How have I never come across Melanie Rieback?

One of the many highlights from the excellent Publicspaces conference today was discovering Melanie Rieback.

Everything I thought about after seeing the first dotcom/bomb era and seeing many friends chasing the dream of Silicon Valley’s unicorn. I struggled to come up with an alternative to the completely unsustainable growth charts going up and to the right. A few times I would talk about something which sounded closer to social entrepreneurship and Bcorps, and won’t lie drove my decision to work for a public company.

Melanie alongside Ethan Zuckerman talked about what it means to be truly disruptive. As you can imagine, its not the startup unsustainable formulaic pipe dream which every startup team/creator is hard sold.

Seeing post growth entrepreneurship, there is a lot here and speaks volumes to the work BBC R&D around sustainability and human values. I found this post a good summary, especially starting with Doughnut economics which I recently read and recommend.

The problem with exponential growth

The economist Kate Raworth makes beautiful analogies with nature in her book Doughnut economics. She says for instance that any living organism – let’s say a tree or a dog or a child – grows very quickly, almost exponentially at the very beginning of its life. At a certain point in time that growth starts to flatten off. Then it stops growing and starts thriving. If that tree wants to keep growing even though it already has reached its maximum size, it drops seeds. Then these seeds can grow again until they reach their maximum size. And so on. If this is how nature does it, why should it be any different with our businesses?

Exponential growth curve

This exponential curve is ubiquitous. You will find it in every MBA programme, every start-up incubator, pop culture, etc. It is very hard to get away from this curve. It’s the Silicon Valley model of entrepreneurship. There are three parts to this model:

  1. Capital
  2. Scaling
  3. Exit

I’m coming around to the notion, scale is the enemy of humanity. and likely fits in the unknown unknowns?

Like Kate Raworth who calls herself the rouge economist, I can see why Melanie Rieback’s ideas for post growth entrepreneurship doesn’t go down well with startup incubators, investment angels and VCs.

Looking forward to making the rouge/alternatives the everyday!

 

Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.