Heartbleed security vulnerability

I hadn’t been paying much attention to the Heartbleed vulnerability, but a colleague talked me through it and I thought I’d share what I learned.

By way of background, Mashable calls the Heartbleed bug “one of the biggest security threats the Internet has ever seen.”

From what I understand, passwords may have been compromised for many of the Internet’s most popular services, including Facebook, Google, Yahoo, YouTube, Dropbox, etc. (full lists from Mashable and CNET).

Even though all of these site have now addressed the vulnerability, there is no way to know whether passwords have been stolen and, if they have, when your account might be hijacked.

So, to be safe:

  1. I changed my passwords on all of those services
  2. I enabled two-step verification wherever I could. All this means is that if I want to log in to my Gmail or Dropbox or whatever else from a new device, I will have to enter a code that will be sent by text to my phone.

Other hints, since finding where to change your passwords is a hassle:

  • For Google, click on the top-right (on your picture) and then click on Accounts and then Security
  • For Yahoo!, click on the gear in the top right and then on “Change Your Password” under “Sign in and Security”
  • For Facebook click on the little arrow next to the padlock on the top right, and then on Settings.
  • For Dropbox click on your name and then Settings and then Security

It’s worth the 5 minutes it takes to do this.  And since you probably have the day off today, you have the time to do it.

Posted in Heartbleed | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

The ties that bind us

I’m OK with grumpy and tough, with funny and jolly.

I’m OK with hard-edged and soft, warm and cool, clever and obtuse, quick and slow, brassy and classy. You can laugh or cry – or not – that’s all fine with me.

But kindness is something I can’t budge on.  We’ve all seen that someone who is nice in all the right ways to all the right people, and then her true colors come out when she thinks no one’s looking and she has nothing to lose.

A person who is consistently kind is a person with humility.  In being kind, no matter what, she chooses not to create separation by tearing others down.  Her kindness demonstrates respect.  It shows that she knows that she shares her humanity with everyone she interacts with.  It even shows confidence: by extending a hand to another, in ways big and small, whenever she can, she shows that she knows that raising others up doesn’t cost anything, doesn’t use up any scarce resource.

Kindness is abundance manifest.

Posted in Respect | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Death by a thousand (or 5) screens

At one of the entrances to Grand Central station, the MTA has erected a new screen with track times for upcoming trains. It’s great – brightly lit, easy to read from far away, it saves people from rushing and crowding around the miniscule 11 inch screen down the hall that must have been set up 30 years ago.

MTA 1_small

 

Oh, just one tiny problem. The screen also shows service updates for the subway, including for lines that are a 10 minute walk away.  Fine.

And it shows ads for Game of Thrones, presumably to pay the bills.

MTA 2_smallPlus, while they were at it, they threw in two public service announcements.

MTA 3 and 4

It’s easy to chuckle at this sort of thing, but only because it’s an extreme example of what happens every day – watering down the purpose of what we’re doing until it is unrecognizable and virtually useless.

In this case, the need the MTA is trying to meet is to to provide information to a person walking by a sign – she has 5 seconds to take in information.  What they ended up with is a sign that only displays the information she wants 20% of the time, and it takes 60 seconds to scroll through the five screens.

Sure, it might be harder for you to define the need you’re trying to meet (what could be simpler than getting a commuter her track information quickly?).  But how often do we refuse to hang on tight to the most important thing we are doing, letting a thousand well-wishers, plus a few folks with a totally different agenda, hijack our project and our message until it completely fails to deliver on its core promise?

Decide who you’re trying to please, where they will encounter your message, and what your non-negotiables are. And then have the courage and the conviction not to negotiate, and not to ask for input or approvals, on things that are non-negotiable.

Posted in compromise | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Maybe the dragon isn’t the problem

I just walked past a smiling blind woman – blond, straight hair, in her 30s and dressed for spring – walking down a crowded 5th Avenue street in rush hour. She and her golden lab guide dog were perfectly synchronized, and she was the picture of calm, serene confidence amidst the crush of people and traffic.

I wonder what it took for her to be able to do this – not just learning to walk with, communicate with, and trust her dog, but the courage and determination she’s showed at countless junctures in her life to get where she is today.

The thing about accomplishing great things is that it requires consistently making the decision to be brave, to show up, to overcome your own doubts and fears and the voices in your head. That fear is the dragon you have to slay each and every day.

The tricky part is that the dragon has allies. It needs them, because it knows that when you step into the arena, ready for pitched battle, it’s not hard for you to rev up your adrenaline, strap on your shield, and wield your sword for the big fight. The dragon fears that.

What is hard, though, is getting out of bed every morning to prepare for the fight. Here’s where the dragon’s secret allies come out: smiling cherubs with pointy horns hidden in their hair, cajoling you, teasing you, luring you into a stupor. “Do you really want to fight today?” “Think how dirty you’ll get, how tiring it will be.” “Things are fine the way they are now.” “Is it really worth it to put yourself out there?” “Stop rocking the boat.”

You ignore them, most days, but their chorus is seductive. If you let them, over time – months, even years – they douse the fire in your belly.

We can’t let that happen.

For those of you showing up in the arena every day, I offer you the choice to plug your ears to their Siren song.

And for those of you not yet showing up to fight, I implore you, at the least, to silence the peanut gallery commentary that saps others’ bravery and courage. If today isn’t your day to step into the arena, the amazing, powerful thing you can do is to seek out others’ moments of bravery, of insight, of courage, of grit and determination and moxie, and celebrate them.

If you see a flickering flame, protect it from the wind, add kindling to the fire until, eventually, it roars.

Because none of us actually believes that what we need in the world is less courage (or more pointy-headed cherubs).

Posted in Courage | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Interior – Zindua, Day

Every moment, every day, with every decision big and small you have the chance to blend in or to stand out, to tell your story or keep it to yourself.

Take Ken Oloo’s business card for example.  Ken is a photographer, a filmmaker and an Acumen East Africa Fellow who I just met last week in Nairobi.  In addition to his work globally as a photographer and filmmaker, Ken trains kids from the Nairobi slum of Kibera to tell their own story, using film and video.

Since Ken is a storyteller, his business card, naturally, tells that story.

ken_oloo_business card

Just a small thing, really, except of course it’s all the small things that add up to standing up and standing out.

That’s Ken with the big smile and the dreadlocks.

filamujuani

Posted in storytelling | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Tactics, tactics, tactics

“Tell me which lines to draw, which numbers to paint, which tool to use, which step comes next!”

“Help me find all the small places I can adjust, without changing me.”

No, no.

Changing you intentions, changing your mental model, these are the things that alter how you process information, the opportunities you see, your orientation to new people and new information.

The tools are just tools, and alone they have no leverage.

The hard bit is that you have to be willing to do the work.  The exciting piece is that when you do, it changes everything.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Give Impact Investing Time and Space to Develop

Note: this piece originally appeared on the HBR Blog.

Impact investing has captured the world’s imagination. Just six years after the Rockefeller Foundation coined the term, the sector is booming. An estimated 250 funds are actively raising capital in a market that the Global Impact Investing Network estimates at $25 billion. Giving Pledge members described impact investing as the “hottest topic” at their May 2012 meeting, and Prime Minister David Cameron extolled the potential of the sector at the most recent G8 summit.  Sir Ronald Cohen and HBS Professor William A. Sahlman describe impact investing as the new venture capital, implying that it will, in the next 5 to 10 years, make its way into mainstream financial portfolios, unlocking billions or trillions of dollars in new capital.

As this sector moves from the margins to the mainstream, it’s important to consider: What will it take for impact investing to reach its full potential?  This question is hard to answer because, in the midst of all of this excitement, there aren’t clear success markers for the sector.  Without those, the institutions managing the billions of sector dollars won’t be able accurately to assess the risks they are taking and, more important, the returns, both financial and social, they hope to generate.

Impact investing is not just a new, undiscovered corner of the investing world. It has the potential to join traditional investing and government aid and philanthropy as a third way to deploy capital to address social and environmental issues. A fully developed impact investing sector will incorporate the best features of markets—rigor and speed; quickly evolving business models; strong revenue models; and access to capital as ventures show signs of success—with the best features of government aid and philanthropy—serving unmet needs; reaching populations that are bypassed or exploited by the markets; investing in goods with positive externalities; and leveraging public subsidy to extend the reach of an intervention—to solve social problems.

Impact Investing_Time to Develop_1

Because impact investing really is something new, the old ways of assessing risk and return are not enough.  And yet, like a moth to a flame, those in the sector are endlessly drawn to discussions around what constitutes the “right” level of expected financial returns.  There is no single right answer to this question.  Under the broad umbrella of impact investments lie myriad sectors, asset types, and investment products, most of which still need to be developed and understood.  It looks something like this:

Impact Investing in 2014: Colorful, full of potential, and highly disorganized

Impact Investing_Time to Develop_2Note: Each circle represents a business and each color represents a business vertical (e.g. sanitation, housing, mobile banking).

To make sense of this kaleidoscope, three things need to happen.

First, impact investing needs time to develop. This is a nascent sector where entrepreneurs and investors are still figuring out business models, developing new financial products, and proving exit strategies and exit multiples, and only a handful of players are using agreed-upon metrics for assessing social impact.  Whether it’s solar lighting, mobile authentication, micro-insurance, mobile banking, drinking water, urban sanitation, low-income housing or primary health care, entrepreneurs need time to test, modify, and refine business models.  These entrepreneurs are looking for support from risk-seeking investors who have an appetite for failure, are willing to be pioneers, and who value the social returns they’re creating.

As the sector grows through this period of creative destruction, models that don’t work will die out, models that survive will attract copycats, operating costs will go down, and winners will rise to the top.  The sector will organize itself across the spectrum from philanthropy to investing, and the resulting clusters will demonstrate the differences in risk, financial returns, target customer, and social impact across the various sub-sectors of impact investing.

Impact Investing in the Future: Developed clusters across the spectrum

Impact Investing_Time to Develop_3

Second, in addition to time, the sector needs a framework to measure success, one that makes sense of the sector’s inherent diversity.  Akin to the Morningstar Style Box, such a framework would allow an investor to easily identify best-in-class social and financial performance across and within the various sub-sectors of impact investing.

Third, the sector needs practical, widely-adopted, and standardized tools to measure social impact.  This is easier to describe than it is to do.  Although investors value both financial and social return today, the sector only measures financial return well. The big, unspoken risk is that we’ll end up ranking and sorting impact funds by the only thing they can be ranked and sorted by – money – without assessing or valuing the different levels of social impact these funds have.

The future of impact investing depends on our ability to embrace what we’ve learned over the course of economic history: solving social issues requires both private and public capital, a combination of risk-seeking investors and incentives and subsidies from public actors to make it easier and more attractive to reach underserved segments of the population.  Hospitals, parks, educational systems, sanitation infrastructure, low-income housing — globally, risk-seeking investors build these solutions in partnership with the public sector, which plays its part to adjust incentives, act as a major customer, and provide subsidy where needed.

What the sector needs is enthusiasm about the future and patience around the time it will take to get there.  In traditional investing there is a premium on liquidity, low beta, and lower risk, all of which justify higher or lower returns. In impact investing, we need to find a way to place that same premium on social impact by valuing the public good being created – just like we do in early stage R&D in science, IT, health, and biotechnology. We allowed microfinance and the venture capital industry the time and space to develop over a few decades. Surely we can do the same for impact investing.

Posted in Impact investing | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment