Fabian Pfortmüller on How to Take a Vision From Theory to Practice

In Chapter 7 of 15 in his 2012 Capture Your Flag interview, community builder and entrepreneur Fabian Pfortmüller answers "How Are You Getting Better at Selling a Vision?"  First, he shares how he has learned to "Start With Why" in how he explains why, what and how he does what he does.  Second, he shares how his visioncasting has gone from theory to reality in building out the under-30 young leader Sandbox Network.  Pfortmüller is co-founder of the young leader accelerator, Sandbox Network, and HOLSTEE, an apparel and design firm that sells meaningful products to mindful shoppers.  Pfortmüller graduated from Columbia University and its school of General Studies.


Erik Michielsen: How are you getting better at selling a vision?

Fabian Pfortmüller: I'm getting better at selling a vision by more understanding it myself and I think that’s a very normal thing as an entrepreneur, you start something, you kind of know where you’re going but you figure it out on the way and through conversations, through self-reflection, through feedback, through debrief, whatnot, you better understand what you’re doing and that definitely helps.

One thing I learned this year is I started to explain the vision in three parts and always kind of the same way. I start with why, I explain how and then I go to what. I used to do it the other way around. I used to explain what I do first, then how we do it, and why we do it but I realized that starting with the reason why is it that you’re doing this, what is really driving you makes visions much more tangible and makes it better for people to understand what is driving you there. Then you explain how you wanna get there and in the end you talk about concrete tangible things that leaves people with something that they can relate to and, you know, he’s not just flying in the clouds. He’s actually talking tangible steps.

Erik Michielsen: What is your vision for the Sandbox network and what steps are you taking to realize it?

Fabian Pfortmüller: The reason Sandbox exists is to find amazing, young doers under 30 and turn them into a global family. I use the word family very consciously. I believe it’s about not just allowing them to network but to really build an enormously trusted close-knit community of peers and how we do that is that we build communities all over the world, we connect them and we provide platforms for learning.

Learning is at the core of this family feeling and we identify those young people, we create the platforms and we encourage and push them to really go out there and build a family together. And very concretely we have by now 25 hubs across the world and those hubs are each an accelerator of young people themselves. They host tons of events, we’re expanding every single day and as we move forward we think of what are other ways of how we can turn those people into a more closer family and how we can accelerate them even more.

So, we think of things like building an investment fund, being able to provide those people with capital. We’re thinking about building very structured incubation programs and for example running a test program at the moment in New York where we picked 20 people, 10 males, 10 females, super diverse crowd of the top, top, top young achievers from anything from social entrepreneurs, tech entrepreneurs, artists, designers, musicians and we have them go for a yearlong acceleration program that they provide themselves. It’s a peer-to-peer MBA and that’s what we wanna do and replicate all over the world. Provide peer-to-peer learning and in the end of the day really allow people not just to bond but really learn from each other.