SXSWorld November 2015


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2 6 S X S W o r l d | N O V E M B E R 2 0 1 5 | S X S W. C O M e are Gen Xers and have approached life the Gen X way. We focused our early career years on benefitting our employers and believing things were going to work out for us the same way they did for our parents. Our generation thrived in the first dot-com boom and in the wake of its bust, in typical Gen X fashion, we put our heads down and WORKED, feeling confident that effort and ingenuity would get us where we wanted to be. A few career crises later, we realized that we were falling short of pursuing our own dreams. We should be doing it for ourselves, as entrepreneurs. Perhaps it's a symptom of being Gen X, but we also favor businesses that seek to "do good." Novel ways of communicating, unprecedented transparency and increased scrutiny have all paved the way for entre- preneurs as focused on the impact they are making to society as they are on products or services they provide. Here are just a few exam- ples of today's many social entrepreneurs and their missions. Roobrik is a suite of online tools designed to help older adults and their families make difficult care decisions. Co-founder Nate O'Keefe states: " someone who had spent the last 10 years building digital information products, I was struck by how hard it is to get informed online for high stakes, complex healthcare deci- sions, like the ones we faced." Personal experiences can be keystones to core insights. O'Keefe and his cofounder experienced the stress of eldercare first-hand: "Each change brought a new crisis and a new set of rules, chal- lenges and concerns. There's a lot of content on the Internet about this life phase, but very little that's guided, personalized and curated enough that you can really see yourself and your own situation in it." Founded by two biologists, Seattle-based Pembient is focused on lessening the impact of the illegal trade of endangered animals by biotech- nology to create an alternative supply chain to poaching for products such as rhino horn, elephant tusk and tiger bone. Beginning with rhino horn, Matthew Markus and his partner George Bonaci hope to create coveted animal products in the lab, lessening the human demand that is driving species to extinction. Markus and Bonaci were troubled both by the poaching of rhinos and the proposed solutions they were seeing. According to Markus, "the response to this [poaching] problem was a global campaign to stigmatize the end user of rhinoceros horn products and eradicate the cultural traditions supporting their use. As someone who studied East Asian languages and cultures, I didn't really want to see the problem tackled in that manner." Some social entrepreneurs are inspired by the injustice they see around the world. They're tackling problems such as hunger, job cre- ation and water. A few years ago, the team who founded This Bar Saves Lives traveled to Africa for a humanitarian trip, where they witnessed severe, acute malnutrition. While there, they saw Plumpy'NutĀ® nutrition bars being used to bring children from the brink of starva- tion. Following the one-for-one model, they made their own bar for the U.S. market to raise awareness and funds to fight malnutrition around the world. Kirsten Dickerson's documentary film work had her travelling the world telling the stories of marginalized people. Wanting to do more, she, along with design partner, Sophia Lin, founded Raven + Lily, a lifestyle brand employing women in India, Ethiopia, Kenya, Cambodia, Pakistan, Guatemala and the U.S. Raven + Lily provides access to safe jobs, sustainable income, healthcare and education, helping workers break the cycle of poverty. Entrepreneurs are also introducing new opportunities in educa- tion, helping reinvent school systems and supplementing education with materials based on interests. Dr. Natalie Kuldell, president of the BioBuilder Educational Foundation, has worked for five years to create the "'Biobuilder" curriculum. "We teach people how to build things with biology," she explains. "The way most schools teach science is disconnected from the reality of the way the world really does science." Drawing from her own experiences, Kuldell adds, "Personally, I'm not sure I would have become a scientist if I hadn't had the oppor- tunity to carry out real research in a federal biomedical lab while I was in high school." Biobuilder is now available in schools in 42 states, as well as on the shelves of community biotech and maker labs all over the U.S. Start ups are also doing community devel- opment work that was previously done mostly by government agencies and large develop- ment corporations, providing jobs and support to businesses that are revitalizing areas and changing community perceptions. For example, The Downtown Project, led by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, wanted to make downtown Las Vegas a place of upward mobility in a long-term, sustainable way: "Las Vegas isn't typically known as a walking town, and I wanted to help create an environment to help make downtown a more walkable neighborhood that enabled residents and visitors to experience more 'collisions' -- more opportunities for serendipitous encounters and conversa- tions." In three years, the members of the Downtown Project have invested in 300+ businesses and employ more than 900 people. Social entrepreneurs are motivated to solve problems larger than their own needs. Of course, there is a goal to make money, but there is also a goal to make a difference. Let's interrupt the pervasive Disruptive Innovation Models, infuse social entrepreneurship into our business plans and start following our dreams. If you know of some great companies engaging in social entrepre- neurship, share them with us: Tweet @gingin and @krening with the hashtag #socialent. T Karen Ingram and Virginia Ingram are sisters, and each will be a speaker at SXSW Interactive 2016. Stay tuned to for more program details. Exploring the Positive Impact of Social Entrepreneurship by K aRen ingRam and ViRginia ingRam Pe m b ie n t cre a tes sy n t h e t ic a ni m a l p ro d u c t s a s a way to co m b a t p o a chin g of e n d a n g e re d s p e cies W G E N E PA G E / A M C

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