Organizing Knowledge in the New Media: Notes on New Business Models at the Intersection of Education and
he traditional academic system of refereed articles is limited in offering a solution to the new problems of organizing usable knowledge in a rapidly-changing world. The incentive structure of traditional academics does not value public education and encourages hyper-specialization. On the other hand, even though the collaborative knowledge of the open-source era has produced new patterns of organizing knowledge, it has also created risks for those who want safeguards against unverified writings and the blurring of the lines between opinion and analysis. There is still an essential role for "credentialized" or "certified" expertise. Some in academia view this as an inevitable tradeoff between relevance and reliability. The market appetite is for both. These issues are not new, but they are now encountered daily. With this in mind, it is worthwhile to look at new media blogs, wikis and new designs for organizing and validating knowledge.
If one looks at blogs systematically, it is easy to be extremely optimistic about the new trends for dissemination of knowledge and debate. There is a need for symphony conductors or intellectual traffic cops (the new credentials and certification). The symphony conductor and traffic cop are potentially new business models. Where there are people playing this role, there is extraordinary innovation on the web. There has always been an assumption that specialized knowledge based web-sites would flourish in the Long Tail world of new media. Certainly "boutique" websites like Nathan Hamm's synopsis on Central Asia , Registan or Marianna Gurtovnik and Denise Mishiwiec on Azerbaijan fit this description, aggregating information which was inaccessible in a pre-new media age. It is impossible to imagine this kind of information organization in a pre-internet age and is an instant refutation of skeptics regarding the value of new media.
While the world of internet media contains many websites which are self-referential and basically on-line diaries, there is also a remarkable development of academics providing current and analytical commentary at a level which was simply inaccessible five years ago. There are obvious examples like Daniel Drezner and Andrew Sullivan that represent this fusion of academic research and thought-based journalism.
While not pretending to be comprehensive, here are six web-sites which serve as case studies of "the new curriculum", replacing the slow-moving knowledge-construction of academia and going into more rigorous debate than journalism can do.
In designing the University of the Future, these are the new building-blocks and are cited for that purpose. FDNF (Eddie Beaver), TDAXP (Dan Abbott), Abu Aardvark (Marc Lynch) , The Duck of Minerva, Oxblog and Davos Newbies (Lance Knobel) all fit this role.
In sociology of media, this is a new trend. In the business model of post-internet universities and the new commercialization of knowledge, these models will be of increasing importance. The venture capital community is looking at ways in which search engines can be combined with collaborative knowledge capacities to create value-added organization of knowledge. Start-ups like Radar Networks are prototypes of business models in this space. John Battelle's Federated Media is an innovative attempt to aggregate content as is, in a different manner, Nicholas Denton's Gawker. Both seek to use brand to become content navigators and aggregators of content. The new media will become a cornerstone of educational content and customized curriculum when there are clear brands in validation of content. The wisdom of crowds creates the extraordinary value of Wikipedia, but there will be many other models as the contours of the new information society takes shape. It is hard to imagine a wiki-model doing the kind of investigative journalism which one associates with the CBS newsmagazine 60 Minutes. It is also hard to imagine a wiki formula replicating a BBC seminar with Nobel prize-winning scientists. Brands and maintaining brand credibility becomes more, not less important is a new media world.
The informal links between blue chip online media is a first step towards validation, not quite wisdom of crowds, but a new branding equivalent to the earned influence of movie critics like Roger Ebert and A.O. Scott. Within these innovations are some winning venture capital models and the potential for a valuable innovation in the manner in which educational content is organized for the next generation of learning. In a new era where collaborative knowledge and certified expertise achieve a workable synthesis, there could be a variety of successful new business models for both education and new media and in the area where the two increasingly overlap. In this era, business models which create products that serve as intellectual "symphony conductors" or "traffic cops" will be much in demand.
The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, supported now by Warren Buffett's new contribution will change the way entrepreneurial capital markets function. Target-oriented social entrepreneurship will replace bureaucracy-building as the new economic development paradigm.
Microcredits, remittances and venture-capital have focused economic development on wealth creation. The transformation of the global economy has many characteristics, but the role of a global labour market has transformed the practical realities of capital formation, creating opportunities for new investment models.
A network of global innovation is now possible to facilitate the incubation of "cultivated pearls", strategic entrepreneur-led growth in emerging markets. From Dubai to the Malaysia Supercorridor, from science parks in Scandinavia to economic clusters in wired hubs in emerging economies, the economics of knowledge commercialization is creating new entrepreneurial opportunities.
Global assistance now focuses on targeted, mission-oriented social entrepreneurs, focusing on specific measurable results and operating according to the efficiency standards of private sector companies.
These changes have created opportunities for innovation in much of the emerging market. They have transformed the serious debate and discussion about international development assistance and economic growth. This presents a different challenge for educators and political activists than has existed before.
From George Soros' Open Society , to organizations like SIFE , this intellectual revolution in putting the development of entrepreneurs front and centres is now widely recognized. In economic terms, entrepreneurship is at its core about the creation of new sources of value in a society. In political terms, an entrepreneurial economy triggers the kind of innovative problem-solving which leads to collateral social benefits.
In Canada , the promotion of this kind of activity has long been backed by the Dobson Foundation, with its centerpiece at McGill's Dobson Centre, where I am proud to be a fellow. Now the teaching of entrepreneurship is reaching a new stage. In conjunction with friends at many institutions around the world, this lecture is intended to start to design a framework for teaching global entrepreneurship without turning great ideas into ideologies.
The cautionary notes are important:
(i) we have to be very careful not to confuse teaching entrepreneurship with studying entrepreneurship. There is some excellent research on entrepreneurial trends: the work of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, which usefully tracks patterns of entrepreneurial development, work done on verifying the assumption that venture-capital backed entrepreneurship facilitates the development of export products (or the globalization of local enterprises). Many excellent MBA courses are now being developed around these new trends, including Stephen Sammut at Wharton, MIT's G-Lab and Philip Anderson at INSEAD. We can benefit greatly from seeing how entrepreneurial models are developed and how transfusions of entrepreneurship into established businesses can be managed. But entrepreneurs cannot be taught like accountants or anesthesiologists. They have to be discovered and developed like football players and innovative musicians. They can be encouraged with case studies and demonstration effects. Also as we now globalize the experimental culture of the dotcom world of the 1990s, we learn by collaboration and comparison.
(ii) Those of us who love discovering and developing entrepreneurs have to remember that entrepreneurship doesn't happen in a vacuum. There have to be stable capital markets and a reliable rule of law to assure that capital is efficiently allocated and that companies can grow to their natural side without the distorting effects of corrupt economic systems, variable political rules and regulations. I already have heard entrepreneurship being presented as a panacea, as though simply injecting a few entrepreneurs into Equatorial Guinea will change a stagnant country ranked very low by Transparency International into a Denmark or Korea . One also has to recognize that in malfunctioning economic systems, entrepreneurs are often people living on the edge of a system, creating markets for connections, or selling goods outside the existing (ill-regulated) legal system. This is the message of Hernando de Soto's analysis of "informal markets" and C.K. Prahalad's work on creating wealth at the bottom of the economic "pyramid". There is useful academic work to be done in understanding this relationship in countries like Egypt and Russia where entrepreneurship functions best in areas where it doesn't conflict with state power.
(iii) I continue to argue that we need new capital market instruments (African pension funds) to develop the pool of capital required to back an entrepreneurial economy, in the manner which the CDP played that role in Quebec . For those interested in sustainable longterm international economic development, this remains at the top of the agenda. Financial intermediaries are prerequisite to sustainable prosperity. They organize strategic thinking, network creative ideas with disciplined capital and organize the strategic talent in a community to increase the competitive advantage of an investment. Remittances and returning global workers offer a new kind of capital formation, but the real challenge for the next decade remains turning billions of dollars of resource rents into productive investment capital - something I have referred to elsewhere as the political challenge of the 21st Century.
(iv) In designing innovation networks, educational policy-makers create virtuous circles, focusing creative talent on commercializeable activities and creating evergreen capital for reinvesting in new projects. Kevin Maney describes the global phenomenon in a recent USA Today article:
Ten years ago, Malaysia hung its hopes on its Multimedia Supercorridor outside Kuala Lumpur . Singapore launched a national broadband project called Singapore One, hoping it would create a tech haven. Finland two years ago handed the job of sparking entrepreneurship to charismatic former prime minister Esko Aho. Dubai is in the process of building a tech zone it's calling Internet City .
Of potentially the greatest impact, China 's leadership has begun pushing for entrepreneurship, saying the nation needs to come up with its own innovations.
Yet success in most countries has been elusive. The Multimedia Supercorridor has attracted little money or business. Finland still has no comparable follow-up to its one superstar company, Nokia.
To teach global entrepreneurship effectively, one of the things we need to do is to create relevant case studies. Case studies inspire and provide strategic templates. They can also produce demonstration effects, signposting the importance of cultural values, efficient capital markets, and access to strategic support. Entrepreneurship is a broad category, often applied to people who take advantage of a positional good to dominate a market. For our purposes, entrepreneurship will be defined as the "creation of new value", eliminating appropriation as a means of politically-enabled entrepreneurship and focusing on the kind of entrepreneurship associated with the venture capital-backed model of the 1990s.
Before we turn to case studies, I want to examine some of the general trends in global entrepreneurship which have changed the way global economic growth is occurring:
(b) microcredits make possible a serious social policy goal of promoting entrepreneurship. This has proven to be uniquely successful in empowering women entrepreneurs who would otherwise have no access to capital.
CASE STUDIES FOR GLOBAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP
There are many case studies which are worth developing. These are merely meant for demonstration effects. They represent geographically-diverse sources of entrepreneurship and as case studies address a number of the themes discussed above.
Honey Care and the development of African entrepreneurs. The possibility of developing companies which produce for export markets and use local labour organized in a collective manner provides one more example of how branding can produce a global product.
African music centre and the rise of a music recording hub. The Senegalese music industry now has an infrastructure of operation and a number of dynamic entrepreneurs (producers)
Wireless telephony in Cameroon and Ethiopia Wireless enterprises are the first choice of many young western-educated entrepreneurs because they can circumvent the constraints of local political systems.
East African Botanicals is a case study of commercialization of Chinese knowledge in the medical treatment of malaria, and integration of east African agricultural land into the production of a medicinal product. As a company designed to be "global" in its operation, it is an important case study.
Mauritanian film: The financing of Sissako's films: a case study in cultural industries. The development of a film industry infrastructure is an excellent case study of entrepreneurship in many countries. From Bollywood to the Iraqi Kurdish experience, film-making provides a large number of skills-adding jobs to a local economy. By looking at the development of a film industry in Senegal-Mauritania-Mali, we can understand how this can be designed as a strategy.
Digital Theatre in Brazil: Rain produces an example of a company generated from local talent.
Dubai Internet City and Malaysia Multimedia Supercorridor: These two high profile attempts to create large incubation capacities for high technology development are a large capital-intensive approach to creating the preconditions for entrepreneurship.
Adapting Best Practices Internet Business Models to the Chinese Market: In the portfolio of top Chinese venture capital firms there are examples of "MBA-led entrepreneurship", adapting best practices internet and new economy business models to the Chinese marketplace.
There are many stories of building companies in emerging markets with returning MBA and engineering talent. Network365 in Sri Lanka offers those kinds of case studies. Increasing sophistication in financial markets through financial analysis like Mbendi and Liquid Africa have increased the potential of regional economies.
There are of course, other possible strategies for accelerating entrepreneurial start-ups. There are social entrepreneurial funds like Foursome which have invested in companies like Forestrade, creating a business model for exotic spices.
The expansion of entrepreneurial activities of this kind in an organized global entrepreneurship in which individual entrepreneurs can be backed by syndicated web venture capital capabilities to build companies in emerging markets. This "globalventures.com" idea was floated during the dotcom boom, modeled on what was not then called social networking, but syndicated small-cap venture capital. One of the business models that inspired this was Garage.com. The strategic assumption was that global management teams and global investment structures could be put together so that, for example, a music studio in Dakar could have 100 $1000 investors from London , Paris , Johannesburg and a management team drawn from a network of linked talent through the graduates of top world Business Schools. If 100 companies could be created by this means, the management talent which turns into the future Legos and Bombardiers of the global economy would be kept in place.
Teaching entrepreneurship requires an inventory of case studies. Entrepreneurship is inherently creative and risk-taking. An entrepreneurial economy requires a rule of law legal system, disciplined and longterm oriented capital markets and a network of sophisticated management talent. If the social capital of learned experience in Silicon Valley or Montreal creates a network of knowledge about entrepreneurial activities, then the more experiments, the more successful the entrepreneurial economy will be.
If we are advising resource-rich economies, like Kazakhstan or Angola on how to grow an economy, there are six steps to building an entrepreneurial economy which invents value:
These steps can provide the foundation of an entrepreneurial economy, focused on organizing next generation talent around the exercise of creating value. With capital markets that are designed to create disciplined growth and export strategies for domestic entrepreneurs, this approach to economic development could be the basis of a sustainable prosperity throughout the entire global economy.
Global entrepreneurship conference San Francisco
Regional venture capital funds: Mekong Capital in Vietnam and Chengwei in China .
ILO report on Migrant Worker Remittances, Micro-finance and the Informal Economy by Shivani Puri and Tineke Ritzema (excerpt below)
5.3 The potential role of micro-finance in linking unrecorded remittances to development
On the whole, then, the attempts of Governments of labour-exporting countries to attract unofficial remittances and influence their uses domestically have had a mixed record. There are a few schemes for self-employment and vocational retraining, but these contribute only marginally to the re-absorption of labour. Clearly, it is difficult to convert successful migrant workers/savers with no prior business experience into dynamic entrepreneurs. It could be argued that it is more realistic to introduce financial intermediaries that capture migrant remittances as deposits and channel them to existing small and micro-businesses, rather than transforming migrants directly into entrepreneurs.
In other words, rather than focussing on 'migrant-specific' investment programmes, labour exporting countries might wish to induce micro-finance institutions to capture remittances. The basic idea would be to design policies to transfer funds of the migrant workers through to entrepreneurs. Savings and credit schemes and investment instruments specifically designed to suit migrant workers' risk profiles could be important vehicles.
This could involve elements of a payroll deduction scheme and a fund mechanism offering competitive remuneration and little restriction on withdrawals. Partnerships with commercial wire transfer and courier service companies could help share risks and costs.
Migrant worker savings could also be managed similar to pension funds. These options need to be explored in greater detail by policy-makers. It is plausible that these types of savings-credit schemes are attractive to migrant workers who often consider overseas employment as a means of saving money for the undertaking some investment upon return.
Markets in knowledge about benchmarking in healthcare: Barry Meier's reporting in the June 23rd New York Times (www.nytimes.com) entitled "A Choice for the Heart: It's Easier to Get Data on a Car than on a Medical Device", points out the need for better information-mining in areas that show how competing drugs and medical products compare in both safety and effectiveness. This article should help us return to a modern discussion about health care, one that suggests that reformers can advocate strategies that improve health care quality and produce cost containment simultaneously if the information benchmarking treatments was better mined. The market in knowledge about health-care effectiveness suggests a number of new business models and corresponding opportunities for venture capital firms. A recent conference at Harvard Business School reported a relatively increasing venture capital interest in medical devices,. However, there continues to be an unexploied opportunity to create companies mining and analysing data concerning the effectiveness and cost of various health care procedures to insurance companies, governments and consumers. (http://hbswk.hbs.edu/pubitem.jhtml?id=3917&sid=-1&t=special_reports_equity2004 )
Venture capitalists and movie producers: Gary Rivlin's excellent article in Sunday's New York Times ("So You Want to Be a Venture Capitalist" May 22nd, 2005 www.nytimes.com ) raises some fundamental questions about predictors of success in the venture capital industry. Like sports scouts and movie producers, institutional investors backing new venture capital funds have to be prepared to acknowledge that there is more "art" than "science" in predicting the next winner. By definition, emerging trends change, and someone who spotted the last "next big thing" will not be well-positioned to spot the next next big thing. While part of entire capital activity (like movie producers) is technical (e.g. cost control, team-building, strategic financing, management of investors), some of it is also about timing and scanning the horizon. Successful venture capital firms will continue to mix the two, finding the next Quentin Tarantino, but remembering what it is the allows Clint Eastwood to be continuingly successful.