Hey, we’ve been selected to be one of the companies in Praxis Labs’ 2019 class! Here's what that means.
Praxis Labs is a startup accelerator. If you're not neck-deep in startup jargon, this Wikipedia page does a nice job of describing what these things are. But in short, it’s a way for us to get plugged into likeminded companies, mentors, and investors.
We're doing this because we're at a stage where strategy and wisdom matter more than brute force. With a good idea you can get pretty far on talent and hustle, but we want to transform how people think about and do compliance training, and that means we have to get bigger to some extent.
And I wanted to go through Praxis Labs in particular—it's the only one I applied to—because I wanted us to get to the next stage in a way that was consistent with my values. The sheer ethical complexity of running a business is staggering; it dwarfs anything I've dealt with in my legal and compliance career and I ran internal investigations for two multi-billion-dollar companies. Anyone who thinks business ethics and compliance is common-sense stuff isn't thinking about it very hard.
To that end, Praxis Labs' model is “redemptive entrepreneurship,” which is kinda like social entrepreneurship writ large. They define it like this:
Redemptive Entrepreneurship is the work of joining God in creative restoration through sacrifice, in venture building and innovation.
REDEMPTIVE LEADERSHIP fuses ambition, discipline, and market insight with spiritual formation, selfless stewardship, and cultural wisdom.
REDEMPTIVE STRATEGY aims for cultural renewal through beautiful and humanizing products, services, and spaces, backed by truthful brands and narratives.
REDEMPTIVE OPERATIONS blesses people through excellence, grace, generosity, and justice in organizational functions & practices, workforce culture, partnerships, and capital.
You probably noticed that "God" reference there. I got referred to Praxis by Reid Porter of Advocates for Community Transformation, a legal nonprofit. Here's a profile of him in Forbes; we go to the same church, and I'd come to him for advice on some things.
Reid pointed me to Praxis as a group of people thinking about what it means to be Christian in entrepreneurship—especially if, like me, you're running a secular company in a secular space. For example:
Is seeking outside investors a sign of vision and courage, or a sign of greed and pride? Conversely, is staying independent a sign of humility and patience, or a sign of cowardice and sloth?
Is being slow to hire, to avoid the risk of laying anyone off, a sign of care for employees, or a sign of fear and excessive control?
Is turning down work that falls outside our vision a sign of wisdom and focus, or a sign of arrogance and self-righteousness?
And so on.
It's easy to compartmentalize those kind of questions into "business decisions," but honestly, that phrase means nothing. Every decision ultimately impacts a real person in some way, directly or indirectly. So even if you're running a secular company in a secular space, the Bible has a lot to say about how you treat people and take risks, and that should flow into how decisions are made.
I don't know how to answer the questions above, but I know wiser people than me have considered them before, and I wanted to talk to those people and take that kind of stuff seriously as we grew.
So, that's what I'm doing, along with a really diverse group of other startups (see here). We kick off in October and go through May.
And then what?
I don't know. I have some ideas, and we've got a lot of irons in the fire right now, but that's why I'm going through this: because I know that I don't know, and that's the point. I know that I'm grateful that so many of you have come along for the journey with us as clients and supporters and allies, and I'm excited for you to see what we do next.