Grand Challenges Facing Miami

The grand challenges, on a micro level.

A number of organizations around the world are working on indexing all of the big world changing problems affecting the human race. These problems range from conflict to water access, to sustainable agriculture, to mitigating pollution, and so forth. The issue with these grand challenges is that an individual might often feel helpless or useless when it comes to tackling them because of their sheer grandeur.

If you read any number of cliched articles by some middle aged business reporter about millennials and how they are in the workplace (eye roll), they all talk about how millennials only want to work on something where they can have an impact or a cause. The challenge with wanting to have an impact is that often times we see these overwhelmingly large challenges and don’t know where to start. Society hasn’t really taught the average person under 40 how to even begin to tackle such large problems. So let’s start by breaking down these grand problems and looking at them from a local level.

There was a fascinating podcast from the Ted Radio Hour the other day about how cities are the new center for innovation and impact. If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. Fifty years ago, if you wanted to impact a million people, you had to go to an entire state, sometimes a country to find a million people. Now in some urban areas, you can find a million people in 1 square mile (see: Mumbai, Manila, Lagos, etc). Let’s take the approach that we need to identify what our grand challenges are for our local communities first; because if we can solve our local communities, that impact will compound regionally.

Given my affiliation with Miami, I thought we could start by looking at what the biggest challenges are for our community here. This way we can start by looking at the potential solutions and not wait around for someone else to solve them. So in no particular order, here are my initial Miami Challenges.

Where are these challenges?

– Traffic
– Education
– Economic Opportunities
– Housing
– Pollution
– Energy
– Crime
– Government

I’m sure I’m missing a bunch, so feel free to add them into the comments.

The first step I believe in tackling each problem is to start thinking about the Whys. Toyota famously pioneered a concept called the 5 Why technique. It forces you to work back on a problem and reverse engineer it until you reach the original root cause. Eventually, we would get to the root cause which would let us work back towards the solution.

What I’m proposing is we start inventorying all these problems and also applying some group design thinking on them to figure out what is the starting point for solving them. We need to rethink the way our community solves its problems if we want to turn Miami (or any of our cities) into world class places to live.

The $1,000 Miami Hustle Startup Challenge

A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by my buddy Tim for the Miami Hustle Series Podcast (which if you haven’t checked it out, it has tons of great interviews with Miami entrepreneurs). During the conversation, which could have extended for 2 more episodes if Tim had let me, we talked about what you would do with $500 in Miami. This got us thinking, how can we help Miami entrepreneurs or miami startup founders and make it interesting for us?

So we decided to turn the $500 question into a challenge.

This is open to any new miami startup or entrepreneur who has an idea they want to explore, but is just at the idea phase. So here is what we’re offering

  • $500 loan at an industry standard interest rate, repayable in 12 months. (from each of us, so $1k total, but we could split amongst 2 ideas)
  • 10 Hours per month for 3 months in advice from each of us
  • Promotion through Tim’s podcast, and my blog/social media.

Tim and I both have MBAs (his from Wharton, mine from Kellogg), and a combined 20+ years of business experience, so we should be able to help you with lots of facets of your business. However, we aren’t building these companies for you, we’re just here for guidance, so don’t expect us to get our hands dirty on these ideas, these are YOUR ideas. We aren’t taking any ownership, merely offering a loan to get started. This loan we expect you to repay via earnings from the business.

[ecko_button color=”orange” size=”small” url=”″]Apply for the challenge here[/ecko_button]

How we choose someone is really a matter of who we think can benefit from our guidance more than anything. We promise your idea is not going to be published. However if 2 or more of you submit similar ideas, we will likely introduce you to each other, as that can probably benefit you more than competing.

Don’t forget to check out Tim’s podcast

Things I’ve been thinking about lately

So much stuff has been going on lately in our country and our world lately that has been on my mind. Since this site is effectively my personal soap box, I figured I should use it in such a fashion. One of my goals this year was to write more, so this platform will become my medium in which to do so. Over the next few months, you’ll be seeing more and more of my personal opinions and views on subjects ranging from business to life to food to society and anything in between.

Some of the topics that seem to be on my mind the most lately are the following:

  • Inclusion (political, societal, and economic)
  • Economics (both macro and micro)
  • Politics (what is going on with our country lately??)
  • Strategy (business, marketing, operations, and more)
  • Value (how it relates to business)
  • Performance (individual performance on a physical and mental level)
  • Systems & frameworks (adding more structure to my life)
  • Food & Wine (experimentation and understanding the science of cooking better)
  • Books & learning (I’ve been consuming so many books lately, I feel the need to share what my takeaways are)

Lots of these things will be as much about me sharing my views as they will be asking questions so I can learn more.


Leveling Up, An MBA Retrospective

Two years ago I embarked on a journey to get my MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. I’m happy to say I officially completed the program, and survived relatively unscathed. A lot of my friends from outside of Kellogg asked me about my experience so I figured I would try to distill my thoughts on the experience as succinctly as possible.

Why I thought I wanted to get an MBA.

My original thesis was that I wanted to build a network of people with more experience than me, sharpen my business skills, and get another credential. I can say I truly enjoyed myself while managing to learn a lot along the way. I had fully intended to write articles about how the MBA experience applies to startup life, I just ended up being too busy. I did write up a bit of my experience halfway through for the Kellogg student blog, which you can read here .

What I learned from my MBA

Throughout the two years of the program, we took classes on everything from accounting, to finance, to leadership, to operations, to negotiations, and more. Despite some classes being completely foreign to me, and some areas where I was already very familiar with, I did learn something in every class.

I learned about the right way and wrong way to manage balance sheets and other accounting concepts.

I learned about how and why brands market to us the way they do (hint: we’re all super gullible).

I learned about how the economy works, and what statistics really matter when discussing the world economy.

Oh yeah, and I learned about statistics. Wonderfully entertaining statistics /sarcasm

I learned about operational efficiencies, and bottlenecks, and throughput (on of my favorite topics).

I experienced Asia, TWICE! First getting to know Hong Kong and how Asian consumers behave and how deals get done in China, and later diving into India’s rich and amazing culture. (Tons of upcoming posts on India and China)

I learned about negotiating. Specifically concepts like BATNA and ZOPA (which helped me save thousands of dollars on 2 car purchases – instant ROI 😉 ).

What I really learned though, was it was all about people. Making relationships, building teams, working together, and making things happen. Good businesses are about their people first. If you can figure out the people component of a business, the rest falls together. Building, leading, and managing teams the right way are the only way you’ll succeed in business.

What am I going to do next?

I keep getting asked that question over and over. Long term, hopefully I can leverage the knowledge and network Kellogg gave me to do hugely impactful stuff. In the short term I plan on focusing more on my startup SimCase, which is trying to disrupt the higher ed marketplace, and Infinimedia, which has been building logistics solutions for over 10 years now. For now I’m happy to have made such great friends, a new family even, and to have learned so much from so many great people.

I’m happy to answer any and all questions you might have about the EMBA program at Kellogg in the comments.