Santa Cruz Tech Beat

Santa Cruz Tech Ecosystem

Being Capital — a new way of being on the web

By Michael Elias and Ram Nidumolu

A new approach to being in business and on the web that applies equally to corporations and entrepreneurstwobirds-bookcover

Facebook’s recent acquisition of What’sApp for $19 billion could be seen as an admission that the only way Facebook can make sure it will retain users is to acquire the products that attract them en masse.

We can’t all gather billions of dollars and then surf the wave of popular demand, so how can smaller companies and entrepreneurs thrive?

The ebb and flow of popular demand is subject to human needs and desires

The answer may be not in trying to surf the wave like extremely wealthy companies can, but in learning to hold our breath as the wave passes over us. What do we mean by that? The ebb and flow of popular demand is subject to human needs and desires, which when fulfilled in one dimension often become lacking in another, and seek a counterbalance.

By seeking the optimal middle points in this pattern, a company can find the right balance between short-term profit and long-term relevance.

Facebook, for instance, satisfied the need for a sense of communication and connection, but left the need for engagement in our immediate experiences lacking. Many people cannot go without checking Facebook for more than a few minutes or hours; many give attention to their news feed that would otherwise go to their children; some people need to attend 12-step groups devoted to recovering from Facebook addiction.

According to, $650 billion is lost to businesses each year, in payment to employees who spend time on social media sites during work hours (41% of that time on Facebook).

A company that defies the rapid-rise, rapid-fall nature of our time must not only satisfy our needs, but harmonize them, so that fulfillment of one need does not produce deprivation in another. There is no rush to do this; it is a market for which there will always be demand.

What do people always need? Regardless of whether people have social connection, entertainment, or technological ability, what is a need that yearns for fulfillment regardless of the state of satisfaction of those more transient needs?

Being Capital

The answers tend to be immaterial concepts like trust, integrity, authenticity, creativity, inspiration, and a sense of meaning or purpose. The companies that provide this can be said to produce being capital, an element of value that satisfies one’s inner being, which persists in all circumstances, and thus regardless of circumstance.

Being capital is a concept that Santa Cruz readers can relate to readily, since it resonates with the very core of Santa Cruz’s culture of enabling people to express themselves.

The concept of being capital was first introduced in our recent book, Two Birds in a Tree: Timeless Indian Wisdom for Business Leaders (Berrett-Koehler, 2013).  It describes a new approach to being in business and on the web that applies equally to corporations and entrepreneurs.

Being capital will always be worthy of attention, as it creates balance, rather than relieving short-term imbalances only to create new ones.  It is not just internal balance we are talking about.  It also has to do with a balance between financial, material, social, human and other forms of capital that align business with the good of society and nature.

The tech companies that succeed over time will be those that keep these eternal human needs in mind, earning long-term trust in a world of short-lived empires.


Michael Elias ( and Ram Nidumolu ( are Santa Cruz residents and advocates of being capital. Ram Nidumolu recently co-authored The Collaboration Imperative in Harvard Business Review (April 2014). Learn more about Two Birds in a Tree here:


Sara Isenberg publishes Santa Cruz Tech Beat for the benefit of the extended business and technology community. When she is not volunteering her time for the tech scene, Sara makes her living by managing software projects, web strategy planning, and providing development team services (including account management, vendor management, strategic partner management, beta project management, referrals to qualified technical team members, and more). Please visit her website: Sara Isenberg Web Consulting & Project Management, or contact Sara by email if you have any project management, account management, or Development Team leadership or service needs.


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