers, founder of, interviewed me about social entrepreneurship, design thinking and lean startup tools. I met Danielle when we both participated in Start-Up Chile. She’s an enthusiastic supporter of all things social enterprise and she’s created all sorts of helpful resources and courses for non-profits looking to create revenue-generating business models and create more sustainable impact, including BOOST Academy.

Here’s the full interview:

Here’s what we talked about:

  • My long and winding career path and how Danielle and I met in Chile [introduction]
  • My simple visual for wrapping your head around the idea of social entrepreneurship [6:50min]
  • The connection between design thinking and social entrepreneurship [9:50min]
  • How Design Thinking and Lean Methodology are connected right down to their 3-word mantras [11:40min]
  • How mushroom-preneurs are using Lean Thinking (yes, I said mushroom-preneurs) [14min]
  • The number 1 free resource you need to check out [21:10min]
  • Why it’s important to start small even when you’re trying to change the world [35:10min]

Links I mention during the interview: 

IDEO Human Centered Design Toolkit

Lean Startup

Back to the Roots at the Lean Startup Conference (experimenting with toilets in Africa)

Uber hires David Plouffe…/david-plouffe-uber-campaign…


If you prefer to read than listen, I have the full transcript and I’d be happy to send it to you. Feel free to email me: Thanks!! :)

How Start-Up Chile is Influencing Entrepreneurial Behavior in Chile and Beyond

jean back and cheyre at StartUpChile inaugurationParticipating in Start-Up Chile has been one of the most inspiring and eye-opening experiences of my professional life. As part of a solar energy startup team, I participated in the program’s first generation in 2011.

Start-Up Chile is an entrepreneurship initiative backed by Chile’s Ministry of Economy that invites entrepreneurs from all over the world to bootstrap their businesses in Chile, with the support of a $40,000 grant, a gorgeous office in central Santiago, and endless opportunities to network and collaborate with a dynamic community of entrepreneurs.

I stumbled across Michael Leatherbee and Charles E. Eesley’s academic study of the impact of this program, Boulevard of Broken Behaviors: Socio-Psychological Mechanisms of Entrepreneurial Policies and decided to share the most fascinating parts of this study with you (especially if you don’t have time to read all the methodological details and statistical regressions that led to these conclusions).

Leatherbee and Eesley’s study focuses on how Start-Up Chile is “changing the entrepreneurial environment by altering the sociological and psychological attributes of its participants.”

It focuses on two core aspects: Entrepreneurial Self-Efficacy (ESE) and Opportunity Discovering Behaviors (ODB).

Leatherbee and Eesley define Entrepreneurial Self-Efficacy in this way:

ESE is a measure of an individual’s belief in their abilities to perform entrepreneurial tasks successfully. Individuals with higher levels of ESE are more likely to pursue more audacious ventures.

The authors define Opportunity Discovering Behaviors like this:

ODB is a measure of the extent to which individuals behave in ways that favor the discovery of high-value, innovative entrepreneurial opportunities. Through the process of socialization (Berger & Luckmann, 1967), we argue that entrepreneurs assimilate those behaviors embedded in their social environments which are perceived as useful for the entrepreneurial process.

For the purposes of this paper, we call questioning, observing, experimenting and networking the opportunity discovery behaviors (ODB).

The study compares ESE and ODB of three groups: non-Chilean entrepreneurs that participated in Start-Up Chile, Chilean entrepreneurs that participated in the program, and Chilean entrepreneurs that applied but were not selected.

The results are striking:

The regression results suggest that domestic entrepreneurs who participated in the Start-Up Chile develop higher ODB than domestic entrepreneurs who did not participate in the program.

Moreover, it is striking to find that 45% of domestic entrepreneurs stated that peer learning was the most valuable aspect of the program. This difference stands in stark contrast when compared against the response of foreign participants. Of these only 16% considered peer learning a valuable aspect of the program. In other words, domestic entrepreneurs (who as a group have lower ODB and ESE than foreign entrepreneurs) are more likely than foreign entrepreneurs to perceive knowledge from their peers as a valuable resource that is being transferred through the public policy.

So yes, the program has been successful in increasing the entrepreneurial potential of its domestic participants.

A broader goal of Start-Up Chile is to strengthen Chile’s entrepreneurial ecosystem as a whole. I think this has been quite successful as well.

Following my participation in Start-Up Chile, I stayed in Chile to teach entrepreneurship classes at Chilean universities and collaborate with local entrepreneurs.

In Emprendimiento y Liderazgo, an entrepreneurship course for first-year students at the Universidad del Desarrollo, we specifically trained students in ODB. They worked in groups to discover opportunities and create prototypes of new toys to address problems they observed in the world around them. One group in my class noticed that mothers don’t exercise as much as they’d like, and they created a board game that involved push-ups, sit-ups, and jumping jacks for the whole family.

I think it’s important to train students in these behaviors, whether or not they immediately launch these ideas as actual businesses.

The paper also mentions the role of peers in the way people approach entrepreneurship.

Social comparison theory argues that when an individual comes to the realization that another person—who is similar to the former in some distinct way—can achieve something that is considered challenging, that individual starts believing that the challenge is more achievable than originally thought.

In other words, an initial perception that something is very difficult or impossible to achieve can be relaxed when individuals observe other similar individuals achieving that something.

I can definitely attest to this. I come from a family of entrepreneurs (my parents and brother have all run businesses, and have all participated in Start-Up Chile). Working alongside many entrepreneurs, both in Start-Up Chile and at Co-Work, has given me plenty of ideas for current and future endeavors.

I’m glad to see that Michael Leatherbee and Charles E. Eesley have emphasized the social and psychological aspects of entrepreneurial ecosystems (which is apparently unusual among academic studies on this topic) and I’m glad to see that Start-Up Chile is being recognized for its focus on peer learning and collaboration. Good work!

Here’s another link to the paper’s abstract. From this page you can download the whole paper.

Mike Leatherbee also wrote about the study in Spanish for El Mercurio, Chile’s leading newspaper.

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn. 

“A mi me encantaría ser emprendedor para ayudar a mi familia.” How do you suggest that this aspiring entrepreneur get started?

photo of a bicycle on the coast, via photopin, to illustrate a question from an aspiring entrepreneur in coastal Southern Chile, whose father repairs bikes. This week a student who attended a talk I gave in 2011 in a small city on the coast in the south of Chile sent me the following email. English translation follows.

hola te escribo este correo porque estuviste en una charla de emprendimiento y a mi me encantaría ser emprendedor para ayudar a mi familia en especial a mi hermana que es sorda, pero no se como, no tengo los recursos necesarios, por eso necesito que me aconsejes de que podría hacer???

tengo algo en mente mi padre sabe arreglar bicicletas y tiene un taller pequeño y las ganancias le sirven para puro comer y no para comprar materiales y crecer.

seria como una meta poder tener una empresa no un sueño, una meta que se haga realidad.

le agradecería su expuesta.


Hi, I’m writing this email because you were at an event about entrepreneurship and I would love to be an entrepreneur to help my family, especially my sister who is deaf, but I don’t know how, I don’t have the necessary resources, and that’s why I need you to advise me on what I could do.

I have something in mind. My father knows how to fix bicycles and has a small workshop. From the earnings he can eat but he can’t buy materials or grow the business.

It would be like a goal to be able to have a company not a dream, a goal that comes true.

I’d appreciate your reply.

I’ve been in conversation with this writer, and I’ve already shared some initial ideas with him, but I’d like to open up his question to a broader audience. What do you suggest that he do?

photo credit: Mark J P via photopin cc

Unexpected Perk of Start-Up Chile: Mining-Specific Chinese Vocab Lessons!

This week I learned a bunch of new vocabulary in Chinese!

挖土机 [wātǔjī] = bulldozer

港口[gǎngkǒu] = port

皮卡 [píkǎ] = pick-up truck

地形 [dìxíng] = landscape, topography

Why did I need these words? I’ve recently started doing some Chinese-Spanish translation work for mining companies. In China I worked in many different industries, but mining was not one of them. And I also did not babysit any 5-year-old boys. So I never learned the word “wātǔjī.”

Until now.

Meet Joe Yu.

Joe is entering his junior year at Middlebury College, where he is majoring in Math and Economics. He is from Shanghai, and interning for PingPigeon, a Start-Up Chile company. (Here is Joe’s post on the PingPigeon blog, with his impressions of Chile.) He has been here for a month, and today he goes back to Vermont for the beginning of the new school year.

I mentioned my new freelance projects to Joe, and asked him if he could talk to me about my photos from my mine visits, as if he were talking to a 5-year-old Chinese boy who loved big machines. Joe kindly agreed to tutor me.

Thank you Joe! Enjoy your next year of school! Glad to give you one more fun story about your time here in Chile :)

The Top 10: Why @StartupChile Rocks!

I came to Chile as part of Start-Up Chile, a program of the Chilean government to attract world-class early-stage entrepreneurs to start their businesses in Chile. The program is awesome.

Here are the top 10 reasons why:

Hernan Cheyre, Executive Vice President of the CORFO (Chile's economic development agency) speaks to reporters at a press conference before the inaugural party. In the foreground, wearing the Start-Up Chile t-shirt, is Jean Boudeguer, Start-Up Chile's Executive Director. Photo by Yeti, Start-Up Chile's creative director, via Facebook.

1. Start-Up Chile, Movistar, and Urban Station have worked together to create a gorgeous office for us!

I took this on Day 1 here in the office.

Here is a whole series of fabulous photos, taken by Alar from Estonia.

2. So many smart people in the same room! This physical proximity leads to new ideas and opportunities.

For example, Team Babelverse is building a platform to allow for real-time voice interpretation, on a per-minute basis, for many languages, all over the world. Yesterday, I chatted with Josef and Mayel as we waited in line to take our ID photos for the new office. I shared my experience from this past weekend, when I translated for a Chinese businessman who is visiting Chile. I explained that it would have been very difficult to translate those conversations using a remote service, since so much of our conversation depended on context, pointing, and getting to know each other.

I also shared a story from when family visited me in small-town China back in 2007. I had to go teach an English class, and sent my parents and brother to one of my favorite neighborhood restaurants for lunch. My brother had the ingenious idea to have me say the names of the dishes into the recorder on his cell phone, so they could play the recording for the waitress. However, the waitress was a bit confused and kept trying to ask questions, and my tones were probably less than precise. Eventually, after much giggling, they called me, and my students ordered lunch for my family. More giggling ensued.

Josef assured me that site visits and recorded restaurant orders are not Babelverse’s target markets. He sees more potential in EU conferences, TED Talks, and recorded Q&A by journalists.

If I have a question about finances, how to say something specific in Spanish (or Portuguese, Chinese, Italian, Greek, or even Estonian) there is a Start-Up Chile entrepreneur who can help me.

Scott, Rich, and Scott, and Emily in the back giving Rich bunny ears. All American entrepreneurs here at Start-Up Chile. Photo taken by Yeti at inauguration party, via Start-Up Chile Facebook page.

3. So many smart people connected to those in the same room! A story: Ken Seville, a military official from Canada, is here at Start-Up Chile to build CiviSide, a platform to help military veterans find jobs. A few weeks ago, Ken and I and several other Start-Up Chile teams had an informal chat with Vivek Wadwha. Vivek listened to Ken’s introduction of his project, then said that Ken should meet with investors who are military veterans or have sons in the military, and also frame his project in a way that perks the ears of Silicon Valley types. The way to do this, Vivek said, is to spend more time chatting with Silicon Valley types.

I immediately thought of my dad, who has spent the past 30 years working for 10 startups in Silicon Valley, and has lots of marketing experience. So I introduced Ken to my dad over email. (This story might have a next chapter… if, say, my dad responds to that email. Well, he reads this blog so maybe he will now. Love you Daddy!) Amended: my dad saw this message and responded immediately with three names of friends in Silicon Valley who are both tech entrepreneurs and military veterans. This totally proves my point :) 

4. Start-Up Chile is a “super-pituto.” In colloquial chilenopituto means social connections used to get things done. It is sometimes somewhat pejorative, as in “He must have gotten that job through a pituto,” but that is not how I mean it at all. Start-Up Chile has connected with consulates worldwide to help us get visas. Start-Up Chile has opened government offices after hours to help us do our trámites (bureaucratic steps) more efficiently. In our orientation, I could not believe the number of times I heard the phrase, “So we called the Minister of ____, and basically changed the law.”

Though I, as a foreigner, have personally benefited from this pituto, I also think these connections can have a broader impact: to accelerate the reform of these state institutions to enable more innovation, agility, and social mobility in the future. This pituto also gives us opportunities to learn and connect, at events like TEDxPatagonia.

5. Start-Up Chile hosts Meetups to facilitate great conversations with local entrepreneurs. Every week, the California Cantina is packed with a diverse crowd of innovative souls. The main language is English (which really surprised me the first day I arrived here, directly from California) but this does not seem to deter locals from attending.

6. You can read all the Start-Up Chile blogs in one place, thanks to the aggregation skills of Sam from 1000 Corks.

7. They give us cute, useful and personalized gifts!

Caffeine. A necessity ;)

8. The Chilean government gives each team a $40,000 grant, equity-free, to help us land in Chile and build the business. It’s not nearly enough for a large-scale solar installation, and we will receive the money in the form of reimbursements for approved expenses, but the team has worked hard to make it as easy and smooth as possible.

9. Did I mention that I’ve met a lot of cool people?

10. Start-Up Chile has the most wonderful staff: smart, well-connected, hard-working, and willing to do whatever it takes to transform Chile into the innovation capital of Latin America! Gracias por todo Start-Up Chile!!

These guys made it happen. On the left is Jean Boudeguer, Start-Up Chile's executive director, and next to him is Nico Shea, the program's founder. Nico spent a lot of time in Silicon Valley and came back to Chile to start this up. Photo via Facebook.

P.S. Most of these photos come from the Start-Up Chile Facebook page. If you’re into this stuff, click right over and “like” it. And, if you’re a Twitterer like me, follow @startupchile too :)

First Impressions of Chile – In Photos!

Hola! Saludos desde Chile!

Yesterday, our plane descended through the clouds…

… over the Andes…

… and we landed in Chile!

One of my stated purposes in Chile is to learn about cleantech here. This is the first evidence of cleantech I found, in the ladies’ room in the airport.

Not quite what I was expecting in terms of cleantech discussions. More on that later….

Rafael, our company’s Chilean partner, picked us up at the airport and delivered us to the home of Roberto Edwards, who is generously hosting us. Roberto Edwards is a famous art photographer and publisher, who recently has presented this Painted Bodies exhibit.

After a nap, Brent and I set out for a late lunch (Chile’s famous sandwiches) then joined a Start-Up Chile meetup at a bar called…

As if we already missed California!  The Portuguese entrepreneurs behind presented their platform to connect schools around the world, and we met some Chilean entrepreneurs.

Then, this morning, we strolled past the Universidad de Chile, where students are on strike…

… to Startup Chile orientation, where we joined entrepreneurs from all these countries…

… for an enthusiastic, clear, and energetic introduction to the program. This incredibly committed group of professionals is working so hard to empower entrepreneurs to change the world, and in the process build the entrepreneurial hub of Latin America, and an example for the rest of the world.

Compared with the last time I was in Chile (as a student for all of 2005) I’m absolutely amazed that almost everyone we’ve met has spoken English. I know this is not a representative sample of the Chilean population, but it’s definitely striking.

Words I’ve heard more times today than ever before in my life:

– “bootstrap”

– “platform”

– “… so we called the Minister of ____ and, basically, changed the law…”

So far, so good. We’ve truly been treated like royalty. Gracias por todo, Chile!

Yes! I’m going to Chile to work on a solar energy project, and join @startupchile

Now I’m back in San Francisco, staying with my parents in their beautiful townhouse in an up-and-coming neighborhood.  I think they are reliving their 20s: impromptu cocktail parties with the neighbors, nights out at Giants games, standing room at the opera, walks to the local wine bar with Max (the favorite child, the furry one with four legs!)

My impressions of life in America, after 1.5 years on foreign soil: Public bathrooms are so clean! Baby carrots are so convenient! People in the financial district at noon on Monday are almost all in jeans! (These are not nearly as entertaining as 9 Notes on Re-Entering Canada After Quite a Long Time Away.)

Thanks for all your kind words about my letter to China. It’s fun to hear how other people characterize their own relationships with China:

A lot of people have been asking me about my next step. I’m going to Chile to work with Charlotte Thornton, the founder and chairman of the CHEBEL Companies.  Here is a description:

CHEBEL, a vertically integrated energy provider of 21st Century refinery science and fuels, is headquartered in Calgary, Canada with an office in Silicon Valley. A proprietary reconfiguration of ‘solar concentrated power tower’ technology affords us our business model unique to cleantech. CHEBEL will incorporate and base its key subsidiary, U-LINC ENERGY + SOLAR UTILITY, in Santiago with field offices in Calama and Copiapo for administering project(s) slated for Regions XV, II & III. CHEBEL believes strongly in giving back. A non-profit ‘WorldARC-CHILE’ will be set up with its program that promotes entrepreneurialism in zero emissions and waste recycling industries.

I met Charlotte on a sidewalk in Santiago in 2005. It was raining, and I think we shared an umbrella. She is an Oklahoma native, who has been a visiting scholar at Stanford University’s Civil & Environmental Engineering Collaboratory for Research on Global Projects.  Last year she even sent me a care package of Trader Joe’s treats via a classmate who was traveling to Beijing.

A few months ago, Charlotte asked me to join her team for Startup Chile. Startup Chile is a program of the Chilean government to encourage world-class early-stage entrepreneurs to start their businesses in Chile.  Here are two videos introducing the program:



I will be responsible for connecting with the Startup Chile community, English-Spanish translation, marketing, and more.  I’m really excited to go back to Chile (where I studied for all of 2005) and actually use my Latin American Studies degree.  I will need to brush up on my Spanish, and learn to speak intelligently about renewable power systems. I’m very excited for this opportunity.