Monday, July 31, 2006

Elevator pitch

It's (past?) time I worked out my elevator pitch for this project. The blog description above (essentially the blog's subtitle: "It is my conviction...") is close, but really just tells you (the "venture capitalist" in our story) where I'm coming from, and not what I'm asking you to invest in. You may have read that I favor prototypes. Here is my prototype for an elevator pitch (understand that I'm racing to paint a picture here before the elevator stops, the door opens and you exit for your board meeting):

I want to help other people the way that I myself have wanted to be
helped. I recently spent some time seeking to join with others in
campaigns to work on driving positive change in the world.
Writing a check is one way to get involved, and I'd done some of that, but I was
looking for the next step. Trouble is, it's actually pretty tricky to find
compatible involvement. Peace corps, peace studies programs, political
demonstrations, etc, those are pretty easy to find. But everything I
found was either impractical or unsatisfactory. As a result, I... Oh, this is
your floor? Well, anyway, um, maybe next time I, uh, can fill you in a bit more...
Okay, so that was not really satisfactory as an elevator pitch. But before I try to "rev" the prototype, I want to finish my thought. Please set aside your VC persona for a mo'.

Yeah, so where was I? Oh, right. If you add up all the hands on, work-oriented
activities that are readily found on the web, there are a few thousand people
doing those things. If you look at the number of people who have
volunteered in the US
, and who might be willing to do some work-oriented
activity, you get a number more like 50 million! No way they can all join the
peace corps, but getting, say, 30 minutes a week from that many people can make
a larger impact than all the full-timers. And it wouldn't replace ongoing work;
it would be in addition to the impact that is already being made. There,
that's my point. Whaddaya think?

Wait, there's more! I'm one of those willing folks, but as a willing person I spent a fair bit of time trying to find the kinds of activities that 1) fit my skill set, 2) fit my schedule, 3) fit my passion profile (I just made that phrase up, but I think you know what I mean) and 4) fit my geography. [I just recently found VolunteerMatch...maybe that's the ticket for coordinated projects? But not for free form]

Hmm. Just noticed a problem: I feel compelled to "tell my story", but my story is too long for an elevator pitch. Maybe if I get it (my story) off my chest I'll be able to set it aside and create a crisp pitch. Bear with me a moment. What the heck, I'm 80% there anyway...

The stream of conscious that got me here was roughly:

Things are broken! Who is responsible for making the world better, anyway? Elected officials? Business leaders? People in other countries? Religious leaders? I've got it! The UN! Well, okay, so nobody's in charge. If so, we're doomed to solve only those problems that reach the level of crisis in first world countries. 2nd and 3rd world country problems will be dealt with on a "best effort" basis, i.e. "we'll get to it when we can." Maybe I should just quit...

No, something's not right. Aha! Here's the flaw! Turns out, I can be responsible. (Took a while to buy that.) So, how can I get involved? What can I do? A short bit of looking and I'll find 10 opportunites to make a difference! But not so easy. Lots of good sites (took a while to find, topic for another post) but most don't really help a willing soul connect with hands-on work.

For example, here's one of the better sites I've come across, in the sense that it has full page of things to do. But it's a challenge to use this site to reach out and engage. Many items I'm already doing, others imply a separate organization (but no tools to find such), and still others seem to lack credibility ("Cultivate a spirit of generosity by giving whole-heartedly of your time, expertise, and resources": does that actually work?) and another group seems way overwhelming for an individual ("Facilitate concerted action among non-governmental organizations on complex issues").

Part of the challenge was (and still is?) my own, uh, is it laziness? I've gotten spoiled by other coordinated web sites that walk you down a path. Like those sites that help you to customize a car, then link you to the nearest dealer, and The Schedule, that helps me find running events by location and date, and Amazon, that suggests similar products and provides customer reviews.

Well, at this point this post has taken me several hours (over several days) to write (and maybe it wasn't the most fun to read either). So I'm going to take a swing at the revised version and see what you think. Got your VC hat on again?
We are going to create a fully-webified version of "Building a Better World
for Dummies" [apologies to Jon Wiley &
]. Self-assessment tools and matching tools, an event schedule and
search tools for organizations and events. There'll be a wiki so everyone can
participate (we want broad engagement!) in defining a full set of views on
areas where improvement is needed, steps for implementing it, and the logic
and philosophy behind it. There'll be wiki articles to show
both why progress is urgent and reasons why it can and will be achieved.
In short, we're going to create an online infrastructure to support the work of
an army of doers working for a better world.

So...would you invest in this? By investment, I mean spend some time thinking about it, provide feedback on the concept as well as input into the wikis as they develop. If not, why not? As with entrepreneurs and their elevator pitches, if this one doesn't work, I want to evolve the concept and the pitch to something that resonates. I believe there is something worth pursuing in this "market segment".

Thank you for your time. Let's keep in touch. And here's where you say "We'll call you..."


Anonymous Morgan Daly said...


It's Morgan from World Peace One. My friend you have put into words some stuff that I have been thinking about for such a long time. One of the reasons that I have done so little is this: no one knew what I was talking about, till now. I am so excited to read your post.

I have been meaning to respond to your email, and I will very soon. So much I want to talk with you about. I might be the only one to tell you, but keep this line of thought, you are so on the right track.

Talk soon,

12:30 AM  
Blogger Curt said...

Thanks Morgan,

Your comment is definitely a boost and I appreciate it. Let's work together and build a community!


6:33 AM  
Anonymous Paul Moers said...

Sad to admit, but I need a plan too. Kind of weak yes, but I guess that's mankind and also that is what's keeping peace to prevail...

A plan, a community, a transparent collective mind propelling peace. I love that! I have been thinking about such a think for years. What didn't I do it? Time and money. yuck!
How do I overcome that obstacle. Becoming rich? Sure, that would help, but maybe a more feasible way is to just start a project and see where it ends (if so).
I know Morgan and have spoken with him several tmes. I love his ideas and indeed, there are few that share such thoughts. Gathering them together and actually do something would be great!

3:13 AM  
Blogger Curt said...

Thanks, Paul!

I get what you mean about time and money. I think the time part can be partly addressed by getting good group involvement. Indeed, that's my whole theory in a nutshell. Another great development in the last couple of years (that you didn't have working for you) is the availability of free wiki hosting sites. So maybe the money isn't such a barrier any more. (Ever read "The Tipping Point"?) There are some "for fee" enhancements that are interesting, and they're not too pricey. Perhaps with you and Morgan, we are approaching critical mass. I plan to launch the wiki in the coming weeks. I'll do some more posts on the structure and see where it takes me.

8:02 AM  
Blogger Joobie said...

It's a thrill for me to see your thoughts and plans coming together in your mind and on the web, D. Mobilizing a group of active, intelligent, impassioned philanthropists to change the world with a wiki? I'm for it. Let me know if I can help with writing in any way -- it would be an absolute pleasure.

11:55 PM  
Blogger Joobie said...

How funny - just read further down your posts and noticed you mentioned Volunteer Match. They must definitely have the right idea.

12:00 AM  
Blogger Curt said...

You can absolutely contribute! And you can start today!

I have just begun WinWinWiki as a mini-wiki at Wikia. I'm not sure how to create a link within a comment, so go to and search for WinWinWiki.

I'm going to post about it in a few minutes, and add a link in "Interesting Links"

7:00 AM  

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