SXSWorld November 2015


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S X S W. C O M | N O V E M B E R 2 0 1 5 | S X S W o r l d 1 1 been able to accomplish since woodshedding with an MBA xAmerica student team. And Growing America, a six-part HLNTV series that documented the road trips of several MBA xAmerica teams (and which featured Gerald as an on-screen commentator) certainly helped raise the group's profile. "Our businesses are growing, our entrepreneurs are growing, and our MBAs are really learning a lot about themselves and about the country," Gerald says. So with more entrepreneurs seeking teams to help them, more MBA candidates signing up for road trips, and more top business schools clamoring for help incorporating the MBA xAmerica philos- ophy into their curricula, why are Gerald and his colleagues "on the brink of putting ourselves out of business?" Gerald and Michael Baker, the other remaining co-founder, could no doubt continue to grow MBA xAmerica, win more grants and expand their organization's writ and influence. However, building another hidebound institution is anathema to their bootstrapper values. "It is very odd to me three years into this for folks now to look at us as gatekeepers for road trips. People say, 'Oh, I sure do hope I can get into MBA xAmerica so I can go on this trip across the country and work with entrepreneurs.' "And my message to them is that there is nothing stopping you from doing this work, and I will tell you everything we've done. A guy from Finland called and said, 'When is MBA xAmerica coming to Finland?' I said, 'We're not coming to Finland, but we're happy to help you do it yourselves.'" "I think so much of our challenge is that we're always looking for some savior to deliver us from our current circumstances," Gerald continues. "And it just doesn't happen. That's not how it works." So pulling the plug is the answer? "What I like to say is we're lib- erating the work," Gerald says. "We turned down a grant which was geared towards us hand-holding business schools, coaxing them into doing the kind of work that we've been advocating them to do. We felt that was against the principles of the organization." (Though MBA xAmerica did collaborate on HBSxBoston, a copycat course that launched this fall). "You know, it's interesting," Gerald continues, "we ask more from poor people in this country than we ask from the richest institutions. We want to help business schools. We want to help anybody who wants to do this work. But I didn't believe the spirit of our movement was about running an institutional welfare program." In other words, they aren't interested in distributing fish, but they're happy to put a pole in your hand and point you to where the big ones are biting. To that end, MBA xAmerica is now focused on Open Road, an open source model that will enable other business schools, MBA candidates and entrepreneurs to develop their own community-based collaborations. So let's say Gerald "succeeds" by making his organization obso- lete. What will he do next? "We're in a very urgent moment in this country," he says. "And it's time not just to think about programs and policies and organizations and products, but about an inner awakening of our consciousness. And really everything that I'm doing is geared toward that intention. It sounds somewhat vague, but I'm working towards some tangible expressions of that." He offers no hints about the content of his March SXSW talk, but Casey Gerald has already helped inspire thousands of people. It's safe to say he's less focused on making his next big move than on starting the next big movement. T Casey Gerald will be the Opening Keynote speaker at SXSW Interactive 2016 on Friday, March 11. See for details.

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