Entrepreneurship and Social Change

I posted about The Blue Sweater recently and said:

I have always believed in the power of entrepreneurs and for profit initiatives to change the world.

So I am really excited about an event next Thursday night where I get to talk more about that idea. Joining me will be Jacqueline Novogratz, author of The Blue Sweater, Roger Ehrenberg, Jacob Gray, and Scott Edward Anderson (aka greenskeptic). 

The event is being put on by goodcompany ventures, an incubator for "socially conscious entrepreneurs" and it will be held at Green Spaces, a co-working space in Tribeca for "environmental entrepreneurs."

If you'd like to attend, here's a link to the RSVP page. Tickets are $35. I hope to see some of you there. Should be an interesting discussion.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. falicon

    Awesome! I’m glad to see these sorts of things happening more and more often as I feel like the idea of a ‘socially conscious entrepreneur’ is really starting to take hold this year (disclosure: I just joined the team at Catchafire.org to help build a new for-profit socially minded startup, so all of this is especially fresh and relevant in my mind)

  2. Chris

    Couldn’t agree more.Profits, in essence, tell you what people want. They’re a guide in the marketplace alerting entrepreneurs as to what is in the highest demand and where resources should be shifted to. The other side of the coin is losses, i.e. areas with little demand…this is where the resources should be withdrawn from.To the entrepreneurs who take early advantage, the profits are large. Those large profits get the attention of other entrepreneurs who then enter the business as well. The end result is competition, lower prices, and the satisfaction of something that is greatly desired.The above is assuming a free market…Unfortunately, what we have today is rampant *crony* capitalism…where companies use the state (i.e., force) to secure their profits. In that case, competition is restricted and higher prices with little innovation prevail.Fortunately the tech word is the closest thing to the former, rather than the latter.

    1. fredwilson


    2. Prokofy

      This is extremism, and a caricature of what is in fact a complex economy with many forms of business.The idea that the tech sector is somehow sacred and exempt from crony capitalism is risable. SIlicon Valley bundlers were chief among those putting Obama in power. Please. And here Fred is lobbying for something that in fact is in the self-interest of the tech sector, bringing in cheaper engineers to the US on start-up visas so their business costs are reduced. Everybody gets to lobby for their special interests, that’s the American way. But don’t pretend that you are sanitized and free of lobbying because you now do it off your Blackberry instead of in an accountable organization, and don’t pretend you aren’t self-interested and are free of crony capitalism because you make software instead of hardware.

  3. e_irene

    As a social entrepreneur working on my first start-up, I’m excited to see an event like this. However, as soc-ent start-up currently in bootstrap-mode, I’m a little disappointed to be priced out of such an event. C’est la vie. =)

    1. fredwilson

      I was a bit surprised at the price tag myself. Not sure why it needs to cost so much

      1. e_irene

        I’m not sure either. It could be a method of fundraising.In any case, I just wrote the event host to see if there was work I could do to help prepare for the event in exchange for admission.

        1. Garrett Melby

          That idea makes sense to me, I’ll look for your message.

      2. baba12

        socially responsible entrepreneurship does not mean not to make profits. I am guessing the hosts don’t just want to host an event they want to get some profits.I guess they must think that it is worth it to someone to pay a fee to network/hobnob with a few high net worth individuals or those who could open doors for them.I think it is ok cuz if even 100 show up that would be worthy to the organizers..

      3. Garrett Melby

        We decided to charge admission for two reasons. First, GCV is a nonprofit and, while this is not a fundraiser, we need to cover the production costs. Second, it’s a relatively small (but very cool) venue and we thought a modest fee would make sure that respondents had more than a casual interest in attending.That said, if the fee is a hardship, send me an email at [email protected] and make the case that we should pay for you to attend rather than vice versa and we’ll do the right thing. If anyone wants to sponsor some attendees, I’d be happy to hear from them too.We’ll announce a venue for an afterparty so we can continue the conversation with folks who can’t join us untill later or who don’t get tickets before the event sells out.That’s my best answer. We are open to ideas as to ways to broaden the conversation and be of service to the socent communty.Garrett. GCV CEO & Co-Founder

        1. Donna Brewington White

          That’s the spirit!

      4. Prokofy

        Where’s the money going? And why not live broadcast it on ustream?

  4. kidmercury

    you think they’ll invest in the business plan that saves the world? lol, i guess i’ll find out!

    1. ShanaC

      I think we’re all going to one day find our new Silent Spring. I don’t think there is one plan that will save us all. I do think we’ll stand on the shoulders of giants when it comes to both solutions and mistakes about the world. Time is just one of those funny things, and ultimately I am humbled by it.

  5. Chris

    I’ve been an active reader of your column over the last year or so and have found interest in many of your ideas. I’ve been thinking about your comment: “I have always believed in the power of entrepreneurs and for profit initiatives to change the world” and am wondering how you and others might juxtapose that belief with public education intending to nurture a more just and more democratic society. I’m not convinced that interjecting profit initiatives into education will change the schooling system in a way that benefits ALL students.

  6. Will Franco

    The Green Space concept it awesome! I am loving the trend – being socially and environmentally conscious is now IN [and everyone wants to be IN].

  7. cindygallop

    Damn – as an entrepreneur with a for-profit startup designed to help change the world one microaction at a time 🙂 plus a huge fan of Jacqueline’s and the Acumen Fund, I would so love to be there – but am presenting on said startup at IgniteNYC at exactly the same time next Thursday http://ignitenyc8.eventbrit… Will look forward to hearing about it/watching it on video if that will be available?

  8. Jake Baker

    This sounds like a fantastic event – two tickets already purchased! Might this be the next step of Fred’s public interest in energy/environment as a 2010 investment theme? I’m particularly interested to see Roger’s involvement – his investment perspective on data and analytics will be particularly cool to apply to this space.

  9. Mark Essel

    Should be an excellent event/meet an greet. I may be out of town otherwise I’d be there.

  10. awaldstein

    I’m going to try and attend Fred.Topic is right and your in my neighborhood for this one.

  11. prakash_murthy

    Topic in my area of interest; would have loved to attend. Too bad this conflicts with Ignite NYC http://ignitenyc8.eventbrit

  12. Adrian Bye

    this sounds like an excellent event, i really really wish i could be there.note: the biggest move of humanity out of poverty was when 500m in china and india had their standards of living increased over the past 10 years. not one cent was spent on NGOs.my question for jacqueline: how can her ideas be scaled and sped up. seems like microfinance can take a while.

    1. greenskeptic

      Muhammad Yunus Nobel Prize-winning founder of Grameen Bank said it best, “Income is the best medicine.”

  13. greenskeptic

    Looking forward to the conversation, Fred.

  14. julieallen

    sounds like a great event.i’ve always loved tom’s shoes vision of one for one.http://www.tomsshoes.com/co…i hope conscious capitalism is something we’ll be seeing more and more of. it just makes sense.

  15. Emil Sotirov

    I don’t accept the distinction between “for” and “non” profit. The institutionalization of “non-profit” organizations to begin with… was like saying – when in business, you’re free to think about profit only (screw society as long as you evade jail).It was like accepting a compartmentalized way of being in society – one place for being “good” … another for being free from moral codes. That’s how you end up with the damaged personalities dominating our economic life (think Wall Street).Now, we live through the end game of this setup.I don’t care about participating in special places and modes which are supposed to allow me the luxury of being socially ethical in my business. That part of me is not on the market anyway.

    1. Prokofy

      The reason there are distinctions between “for profit” and “non-profit” is because of *law* — and the laws are good ones because they regulate the amount of time that people can spend lobbying, and make them accountable, i.e. they must report donations over a certain amount, indicate the percentage of time spent lobbying and so on. Good corporate citizenship is possible as well by following laws. If there is greed on Wall Street or Main Street leading to economic recession, it’s not because laws aren’t good, but because they aren’t applied. You’re using the excuse of economic collapse to say we should not have the rule of law.

      1. Emil Sotirov

        Prokofy… from not liking the idea (the law) of having tax-exempt “nonprofit” organizations… to being against the rule of law – that’s an unwarranted stretch of (your) imagination.I even wonder why would your mind wander in this direction?

  16. Blake Jennelle

    This is going to be an incredible panel, so glad that you’re a part of it Fred. Conversations like this between venture investors and social entrepreneurs are long overdue. As Good Company Ventures points out, unmet social needs are what create business opportunities. I can’t help but think that there are huge, VC-scale businesses waiting to be built around some of the world’s largest social problems –problems traditionally addressed through non-profits and philanthropy.

  17. TanyaMonteiro

    I’d be really interested in attending/arranging this type of an event in London?

  18. Oo Nwoye - @OoTheNigerian

    “I have always believed in the power of entrepreneurs and for profit initiatives to change the world.”Fred, I will hold you on your wordt. I have program I am working on and I see you playing a MAJOR role. When the time is right, you will get my email with your quote as the subject line. If you are wondering what the hell it might be, I’ll give you 4words. Internet Enterprise and Nigeria. Yes, Nigeria 😉

  19. Prokofy

    Eventually the tax man will come calling for you. You can engage in lobbying, but you’ll have to pay taxes. That’s why people make 501-c-3 non-profits which are regulated as to the percentage of time they can spend lobbying on legislation. That also makes them *accountable*.Of course a senator will take your phone call if you are a venture capitalist.The idea that people will “change the world” without creating an organization that is transparent and accountable, by just “using their blogs and i-phones and e-mail” is not a new idea, it’s an old idea, which is why regulations and law developed over the years to prevent abuse.

  20. Donna Brewington White

    oops, meant to reply to Garrett. Still say Disqus needs a delete option for pre-caffeine comments, etc.

  21. Garrett Melby

    Good recommendations. RSF Social Finance helped sponsor our pilot last year and I had the pleasure of sitting on a panel Friday with Deborah Nelson, who leads the Social Venture Network. I would also mention Investors’ Circle, a national angel group that has placed over $100mm in double bottom line companies over the past decade http://www.investorscircle.net. There is a well organized social finance leadership nationally and we count on their support.Much of the effort to date has been to change investor sentiment. This effort remains in what we would call the “early-adopter” segment. Our goal is to expose mainstream VCs to social impact investing by training the best social entrepreneurs we can find to meet market rate investors on their own terms.Much of the drive to merge purpose and profit has been provided by tech entrepreneurs such as Skoll and Omidyar. The good intentions are there — just watch this video of John Doerr http://www.youtube.com/watc…. All we need to do is offer them good companies.