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02

October

Tech Companies Are MORE Than Just Computers

A couple of months ago, I was invited to be a mentor for the Do School, a one-year educational training program started in Hamburg, Germany, for young social entrepreneurs from around the world. They had just launched their newest office here in New York City. They work with entrepreneurs who are trying to solve serious community and environmental challenges.

These entrepreneurs I met with were more than impressive. They were from areas ranging from Nepal to Canada.

One that ended up winning the competition here in New York was a young entrepreneur from Uganda, Opio Derrick Hosea. His small village relies on dangerous kerosene lights after dark.

I asked Derrick what would the benefits of his solar lights be? He quickly listed several, including that they are:

  • Cheaper than buying kerosene
  • Safer: less fires, less toxic emissions
  • Provide better education: children will study for school after dark
  • Able to bring electricity to the 91% who live without it

Opio Derrick Hosea

Opio had built a prototype for a solar lamp that he could sell to the local villagers for a fraction of what they pay for a few month’s worth of kerosene.

He was looking at a US manufacturer and funds to mass-produce these lamps.

A short time after my meeting with him, he got his funding. He is now back in his country working on lighting up his village.

When Most of Us Think Tech CompanyWe Think Facebook, Twitter, PayPal

Yet these examples pale in comparison to companies that are using technology to make a profound difference for most of the world’s population.

Many companies like Opio’s solar light company are highly profitable as well.

We call these companies socents = Social Enterprises.

Social Enterprises (Socents) Pop up Worldwide as Successful Businesses Focused on Solving Community and Environmental Problems.

These tech companies that leverage technology to address communities’ and the environment’s biggest issues are hot prospects for investors these days.

Tech companies range substantially in their types. We are all aware of social-based IT companies: apps, social media sites, and so on. They are everywhere these days yet not where the real impact is occurring on the planet.

Then there are the tech companies that are doing work where they are needed. They range from solar-powered storage companies (it’s one thing to generate electricity, it is another to store it efficiently for a rainy day), alternative energy (getting away from coal-burning power plants and fossil fuels), online serious gaming (“serious” = education-based), medical record management systems (helping reduce health insurance costs), and so on.

Some of our poorest communities here in the US, let alone around the world are in serious need of technology to reduce their carbon footprint, educate their people to generate needed jobs in their communities, reduce family sizes and live healthier lifestyles, which in turn reduces medical expenses and insurance premiums for all.

The list goes on.

Meanwhile, more investors are taking notice. Startup investors, ranging from the formal, like the Investor Circle, to the informal, Slow Money NYC, are becoming much more prominent.

The Rise of the B-Corp, Socent Startup Contents

Additionally, a new type of corporation became law in New York last year (among a dozen or so other states in the US): B-Corps. The B-Corp is designed to take into account that companies are not only about making a profit, but doing so while taking care of our planet and communities.

Lastly, there are several socent startup contests that are growing nicely in the US. In addition to the Do School, there is the William James Foundation, the Unreasonable Institute, the Acumen Fund, and well as a one that a group of us are launching here in NYC: the NYC Social Enterprise Contest.

These organizations help train social enterprises worldwide and then give the best of the best prize money, coaching and access to experts to help them build their businesses.

Our organization in NYC will also have a team of investors that will invest in the finalists.

As you can see, many “tech companies” have much greater impact than just another social media site that will announce your whereabouts to people who pretend they care.

Action Steps for the Week

Answer the following questions:

  1. Got a tech company? Great. What positive impact will it provide to your community(ies) and the environment?
  2. What problem / challenge are you solving? How is your solution better, cheaper, faster, different than your competition?
  3. And how will you leverage this to build an even greater socent impact?
  4. Are you clear on how you will accomplish this, both strategically and financially?
  5. Lastly, if you will need outside support, where will it come from.

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