Many social issues such as poverty, homelessness, and climate change get hotly debated by the media and political circles on a daily basis, However, until very recently, the business world has largely stayed away from any direct involvement in these issues of social relevance. That seems to be changing, driven by rising demand amongst consumers and the public to remain informed about the impact of their dollar. With businesses being encouraged to find their core social purpose, there is a big wave towards solving societal issues through purposeful social enterprise models that incorporate startup concepts such as lean philosophy into otherwise charitable and impactful endeavours.
Geoff Gourley, the founder of the social enterprise accelerator One10 and the $100 million Impact Investment Fund is a veteran in starting, running and supporting purposeful businesses. Therefore, talking to him on our podcast was a great opportunity to learn about the nuances of social entrepreneurship and the tremendous opportunity this field presents for tackling problems while offering a positive return not only to shareholders but also to the community.
Compared to when Geoff started his first business as a nineteen-year-old almost three decades ago, the Australian business landscape has changed remarkably in terms of the support that is available for new entrepreneurs and startup companies. The emergence of incubators, accelerators, VC mentors, and government initiatives such as the $60 million LaunchVic have meant that people with great ideas have much easier access to advice, support and capital to bring their dreams into life!
Things have been gathering traction within the social enterprise arena has well.
Geoff explains, “The not-for-profits social enterprise sector in Australia in 2015 was the second fastest growing business sector. There are over 660,000 not-for-profits and social enterprises in the country and about 1400 of those have a revenue of greater than $10 million.”
With such big players in the social enterprise scene and investors increasingly becoming wary of investing in big banks and mining companies, impact investing has emerged as a robust asset class on its own, returning 8 - 13% per year. However, Geoff concedes that social enterprises are lagging behind in terms of the support that they receive relative to other startup sectors such as fintech.
The One10 Accelerator Program was launched in December 2015 with the single purpose of providing social entrepreneurs with much-needed support and mentoring required in order to build sustainable businesses around their ideas that address burning social issues. The Impact Investment Fund, on the other hand, enables high-net-worth individuals, family businesses, and socially conscientious companies to invest in purposeful ventures.
According to Geoff, “The One10 Accelerator along with the Impact Investment Fund provides a complete ecosystem within which a company can be guided down an unbroken pathway from ideation, through to minimum-viable-product, to investability and then scale.”
For aspiring social entrepreneurs, Geoff advises that they find an idea that they are really passionate and aligns with their top skills. The next obvious step is to surround oneself with a great founding team who bring along complementary skills. Having the support from professional mentors within an incubator or accelerator is also a fantastic idea as that takes a lot of the stress out of launching a company and reduces the chances of failure. For education as well as inspiration, Geoff is particularly fond of the books Lean Startup by Eric Reis and Chapter One by Daniel Flynn as being especially useful for creating a lean business in the social entrepreneurship space.
With State and Federal governments looking to become more efficient in the delivery of services, there is increasing reliance on social enterprises to offer leaner and cost effective solutions that large organisations and companies fumble to put together. Additionally, the trend of millennials seeking fulfilment in their work over and above monetary compensation means the pace of growth in social entrepreneurship is very much likely to continue in the future.