In the world of tech startups, we often hear founders saying “I want to make the world a better place”, in fact, we hear it so much that it can be difficult not to hear it with a sense of cynicism. TV series “Silicon Valley” illustrates this trend quite well.
That is not to say that startups don’t make a difference, however, the idea of wanting to make a difference or making the world a better place can sometimes become more of a formality within the startup world than a reality. Nevertheless, you can make a difference and a lot of startups do! There are two ways you can make a difference with your startup: creating a service or product which changes peoples lives for the better or setting up a social enterprise.
A social enterprise can be defined as: “A business that ploughs its profits back into a strong social or environmental mission” as opposed to a charity, which generally relies on donations and the goodwill of people in order to make a difference. A social enterprise can still be for profit, however, most of its profit will go towards a cause. This means you can create a product or service which can be somewhat unrelated to the cause you’re supporting but still invest all of your profits into making a social impact. Making your startup a social enterprise is one way of creating a startup that makes a difference whilst still building something you are passionate about within your industry. Cafe direct is a great example of a social enterprise that is making a difference. They are a service that delivers high-quality coffee beans to your door and gives 50% of their revenue to the growers. On top of this, they have registered a charity called the Cafédirect Producers’ Foundation to allow farmers to raise funds for their businesses, to this date they have a network of 600’000 farmers
Being a social enterprise is not the only way you can make a difference as a founder. Building a company which offers a service that impact peoples lives in a positive manner is another way and this is what most startups strive to do. However, there is a social responsibility associated with being the founder of a startup. Owning a company that has a positive impact and which is profitable does not necessarily mean you are making a positive difference on all fronts. The truth is that it all comes down to you as a person. You can either have a huge impact on society and be financially profitable by being a founder like Travis Kalanick who commits tax fraud, gets into shouting matches with his employees, develops tools to evade authorities and creates an unhealthy work environment. Or you can be like John Paul DeJoria who founded hair-care company Paul Mitchell and Tequila company Patron Spirits and who measures his success by how much he can give back to society. He signed the “giving pledge” which means he gives half of his earnings to charity and has so far raised millions of dollars to support over 160 charities. His work ethic is exemplary and since founding Paul Mitchell four decades ago his total employee turnover is less than 100. John Paul DeJoria is not an isolated case there are plenty of other founders which are making a difference and giving back to society such as Elon Musk, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates.
There is a myriad of ways you can make a difference as an entrepreneur whether that be directly through your business or how you spend the money you’ve made through being successful in your work. At the end of the day, it is all about the person you are and the issues you hold close to your heart and how much time you are prepared to spend solving them.
Making the world a better place comes down to how you treat the people around you. Whether it’s your employees, partners or customers, remember to be kind and to give back to those who have helped you along your journey. These simple behavioural changes or efforts are often enough to help you become a more respected professional and a better and more positive person, thus making the world a better place!