USS Social Enterprise, part 4: Money + Funding


I never thought I’d say it, but thank Vulcan for Spock and his spreadsheets. Since the testing on Piloti, he’s been beavering away on our pricing to see what we should charge to sustain the work (and build a bit of a war chest). He’s built our core costs, our salaries and overheads, into the unit cost, which is useful…but a bit scary, especially the heat, light and medicine here on board. I’ve had to have a pretty stern word with Scotty about our fuel costs: those dilithium crystals don’t come cheap, so he’s going to look into some renewable options that might help cut our costs. And Bones has agreed to turn off the sick-bay lights at night, and do more preventative, health and fitness work (much cheaper than treating illnesses later on with that fancy medical gadgetry of his). He’s less than delighted about the whole thing, needless to say.

Spock’s in his element, though, and it’s all good. I’ve been able to go into meetings with various potential customers, and it least if I’ve cut a few deals, I know what I’m cutting from. A relationship I’d been nurturing back at Starfleet came through as well with some central investment: it was down to a mix of great research from Uhura on what they normally fund, a stellar (no pun intended) application from Sulu, credible financials from Spock, and a fair dollop of the old James Tiberius charm. They liked the work we’d done on Piloti (and Spock’s data), and were willing to take a punt on us. Curiously, I think my honesty with them about what had gone well and what had gone badly meant they trusted us more; and they loved the stories I told that brought the work alive.

Great news for everyone: I even bought Bones a bottle of whisky to cheer him up. Spock turned down a wee dram in celebration, preferring instead to start looking for more funding and investment opportunities. Coloured spreadsheet-arama. I’ve got a few more leads that I’m pursuing more directly as well: it’s all about the face-to-face and a bit of eyelash fluttering.

Ciao for now.

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USS Social Enterprise, part 3: Testing


Everything to date has been a bit hands-off for me thus far. I’m much more of a “set phasers to stun and let’s go” type-of-guy, so have been keen to get my hands dirty and lead the team into action. What with the mission agreed and clear (Sulu has had everyone memorising it), and research done, it’s finally time to do some work. Spock was gibbering on about wanting to perfect the business plan; I get his pointy-eared point, but I told him that our work was going to exist in the real world not on the page, so ultimately it would live or die by what we did out there.

So Scotty got the power going and Chekov beamed us down to a planet called Piloti in the galaxy we were passing through. Handily, it seemed to be the perfect size and demographic to do a mapping and protection exercise with: nice choice, though I say myself. The investigation bit went well, aside from the random guy in a red jumper (was it Steve?) who got eaten by a hairy alien monster, and we helped build up a picture of their planet surface for the Pilotians. We then killed a few of the hairy monsters, and built a new protection system for them round their main town.

All seemed to go pretty well, and I was all set to head home, but Spock insisted on getting them all to fill in some paperwork. He said it was important to get data on the numbers of people helped, their ages / gender / background and so on, how much they understood about their planet now (as opposed to earlier), and also a sense of how much safer and more secure they now felt. So much blah, if you ask me; he’s just looking for an excuse to fire up another spreadsheet. Still, Uhura reckons it’s that sort of stuff that will help us get some more backers on board.

Anyway, the test stage has gone well. One of the finest pilots since, well, Chekov and Sulu I guess. We’ll refine a few techniques and methods off the back of it, and try and price it better: the Pilotians barely covered our costs, and I’m looking for a margin. As my Uncle Bob used to say, you get what you charge for.


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USS Social Enterprise, part 2: Research


Been an interesting week. Spock and I decided that, before
we plunge straight in to investigating and protecting and all that stuff, we
should probably ask the people we are going to serve what they want. Or, as is
the case on some planets, what they need. So it’s been a week of travel,
visiting various communities and asking them what their problems were and what
needs they had that weren’t being met. Turns out that a lot of them did feel
unsafe and anxious, either from outside threats or from not knowing their
planet / moon very well. That was good to know: chimed with what we had thought
already, and good to beam down and have those conversations face-to-face.

A few other more unexpected things came up though: one
survey Spock had sent out via some Vulcan networks revealed that some other
alien groups were offering similar services, but that they weren’t viewed as
doing so of a high quality, nor with the combination of investigation and
protection we were offering. But good to know the competition: space is a big
market, so there’s room for lots of us I reckon. Another organisation said that
it would be interested in partnering up, so we’ll see how that pans out: got a
meeting in the diary for a couple of weeks time.

Uhura had also sorted out the comms equipment, so she and
Bones caught up with the Federation and Starfleet, who are our backers after
all. Investment for repairs and staffing is so hard to come by these days, so
need to keep the relationships strong and good. We were pretty honest about
where we are at, and our future plans, and they were keen to see us make
progress. According to Bones, they said “some bunch of crap about them being
our most important ‘stakeholders’, whatever that means, Jim
"; must look that up at some point: maybe when Spock has finished on the laptop.


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USS Social Enterprise, part 1: Mission

[normal SSE blog is on holiday to return in August; in the meantime, a short series from deep space…]


Since losing contact with the Federation on take-off, Uhura has been working hard on patching up communications. I’ve been concentrating on working out what our mission is, in conversation with Spock and Bones. Spock was keen to move straight to detailed planning and strategy (he does love a spreadsheet), while Bones was keen to just get doing stuff, but I insisted that we had to be clear about the mission first: how else could we make decisions, or work out whether we had succeeded, or inspire the rest of the crew on this journey we are on?

Spock finally agreed that this was pretty logical, and so we held some meetings with the crew and some in-depth conversations about the subject. Ultimately I wanted some sort of one-sentence version that encapsulated the mission neatly. A variety of phrases and words came up: ‘kill Klingons’, ‘warp speed at all costs’, ‘investigate space’, but we settled with “To boldly go where no-one has gone before, using travel, scientific and military activities to better map and protect a diverse universe”. Catchy, I think. Our vision is of “a universe in which all residents feel safe, included and understood”. Values were a bit tougher to get consensus on: Spock was all for logical, analytical, evidence-based, hard-headed, pragmatic blah blah blah, while Bones and Scotty kept shouting about passionate, entrepreneurial, action-oriented, driven, instinctive and that sort of thing. I left Sulu to sort it out, as he’s typing this all up afterwards. He asked why him and I said that he was good at plotting a course between two very distant positions…

So, feet up for the day now; feeling happy about where we are at, and that everyone’s on board, in every sense. So now enjoying a cold beer in this great new chair I’ve got on the bridge. Ciao for now.

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Ghana for the World Cup! (and Divine Chocolate)


We're big Divine Chocolate fans over here at SSE, and Sophi Tranchell came to speak to some of the social entrepreneurs we support a few months back, which was hugely well-received.

Today, Divine are putting this ad in the Metro newspaper (with readership of well over 1m all told) to support Ghana in the World Cup. As you may well know, not only do the Ghanaian cocoa farmers get a fair price through supplying Divine, but also own (through their Kuapa Kokoo co-operative) 45% of the company; so they have a big say in how the company is run, and they share in its profits.

So here's to a Ghana victory over Uruguay tonight; one that will be celebrated by our Office Administrator Marta who pulled them out in the sweepstake…and what better way to celebrate than with a large bar of chocolate.

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