In a business culture of startups full of rampant entrepreneurship and pivots, it’s not often a founder knows his passion and purpose from the beginning. David Poritz found his and followed it from the age of 14. Founder of Equitable Origin, a newly transitioned non-profit, David found his calling working within hometown Amherst, Mass.. David talked his way into a clerkship with local litigator Cristóbal Bonifaz, who’s work centered around a lawsuit against oil giant Texaco and their oil contamination in Ecuador. This experience led to his first of many trips to Ecuador with Bonifaz, which would solidify his path and passion to create incredible social and environmental change.
Two weeks ago David made his first journey to the Midwest, flying in from his current home-base in Mexico City to share his work and experience with the Lincoln Startup community and Doane College students as well as myself. I had the privilege to host David for the morning during which we connected on our similar backgrounds growing up in innovative collegiate environments. I was able to share my knowledge of farming methods, sustainable food sourcing, as well as the often controversial topic of GMOs, along with receive some welcome feedback on my current sustainability endeavors. This conversation gave me an incredible insight into David’s drive to understand how to better approach sustainable issues globally, whether it surround his primary expertise of energy or that of food and water resources. It aligns with his belief that there is no perfect solution, it has to be comprehensive across the spectrum.
David’s first presentation was to an engaged group including students, entrepreneurs, academics as well as State Senator Ken Haar to start off the morning at Nonprofit Hub. He began with the background of his inspiration for creating the EO100 Standard and the process through which it was developed. He dove into this project initially after realizing that litigation was slow and not creating a positive impact. The standard was created with the input of all stakeholders, not just limited to those companies involved, but also citizens, NGOs, government agencies. The vision for success of the EO100 certification is based on bringing together these “adversarial actors” and the incentive nature of voluntary certification systems. David’s belief is that it’s not just a social or environmental issue, but one that is an integration of the two. Equitable Origin has excelled in addressing both of these issues with it’s development through its Standards Technical Committee. These are made up of stakeholders, scientists and other professionals with an expertise regarding the industry.
Currently there is slew of issues facing Nebraska and the U.S. surrounding energy and the environment, including locally, wind energy and fracking. As of now there is little regulation for waste water from shale drilling or the creation of wind energy infrastructure in Nebraska. State Sen. Haar and David spoke about the research he is doing currently in Mexico City to create a standard of certification for wind energy that could be brought to the United States in the future. Along with the possible adoption of EO100 in regards to the fracking waste water disposal in western Nebraska present two excellent socioeconomic opportunities for Equitable Origin here.
After finishing up at Nonprofit Hub we set off to check out Nebraska Innovation Campus, a growing research park centered around building partnerships and collaboration between the business and academic communities. NIC is home to a growing number of organizations including the Robert B. Daughtry Water for Food Institute . Innovation Campus residents and the University’s INFEWS initiative truly highlight the collaborative opportunities to approach sustainability through a nexus of food, energy and water, a shared mission of Equitable Origin.
The next stop on David’s Nebraska itinerary was Doane College in Crete. The commute being one of my normal cycling routes and David being a cyclist also, our conversation during the drive dabbled between bikes and the rows of seed corn we passed along the way. Arriving at Doane we met Dr. Jennifer Bossard who graciously organized David’s trip to Nebraska, including a screening of the film Oil & Water.
Dr. Bossard specializes in economics, with her research focusing on global supply chains and the global impact of human trafficking within them. As her curriculum in her Enviromental Economics course was approaching the study of B or Benefit Corporations, David was the perfect guest speaker.
In presenting to the class the creation of Equitable Origin, David allotted time for what became a very engaged Q & A session. Many of the students questions came from the perspective of future social entrepreneurs, while others were centered around the environmental and humanitarian efforts that led to him starting his business. One great piece of advice David had shared with myself as well as the class, is that the best time to start is business is often while you’re in school. You’re taking a risk, but with a community around you of full of support and resources. This advice comes from the genuine experience he gained launching Equitable Origin while enrolled at Brown University. Following the initial launch he took a 2 year break to focus on the business before returning to school and earning an Oxford Rhodes Scholarship.
Prior to the film screening, I had the pleasure of joining Dr. Bossard, David, and a small group of students for dinner that turned into an spontaneous forum. After introductions it was very apparent that this was a very engaged and diverse group, one of the students in fact originally hailing from Mexico City. It was a privilege to share a meal with such an amazing group of people. The conversation bounced from entrepreneurship to academics, the environment and everywhere in between with comfortable familiarity.
I was excited to for the screening following dinner, that would give a snapshot into the motivation and inspiration at the heart of David’s work. The film follows David to Ecuador and through the process of creating EO100 beginning with his work under Cristobal Bonifaz, but also documents another moving story. Hugo Lucitante is sent by his tribe from Ecuador to the U.S. to receive an education. Hugo graduated high school and then returned to Ecuador to continue saving his community as well. After the film David caught us up to speed that Hugo is in fact back in the U.S. attending college currently as well.
It was impressive to see the impact David’s story made on so many people throughout the day, myself included. As the film ended another very engaging Q&A continued with many questions about how here in Nebraska students can began to make their impact to increase sustainability and social change.
It was inspiring to witness the images David had spoken of that impacted him so deeply to pursue his vision. Through all of the hurdles he faced the mantra resonates in his ultimate success, “I Don’t Consider Failure”.