I, Kauffman Labs mogul. The biggest publisher in Asia

kauffman entrepreneurshipMANILA (17 August) - The subject of the email was “Last call for the Kauffman Labs Education Ventures Program” and as a teacher once and still at heart at 69, I was intrigued. You are never too old to be intrigued.

These words of Kauffman Labs caught my eye:

Interested in applying for the Kauffman Labs Education Ventures Program? Listen in on the final international teleconference to learn more about the program and ask questions. Wednesday, August 18, 2010 at 1:30 p.m. CDT/2:30 p.m. EDT

Kauffman Labs for Enterprise Creation, an initiative of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, is searching for aspiring founders to launch high-growth, scalable companies in the education market. Through an open application process available to anyone over the age of eighteen with a transformative idea, Kauffman Labs will identify up to twenty entrepreneurial concepts for the education market and work with the aspiring founders to teach them how to establish their organizations.

Those words “aspiring founders” and “to launch high-growth, scalable companies” were enough to excite old me. Never mind that it will be a tight competition for the 20 Kauffman-assisted entrepreneurial places. No venture, no victory.

I clicked on the link Education Ventures Program application (kauffman.org) and it turns out to be the “Education Ventures Program Application Site” of Kauffman Labs. It said, among other things, that before anything else, I should “take the time to read the entire application” in PDF form. “That way, you’ll better understand eligibility requirements and information needed for specific elements, such as the venture section and recommendations.” I downloaded the PDF titled “Kauffman Labs Education Ventures Program Application Questions” that contains the entire application (minus the blanks), with background information and instructions on what to do to send out an acceptable application. I copied the text to Word 2010; it came up to 1688 words. Why am I counting words? The application requires this skill, again and again, as you will note a little later. Sometimes, counting words count.

Part 1 called for the “Lead Applicant’s Contact Information” - name, street address, apartment unit #, City, state, zip code, phone, mobile phone, email address, citizenship (US citizen, permanent resident, other). “How did you learn about the Kauffman Labs Education Ventures Program?” I learned by subscribing to the Foundation Center email last year yet. They also serve who only stand and wait for email.

Part 2 called for the “Applicant(s) Demographic Information” - age, place of birth, gender, race / ethnicity. Done!

Part 3 called for information “About Your Venture” with these instructions: “Briefly describe your plans, keeping your description non-confidential, For example, if you have a name for the venture, tell us what it is. But do not disclose potentially patentable information. Describe the problem you are trying to solve and why it is important. Tell us what you want to do to change the world. Tell us why. And tell us how you intend to do it. (up to 150 words)”

I want to change the world now that I’ve changed me.

It took me probably 3 hours to write, rewrite, tighten, and lighten what I wanted to say. Finally, I came up with this, exactly 150 words - Word 2010 counts words for me, automatically - I just select the text and read the count at the bottom of the window. I’m reproducing exactly the original, except that I changed the name of my venture and my slogan to keep them secret:

Problem #1: Unfriendly software
Assuming Word 2003: You want to use the PC but it doesn’t speak your English. Really. Writing a speech? FILE stares you in the face. Writing a story? INSERT looks back at you wide-eyed. Writing a book? EDIT looks askance. Writing a review? TOOLS has the quizzical look. Writing a lecture? FORMAT challenges you to decipher code. Getting out fast, opening WINDOW doesn’t help. Need help now? HELP wants to ask the Internet people first!
Solution #1: Make F3 (Autotext) The Ultimate Help. Any questions?
Problem #2: Thinker's Block
Using unfriendly software, how do you: Unblock your mind to become creative? Search the Internet? Organize chaotic notes? Create outlines that beg for logic? Add materials without confusing yourself? Rewrite without crying?
Solution #2: Learn “Creativity Without Tears” from The Old World Master with his New World Promise: “The Word To Love, Word To Enjoy”

After those couple of hours of struggle, I just love those lines above. Note that I’m talking of Word 2003; Word 2010 is a lot more problematic, but Word 2003 is funnier, as you can tell.

If you don’t know Word 2003’s F3, you hardly know anything about the previous versions: Word 1997, Word 2000, Word XP/2002 - they all had F3. (And Word 2010 still has the old F3 - it’s the genius little tool in Microsoft Word, except F4 of course.)

Kauffman Labs: “Please provide an example of a problem or situation related to your business or technology concept that you approached creatively. How will it change lives? Did it require critical thinking? Persistence? Consider this your opportunity to demonstrate your innovative and entrepreneurial passion and potential. (up to 250 words)”

This took me less time, only about 1 hour, much of the time spent trying to come up with less detail but enough information to tell the story required. I came up with this (exactly 250 words):

The Philippine Journal of Crop Science was behind 9 full issues in 2005. I applied as Editor in Chief (the only position the publisher, Crop Science Society of the Philippines could afford). As Editor for other publications for the last 30 years (at that time), I knew their need was five-fold: (1) enough papers to publish, (2) quality-conscious editing, (3) persistent, repetitive copyreading and proofreading, (4) faster & efficient reviewing, and (5) desktop publishing knowledge that delivers the goods quick. A mammoth task. Critical thinking: To hasten the whole publishing process, I knew it had to be tightly managed - and if you want it done right, you have to do it yourself. So I did it myself: I edited, proofread, copyread, and did all the desktop publishing stuff, reading each manuscript at least 5 times word for word while editing and rewriting as necessary, formatting & inserting tables as if they were images, aligning the texts in two columns on a page perfectly, typing in the running titles and page number etc. (My PhD friend took care of soliciting papers and having them reviewed ASAP.) Creative thinking: From manuscript to camera-ready pages, I used as desktop publisher Word 2002 in 2003, and Word 2003 in 2004, when I made the journal up-to-date. In 2007, I put the journal in the elite list of ISI Web of Knowledge: up-to-date, well-edited, relevant. Word by Microsoft is a high-end word processor; where there’s a high will, there’s a high way with Word.

I doubt that any other publisher in the world has used Word 2002 (or any other version) exclusively as his desktop publishing program like I did for all those 6 years I edited that journal. And no, I’m not a publisher; I’m a book writer, editor, blogger, and a regular correspondent of the American Chronicle.

Kauffman Labs: “Kauffman Labs seeks to transform aspiring entrepreneurs into founders. Describe what being a founder means to you (or your team). How do you see yourself growing and building your company? What role will you (and/or your co-founders) have in the company? CEO, COO, CTO, CFO? Will you create a new C-level title? What traits and skills do you/your team (members) have that make you a strong founder/team? What skills do you want to develop so you can be a better founder(s)? (up to 200 words if you’re a solo founder)”

I had these tentative lines that I was going to improve in the next round of revision (148 words - I changed my original come-on in the text to “creativity without tears”):

Being a founder means the one having the great idea, not necessarily the one implementing it. I see myself as the great creative spirit as the company grows in quality and quantity. Specifically, I see myself as CoB (Chairman of the Board) for the managing company and the CEO of one of many spin-off companies, those companies run according to the principles of creativity that I know and others perhaps I would discover from hereon, even competing against each other in being user-friendly. Creativity without tears - anytime, anywhere, preferably with a PC, preferably with Internet connection. I am very creative, but I know enough to get me team players and any number of subordinates who can say No to my ideas with smiles on their faces. I have to learn to be a team player, and to inspire others to higher goals without bearing hard on them

Kauffman Labs: “What is your target market and its size? What percentage of that market has a demonstrated need for your product/service? Describe the person who would buy your product or service. Would the person buying it be the same person who uses it? If not, describe the person who would use it. (up to 100 words)”

I had these words, not final (26 words more than 100):

25% of the world out there: students (college, MS, PhD), journalists (reporters, columnists), other mass media (talk show hosts, scriptwriters), authors of books, ghostwriters, lecturers, professors, proposal makers, preachers, homebodies, seniors. Easy Writer is good for them all. Individual users themselves and institutions who use the desktop computer (Windows-based) can buy and make good use of Easy Writer as a way to master Word 2003, Word 2007 or Word 2010 painlessly. As of July 2010, Word 2007 (bundled in Office 2007) had sold 10 million copies. (I couldn’t get data for Word 2003.) If you combine users of Word 2003, Word 2007 and Word 2010 (considering overlaps or same users), you have a very conservative 10 million target clients. 25% of that is 2.5 million people.

Kauffman Labs: “Where do you see yourself or your team in five years? How do you envision your career(s) unfolding? (up to 50 words)”

I had this (46 words):

A very rich man and very happy with the thoughts that, at last, (1) the world has demonstrated that the Man is The Master of the Machine, and (2) creativity without tears is the most delightful thing that happened to Planet Earth since writing was invented.

Kauffman Labs: “Where do you see your company in five years? In ten years? What is your vision? What could this enterprise become? (up to 50 words)”

I had these 50 words:

Vision: “The Word To Love, Word To Enjoy.” For Word users. In 5 years, my company will have (1) 50 franchises in the United States, Asia, Africa, and Europe; (2) a word processor invented by users for users. In 10 years, my company will be the biggest publisher in Asia.

Did you see that? “In 10 years, my company will be the biggest publisher in Asia.” If you must dream, you must dream The Impossible Dream.

Part 4 called for a “Summary of Applicant’s Entrepreneurial and Innovation Experience. We want to know what drives you. What brought you to this point in your life, this ambition to transform lives? We want the facts, and the story behind them.” It asked for a “biographical summary” summed up in “no more than 300 words.” This is what I wrote (exactly 300 words):

I am a farmer’s son from Asingan, Pangasinan, Central Luzon, Philippines. I studied in a private high school there, the best at that time. When I was 3rd or 4th Year, I discovered my talent in writing and vowed to be the best.
Studying at the College of Agriculture of the University of the Philippines, I became the Tagalog Editor of our student newspaper; I am not Tagalog but Ilocano, but I had been reading a lot of Tagalog publications in high school. In college, I got kicked out, but I got reinstated. I finished my Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, major in Agricultural Education in 1965 and passed the Teacher’s Exam. In 1966 I suffered a near-nervous breakdown, and the mild anxiety continued for many years. In 1968, I taught at the Xavier University in Mindanao, creating my own syllabi for the courses I taught. In 1974, I became a copywriter for Pacifica Publicity Bureau in Manila. In 1975, I became the Chief Information Officer of the Forest Research Institute (FORI) and in 5-1/2 years, with publications, I transformed FORI from unknown to popular.
In 1985, I learned to use the personal computer (WordStar). I graduated to Microsoft Word in 1987 and never left. (Currently, I’m using Word 2010.) In 1991, I returned to the fold of the Roman Catholic Church. In 2005, I became Editor in Chief of the Philippine Journal of Crop Science and, working as a one-man band, including desktop publishing (using Microsoft Word). I made that journal up-to-date from being late 9 issues, and world-class (ISI Web of Knowledge).
I have been desktop-publishing my own books, a total of 5 now. An inveterate blogger, I write regularly for the American Chronicle. I am 69 years old, married and have 12 children, all grown up now.

I wanted to put in the lines below because they do describe me, as I could delete some of the other lines above, but these lines didn’t seem to fit in:

Like Henry David Thoreau, I like to simplify; like George Bernard Shaw, I like to be a bit humorous and deep; like Ernest Hemingway, I like to use the active voice and simple verbs; like Norman Mailer, I like to narrate news as if it were drama; like the New Yorker, I like to meander even in my essays.

I was still going to rewrite it all in some places, but I was happy with my overall response, to appear in the actual online application form.

I worked on my draft application up to about 2200 hours and then went to bed.

That was yesterday, 17 August Manila; this morning, 18 August, I decided to check the requirements. The entries on “Citizenship” caught my eye:

“US Citizen / Permanent Resident / Other
*NOTE: Proof of US citizenship or legal US residency will be required for applicants who are selected as program participants. Applicants must be legally in the United States. The Kauffman Foundation will not sponsor Visas for this program.”

Did you note the footnote? I didn’t the first time. About citizenship, what I noticed the first time was “Other” and it told me I didn’t have to be a US citizen or a permanent resident to apply. What I failed to notice was that the “Note” was very firm: “Proof of US citizenship or legal US residency will be required for applicants who are selected as program participants.”

So, this morning, after a hard day’s night, I woke up to the realization that my dream of empire burst like a balloon when I opened my eyes and began to see clearly, not as in a glass, darkly. So I regret to inform you that I will never be a Kauffman mogul, will never be the biggest publisher in Asia.

Some impossible dreams turn out to be impossible really.
Now, what is God telling me this time?
Not, I’m sure, “Before you start dreaming, please read the fine print.”
Instead, God is saying,
“Before you start dreaming, make sure you read the footnote.”

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