Jun
03
2011

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Fellows Friday is a weekly series on the TED Blog that profiles one TED Fellow each week. We have asked the Fellows to answer our question below to share their knowledge and advice with other social entrepreneurs, innovators, and changemakers who are coming up with big ideas that can change the world.

Rose Shuman designed Question Box to spread the benefits of the Internet in the developing world. At the push of a button, villagers could get answers to any query - from banana plant viruses to HIV/AIDS - in their local language. Now Rose is building software to scale the model and track callers' question trends in real time.

Sokunthea: There are many aspiring social entrepreneurs out there who are trying to take their passion and ideas to the next level. What is one piece of advice you would give to them based on your own experiences and successes?

Rose: I think that a lot of social enterprise actually mirrors the ethos and lifecycle of a tech start-up: you have a small group of extremely passionate people dedicated to a compelling proposition. Social enterprises and tech start-ups have commensurate fail rates, as well. But the ones that work have a lot of potential.

The difference is, in tech, you’ve got established roads to exit and scale. In social enterprise, that ecosystem is still developing. One of the main issues is that investors often want to get decent returns on their investment. But social enterprises are also trying to give back to the world. That’s a harder operating environment than most any other business.

Given that environment, my advice is that whatever social enterprise you’re founding, consider yourself a traditional small business. To be a small business, you need revenue. Make sure whatever business you’re doing makes sense as a business.

Read the rest of Rose's Fellows Friday post here.

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