The story of Ned
By Mason Walker
New Media Manager
Mason Walker, associate editor of Sustainable Business Oregon, learned that Mark Grimes is no stranger to adaptation.
Mark Grimes is no stranger to adaptation.
Drawing from the likes of microfinance legend and Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus and eBay founder and philanthropist Pierre Omidyar, Grimes has carved out a unique corner of the social enterprise and entrepreneurship community in Portland.
As an early participant in the Omidyar Network — a pre-Facebook social network — Grimes was plugged in to a global conversation. When the network was taken down, Grimes wasn't ready for the connections to disappear. He reached out to Omidyar and adapted the open source platform. Ned.com was born.
Grimes nurtured Ned as a forum for social entrepreneurs to connect and share ideas. As the network matured a robust conversation began to emerge, particularly among users in Africa. It was clear that technology had opened doors to empower the expansive continent. Africa was ripe with entrepreneurial ambition and it was buzzing.
So Grimes adapted again.
He wanted to help draw attention to the African innovation he had glimpsed, but wasn't exactly sure how. Grimes took the momentum from Ned and turned to Twitter, a speedy new way to connect and amplify ideas to whoever wanted to listen. Within a year, Maker Faire Africa held their first gathering, attracting 40 unique "makers" and 1,000 people. But Grimes wasn't done making connections.
In early 2009, he partnered with Josh Friedman to launch NedSpace, a co-working space for startups, creatives and social entrepreneurs. They've since expanded to two downtown Portland locations and play host to more than 50 organizations that have collectively raised $15 million.
While all the companies in NedSpace are not traditional social enterprises, a social ethic is front and center and part of the collaborative conversation, including a practice of making microloans through the popular Kiva organization in honor of every new NedSpace tenant. More than 7,000 loans have been made to date.
Last year's Maker Faire Africa saw 80 makers and 3,000 people and they expect further growth this year.
Grimes sees his projects as models that can be applied anywhere. They're just waiting to be adapted.
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