Faculty & Leadership Blog / Faculty in the News

Building Entrepreneurial Cultures

What do the  Goldman Sachs Builders + Innovators Summit,  Zappos, and Babson College have in common:  A shared  mission of building entrepreneurial cultures.

I was honored and excited to again attend the annual Goldman Sachs Builders + Innovators Summit, this time held at Dove Mountain in Tuscon.  For this event GS gathers up 100 entrepreneurs (both for profit businesses and nonprofit organizations) who either are already changing the world, or look like they are highly likely to do so in the not so distant future.   The program is very carefully crafted to provide high level interviews with successful entrepreneurs in all kinds of fields,  panels on topics that can change the way people think about the world and their place in it, and workshops that cover the “how to” aspects of things like building brand, partnering,  attracting talent, or designing your IPO.

For interviews and speakers, B+I presented David Geffen, Thomas Keller, Jimmy Iovine,  Elon Musk, Peter Diamandis,  (who both interviewed and spoke about the future), Secretary Hillary Clinton, General Stan McChrystal, and Richard Florida.  Their messages in general included great ideas about strategies for growth, while sprinkled liberally with tactics for immediate use.    Two of the panels on the first day took a bit of a different approach, providing food for thought that seems particularly relevant for a Babson audience.  One was on Urban Innovation and the other on Innovative Social Enterprise.

Babson, course, has been deeply involved in teaching and training about entrepreneurship, and building entrepreneurial ecosystems, for quite some years.   The Urban Innovation panel included Dan Gilbert, Founder and Chairman of Detroit based Rock Ventures and Quicken Loans, Tony Hsieh, CEO, Zappos.com, and Mayor Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans.   It was good to see Mayor Landrieu again, and as usual, he spoke fluent entrepreneurship.  I was also really pleased to hear him mentioned 10,000 Small Businesses  as part of their growth portfolio.  That was a nice Babson connection.  10,000 Small Businesses  also connects Babson to Tony Hsieh, both through Zappos and through his latest undertaking in Las Vegas, the Downtown Project.  In 10KSB we teach every small business owner about the importance of intentionally creating and sustaining the culture in your company that fits who you are and what you are trying to build – and does it in a way so that people actually want and enjoy working for you.   We show all our participants the Zappos video with Tony talking about his journey towards this end.  However, now Tony has taken this to a new level, continuing to work through Zappos on the work culture, while also building a living environment that fosters entrepreneurship, and even more importantly, fosters happiness.   In fact, the specific goals of the Downtown Project are:

  • Live/Work/Play – Walking Distance
  • The most community –focused large city in the world
  • The co-learning and co-working capital of the world.

While the three driving C’s for Zappos are Clothing, Customer Service, and Culture, Tony uses three different Cs as design principles to accomplish the Downtown goals:

Collision, Community, and Co-learning lead to Happiness, Luckiness, Innovation, and Productivity.

The second panel, Innovative Social Enterprise, actually also asked us to look at what we were trying to build from a larger perspective.  Dina Powell, godmother of 10,000 Women and  10,000 Small Businesses through her role as Head of the Office of Corporate Engagement at Goldman led the discussion between Nick Burns of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Barbara Bush, Founder of Global Health Corp, and David Miliband, CEO of International Rescue Committee.  David provided a great overview of what he described as the forces shaping progress.  Barbara made a very Babsonesque statement when she shared that as a junior at Yale she became obsessed with identifying global health challenges and solving them.   Overall, this panel sent the very powerful message about the use of entrepreneurial approaches to solve the problems of the world.

To close, I’d just like to do a Babson shout-out to Ruthie Davis, Babson alumna and invited Builder + Innovator at the Summit.  While there were many kinds of businesses at the conference, Ruthie was the only shoe designer.   She and I were able to chat several times during collisions at the Summit and while both already members of the Babson community, it was a pleasure to share co-learning time with her and brainstorm about some co-working projects for mentoring Babson students.  Stay tuned.

Patricia Greene
Paul T. Babson Chair in Entrepreneurship
Babson College