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Photo source: Demotix.com

Over the past 10 years and due partly to the popularity of Facebook, there’s been a proliferation of social networks with each one struggling to differentiate itself from the others.The truth of the matter is very few of them have a clear differentiator.

As a consumer, I understand the question “How many more social networks do we need?” just like I often ask (with a ranting voice) “How many more singing and dancing reality TV shows do we need?” I also agree that we should be facilitating more offline activities and human interaction than encouraging people to live in virtual worlds.

So why the heck am I building another “social network”? #LetMeExplain.

First, when I look at the world I see land and water, not countries and borders (although the stamps on my passport often remind me otherwise). I see people, not races and tribes. I am totally blind when it comes to religion, and if I could, I’d learn every single language in the world.

In simpler terms, I see the world as one big room and we’re all in it. We’ve been conditioned to build barriers around ourselves and to think there’s a lot that’s different between us. We are so close, yet so far. This is a genuine problem and I think the best way to solve it given our current technologies is through social networks. Social networks bridge the gap between countries, people, and cultures. They can be a vehicle upon which a great amount of good can be accomplished as well as be a total waste of time.

Second, I wholeheartedly agree with the following thought by David Steindl-Rast during his TED Speech:

“If you’re grateful, you’re not fearful. If you’re not fearful, you’re not violent. If you’re grateful, you act out of sense of enough and not out of sense of scarcity and you’re willing to share. If you’re grateful, you’re enjoying the differences between people and you’re respectful to everybody and that changes this power pyramid under which we live. It doesn’t make for equality but it makes for equal respect and that is the important thing.

The future of the world will be a network, not a pyramid, not a pyramid turned upside down. The revolution of which I’m speaking is a non-violent revolution and it’s so revolutionary that it even revolutionizes the concept of a revolution because the normal revolution is one where the power pyramid is turned upside down and those who were at the bottom are now at the top and they are doing exactly the same thing that the other ones did before.”

Our vision with Miigle is to build a social network that always inspires people to DREAM and DO amazing things. Actually, calling Miigle a social network is a bit of an oversimplification. Miigle is really social tool around which we are building a community. What the Miigle tool does is facilitate the discovery, connection, and engagement between ideas and people interested in fostering them.

Sure, we’ll probably never be as sexy as Instagram, Snapchat or Pinterest but unlike them we add a quantifiable value to your life which is that we allow you to create economic opportunities for yourself with your own ideas. It is my personal belief that there are few things more satisfying than to bring an idea to life either alone or by working with others, to follow its journey, and make a living doing something you love. That is the power of Miigle.

In the innovation space, there’s a multitude of crowdfunding platforms, which in their own rights provide great services to their members but is there not more to developing an idea than just the money? What about people who may have great ideas and lack the direction or emotional support to move forward? Shouldn’t they be valued in our society. Our social network is for them.

There are millions of brilliant people with great talent and knowledge but not enough money to be considered “accredited investors”, could they not provide any intellectual value to a project they found interesting? Not only do I think they could, but they already do so everyday but because their contribution is not monetary we don’t pay attention. Our social network is for them too.

Miigle is more than just a social network, we are a social innovation platform – a global ecosystem for people hungry to connect, collaborate, learn, and showcase their innovations.

We think everyone can have a role to play in the human innovation equation and we want to give them an opportunity to do so.

We don’t care if you’re working on your first startup or are a serial entrepreneur.

We don’t care if your bank account is not noteworthy or you’re the biggest angel investor in the world.

We don’t care if you live in Silicon Valley or Steelville, Missouri.

We don’t care if you went to Harvard or never went to college at all.

We only care that you’re passionate about seeing great products and services come to life, whether the founders are in the garage next door or a hut in the middle of nowhere. We boldly applaud the fact that you’re unique and embrace your diversity. Our social network is for you.

There are big structural changes happening in the world today, led by globalization, the Internet and overpopulation – an increasing number of people will willingly (or not) turn to their own ideas to make a living and create better economic opportunities for themselves and their communities. The good old formula of graduating college, finding a job, and retiring 40 years later with a 401K plan to live comfortably for the rest of our lives is fading quickly than seemingly most people are aware. Our social network is for those who are no longer asleep and are doing something about it.

We are Miigle, we are live, and we are hell-bent on making your lives easier.

Luc Berlin, CEO at Miigle.com

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I’d like to think that it’s not by simple coincidence that the last post on my blog, which is nearly a year old, is about a young boy who’s fascinated me, brought me to tears, and most importantly fueled my personal motivation about improving how people innovate.

This young boy is Kelvin Doe and he’s from Sierra Leone. My serendipitous relationship with Sierra Leone started nearly a decade ago when I was introduced to their civil war through the hidden lenses of an undercover journalist.

In one of the scenes, a late teen is stopped by a group of men dressed in military uniforms and asked if he’d been part of the street kids shooting at them. The boy answers in Krio (a local language – pidgin english) that he wasn’t shooting anyone. If my memory serves me well, the men proceed to ask him what he was doing outside and he answers that he is out looking for some food. After a few more back and forth between them, they tell him to walk away and as he turns around to leave, one of the men pulls his machine gun and shoots him in the back. I can play that scene over and over in my head until I’m 90 years old and it’ll still feel like it was yesterday. I was scarred for life.

I was so moved by that image that I began writing a fictional novel about a young boy from Liberia who travels to Sierra Leone looking for his father only to get dragged into the war as a Child Soldier.

My relationship with Sierra Leone didn’t end there. A few years later I was approached by a producer to do a voiceover for the documentary Blood Diamonds by the History Channel. Diamonds from Sierra Leone have been called “Blood Diamonds” because their sale had been used to partly finance the decade long war that consumed the country. I accepted, of course.

Then earlier this year, I stumbled upon Kelvin’s story. I was moved to tears, not tears of sorrow but tears of hope. I’d been investing sweat, blood, money, and sleepless nights on Miigle for 2 years and while watching the video about Kelvin, I knew I’d found my purpose in life.

It was all worth it.

Yesterday, I got to borrow Kelvin’s story and shared it as part of my pitch for the NewMe Accelerator program LA Popup during Google for Entrepreneurs Week. Along with me was Josh Fester, my co-founding partner and CTO of Miigle. It was our first time ever introducing Miigle to an audience. We’d been working tirelessly for this moment and it was the opportunity we’d been looking for. I was a bit nervous but I knew I had to focus on the bigger picture – this wasn’t about me – this was about Kelvin and the millions of brilliant entrepreneurs here in the US and around the world who have the ideas and the will but are falling short in resources (intellectual, practical, financial, and even emotional) and are struggling to find the right people to help them pull through. THAT’S the core problem Miigle fixes.

After the pitch, the feedback from people in the audience and other entrepreneurs pitching was heartwarming. It made the past two years some of the best in my life.

I look forward to the next 60, hopefully. I can tell you one thing for sure, I’m ready.

A HUGE thanks to my friend Miyishia Slay for informing about the NewMe event as well as a LOUD SHOUT to William Ruiz, Miigle’s Director of Business and Legal Affairs who couldn’t be there with us!

Below is my 2 minutes pitch in its entirety.

Miigle Pitch – NewMe LA Popup

Meet Kelvin, he’s from Sierra Leone, a country ravaged by war for 10 years. At the age of 13, Kelvin wanted to become a radio DJ to give a voice to his community, but he couldn’t afford a radio. So he built one from trashed electronics he found on the streets.

Kelvin’s story touched the heart of a visiting MIT student who later became his mentor.

Hi I’m Luc Berlin. I’m a cofounder of Miigle and our mission is to simplify how people innovate.

Building a startup is exciting but the process sucks for most entrepreneurs because it’s difficult for them to connect with the right people for help.

And the solution to that is Miigle – a web platform that automates the connection between startups, entrepreneurs and people interested to help.

All it takes is 5 mins to create and post your project then Miigle automatically introduces it to people most likely to contribute whatever resources you need. We also provide a marketplace and analytics to measure your impact.

Our initial revenue streams are a subscription model at $20/year and advertising.

Miigle matters because there’re over 400 million entrepreneurs in the world and according to Gartner the social innovation industry will be worth $7 billion in 2 years.

Unlike AngelList and Kickstarter, Miigle allows you to proactively crowdsource different resources and market your products on the same platform.

Miigle will generate $67M in our first 3 years and will be profitable in each one.

Our team consists of a MBA Grad, a Computer Nerd and a Juris Doctor – for a combined 25 years of experience.

We’re very excited to be launching our MVP this month and are seeking $100K to invest in our technology and introductions to potential advisors.

So help us, give a fighting chance to entrepreneurs around the world, from people in this room to children like Kelvin.

Thank you.

When I think of the potential of Miigle, I see people like Kelvin Doe and millions like him all over the world. I think of the abundance of sheer brilliance that most of us will never witness. I think of mind blowing ideas that unfortunately die unnoticed. I think of us and how we can work together to make the world a better place with the power of our ideas.

Innovate my friends, innovate. The world belongs to you.

The Law of Diffusion of Innovation, first studied by French sociologist Gabriel Tarde and popularized by Professor Everett Rogers in his 1962 book Diffusion of Innovationsstates that 2.5% of the population are Innovators, 13.5% are Early Adopters, 34% are Early Majority, 34% are Late Majority, 16% are Laggards.

Which one best fits you? Be honest.

Personally, I tend to fall in between the two extremes depending on the subject matter.

 

Chart: The Law of Diffusion of Innovation

Chart: The Law of Diffusion of Innovation

The Southern California Story Networking Event Poster

The Southern California Story Networking Event

This part Thursday, I was honored to be a guest speaker at a great networking event The Southern California  Story – A Narrative of Successful Networkers and Entrepreneurs alongside networking expert Mark Sackett. As I contemplated how to position my speech, I decided to look at my own networking experience and how my affinity towards EVERYTHING international has helped me make amazing professional and personal connections.

I focused my speech on the importance of networking beyond just around-the-corner Meetup events but really looking at the entire world as a networking community. As an entrepreneur and an avid traveler, I’ve personally benefited from this greatly. I explained how the world is changing and as more of us are “forced” (this is not a bad thing) to turn to our own creativity to create better economic opportunities for ourselves, many of the relationships we’ll need to foster to help us succeed will be with people not from our neighborhoods, cities, country, or even continents.

I have already experienced it with my startup Miigle, which is a global social network for established and aspiring entrepreneurs, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. It’s one of the big reasons why I created Miigle in the first place. I wanted to empower people to materialize their ingenuity and I believed making it easier for people to connect globally based on their interests would be a great catalyst.

As a final take-away networking is extremely important but my recommendation is to find ways to expand those networks globally. The experiences you’ll gain will be invaluable and as the world continues to change you’ll find yourself at the forefront of it all. It’s a great feeling – Trust Me!

Thank you Helene Vo and Albert Qian for inviting me to your event!

Stay Driven.

I just got done watching “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead”, an inspiring documentary by “Aussie” Joe Cross as he takes us through his challenge of fighting obesity and the diseases it has brought upon him by switching to a Fruit and Veggie diet for 60 days! Joe drives across America chronicling his adventure and strangers’ perceptions about eating healthy or adopting a veggie fruit diet. Yes, you guessed right most people weren’t fans! However, it doesn’t mean they didn’t appreciate it! During his journey, Joe meets Phil, a seriously obese truck driver with whom he develops a friendship. That encounter will lead to one of the most fascinating transformation a human being can go through – finding happiness and inspiring others. Visit www.fatsickandnearlydead.com to watch a preview and learn how you can download or stream the full video.

Barely two centuries after the Industrial Revolution, another revolution of innovative ideas is sweeping the globe, fueled primarily by a seemingly never-ending resource called the Internet.  Long gone are the days of the steam engine that catapulted Western Europe, most specifically Great Britain’s manufacturing dominance in the 18th and 19th centuries and introduced mankind to the power of coal. Now the world is welcoming a new era, one of Cloud Computing (a technology of which I am particular fond), Mobile Apps, and Social Media. Like most people around the world, I love the Internet. The Internet pays for my mortgage, my food, my car, my clothes, my travels, and all the other things I am privileged to enjoy in my life. But most importantly, I love the Internet because of the wealth of information it possesses, good or bad, and because it allows me to express my thoughts like on this blog and share them with the world without incurring any financial cost (technically not true … I pay for my domain). What would have been my options 15 years ago? Pretty much, write a book.  However, unlike many people I see a very dangerous side to the Internet. A danger that goes well beyond online child molesters, identity frauds, and hate sites. I see husbands and fathers unable to provide for their family because they lost their job and its never coming back because a computer can do it faster and probably better. I see single mothers drowning in sleepless nights wondering what to do next so their children don’t spend another night starving. Two months ago, that job at a call center was enough to make ends meet but then came VoIP. Yes, I see a new kind of poverty. One might say, “Well why don’t they go learn something else? How about nursing? We always need nurses?” That latter question actually addresses another fundamental lapse in our society but let’s save it for another post. Shall we? Let’s go back to the idea that people who lose their job can easily retrain for something else. That held true 30 or 20 years ago but not anymore. The 21st century shall be remembered as one of constant shift – the world around us just keeps moving faster and most of us will not catch up. That’s life? Perhaps.

The beauty of the Industrial Revolution was that it happened at a time when it was really needed. The world’s demand for manufactured goods was higher than what was being supplied and therefore companies needed a way to increase output. The raw material being exploited from colonies was abundant and practically free (excluding lives lost from the oppressive regimes of colonization). So although a man had lost his job to a coal-ingesting machine he was merely assigned different responsibilities, which he learned while on the job, earning the same if not a higher salary because productivity was still lagging. This is how the Middle Class was built. Technological Revolution, brought by the Internet, in the other hand is a bit more complicated. The beauty of the Internet, I believe, has been lowering the barrier of entry into the playing field for non-aristocrats and slashing to non-existing levels the transaction costs that had successfully kept people from achieving gigantic leaps through the social strata. Consequently, brilliant regular folks came up with revolutionary technological ideas, mainly around automation, that allowed them to gain a considerable amount of wealth, cash that is, and the social status that comes along with it. This at the expense of not-so brilliant regular folks who have lost their jobs and are having a hard time finding one that’s not already being done by a computer. Ironically, if there’s a part of the world that stands from truly reaping the benefits of the Internet it is the developing world. Indeed, as companies in the developed world turn away from increasingly saturated markets, the developing (third) world will once again carry the prosperity of the modern civilization on its shoulders.

So what’s next? As you might have already heard, artificial intelligence has found its way to cars and soon you’ll finally be able to nap on your return to LA from that crazy Vegas weekend! Thank you Google!

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