In conversation with Tom Higley: Solving the world’s wicked problems with serial entrepreneurs


Presented by the Resource Alliance in collaboration with The International Social Impact Institute.

07:00 PST // 08:00 CST // 10:00 EST // 11:00 BRT // 14:00 GMT // 16:00 SAST // 19:30 IST

In this stimulating conversation with Elizabeth (Liz) Ngonzi, a former Prospective CEO of 10.10.10 and the founder and CEO of The International Social Impact Institute, we’ll be exploring what the nonprofit sector can learn from a serial tech entrepreneur and a start-up accelerator programme in Colorado, USA.

Tom Higley has founded six tech startups over the course of the past 20 years (including one that was sold for $280 million). He has also been a waiter, a janitor, a carpenter, a painter, a GM auto worker, a music store manager, a teacher, a guitar player, a lawyer, a CEO, a board member and a mentor.

Much of his time today is focused on the X Genesis and 10.10.10 programmes. 10.10.10 is a start-up accelerator which brings together 10 entrepreneurs for 10 days to tackle 10 of the world’s wicked problems. The aim is to find sustainable, market-based solutions and form a company while doing so.

The ‘wicked problems’ focused on include healthcare, education, infrastructure, energy, climate and water. The same issues to which many of us in charity sector are working to find solutions. Tom and his team just have a radically different methodology to finding these solutions: Using the entrepreneurial mindset to explore possibilities and opportunities for a new world.

As Tom says, “These are all complex adaptive systems that are home to wicked problems that persist because the systems themselves are not designed to address them. The systems themselves do exactly what they were designed to do. They are resilient. They resist disruptive change. This means that, with few exceptions, the stakeholders within the systems will not address the wicked problems that have become chronic and intractable. I believe serial entrepreneurs can (and will) begin to address these problems with workable solutions. Sometimes these solutions will provide the basis for new companies that are disruptive to the system itself. As outside agents with no allegiance to the system, the entrepreneurs bring to the problem a different cultural perspective, a different skill set and a powerful set of capabilities that will be supported by capital investment and by a market for the products and services these new companies are creating”.
*Excerpt from this full interview - https://startupnation.com/books/mindset-your-manners-tom-higley-book/

Tom Higley

Founder & CEO, 10.10.10

Denver-based entrepreneur and mentor, Tom Higley, is Founder and CEO of X Genesis and 10.10.10, a project of the Colorado Nonprofit Development Center (CNDC), a 501(c)3. Each of these organizations, one for-profit the other nonprofit organization is focused on turning wicked problems into opportunities. 10.10.10’s mission is to tackle the world’s wicked problems through public education & engagement that inspires entrepreneurs to action. 10.10.10 engages foundations, nonprofits, NGOs, organizations, and institutions with subject and sector specific experience and expertise. X Genesis supports entrepreneur success via process, platform, and tools with twenty new ventures created since its inception, eight in the past six months. X Genesis operates a new venture studio focused on entrepreneur success in wicked problems areas that include health, water and climate, learning and work.

Tom has founded and run nine tech startups, including FortNET, NETdelivery, Service Metrics (acquired in 1999 for $280 million), Latis Networks (acquired in 2013 for an undisclosed sum), 10.10.10 and X Genesis.

A long-time Techstars mentor and an advisor to hundreds of founders and CEOs over more than two decades, he has also been an active angel investor. He is an Advisory Board member of the Global Startup Studio Network and the Board of Directors of WetData, and he has served on numerous boards and advisory boards.

Elizabeth (Liz) Ngonzi

Founder & CEO, The International Social Impact Institute, City University of New York

Liz Ngonzi is a New York City-based international speaker, educator, executive coach, and consultant who recently founded the International Social Impact Institute (ISII) at Hunter College, City University of New York. She founded ISII to develop nimble, focused, creative and well-networked change makers to help guide the global social sector forward; to enhance the access of non-profit organisations and social enterprises to the kinds of resources, knowledge and networks that will enable them to rebound from the setbacks they have experienced during the global pandemic; and to facilitate collaboration across sectors and geographies and with participants whose voices have previously been missing from the sector. As an educator, consultant, and executive coach, she enables non-profits and social impact-driven leaders to increase their impact by more effectively telling their brand stories and engaging stakeholders across digital and traditional channels, and geographies. She has delivered courses and training to thousands of professionals from organisations on six continents. Her clients have included academic institutions, associations, human rights and youth development organisations, and multilateral agencies. She previously served as the turnaround CEO of the North America representative of a Nelson Mandela-endorsed and South Africa-based youth development organisation.

Further information

  • If you have any technical issues during the session, please use the chat to ask questions.
  • You may need to refresh your browser, press F5 or clear your cache history if you have difficulty seeing the picture.
  • Alternatively, you may need to try a different or upgraded browser.
  • To find out your local time, click here.
  • Presentations and webinars will be available after the event.
  • You will also receive a link to a short survey after each event – please do take the time to share your thoughts, in order to shape future programming.