140. Samuele Murtinu: How Low Time Preference Elevates the Investment Returns of Family Corporate Venture Capital

Family businesses play a major role in the US economy. According to the Conway Center, family businesses comprise 90% of the business ventures in the US, generate 62% of the employment in the nation, and deliver 64% of US GDP.

And, they’re good at venture capital. Samuele Murtinu, Professor of Law, Economics, and Governance at Utrecht University, visits the Economics For Business podcast to share the findings and insights from his very recent analysis of venture capital databases.

Key Takeaways and Actionable Insights

Corporate venture capital is a special animal.

There are many types of venture capital. Professor Murtinu focused first on the distinction between traditional or independent venture capital (IVC) and corporate venture capital (CVC). Independent venture capital funds are structured with a general partner in the operational, decision-making role, and investors in the role of limited partner.

Corporate venture capital funds are fully owned and managed by their parent corporation. The CEO or CFO of the corporation typically appoints a corporate venture capital manager, who selects targets, conducts due diligence and so on from a subordinate position in the corporate hierarchy.

The important difference between IVC and CVC lies in objectives and goals. IVC goals are purely financial — the highest capital gain in the shortest possible time. CVC funds often have strategic goals in addition to, or substituting for, financial goals. These strategic goals might include augmenting internal R&D capabilities and performance, and accessing new technologies and new innovations, or entering new markets.

Another form of CVC licenses patented technologies to startups in cases where the corporate firm does not have the capacity to exploit the IP, but can oversee the implementation at the startup with a view to further future investment or acquisition. This is the method of Microsoft’s IP Ventures arm, for example.

Typically, IVC investments are easy to measure against financial performance benchmarks or targets. CVC’s strategic investments are harder to measure. Goals such as technology integration are too non-specific to measure, and normal VC guardrails like specified duration of investments are not typically in place and so can’t be used as benchmarks. On the other hand, CVC investments often expand beyond the financial into strategic support via corporate assets such as brand, sales and distribution channels and systems.

Corporate venture capital out-performs traditional venture capital in overall economic performance.

Professor Murtinu’s performance metric in his data analysis was total factor productivity — performance over and above what’s attributable to the additions to capital and labor inputs. IVC’s performance for its investments was measured in the +40% range, and CVC’s was measured at roughly +50%. IVC performs better in the short term, while CVC performs better in the longer term. This difference reflects the lower time preference of CVC. It extends to IPO’s: corporate venture capital funds stay longer in the equity capital of their portfolio companies in comparison to independent venture capital.

Family CVC is another animal again — and even higher performing than non-family CVC.

Professor Murtinu separated out family-owned firms (based on a percentage of equity held) with corporate venture capital funds for analysis. Some of his findings include:

  • They prefer to maintain longer and more stable involvement in the companies in which they invest.
  • They prefer to maintain control over time (as opposed to exiting for financial gain).
  • They look to gains beyond purely financial returns, including technology acquisition / integration into the parent company and/or learning new processes.
  • They are more likely to syndicate with other investors, for purposes of portfolio risk mitigation.
  • They target venture investments that are “close to home” both in geographic terms and in terms of industries closely related to their core business.

The resultant outcomes are superior: a higher likelihood of successful exits (IPO or sale to another entity), and a greater long term value effect on the sold company after the IPO or exit. Further, there is evidence from the data of a higher innovation effect for Family CVC holdings, as measured by the post-exit value of the patent portfolio held by the ventures.

Family CVC is resilient in economic downturns. During the last economic downturn, family CVC invested at double the amount of corporate venture capital, reflecting family businesses’ preference for long-term investing and for control.

The lower time preference of family businesses and family CVC is crucial for the achievement of superior financial performance, especially in the longer term.

Family CVC’s lower time preference and longer investment time horizons result in beneficial effects. Ownership in the venture companies is more stable, and the value effect after IPO (when family CVC stability continues because these funds stay in the post-IPO company longer) is significant.

Professor Murtinu relates this phenomenon to Austrian economics. The longer time horizon permits a closer relationship between investor and entrepreneur — it develops over time — and their subjective judgment about the future state become more aligned. Frictions and information asymmetries are reduced, and a shared view of the future emerges. This stability can scale up to the industry level and national level when there are more family CVC funds at work. Instead of pursuing unicorns and gazelles, an environment more conducive to duration and resilience is created.

Additional Resources

“Types of Venture Capital” (PDF): Download PDF

“Families In Corporate Venture Capital” by Samuele Murtinu, Mario Daniele Amore, and Valerio Pelucco (PDF): Download Paper

Six Superior Characteristics Of The Entrepreneurial Society.

We live in a political society. Politicians and the bureaucrats whom they enable hold all the power. Most people despise them.

Why? Because of their role. They exist to argue over the division of the economic pie that others produce. Politicians despise production and elevate themselves over producers. The fact that they behave badly in the performance of their role merely exacerbates the disdain in which they are held; it is not the primary cause.

The producer role is played by entrepreneurs. That’s the economic term for those who monitor what politicians call (but never truly examine) the will of the people: what people want, what they need, what they prefer, how they feel, what pleases them, and what disappoints them. Entrepreneurs gather this information by listening. They process it through their empathy – the skill of imagining what it’s like to feel what others feel – and decide whether there is a business’s opportunity there. That depends on many variables – the intensity of the need, its durability (how long will it last if unfulfilled), the viability of assembling resources and a business plan to produce a good or a service to meet the need, the likelihood of people buying the solution from one entrepreneur versus another.

Collaboration.

There are important human values at work here. There’s collaboration. People need entrepreneurs to find new ways to solve their problems or meet their needs. Entrepreneurs need customers to channel the market rewards they seek to keep their production going. This symbiosis is the essence of the market system, raising everyone’s boat through the collaboration of buying and selling.

Shared emotion.

There’s the animating emotion of wanting. Human beings act in a conscious way to improve their circumstances. They want something better than what they experience in the present. This is the energy that drives civilization all progress. Consumers want need fulfillment. Entrepreneurs want to feel the fulfillment of acting as the solution source. This is how mutual wants come into alignment in society. 

Listening.

There is listening. There is none of that in politics of course. Yet it’s the core informational input into the entrepreneurial process. The first question in that process is, “What do I know?” Entrepreneurs need continuously updated information about the market, about trends, about preferences, about available options, about pricing, about competitors, and about a thousand other things. They get it through listening. It’s a humble mindset – not dictating or declaring or asserting, not jumping to conclusions, not arguing or contradicting, not wishful thinking, just listening. 

Empathy.

And there is the core entrepreneurial skill of empathy. How can we understand what others feel they need to make their lives better? We all have consciousness but we are not gifted with experiencing the consciousness of others. To be an entrepreneur, it’s necessary to overcome that cognitive barrier. How? It’s a mental modeling process. Entrepreneurs build a mental model of how others – customers – think and feel. It’s not their own mental model, so humility again comes into play – the humility of trying to understand and appreciate another’s point of view. It’s a kind of self-sacrifice – sacrificing one’s own ego in order to feel the way another person feels. 

Sacrifice.

In fact, sacrifice is fundamental to successful entrepreneurship. It takes mental sacrifice to understand others’ needs. Then it requires the sacrifice of time and resources in production to design, assemble and produce the goods and services which will become the value proposition to the customer. To serve others with economic offers and innovation is an ethic of devoting one’s present to the future satisfaction of customers. It’s for this sacrifice, when successful in the eyes of the customer, that the entrepreneur is rewarded. 

Value.

The result is an ever-increasing pool of value. In entrepreneurial economics, value is the customer experience that transpires when the offer made by the entrepreneur is successful in making the customer feel better. Value is a feeling, a good feeling. Entrepreneurs aim to generate value – only the customer can actually create it via their own experience. The more value the entrepreneur generates, the better the customer experience and the greater the ultimate reward to the entrepreneur. The mutuality is self-reinforcing. The whole society is raised up.

A Better Society.

Imagine what society would be like if it were entrepreneurial and not political. It would be characterized by the values of collaboration, emotional sharing, listening, empathy and sacrifice. It would be productive, because entrepreneurs always figure out how to generate more value with less input and fewer resources. It would be about a growing pie for all rather than a political fight over the division and redistribution of the pie. The entrepreneurial society would be much superior to the political society. Let’s work to create it.

139. Fabrice Testa on Super Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship is a method, and it’s also a mindset. Fabrice Testa has written a book that brilliantly integrates the two: he calls the integration “Super Entrepreneurship,” and his book title is therefore Super Entrepreneurship Decoded. He has the appropriate credentials as a proven super-entrepreneur who has created and nurtured numerous great companies (and successfully sold a couple of them).

Fabrice knows the true meaning of the phrase, “The day before something is a breakthrough, it’s a crazy idea”.

Entrepreneurs are animated by their purpose. Super entrepreneurs embrace a massive transformative purpose.

The motivation for entrepreneurs is to help others — to solve problems for others, as we sometimes phrase it. Super entrepreneurs, in Fabrice Testa’s language, are those who choose to dedicate their businesses to solving the biggest problems. By setting big goals, they attract many like-minded partners, collaborators, and employees. By targeting transformation, they aim to change the world in a significant way.

In making this choice, super entrepreneurs are delving deeply into their own personal story to understand their own drivers and their own passionate commitment. There’s a major self-discovery component.

Having set their MTP, super entrepreneurs develop a systematic approach to the pursuit of their goal.

Fabrice Testa recommends that super entrepreneurs combine what he calls CRAZY thinking with a relentless sense of purpose. CRAZY is an acronym for elements of entrepreneurship that Testa calls the Five Secrets. We agreed not to give them away, but they add up to a five-step method entrepreneurs can follow, and a checklist that they can use to assess the market power of their own concepts and business models.

The context for the 5-step method is the exponential rate of growth of available and applicable technologies for entrepreneurship, and the convergence of those technologies that results in a compounding of productivity. When, for example, sensor-based data collection can be combined with A.I. and robotics, whole new fields of automation open up, potentially helping billions of people.

A relentless sense of purpose is a major element in the super entrepreneurial mix.

Super entrepreneurs are highly motivated. They display high levels of ambition and drive, and they generate strong momentum. They seek change, and aim for breakthroughs. They love to set the bar high.

There is a spirit to super entrepreneurship, an intangible spark of super energy and boldness that sets the best entrepreneurs apart and powers them to unusual levels of achievement.

There’s a plan, but it’s not fixed.

Fabrice Testa identifies a master plan for the activities of high-achieving entrepreneurs, but it’s not the restrictive plan of the business school strategist. One term he used was Roadmap: there’s a goal to get from A to B, but it’s OK to visit C, D and E along the way, and to learn and double back and embrace recursive procedures to reach the targeted end-results. The key to success is keeping the goal in mind with flexibility on the route to get there.

Let the customer be the guide.

Testa subscribes to the protocol of involving the customer early and often in the process of designing and building a product or service or a company. Entrepreneurs are always working with assumptions, and, at minimum, must validate them with customers.

He introduced us to the “Starbucks method” of customer validation. Park yourself in Starbucks, order a beverage of your choice, then look around for likely-looking people who might be open to a brief conversation about your idea or proposal or even prototype. It’s easy to engage people, they’re willing to help, and you can offer to buy them a coffee to lubricate the relationship. A few hours investment of your time and a few dollars invested in coffee will result in a deep, broad and rich set of reactions and responses and a meaningful feedback loop.

Success is more about fitting in than it is about timing.

When writers and historians are trying to analyze the unusual success of a particular business, they often attribute a lot of the cause of the outcome to timing — the product or service or technology came along at just the right time. This is a misinterpretation. The happy correspondence of a new offering with a receptive context is not timing but fitting in.

According to Fabrice, to fit in in a big way is to fit in with the zeitgeist of the era. The dictionary definition of zeitgeist is the general intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of an era. What Fabrice is pointing towards is a heightened ability to sense the movement of the time, and the direction of its flow, and to step into that river at the right point.

Entrepreneurship is everywhere, and can be achieved at multiple scales.

Super entrepreneurship is not limited by the scale of resources, but it can certainly be augmented wherever resources are abundant. That’s why we seek to encourage entrepreneurship for individuals, teams, and firms of all size, including the largest corporations. Big companies under-perform at entrepreneurship for two reasons. First, they spawn bureaucracy, which is a form of organization that is counter-entrepreneurial. Second, they have existing businesses to defend and fear the consequences of self-disruption.

The solution is to change the purpose of big corporations so that they can become super-entrepreneurial. The purpose would be to create new businesses with no bureaucracy and separated from the defense mechanisms of existing business units or divisions.

Additional Resources

Super-Entrepreneurship Decoded: 5 Secret Keys to Create Breakthrough Businesses that Change the World by Fabrice Testa: Buy It On Amazon

“Super Entrepreneurship” (PDF): Download PDF

Entrepreneurship Is The Most Open System In The World – No Artificial Barriers, Everyone Can Play And Win.

Critics, protesters, and activists often complain that the capitalist system is closed to non-elites, that the system is “rigged” so that those who already have capital are uniquely able to accumulate more capital, and those without are condemned to always being on the outside looking in.

The opposite is the true case. Markets are the most open system for anyone and everyone to raise their own standard of living by enhancing the quality of life of others, and getting paid for doing so. The name for this mechanism is entrepreneurship. Everybody can be an entrepreneur, and everyone can succeed at it. How so? Because the two essential skills of entrepreneurship are innate in every one of us.

The first is empathy. That means being able to sense when someone else is dissatisfied or disappointed. They wish things were better in some way. They might not be able to articulate precisely how, but they can communicate dissatisfaction to someone who is actually listening to them and paying attention. Dissatisfaction is everywhere; everyone wants things to be better. Dissatisfaction is the universal resource available to everyone who cares to tap into it. Where are there business opportunities? Just listen, you’ll find dissatisfaction – and therefore opportunities – everywhere. 

The second skill is creativity. How can entrepreneurs solve a customer’s dissatisfaction in a new, better, and compelling way? They think of something that no-one has thought of before. They imagine putting together components in a combination that no-one else has tried. They make a suggestion, and see what kind of a response they get. They run some experiments to gain some more information about what might work commercially. Creativity is innate in all people. We’re all unique, we all think differently, we all have ideas that no-one else has. 

So far, so good, you might say. But aren’t a lot of people barred from implementing their business ideas by a lack of – and lack of access to – resources? That’s the wrong way to think. The right way is to assess the resources you do have. Professor Saras Sarasvathy calls this the “bird in the hand” approach. Don’t focus on resources you wish you had. Focus on the resources you do have. In a paper called “What Makes Entrepreneurs Entrepreneurial?”, she tells the story of the start-up of U-Haul, a company that today generates over $US4 billion in revenues. Founder Leonard Shoen didn’t have enough resources for a down payment on a house for him and his new wife – and, in fact, he realized that it would have trapped him if he did so. He started a life as a nomad, moving around between in-laws, hauling the family’s goods around in a trailer he made himself. Realizing this might be a market, he found a farm outhouse where he could live and assemble trailers from available materials. With a lot of scrambling and experimenting and partnering and hard work, the U-Haul business was eventually established and stabilized.

Shoen had no business plan. He was never “in control” in any way. He epitomizes an entrepreneurial type that believes that it is impossible to predict or control future outcomes, but it is possible to shape those outcomes. The most productive approach is to take action – whatever action is possible – to shape the yet-to-be-made future.

Who can do this? Anyone. One of the tropes we are required to deal with today is that access to opportunity is restricted – by class, or race, or income level or wealth level or education level or gender or some other individual attribute that is viewed as restricting entry. This is simply not the case. Take, for example, Mauricio Miller, who runs the Community Independence Initiative. This initiative works to unleash entrepreneurship in individuals, families, and groups in some of the poorest parts of the world. Is it a charity? No. Does it help people? Not in the way you might think. In fact, Mauricio believes that trying to help people with charity or training or contributions is exactly the wrong thing to do. Empowering them to think like entrepreneurs is the right thing to do.

stories, data, and research shows that the paternalism of charity slows progress and promotes racial stereotypes.  It is actually a barrier to its own mission.  A focus on weaknesses hides indigenous talent and potential.  There are embedded solutions and leaders in the very communities these experts seek to help.  If, instead, outsider efforts focused on the strengths of low-income families we would all see they are important contributors to society

https://www.ciialternative.org

Mauricio emphasizes indigenous talent and potential. Dale Caldwell, who runs the Entrepreneur Zones program for deprived families in distressed inner cities in the US, likes to cite the historical example of the so-called Black Wall Street in Tulsa, OK. In the pre-World War II era, in the Tulsa neighborhood of Greenwood, segregated African-Americans co-operated with each other to develop a thriving economic community, providing transportation services, hospitality, professional services, construction services, retailing, and manufacturing in the context of the burgeoning oil industry of the times. 

There is no shortage of examples of individuals, families and communities who have carved their own path to prosperity through entrepreneurship. Today’s entrepreneurship is an open method, one based on action rather than resources, and defined by possibilities rather than by existing markets or industries.  Adaptiveness and fluidity provide the dynamics. 

Nothing is closed to aspiring entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is the fairest system there is. It’s open to everyone in every family, community, town, city and country. It requires ideas and action more than resources. This ideas and actions attractresources, because people want to support – and invest in – the dynamics of entrepreneurship and the who apply them. 

Entrepreneurship is collaborative, characterized by mutual support among fellow-entrepreneurs, supply chain partners, and customers. Entrepreneurs operate in a value generation network that’s open to anyone in the systemic drive to serve everyone.

138. Mark McGrath: The Adaptive Entrepreneurial Method: VUCA, OODA, IOT

Austrian economics is distinctive in its recognition and, indeed, embrace of continuous change: customer preferences change, competitors’ actions change, markets change, technology changes, prices change, business methods change. New knowledge is continuously created and accumulated. And Austrian economics equally recognizes that entrepreneurial businesses must change in response: capital combinations change, supplier and customer relationships change, organization structure changes, business portfolios and value propositions change. Continuous change is required — which is something business has not traditionally been designed for. How do businesses manage continuous change?

In the current digital age, the rate of change in the external business environment is accelerating, largely as a consequence of rapid technological evolution and the ways in which customer behavior and preferences change in response. We plan to cover the issue of continuous change from multiple angles in the coming weeks and months.

This week, Mark McGrath joins us to review a tool for value creation amidst continuous, roiling change. It has been around for a while and so is proven in multiple arenas and situations. It goes by the name of OODA.

Key Takeaways and Actionable Insights

The OODA loop is a deeply sourced tool that draws on eastern philosophy, western science, and aligns with Austrian economics.

When a firm as a network of individuals, knowledge, ideas, tools, processes and resources works with clients and customers and their systems, all should be better off as a result of their co-ordinated action. The better the capacity to learn and make adjustments together, the better the capability to recognize and seize opportunities, and to act at co-ordinated speed. Those who can handle the rate of change fastest will be the most successful.

The originator of the OODA loop model, John Boyd, synthesized thinking from multiple sources about this problem. In business, we can call it the Adaptive Entrepreneurial Method.

The loop is triggered by uncertainty, or what is referred to in the model as VUCA:

Volatility — circumstances change abruptly and unpredictably;

Uncertainty — knowledge is incomplete and the future is indeterminate;

Complexity — we are individuals in a dynamic interconnected whole with emergent outcomes;

Ambiguity — multiple interpretations from multiple observers, and multiple conclusions.

VUCA enters the OODA loop as unfolding interaction with the ever-changing external environment or market, as information and data coming into the company, and as unfolding circumstances, whether these are the company’s own sales trends and customer relationships or the activities of competitors.

VUCA is the state of the universe. It’s the normal condition that entrepreneurs should assume as the basis for action. It also creates an exciting state of opportunity in which dynamically adaptive entrepreneurial businesses can thrive.

OODA is a feedback loop.

OODA stands for observing, orienting, deciding, acting — a continuous process.

The OODA Loop

Orientation is critical to successful operation of the model. For a firm or for an individual entrepreneur, orientation is a mélange of inputs: mindset, personality, our way of thinking and interpreting, previous experiences and how we’ve processed them, our ability to process new information, our ability to handle change, our ability to analyze and break things down while simultaneously piecing things together and synthesizing them into an insight or construct that never existed before.

Orientation houses all our biases, and all our cognitive models. It’s how we perceive and how we experience the world. It determines how we process all the information we observe.

Decisions are hypotheses.

From our orientation-determined analysis and synthesis of incoming data, we envision a future state: what could happen if we did something? In Misesian terms, we imagine what it would be like in the future if we were able to address our own uneasiness — if we were to change our current state and trade it for another one. Any action that follows must be preceded by a decision, a hypothesis of what we think might happen.

Action is an experiment to test the hypothesis.

In applying the OODA loop, entrepreneurs demonstrate a bias for learning and a bias for action. We learn by testing what happens when we act and making new observations of the outcomes of the action. These outcomes will give us new signals to employ in re-orienting to ensure that our decisions and actions are well-aligned with reality.

The OODA loop model is consistent with the Explore and Expand approach to business strategy.

At Economics For Business, we have frequently urged entrepreneurial firms to abandon business school strategic thinking and replace it with an Explore-And-Expand approach, running many fast, low-cost exploratory experiments and quickly expanding investment in those that work, discarding others. In OODA loop, experiments are decisions and actions, and re-orientation results in expanding application of the successful ones.

In OODA, we continuously build and re-build our perception of the VUCA world and attempt to match our perception with reality through exploration and expansion. We aim to ensure our orientation is attuned to the way the world is and not to the way we want it to be or imagine it to be.

The more we learn, the more we build and re-build, the faster we can advance. Speed of learning is important, so long as it is based on well-processed information.

Guidance and control.

In the OODA loop graphic, there are two areas designated “implicit guidance and control”: our actions and our observations. Our orientation implicitly guides and controls both. Our orientation as entrepreneurs or as economists will always affect how we perceive things. Where some might see an obstacle, others see an opportunity. That’s orientation at work. On the action side, orientation implicitly guides and controls our actions. There are some things we can do automatically, employing heuristics or procedures that we don’t stop to think about. This also is orientation at work — and at speed.

Continuous testing.

The OODA loop, processing VUCA information into decisions and action via continuous reorientation, is a test. An entrepreneur is always being tested. As time moves unstoppably forward, new challenges continuously emerge. It’s the ceaseless flux of human affairs, as Mises put it in Human Action.

If we maintain an open and flexible or agile approach or orientation to this continuous testing, we’ll avoid failure.

Focusing on a well-understood purpose will eliminate wasted time and wasted action.

The Adaptive Entrepreneurial Model has three major elements: VUCA, the way the world is; OODA, as described above; and IOT. IOT stands for In Order To: the purpose or mission. As we deal with VUCA, and continuously change our orientation as we learn from our decisions and experiments, quickly finding out what works and what doesn’t, we must never lose sight of our purpose and our intent. What are we trying to accomplish?

Everyone in our firm, or on our team, must share the same purpose and be able to articulate it in the same way. When that’s the case, creative and co-ordinating action can move forward without instruction: we don’t have to tell people what to do when they’re in the middle of VUCA so long as they have the same shared purpose in mind. Everyone focuses on what needs to happen and why. There’s never action for action’s sake; it’s always with a shared purpose. If team members do not share the same understanding of purpose, then they’re creating more VUCA. If they do share understanding, the orchestration of their individual efforts produces harmony.

People, ideas, things — in that order.

All action is human action, all decisions are human decisions, all teams are human teams. When orientations are aligned, harmonious co-ordinated action is possible. There’s a high priority on relationships — with teammates, colleagues, customers, vendors, partners.

In a business utilizing the OODA model, people always come first because they are the ones who act. Ideas follow, judged through the lens of helping people to decide and act. Things — technology, property, money — are at the third priority level to ensure they support people and enable their ideas.

“A sound understanding in application of these comments will yield geometric results.”

Improved results are the repayment for the effort expended to study the Adaptive Entrepreneurial Method.

Additional Resources

“The Adaptive Entrepreneurial Model — Core Thesis” (PDF): Download PDF

John Boyd’s “OODA Loop Graphic” (PPT): Download PPT

“The Epistemology of the OODA Loop” (PDF): Download PDF

“Destruction And Creation” by John R. Boyd (PDF): Download PDF

The Theory Of Dynamic Efficiency by Jesús Huerta De Soto: Download PDF

The Ultimate Foundation Of Economic Science by Ludwig von Mises: Read it on Mises.org

Entrepreneurship Is The Opposite Of Politics: No Hate, All Love.

Increasingly, it seems, we are surrounded by and immersed in hate. It is inherent in our political system. Electoral democracy results in parties, those parties are invested in polarization, in winning versus losing, in domination, and in humiliation of the other side. Those who rise to the top in parties are those who can articulate hate most persuasively and most effectively. Angelo Codevilla called the 2-party system a “logic of mutual hate”.

It’s going to get worse, not better. Political parties don’t become more polite, more accommodating, more friendly, less rabid, more rational. They prefer to drive their supporters further apart from those of the other side, rather than bring people together. Now that both the corporate media outlets and the vast majority of the independent media are nakedly partisan, they can’t play any role of amelioration. They cheer on the hatred and throw gasoline on fires.

Happily, there is a different world, with different players, different attitudes, and different motivations. It’s the world of entrepreneurship – a unifying, elevating energy that’s the opposite of the mutual degradation of politics.

Entrepreneurship is ethical and open.

There’s an ethic of entrepreneurship. It’s not just the hard work and dedication and long-term focused effort – important though those undoubtedly are. It’s the service ethic. The entrepreneurial task and commitment is to serve others. To understand their needs and wants and desires and preferences and dreams, and to respond to them by delivering goods and services that deliver them. 

Empathy is the skill that makes this possible. To quote Adam Smith, entrepreneurs want to be loved – that’s what triggers sales and revenue – and to be lovely, i.e. clearly and obviously being deserving of the customer’s love. Empathy is the emotional interchange for this beautiful reciprocity. Empathy enables the entrepreneur to feel what the customer feels, share their dreams and aspirations, and imagine what’s in their imagination for the future.

To enable empathy, communication must be clear and open. There can be no lies or deception or dissembling, otherwise the entrepreneurial ethic could not operate. Misinterpretation is in neither party’s interest – quite the opposite, as understanding exactly what customers want and communicating exactly what the entrepreneur is offering are the essence of free-market exchange. Political communication is too often the opposite: deliberately dissembling and obfuscating.

Entrepreneurship is promises made and promised kept.

Entrepreneurs make promises. Having discovered and carefully and precisely defined the nature of the customer’s need and their preferences about the way it should be fulfilled, the entrepreneurial business designs the right solution and, when the fit is perfect, seeks out the customer to let them know their need can be met. The way of communicating is to make a promise – a promise that the customer’s life will be better through the experience the entrepreneur can deliver. This is a weighty promise, and it must be kept, otherwise there’ be no second chance, and no repeat business. The entrepreneur goes to great trouble to monitor the understanding of the promise, and whether the customer experience matches the expectation that was created by the promise. A failure to keep a promise is a major business setback. If expectations aren’t met – if a delivery or a service call is late, or an item is mis-shipped or a repair is imperfect or software does not run as it should – the business leans over backwards and deploys extra resources to make things better. not only is a reputation with the customer at risk, but also with others that the customer might talk to or with whom they share experiences. Word-of-mouth is a powerful force the entrepreneur wants to keep positive, and keeping promises is the best way to do that.

Politicians make promises too. However, they’re usually meaningless or, worse, deliberately deceptive. Politicians don’t make promises in order to keep them. They make promises in order to get elected. Once they are, they feel released. They could never keep the promise in any case, because they don’t have that much power. They’re just one cog in the party machine. Promises made at the party level are similarly ditched – they can blame changed circumstances, or the opposition or conjure up a thousand other reasons why the promise can’t be kept. Or they just forget their promise, or claim they never made one.

The culture of entrepreneurship is collaborative, helpful, and civilizing.

Entrepreneurs have a heart – a lot of heart. Not only are they devoted to helping people as customers, but they are also collaborative with suppliers, fellow entrepreneurs, and everyone who works with them directly or indirectly. Entrepreneurs realize the value of interconnectivity and sharing. They sense that all entrepreneurs and customers and suppliers are in the system together – the technosphere, the economy, the industry, the local community. They participate in nested networks and systems within systems. It’s collaboration, exchange, and sharing that make systems work. 

Competition has been turned into an ugly word by the dog-eat-dog crowd. It’s part of the hate. Competition is made to seem win-lose, destruction rather than creation. But that’s absolutely the wrong interpretation. Entrepreneurs’ goals are for there to be no competition: to be so unique that the customer will consider no alternative for the very specialized, very personalized service the entrepreneur delivers. Maybe it’s the best quality, maybe it’s the lowest price, maybe it’s the best integration with the customer’s processes – maybe it’s some combination of these that adds up to uniqueness. Maybe it’s exhibiting the deepest understanding of the customer’s business or daily life. In all cases, becoming uniquely qualified in the eyes of the customer is the objective entrepreneurs pursue. Whatever rivalry occurs all accrues to the benefit of the customer – better experiences and better outcomes as a result of the entrepreneurial system.

This entrepreneurial effort and entrepreneurial striving create and build market institutions. The internet is open so that all entrepreneurs can use it. Would political parties have built it that way? Amazon builds a third-party seller platform that any digital retailer can use. Apple builds an app store that any software developer can qualify to join. Google builds a search bar that we all use and we all make more useful the more we use it. True there’s some hate creeping in around the edges of some of these institutions, but it’s not entrepreneurs who are causing it.

The institutions of entrepreneurship are the bedrock of civilization. In Gallup polls of national confidence, small business (a proxy for entrepreneurs) is rated at 70% (i.e. people say they have a great deal or a lot of confidence in small business as an institution), compared to Congress at 12%. The average US institution stands at 33%. Entrepreneurs must earn people’s trust every day, and they clearly do a better job of it than politicians. 

Entrepreneurship is positive and inspiring. It’s problem-solving. It’s generous and giving. It’s also busy and industrious with no time for politics and the hatred that comes with politics. Let’s promote a culture of entrepreneurship. Let’s teach our kids in school from the earliest age. Let’s teach them creativity and empathy and risk acceptance. Let’s teach them to be entrepreneurs. Let’s encourage everyone to be entrepreneurial. We’ll enjoy a better world.