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BUSINESS MODELS / Lessons From Deviants

PUSH 2005: The Geography of Change, Session 2


The radicals, the renegades, the deviants -- some of our most influential innovations come from the irrepressible fringes of society. What perspective can we gain from those who both live and think outside norms, conventions, and laws? What activities are brewing under the radar that signal emerging markets, technologies and business models? What elements of deviant practices are creating the future first, and how can we learn from them?


An Estonian historian, Member of Parliament, and Prime Minister of Estonia in 1992–1994 and 1999–2001, Mart Laar was born in 1960 into an Estonia behind the Iron Curtain. Although never actually incarcerated, Laar braved Soviet arrest by researching the history of Estonian resistance to the Soviet WWII occupation of his country. After earning both a BA and MA from the University of Tartu, Laar, along with some associates, interviewed and recorded accounts of Estonian resistance fighters known as the “Forest Brothers” and their support network of villages and helpers from 1944 to 1956. His book containing these accounts of bravery, heroism, fighting, Soviet atrocities, and hardships was published in 1992 under the title “War in the Woods”.

Called “the most successful historian among the Estonian politicians,” Laar first started his political career in Estonia’s proto–Parliament known as the Estonian Supreme Council from 1990 to 1992. In 1992 Laar became Prime Minister of Estonia and set about taking his country from an impoverished nation ruined by the Soviet occupation to a modern nation with a healthy, sound, capitalist economy that is now a full member of the European Union and NATO.

Under Mr. Laar’s leadership, Estonia achieved record economic growth, reined in inflation, boosted foreign trade, and implemented a successful privatization program. Estonia’s tremendous progress under Laar’s skillful leadership is recognized by the 2003 Index of Economic Freedom, which placed Estonia in the sixth position, tying for number six with Denmark and the United States. Mr. Laar also created the world’s first working online government, making Estonia the most advanced country in this regard.

As a result of these reforms, Mr. Laar has received several prizes and honors, including the European Bull Prize in 2001, the Adam Smith Award in 2002, and the Polak Award in 2003. In 2001, the Davos Economic Forum named him Prime Minister of its “World’s Dream Cabinet.”


James Weiss is a performance and installation artist who stages events using video, storytelling, and music.

Choosing precise moments of intimacy to reflect universal themes, Weiss’ work shows some of his strongest influences: time working in Andy Warhol’s studio in 1986, two Master of Arts degrees in Art History, and Laurie Anderson.

With the performance company he founded in 1992, faceitdadpictures, Weiss has produced dozens of shows collaborating with musicians, scientists, graphic designers, and psychotherapists. Recent works include “Camera Obscura” — an installation/performance where Weiss lived in a room viewable only through peep holes– and “Traces,” a collaboration with cellist Marie–Aline Cadieux, a sweet and sorrowful performance about our shared desire to leave a trace.

Throughout his performing career, Weiss has continued to teach art history at Yale University, The University of Connecticut, and Kutztown University. He has performed in Philadelphia, New York City, New Haven, and other cities around the East Coast, and is pleased to bring his work west of the Mississippi for PUSH 2005.


A civil engineer by training, Torres first made his mark by growing Grandicón S.A., a major construction firm, into the largest engineering business in the country. His talents were then borrowed by such players as MasterCard, Cenpro Radio & TV, Corluz S.A. (formerly General Electric), and Pronta S. A., where he moved more than 46 companies – in all sectors – from being nationally financed to privately held businesses. Currently, Torres is President of the Consulting Group of Colombia, a multinational Latin American company that is developing energy infrastructure and production in Mexico.

Torres has emerged as one of the key voices and leading experts on the global spread of narcoterrorism. He has served as an informal advisor to the Colombian President and has authored many articles for business journals and magazines, as well as a book on finance. Decision makers from all spheres rely on his insight and knowledge on this subject.

A champion of trade and business development for Latin America, Torres frequently serves as a consultant to governments and large–scale business projects. Most notable among them are “Pymes,” a cooperative project between the Colombian government, universities and private business to develop export strategies, and the “InterAmerican Bank for Business Development,” a project of the Chamber of Commerce of Bogotá that supports “Pymes” companies.

This will not be Torres’ first visit to Minneapolis: In 1985–86 he was a Fellow at the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute for Public Affairs, and has appeared numerous times as a guest lecturer on Latin American Macroeconomics for St. Thomas University’s MBA program. Additionally, Torres taught courses in Marketing, Strategic Planning and Management at Javeriana University, Sabana University and CESA, a leading business school in Bogatá.


Annalee Newitz is a policy analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. She conducts research, talks to the media, propagandizes, and writes policy recommendations and white papers. Although she is a digital rights generalist, her special areas of interest are expanding the public domain, free speech, and network regulation. Previously, she was Culture Editor at the San Francisco Bay Guardian and was the recipient of a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship in 2002. She writes a syndicated column called “Techsploitation” ( and is published regularly in national magazines and newspapers. In her off hours, she edits an indie magazine called Other. She has a Ph.D. in English and American Studies from UC Berkeley.