Social Impact Startups

A few weeks ago I had the chance to work with the University of Delaware’s Entrepreneurship program and to speak at the Delaware Tech Forum’ Meetup. As a founding member of Start It Up Delaware (SIUD), before moving to New Orleans just before the ribbon cutting, I can think of no better way to continue my investment in what I am sure will be a remarkable mid-Atlantic hub of innovation. Chris Wink from Philly wrote a nice piece on “the place to be someone”, here.

My talk focused on the importance of startups focused on social impact and why I am very bullish on the future of these efforts.  I was invited to speak by the Executive director of SIUD, adjunct professor at University of Delaware and dear friend Mona Parikh. Mona is passionate about social impact and got me thinking a bit deeper about my position on it and the role that ‘treps can play.

My slides can be found below but my reasons for being excited were simple.

Even non-impact focused startups are finding impactful use cases.

You have to look no further than Twitter to see a startup enabling one of the most basic of human rights, free speech, having a role in the dramatic changes taking place across the world.  The power of 140 character in shaping human history has not been so clearly exemplified.  You can almost see our founding fathers tweeting, “When in the course of human events…” Granted at 8.020 characters it would have taken them 58 tweets to get the whole thing out so they probably would have linked to a blog post or a Tumblr photo of the congress.

Impact startups are already adopting proven startup techniques.
Companies like Charity Water, Warby Parker and Donors Choose are making a difference and building successful models for others to build on. By using tools and techniques piloted by non-social impact startups like social, crowdfunding and ecommerce,  these companies and others are showing that doing good and doing well are not mutually exclusive.  These even extends to the accelerator model and university programs where building the skills and knowledge of the ‘treps is so critical.

Quick shout out to Matter Inc and the SISE program at Tulane. I have had the joy of working with both. Both are worth you checking them out.

The next generation of ‘treps want to do this.

Reports show that Millenials are interested in making a difference as much if not more than making themselves rich.  We need to support them by:

  • Changing the way we keep score (think impact not $$)
  • Sharing our knowledge (mentors needs to work with non-profits)
  • Rewarding new metrics for company success (B-corps FTW)
  • Encouraging them to think big, NOW not later

We are humans and by nature we find pleasure in helping other humans. I think if we all just follow our hearts social impact startups will be where our best and brightest will get their ‘trep on.



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