Preparing for the Ethical Questions of 21st Century
Today’s entrepreneurs and tech workers are confronting ethical challenges on a scale they have not been prepared for.
Entrepreneurs are drivers of the innovation economy in the 21st century. They are fighting huge battles, solving complex problem, and harnessing incredible expertise, business acumen and resources to create marketable solutions to societal problems. They see where theres something which could be improved, or fixed, and they find a way to fix it. But there’s a problem in entrepreneurship.
In recent years the leading lights of Silicon Valley – Uber, Google, Facebook, Tesla, and Theranos – have lost billions upon billions of dollars in value following scandals. These scandals call into question their values and the trust of the public. These scandals took various forms, from discrimination and harassment in the workplace, to fraudulent practices and lack of oversight over product use. But all of them have something in common – a failure to integrate ethical questions into the heart of business decision making.
A generation of entrepreneurs underestimated the importance of ethical questions and paid the price for it. But then, they weren’t trained to take these questions on – Ethics in Entrepreneurship will make sure that the next generation are ready to make better decisions.
Ethics in Entrepreneurship rose from the ashes of Theranos and is driving an expanded and improved approach to entrepreneurship.
Founder Erika Cheung immediately joined Theranos after graduating from UC Berkeley. She wanted to change the world. She believed in the power of innovation and entrepreneurship to drive immense positive change in shaping the 21st Century.
Theranos would offer drastically improved healthcare diagnostics to those without the resources to pay for expensive testing. It enabled people to discover illnesses earlier and live longer with their loved ones. But the pitch was merely imagined and far from reality.
Once on the inside, realizing the extent of the deception and the risk to people’s health, Erika whistleblew and became a key source, along with Tyler Shultz, for journalist John Carreyrou while still in her early twenties. At the time, Theranos was valued at $10 billion, and its founder Elizabeth Holmes widely feted as the next Steve Jobs
Why had it taken so long (10+ years) for the truth about Theranos to come out? Why did it take so long to address something that was an open secret within the company?
In her own experience, she had realized that she knew nothing about whistleblowing, how to do it, how to protect herself once she did. Beyond that, there was no shared ethical language in the world of startups like there was in the world of journalism, medicine, or the law.
Ethics in Entrepreneurship is an attempt to fix this by discussing, promoting and developing tools and best practices aimed at young entrepreneurs, so they are better prepared for the challenges they will face tomorrow.
Todays entrepreneurs are confronting ethical challenges on a scale they have not been prepared for. Founders are leading companies which span the globe and employ thousands of peoples before they hit 35.
They may be making decisions about technologies which question the definitions of humanity. These challenges are legitimate, and training on how to face them must be an integral part of business training and entrepreneurial culture.
Ethics experts have practical insights and frameworks to deal with these questions, but there has been siloing between these experts and young business leaders. Ethics in Entrepreneurship aims to be a conduit for communication and interaction between these silos, and serve to infuse entrepreneurship with an enhanced ethical education from the bottom up.
We cannot predict or provide answers to the challenges faced by the next generation of innovators and business leaders. But Ethics in Entrepreneurship is going to make sure they are empowered and ready to take those challenges on.
Our logo is derived from the Shell Maps, or ‘Stick Charts’ of the Marshall Islands. These charts allowed the Marshallese to navigate the Pacific Ocean in canoes without compasses or geographic landmarks by representing the interactions of ocean swells and currents using sticks and shells within a frame.
In the entrepreneur world, the term “north star” has come to mean a unifying objective or ideal direction of travel. We think that these shell maps better represent what it’s like to wrestle with ethical decisions.
There’s often no easy metrics to judge by. There are frequently no easy answers. And in most cases each situation is unique – like being on a canoe in blue water, with no geographical point of reference. But if you know where to look, and how to think about the waves around you, you can make the decisions which will get you to your destination safely.
We’re dedicated to helping the next generation of entrepreneurs navigate difficult waters successfully. Each decision is unique, but with the right framework anyone can learn to think these decisions through responsibly, even when there doesn’t seem to be signposts pointing the way. We believe that every entrepreneur should have access to these frameworks, and we are dedicated to connecting the next generation to older professionals who have made their way across blue ocean before.