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Volunteering with BizWorld

I got a chance to volunteer at the Carden El Encanto Day School in Santa Clara as a BizWorld teacher Wednesday and loved it. Tim Draper invented BizWorld in 1993 to explain his job to his daughter. The program teaches grade-schoolers about entrepreneurship, product design, manufacturing, marketing, sales, revenue, profit, equity, pitching VCs, patents, acquisitions and ethics.

My class of fifth graders, under the direction of Veronique Fernandez, were real stars. I saw burgeoning patent lawyers, design engineers and even corporate raiders.

Each “company” came up with its own design of friendship bracelets and pitched their ideas to the “venture capitalist.” They were surprisingly good at convincing me that their products were innovative, that they were addressing a $100 billion market and that they would be profitable within the first 12 months of operations.

Over the course of the three hour program, the kids went through product design, manufacturing, marketing and sales. Competition got heated after one “VP of Design” got smart, noticed that his competitor was making a red, white and blue bracelets nearly identical to the ones he had designed, and filed a patent. A dispute ensued and the two parties settled out of court, opting for a licensing agreement.

The class discovered outsourcing quickly. Each team hired one of the teachers to help braid their friendship bracelets at two BizBucks an hour. Then they started trying to hire students from other teams for their own. They offered performance benefits (a break after each completed bracelet) and higher salaries. If the simulation had run for another hour, I’m sure somebody would have demanded stock options.

At the end of the afternoon, we tallied up profits and stock outstanding. We determined which company had achieved higher profitability and why. Then we talked about what makes a good company.

The students were surprisingly perceptive. Good companies, they said, make good products that don’t hurt people, have financial success, treat their employees fairly and equitably and give back to the community. I couldn’t agree more. I told them that my company, Thomson Financial, was a good company because it let me spend the afternoon with them.