Live from the Washington Innovation Summit – Gifford Pinchot

by Braden Kelley

Gifford Pinchot is the co-founder of Bainbridge Graduate Institute and is credited with creating the term “intrapreneur” and today brought up the term “ecopreneur”, and he is also an angel investor.

Here are my notes from the session:

He spoke about several social topics including Grameem Telecom, access to safe water, and the disappearing frontier forests (old growth).

It’s no coincidence that the Naval War College’s predictions of where wars will be fought overlaps with those countries without access to safe drinking water.

Defintion of Sustainability

  • “Sustainability is meeting the needs of the current generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.” – Brundtland Commision — 1987

Rate of innovation in depressions is about six times that of the rate during boom times.

Is it possible to do enough to avoid disaster?

Jim Gosling saw microchips in hotel doors and got inspired to create. He proposed creating a gui-based remote control and he was rejected. Then someone wanted to use his OS for a set-top box but Silicon Graphics got the contract and so things were killed again. Then he had the opportunity to meet with Bill Joy thanks to someone in human resources and JAVA was born after these two previous failures.

I’d rather have a class A entrepreneur with a class B idea than a Class A idea with a Class B entrepreneur. This distinction in the source of a venture is why VC’s outperform the corporate venturing arms.

Ecopreneurs, intrapreneurs, and entrepreneurs – “Dreamers who do”

Entrepreneurs sometimes have the reputation for doing the following, but it is actually Promoters who are:

  • Driven by greed
  • High risk takers
  • Intuitive thinkers
  • Dishonest

Challenging people with the first potential cash-flow killing problem and gauging their response is important for distinguishing between entrepreneurs and promoters

  • Entrepreneurs will be able to respond to challenges
  • Promoters will re-focus your attention on the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow


  • Driven by vision
  • Moderate risk takers
  • Intuitive and analytic
  • Honest rule breakers
  • Persistent

The stimulus money is going to shovel-ready projects and it has been very difficult for us to create proposals fast enough to qualify given how quickly the government wants to spend the money. This approach is not sustainable and the stimulation of our economy will return to something much more driven by innovation.

Economic development is so often focused on bringing in big organizations and giving them big tax breaks. An investment in green infrastructure in small and medium enterprises will help to lead us out of this economic crisis and we need to be teaching entrepreneurship everywhere.

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