About the Episode:
Luke Hohmann dives deep in today’s episode, explaining how an app can build trust with your kids and money. He explains the foundation of what the app instills into relationships, both personal and professional. Learn how and why this app helps teach young children the fundamentals on how to successfully budget early on in their lives.
Listen to the podcast here:
Luke is a serial entrepreneur with two successful exits and I think your listeners would be really interested in learning how my new company empowers youth – with money! Have you heard of Participatory Budgeting? It is a global movement, endorsed by the UN, in which communities decide how to invest real money.
I’ve been producing PB events around the world, in both the public and private sector, for more than a decade. At my last company, Conteneo, I invented Weave, the software platform businesses use for PB. My clients made over $3 billion in investment decisions using Weave before I sold the company two years ago. I’ve now founded FirstRoot, a startup devoted to teaching financial literacy and civics through Participatory Budgeting in schools. Our BHAG is to get $1K into 1M schools globally and watch what happens when kids are in control of $1B.
We are offering a family version of our app for free so that parents can work directly with kids doing such things as planning a vacation, choosing charitable donations, or planning a home remodeling project.
Watch the episode here:
The Trick In Building Trust With Your Kids | Luke Homann
My guest is pretty amazing because this dude has something that empowers youth with money. We are going to talk a lot about that. Besides that, he’s got two successful exits. If you are a young entrepreneur, a young person that wants to start rocking in this business world, this guy is already been through it twice and that’s what we are going to rock. He’s also spoken at all these places around the world. Luke Hohmann, how are you doing?
Welcome to the show. Let’s talk about this thing because you empower youth with money. What is that all about?
I know it’s a crazy idea. We tell our youth that we want them to be financially literate. We want them to be successful, then we give them absolutely stupid things to do like, “Do a stock market simulation with a simulated $100,000 and try to make as much money in the stock market as you can in 3 or 4 months,” which is opposite with any financial advisor would tell you about how to invest your money properly. What we do is radical and simple. We give kids money and we teach them how to invest money through that process, except the investment is different. It’s not in the stock market. It’s in their own school. When we give kids money, the money that they are investing in is how to make the school a better place. Through that process, they learn design thinking, civic engagement and financial literacy.
Is this real money that you give them?
This is the shocker. It’s real money and we do it at all grade levels. We finished a project with three 5th grade classrooms at Huegel Elementary School in Madison, Wisconsin and the kids go through this process. I want to point out that this isn’t like driving by with a car, tossing some Benjamins to the kids and riding away. What we do is actually structure the process. There are five phases the kids go through. There’s learning and a curriculum. In phase one, we plan it. We talk about what should be the theme and who should be involved? For example, do you want the teachers submitting ideas or just the kids? Most of the time, it’s just the kids.
In the next phase, we actually go through ideation. We ask the kids to create good ideas according to the theme. The kids then have to shape those ideas into actual proposals. If the kids say, “We want to plant a tree in our school,” the teacher says, “Great. How are you going to get a tree? How much does a tree cost? Where are you going to put it?” We put that responsibility on the kids because when you give kids responsibility, they learn. As you can tell, my parenting style for kids, we are not rubber bumper, hover parents. When I was growing up, a good day was leaving in the morning and coming back late at night dirty.
Back to Participatory Budgeting. The next phase is the kid’s vote. The kids go through our app, they see all their ideas and they vote. They look at the voting results, ratify them then they implement those proposals. Going back to Huegel, I will give you a couple of things that the kids picked. They did pick planting a new tree in their school. They picked buying some new soccer goals for their soccer field. They picked some fidget toys for their classroom, which again, you are an adult, like, “You don’t need a fidget toy,” but it’s not your money. We treat it actually like the kids’ money.
Sometimes the kids don’t make perfect choices but that’s okay. I don’t make perfect choices in everything I buy either. As a parent, I would rather have my kid make a few mistakes on a small sum of money that make challenging life mistakes during college like getting a debit card or a credit card that they can’t pay off or they can’t afford when they are not ready. I don’t want to train my kids. I want to make sure they are educated and prepared for life and this does that.
It sounds like it’s almost a mini Congress.
Except unlike Congress, which is financially irresponsible, this is a mini Congress that has a budget. In fact, what we celebrate is the kids come up with 10 to 15 proposals and the kids can only afford between 3 and 8 of them. At that moment, those hover parents are like, “We have to increase the budget. The kids get everything they want.” We are like, “That’s what you don’t want to do,” because, in your life, you can’t have everything you want because your mind is infinite. If you get richer, you want more stuff if you are not satisfied with who you are as a person because stuff doesn’t make you happy. We want to teach our kids there’s a budget. You’ve got to make tough choices in every business. Rick, you run a business. I’m sure your marketing team, if you said, “Give me ideas of how to promote my business,” your marketing team is going to come up with a lot of ideas. I’m pretty sure that the sum total of them would exceed your marketing budget. You’ve got to prioritize.
I start thinking and placing myself in these. Were these teenagers that you are working with for the most part?
No, we go as young as seven years on up because a seven-year-old can understand the budget.
I remember the student council. I don’t know if you are familiar with that but I served on that if you want to call it served. People voted for a couple of years but I remember programs that we did to where we would do a wetlands scenario. That was one of the things that the student council voted on for this program. Where we went and planted trees, it was like right in my backyard almost but it was this island thing to reinvigorate this habitat. I remember driving by it. It was something like 10 to 15 years later, somewhere in my mid-twenties. Looking at this, I’m like, “That’s very lush back there now.” It was amazing to see the fruit of those years later. I’m thinking about this Congress but everyone was pretty much in agreement from what I remember but do you see anything like partisanship? It starts to rear its heads.
You will see partisanship and part of the refinement process, that middle stage is where we start to talk about, “What does it mean to be civically engaged?” Sometimes being civically engaged means getting a proposal that would benefit everyone in the school. Sometimes it means a proposal that would benefit a subset or a minority of the school, depending on how you define minority. Sometimes it means doing what your group did, which is going outside the school. We did a project with a high school in Indianapolis and the kids in high school because their school district overlapped one of the elementary schools.
Those kids knew from their own experience growing up that elementary school didn’t have a decent playground. The kids in the high school who had been in the elementary school voted to put a park and better playground equipment in the elementary school. As with your student council, I find that if you give kids the opportunity to, in a sense, rise up to think more broadly, they will. It’s the lack of trust in kids from adults that I think is one of the problems.
I want to unpack that because I’m on your side of the table with this. I have always talked about this. The phrase I always use is, “If they are old enough to ask the questions or old enough to know the answers,” that’s what I have lived by, even with my own kids. I have never asked this question of everyone before. Where does this go wrong with parents to where that distrust comes from? It almost seems born into a lot of adults to me anyways. It seems that way because while your kids start to grow up, they have done nothing at this point, at least from what I have seen.
There are certain points. Maybe there are some bad seeds out there whatever but it’s usually the environment they are in. The family home but it gets to the point. Let’s say they are amazing kids and they have done nothing at this point, they might be ten years old, whatever to say that, “You should distrust me with making some decisions that would actually help me 30 years down the road, to see what I can do.” It’s almost like this distrust is born into a lot of parents and adults who have kids. Why is that? I don’t get it.
Now we are dealing with some pretty deep psychology. You are going to bring in your own environment. When you talk about the way you raise your kids, there was a combination of how you were raised and then choices you have made about how you want to raise your kids. I don’t want to make my mom wrong on this one because I don’t think it’s fair to say something negative. After all, she parented me well but my mom did spank me. I made a conscious choice. I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to raise my kids that way. I never did. I’m not somehow trying to promote myself as some perfect parent. Trust me. If you ask my kids, they will tell you all the things I made mistakes on. You do boil down into what you feel comfortable with.
The trick that we want to do is build trust. I will give you a concrete example of building trust. We have talked about giving kids money but we haven’t defined how much. Let’s actually talk about how much money we give kids. I’m going to give a consultant’s answer. That answer that’s not an answer. You want to give kids enough money to feel meaningful to the kid but not so much money that the parents are going to get nervous and take control. Going back to that fifth-grade classroom, we started with three 5th-grade classrooms. Each classroom was given $500. That’s enough to do something meaningful for the classroom but the parents are going to get worried or freaked out about $500.
Imagine if I said each classroom had $500,000, then the parents are going to kick in and go, “I can’t trust the kids with that much money.” What was cool is the three classrooms decided to pool their money so they can have a bigger single impact. That’s the trick. The trick is to build trust because now we have had one cycle. We call them Participatory Budgeting Cycles. What you find is that every time you go through a cycle, you see the results and that cycle builds trust. I haven’t been doing this for a year. I have been doing this for more than a decade. In my last company, Conteneo we built a platform for Participatory Budgeting in business and Global Fortune 10,000 companies. These big complex budgets with distributed teams who have to decide on how to allocate their money.
Our customers were people like Cisco, eBay, Salesforce, BMW and Daimler. They had these complex budgets and teams. From there, I started doing this philanthropically in cities around the world. For example, in San Jose, California, we would take potential new tax revenue, present it to the citizens and say, “If we were to raise an 8th of a 10th sales tax, what would you do with the $64 million that it raises?” We would list city programs. That was advisory. We did that for a few years. We built trust and then the city started to give money directly to the districts, $100,000, $250,000, $1,000,000, where the districts were indirect control of the money and we didn’t start that way. We built up trust. Our goal is to let people build trust in what the kids do but like your student council, if I saw your student council improving a wetland, that’s going to build confidence that all these kids are civically engaged. These kids are thinking beyond themselves. That’s pretty cool.
This scripture, this scenario you are describing here, it’s like the city is the adults and the districts are the parents. I’m picking that up. That’s a cool approach. The organization that does this, what’s the name of it?
For us? It’s FirstRoot. That’s our company, FirstRoot.co.
What’s your end game with FirstRoot?
For a startup, there are three end games. The first end game is you stay private and you pay yourself a lot of money. The second end game is that you sell to another company. The third end game is that you sell to the public through an IPO. I don’t have direct experience in selling companies on the public market IPOs. I have experienced in the other two and more for the two exits that we mentioned, selling a company to another company, which is the common phase. To the entrepreneurs who are reading, you have to be super clear who you are as a person. Are you the person who’s good at starting it, operating it or getting it ready to exit and sell? My personal sweet spot tends to be on starting things. When it gets into the operating mode, I tend to bring in operators to help me out or take over chunks of responsibility. You’ve got to know who you are if you want to be successful as an entrepreneur.
This sounds like something that you can probably ingrain in the kids that you are building the skillsets into. I could see that in this mini Congress that you have created or these multiple mini Congresses, even if some are integrators but you probably start to see some of the entrepreneurial-minded ones. The ones that are almost hardwired that way and start to say, “Where are their skillsets? Are they starters, operators or editors?”
You can also see some things that I think are important. I used to believe this narrative because I was a business person that people in the public sector are less skillful than people in business. I started working with them pretty intensely. I realized that narrative is actually not true. That’s a self-serving narrative of business people. I have found people who work in the government, who are amazingly skilled, are motivated differently. I know a couple of people who, if they felt like it, could be making as much money as anyone in the private sector. They are just not motivated that way. They are genuinely motivated through a concept of service that’s different. I now believe that there are high-quality people everywhere in all factors of life.
Going back to what I do and what we are here to talk about, which is a little bit about businesses and exits. When I started this company, I also enumerated a whole set of exit targets, meaning people who I would want to sell to once we’ve got to a size that was worth acquiring and more selling. Those include other ed-tech companies. They include the content providers, which are getting annihilated because of the internet. They are trying to sell textbooks and we don’t use textbooks the same way anymore. Private equity firms who are looking for a certain growth and cashflow. You talked about how once you get this going, it becomes ingrained in the school. This is business-to-business selling, even though the school isn’t a business. This isn’t like a business-to-business sale. Those contracts tend to be very durable, long-lived and profitable over time because you’ve got a total lifetime value. That’s pretty compelling.
You are right about that, too, because I’ve got an IPO coming up in cybersecurity, which I’m super excited about but there are already different larger companies that I have looked at, whether it’s 5, 7 or 10 years down the road. It was like, “We might be attractive to them at some point,” because it’s taking a look at who’s attractive to us to acquire because it’s an M&A mode that we are in for our IPO but there are already large corporations. I’m talking several billion dollars worth in market cap. I’m like, “That’s somebody who could probably absorb us at some point.”
You didn’t even choose to wait until you go public because you are de-risking them. A lot of people who are inexperienced in tech companies, those things that you and I are doing, is they go, “Why would someone wait until a company went public and they acquire them in the public market? Wouldn’t it have been cheaper to acquire them beforehand?” The answer is not necessarily because the public market forces a company to go through a certain set of analyses and reviews. The acquiring company, by letting the company go public, de-risk some of their due diligence. The market may lower their price or may increase their price. By the way, I’m glad you brought up your security background. I was hoping you would do that because I used to work for an Israeli security firm. Do you remember Alladin Knowledge Systems? They did those tokens that did software.
Are you talking like the mid-2000s?
I was the Head of Engineering and Product Management. It was crazy because I’ve got teams in Tel Aviv, Munich, Portland and Santa Clara. My background, what we now feel comfortable with distributed development, I was doing distributed development way back in the early 2000s with physical dongles and software anti-piracy, certificate management and token management. What’s interesting about that is we bring that to the kids to make it full circle. In our curriculum, we have a lesson about identity management for the kids. My kids, for example, one of my sons got a pretty good dad-talk because he logged into his one bank accounts and he didn’t have multi-factor authentication turned on. I’m like, “We are going to take a step back. We are going to turn that on.” I’ve got that, “Dad, come on, it’s a pain. You’ve got to get a text message.” I’m like, “It’s a pain. It’s your money. It’s good.”
It’s so funny because that’s the conversation that my team will always have with our client base, too, whenever it comes to multi-factor, “It’s such a barrier.” It’s like, “What do you want? Do you want to protect yourself or do you want to walk in and you’ve got a bank account balance of zero the next day because somebody walked into your castle and you left the door wide open?”
You and I have been around long enough to know that the implementation of multi-factor security, it’s about as simple as you get. You put your password in, you get a text message, you dump in the code. Thank you. Remember when we had the RSA keys, you had to match it in the number and then it’s so much easier but it can’t get much easier without compromising the quality of the security. We bring that mindset into what we are doing with kids and the schools. The blisters may not know this and Rick may know this the Cisco Casper Security Standards.
In my last company, we were working with Cisco for about a year. We get this note from their security team saying, “We see a lot of traffic to your company. Who are you? What are you doing?” I explained that Cisco teams are using our software to help manage their budgets. They are like, “You’ve got to come under our security posture.” We then became Casper security compliant, which is not an easy thing to do. We were able to use that to leverage our growth. We are bringing that same level of mindset to schools, even though they don’t realize they want it. When I’m bringing my stuff to the kids at school, it’s built under the same security posture that we use in business and that’s important.
With the kids, I’m curious. Have you ever seen this go awry? What pitfalls have you seen in the project? Even though we are saying, “We trust kids,” and you and I are on the same mindset. As far as that goes, there’s still a possibility for blunders.
Kids are people so let’s look at how do adults screw up and you can get predict kids are going to screw up the same way. There are a couple of things there. I’m going to try and reframe screw-ups as learning opportunities but let’s look at some of the nasty ones. Let’s go bad. Let’s put on our security black hats.
How noble of you to reframe the screw-ups. Some screw-ups are just screw-ups. I have done that.
That’s true too but you learn. Even in business, I have done some screw-ups. Let’s go negative. Let’s talk about corruption. Let’s say the school puts in $50,000 into the Participatory Budgeting Program and one kid says, “We should plant a bunch of trees and refurbish the garden of the school or the live space of the school.” It so happens that his dad owns a nursery, this corruption of the money comes in.
Are you talking about the State of Illinois here?
I would never suggest that happens to adults. I’m with you. That stuff happens so what we actually have is a lesson in our Civics curriculum that talks about corruption. What are the manifestations of corruption? We can’t keep expecting high school kids to believe in our democracy when what do they see? We tell kids, “Knowledge is power.” What they see is money as power. We tell kids to get involved and then they can’t vote. How is a kid in high school who wants to make some positive change has no money and no vote? That’s not very interesting. We are giving them money and we are preparing them to vote. This is a very different thing. We are preparing a different kind of democracy. I think that’s needed. If you look at the statistics, it’s frightening. One in four Millennials says, “Democracy is a bad way to run a country.” This is where we are and we wonder how it got polarized.
We could go off I’m going to try to restrain myself on this but there are ways. There are reasons rather as why they would think that because that’s a lot. That’s 25%. I was joking, not really but I’m serious about the State of Illinois. Three of the past governors had been in prison. Prior to Pritzker, the previous three have all been in prison. No wonder why there’s that sentiment and look at all the unrest that we have had.
Illinois is not unique. This is an interesting historical note. I’ve got to bring this in. Participatory Budgeting is credited by the United Nations as being invented in 1989 in Puerto Allegro, Brazil. The Brazilians invented it as a means to fight corruption. What happened was, they started to crack open the city’s finances. They were like, “All of our taxes are making these corrupt politicians rich. We need basics. We need streets and clean water sanitation.” They started to use Participatory Budgeting to force the money that was being put into the city into more transparency because we know one of the things that fight corruption is transparency. It’s an open book. That’s why we have so many laws about open bidding and getting access to our government’s finances.
All of that goes in. In security, sometimes you have secrets and the best way to keep things secure is to not have a secret. In this case, with money, especially with politics, you want to be controlling it. We talk about that full-on. We don’t treat our kids like stupid adults in our classes. We teach our kids age-appropriate concepts but again, we teach the tough concepts. We talk about things like, “What could go wrong?” One of the other mistakes that kids make is we had one school vote and this was in Sunnyvale, California. The middle school voted to replace their drinking fountain with an Elkay Water Bottle Refilling Station because they wanted to be more green.
They are filling up, then we realized that the budget was blown. We had $800 in the budget because we were going to buy it, then the school district was like, “To put in the new thing, you’ve got to jackhammer the old one out because it’s bricked into the wall. All of that is going to cost several thousand dollars. By the way, it’s going to take 1.5 years to implement.” We have learned a lot. The kids learned a lot. I don’t know if that was a complete screw-up but it was certainly a hard lesson in budgeting. That’s happened in business too and adult life. Can you say home remodels?
That will be getting into the ethics of the trades because let’s be straight up here. This is something that even in IT and technology that’s fought because there are certain stigmas in certain industries and the trades are one of them. The trades almost have the same bad rep as a car salesman because you will almost always think that you are going to have this budget that’s blown some way or another. You are going to be swindled in some way or you get a surprise bill at some point. For IT, they are condescending in that way. I talked about a story about how the Comcast rep came to the house or whatever. Here’s me, who has been in IT for years and has built freaking networks for Merrill Lynch for 1,300 branch offices.
That’s how I cut my teeth with 120,000 workstations and 18,000 servers. It was awesome doing this. This was many years ago. The Comcast rep comes to the house and informs my wife who’s there that says, “Your husband doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” I texted or whatever. It’s like, “Give him this. This is the problem. I have already done his job for him. He needs to replace the hardware because that’s where the problem is,” whatever it is, and then it’s like, “He doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” but that’s the stigma that we face. Same with Millennials and then swinging it back to politicians because that’s how we have seen that now. It’s like the traits, IT, politicians, politics. They all have a bad rep at this point.
How do you change that narrative? It’s funny, people say, “I have started to adjust my marketing a little bit,” because I used to say, “We are promoting economic equality and civic engagement.” Now I say positive civic engagement because I want to have that word that emphasizes that a lot of the civic engagement we see on the news is very negative. Unrest, rioting and flat-out fighting. I want you to play the clock forward. One of the kids in Huegel Elementary School is a fifth-grader and he has his very first civic engagement experience using Participatory Budgeting in his school and like you, he planted a tree and got a new soccer ball.
Now he graduates or she graduates and they are in middle school. In middle school, they buy some art lab equipment or some chemistry equipment. Now they go to high school, the budget gets a little bigger. In high school, maybe they upgrade the library, improve the gymnasium or do something external like you did in your student council. Now that children graduates. They are eighteen. They have the right to vote. They have had an experience for 6, 7, 8 and 9 years of getting involved creates a positive result. That’s the narrative we are going to try and change through this process.
I love what you are doing with FirstRoot. Let’s examine the exit portion of this. How does that come into play with FirstRoot? That’s one of your expertise is you have exited two amazing businesses already.
You’ve got to have certain profitability or growth. It was funny. I was coaching an entrepreneur. There’s a young man that I have been coaching. I said something to him and he didn’t understand I had to explain it. I said, “Profit is a choice when you are growing.” He said, “What?” He said, “You’ve got to be profitable.” Let’s use the classic example. Amazon grew for years on unprofitably because they were dumping so much money into growth. Could Amazon have chosen to become profitable? Sure. If you actually look at their cashflow or Google’s initial cashflow they could have been profitable by choice. The question becomes, “If you are growing fast enough, you can choose not to be profitable but you have to show that you’ve got the cashflow that will generate the future profit for the acquirer.”
For us, at first, we were focused on building the foundation. We are doing that through pilots so we are in the piloting mode. We are going to move into revenue generation in the next quarter, and then from there, we are moving into long-term contracts. We’ve got a specific market entry strategy that makes it easy to bypass complexity with the school district. A lot of EdTech companies go to the school district first and try to make this big contract occur when they don’t have any trust and experience. Our model is almost the opposite.
We start with classrooms or clubs, and then from there, we have a low-cost entry point that builds you into a school and then to a network or the district. That’s how we grow to a point where we are excitable. For my exit, I have an intuition that we will probably be selling to a PE firm. If you look at the macroeconomic structure of the world, the PE firms, especially in the SaaS software space, I don’t want to name names but there are some names out there. Readers, Google PE software and private equity firms acquiring software firms and you will see there are a couple of big players in there.
Thoma Bravo is amazingly huge.
Vista or LEADs. For example, LEADs is one that’s focused on EdTech and you start to look at the collection of the portfolios and then you realize your company is a product. If you are going to go public, then you are offering your company to an investor like me and I’m looking at other companies. I think of them as products. What do I want to put in my basket and what do I want to own? I think that private equity firms are getting smarter about how to create synergy among their portfolio companies. I think we will more than likely exit into a private equity firm.
Who taught you about Participatory Budgeting?
To be totally candid, no one taught me. My background is this weird mix of computer science, cognitive psychology and organizational behavior. I was a network Jack. I was pulling cable underneath raised floor at EDS. I kid you not. My first job was below the ground, cabling computers and running cables. I loved networking junk and eventually had opportunities at EDS, this amazing ten-year career where I grew up. I went to school at Michigan, got my Bachelor’s and Master’s in Computer Science and Engineering and while I was at school, I was also working in the business school Organizational Behavior Research. I blended all that to start to look at the very simple process of observing the annual budget process of large companies. What I experienced as an Executive at EDS, what I experienced at startups, what I saw large companies go through I was like, “It’s awful.” You are supposed to collaborate during the year but at the end of the year, in your annual budget, you fight. I started developing techniques to help people collaborate.
One of those techniques was focused on budgeting and that blossomed into a company that was focused on budgeting. A lot of interaction with my customers, trial and error. Not everything worked the first time but eventually, we’ve got it to the point where it worked well. Now, you are in tech. You know there’s this thing called the Scaled Agile Framework. I was the primary or principal steward of the Scaled Agile Framework Lean Portfolio Management and Agile Product Delivery layers. Now Participatory Budgeting is part of the Scaled Agile Framework to help agile organizations collaboratively defined budgets and move faster. We actually find that this process enables organizations to make decisions faster. That’s the long-winded answer to, “How did you get here?” A little bit of invention and a whole lot of market interaction.
You look at the enterprise or even SME and you look at the decision-making process. If you get into sales and you are the salesperson that’s walking through the door, you are always trying to find the money person. The person that actually says, “I can write the check for this,” because, in IT, you have been through this world. You might have a CFO that says, “This is how much we can spend.” You then have a CEO that’s saying, “We need to achieve this outcome,” and then you have the IT person saying, “All the crabs breaking on me. I’m dealing with this stuff every single day on a shoestring budget.” Imagine if all three of those talked and from the top, you’ve got the question down, “What do you need?”
“Here are our outcomes. How do we achieve this? Isn’t it the job of the CFO to freaking go find the cash to achieve the outcomes? It’s not to restrict and say, ‘This is what we can do.'” That’s maybe a tiny part of it but it’s their job to go out and find the cash to achieve the outcomes and reprioritize things. CFOs that are reading this, wake up. You’ve got to play your role. That’s great. Don’t get me wrong. I have a great CFO. He’s amazing but that’s what he does. He goes out and he says, “Do you want to do this? This is how we are going to accomplish that.” If there’s something that says, “You said prioritization too,” so it comes out, “Rick, if we need to accomplish this and maybe we need to pause this over here, and then it’s up to me to make the decision.” Is that the outcome that I want? That’s collaborative. It’s Participatory Budgeting. I can look at my team and say, “What do you need? What do you think it’s going to take to get this done?”
Our data is a breakthrough. One of our clients is a company you may or may not have heard of. They are called Bwin.party. They are a gambling platform or an online. They call it online real money gambling in Europe. They do poker, sports betting and casino-style gaming. We brought those groups in together. I want you to imagine each of the groups has initiatives. Each of the three divisions has initiatives then the Participatory Budgeting forums are mixed between members of the groups. What we actually saw was when people looked at the company’s initiatives, there was this very clear example where a woman who was a leader in a casino said, “Look at the company. Now, sports is growing faster than poker and casino. I’m going to take some of my budgets and I’m going to put it on the sports initiative.”
She again was rising up. She was optimizing the system, the whole, even though it meant her particular part was going to be a little lower in budget. You see this consistently. When people have that conversation and they bring it up even to you as the leader, what are the priorities? It’s amazing if you give people the chance to create this collaborative environment because the other thing they know is in the back of their mind this is a system of human relationships. If I am helping you this time, I’ve got something in the future that is more likely you will help me with when my division is ready for that same funds to flow between the divisions and you build positive human relationships.
As we close out this episode, I have one last question for you. This was the information you sent in. The first step for you to go all-in is living like a weasel. What the heck does that mean?
I was wondering if you were going to go there. For all the readers, this is something that all my close friends know and now you do too. I live like a weasel and everyone goes, “What the heck is that?” When I was seventeen, I was a pair’s figure skater. I was starting to get good but I was also a senior in high school and I was getting ready to graduate. I had to choose between what I focused on. I read this beautiful essay by Annie Dillard it’s called Living Like Weasels. She describes the process by how a weasel hunts. A weasel stocks its prey, it attacks and it goes for the throat. There’s this interesting physical capability.
The weasels’ jaw has a tendon and the tendon won’t release if the prey is still moving. Either the weasel dies or the prey dies. In her essay, she says, “If you want to be successful in life, try living like a weasel. Can you do it? Can you focus on that one thing in exclusion of everything else?” I remember you are goofy, you are seventeen years old and you are like, “I’m going to do that,” but I decided when I was seventeen to live like a weasel. For that thing, what I latch and bite into it, I bite into that thing and I hold on until it’s done. What I have actually found in life is that if you bite hard enough, that thing bites you back then you are being dragged along by it.
In my last company, Conteneo, we bit hard, not just me but the leadership team. It had its ups and downs as every entrepreneur. We will talk about that and eventually, that was done, which also explains, I think entrepreneurs, you have had a successful career and people go, “You did this thing. Why don’t you do it for the rest of your life?” You are like, “I did that thing. I’m ready for my next thing,” For me, living like a weasel means you stock, pounce, hold on, then when you are done, you are done. You completely do something different in life and that’s okay because you completed the thing that you were completed. I live like a weasel. I will send you that essay after this show because I want you to know what it says.
Thank you for coming on. Everyone can find out more about Luke at FirstRoot.co. Thank you for the conversation there. I enjoyed especially talking about our youth and the future of this country. Thank you.
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- Madison, Wisconsin
- Participatory Budgeting Cycles
- Alladin Knowledge Systems
- Multi-factor authentication
- Cisco Casper Security Standards
- One in four Millennials says, “Democracy is a bad way to run a country.”
- Thoma Bravo
- Living Like Weasels