The Not-too-Soon Rise of the Purpose-Driven Entrepreneur

Greetings from Washington, D.C., where on Tuesday voters in our tony Virginia suburbs cast “Super Tuesday” presidential primary election ballots. Virginia’s voters — especially those in Northern Virginia — are often described by the within-the-Beltway pundit class as the-most well educated and issue-informed in the U.S.

But many showed up to vote in a purple rage, allowing their ids to (trump) reason. Their choice left political observers dumbfounded, for long-standing expectations of candidate appeal — in an affluent and well-educated state electorate — no longer seem to apply.

Last night, the Republican Party victor in Virginia and several other states, real estate developer and entrepreneur Donald J. Trump, staged from his Palm Beach, Florida (Mara Lago) estate an ersatz White House-presser to celebrate his Super Tuesday wins, but also to sear into our cerebral cortices the invincibility-supporting optic of his choosing. Mr. Trump’s bombast, and fervent disrespect of rival candidates and anyone who challenges him (like persistent campaign reporters), was on full display. He even took swipes at his one-time rival and current supporter, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Mr. Christie, who — on the stage behind Trump — played the role of Vice President. But, he looked dazed and confused.

Be careful what you wish for, Governor Christie.

Ten years, ago producer Mike Judge released his film “Idiocracy,” a screwball-comic take on a dystopian future where idiots rule the world.

From The Daily Beast:

“It’s a movie now,” wrote one reviewer of Mike Judge’s Idiocracy (2006), “but in ten years it will be a historical documentary.” Wake up, time travelers. The year 2016 is here, and several days ago — as reported in Entertainment Weekly and elsewhere — Idiocracy’s co-writer Etan Cohen tweeted that he “never expected #idiocracy to become a documentary.” The end times are right on schedule.

Mr. Trump’s old school form of entrepreneurism is the love-child of famed circus impresario Phineas T. (P.T.) Barnum. In describing Mr. Barnum’s modus operandi, a 19th Century social critic, David Hannum, famously roared:

“There’s a sucker born every minute.”

As much as Barnum and Trump agreed with the sentiment, and likely would have claimed it, neither uttered (the words). But we digress.

We have reported that 2016 will be a revolutionary year. Revolution is present in our politics, but it is also apparent in our efforts to counter escalating climate change and income disparity.

We entrepreneurs who set out to solve the vexing problems of people and the planet with our knowledge, skill, and experience are purpose-driven. 2016 marks the not-too-soon rise of the Purpose-Driven Entrepreneur.

When so many professional work assignments in our great green business landscape go unfilled, it remains an opportunity for our talent — passed over for work in such assignments — to ambitiously pursue their goals as entrepreneurs.

Purpose-driven entrepreneurs shoulder tremendous risk — most of it financial — to turn their bold visions for environmental stewardship, resource sustainability, and societal improvement — into successful outcomes. When they succeed, they build enterprises that support local communities through tax revenue and job creation.

Today’s purpose-driven entrepreneurs accept the added role of activist, as well; they work hard to support the environment and people, and to create a level-playing field so that clean innovations complete effectively with mature, and often polluting industries.

Entrepreneurism in any growing field is not for the faint of heart. One must become impervious to rejection, and turn every setback into an opportunity to try again, succeed, and scale.

If you are up to the challenge of starting your own company or organization, then do seek out resources in your community — such as clean tech accelerators — to help turn that vision into reality. Your hard work, persistence, and purpose-driven activism shall be rewarded many times over.

In 2016, we believe reason will trump anger and dissonance.

And that our best days lie ahead.

DAN SMOLEN is author of Tailoring the Green Suit: Empowering Yourself for an Executive Career in the New Green Economy and member of Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2). He is also Founder and Managing Director of The Green Suits, LLC, which provides talent recruitment, workforce planning, and success management to green business and social good enterprises.

Photo credits: Purpose-driven entrepreneur, Getty Images; Donald Trump/Chris Christie press conference (3/1/2016),; Idiocracy (2006), Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; Phineas T. Barnum,

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