What do you think are the key drivers of an entrepreneur to start a business ? Is it money? Wealth? Is it power? Is it changing the world? I’m pretty sure everyone has a rough idea, but I made my little inquiry about it, and believe me or not, it is about 80% of us, entrepreneurs, who’s main goal when we start a business is to change the world.
Now the question is: How do we change the world ?
Well, until recently, those big tycoons of the traditional industry, those who made billions once they got 60, 70 years old, had some time to retire and then think: » Ok, how am I gonna give back? » « How am I gonna give back to the world what it gave me before? »
But in this stage of their life, I think when you are 70, 80 years old, you are more in a kind of passive attitude, where you are ready to invest as a philanthropist, but maybe you have a little bit less juice to get on.
Now we, social entrepreneurs from the Silicon Valley, entrepreneurs from the IT industry, we had the chance to work in a industry where the velocity is amazing. And it gave us the opportunity, to get access to these… call it whatever you want: wealth, capital, access to network, strategic vision and experience, while we are still 30, 40 years old, I believe we still have juice.
Do I have juice here? Enough? Ok, good!
And until now, as I said, I think this give back situation was more in a passive way whereas us. When I say « us », this is not only me, but this is again, a vast majority of my friends who had the chance to succeed in business. They don’t want to stop. Eventually, they want to go back to an ex-venture, but most of us, believe me or not, want to do it differently.
Most of us now, we want to change the world and use this access to capital, this access to strategic vision, this access to an amazing network of contacts we’ve made in our entrepreneur life, to do things differently.
Now… How to change the world ? There is a Chinese proverb, everyone knows it… Sorry to use that again, you’ve heard it so many times. » If you wan to feed a man, teach him how to fish. » Right?
Ok, I am going to use this metaphor a little bit to explain what I believe social impact is.
Around the world, they are millions of people who are trying to fish everyday.
In a word, that need access to capital, that need access to advice, that need access to networking, and, well they need teachers. I think social entrepreneurs can be considered as teachers. Fishing teachers. And they are millions, maybe not millions, but thousands of social entrepreneurs in the world: Africa, Europe, US. These entrepreneurs who have as a goal to teach people how to fish.
Now, us, investors, those who have had a chance to get access to capital, our role is to identify those fish teachers, to give them access to capital, to grow faster, to get a better understanding and more advice, strategic advice, and get access to more network.
These 3 key elements in a growth of any project. The growth of any project, you need to get: money to found it, you need to get access to networking and you need to get access to strategic advice.
Until recently I believed these were exclusively reserved for the start-up world. IT start-ups? Yes they had access to that. Biotech start-ups ? Yes they had access to that. « Social » business and social NGOs ? Not really, I mean, in everyone’s vision, there is still a vision like where social business is more like a kind of dusty NGO somewhere held around a nice table with old women drinking tea and coffee.
No, that’s not it. Social entrepreneurs today are entrepreneurs who are moving ahead with a lot of energy and they want to use this energy and the capital we provide them, the advice we provide them, the strategical advice and the network to grow faster.
The fisherman story, I want to use it one more time.
You students, you in this room, just imagine: what do you want to do in your future ? Do you want to sail a big ship and with one single boat catch millions of fish every single day with one boat? Or, do you want to teach millions of people how to fish around the world ?
And I believe today the planet has no choice, I mean we’re in danger, the planet is in danger because there are social problems around the world, there are biodiversity problems, and I think there is no choice. But you, you are young, I think you have a choice.