My business partner recently wrote a great post about the start-ups he would invest in, but I figured I would expand his thoughts into where I see all this leading: Social entrepreneurs will lead the future of business.
That's a bold claim. Why do I think this? Because it's already happening, and has been happening (albeit more slowly than recently) for the past decade.
Like any progressive movement, it takes pioneers to blaze the way for the rest of us. Companies like Ben and Jerry's and White Dog Cafe have been hacking through the red tape, wagging fingers and sideways glances for years. In the process, they've proven that social mindedness and business are not mutually exclusive endeavors and a pack of wide-eyed entrepreneurs are stampeding down the now highly respected path.
On the backs of these heroes of the social world, entrepreneurs can now make their case (not to mention that they have all sorts of advantages our forefathers lacked, like social enterprise business programs, networks, incubators and a blessing from the government).
Now there are many arguments that social entrepreneurship is praised more highly than intrapraneurship etc. I agree that both are crucial and, in fact, symbiotic (the work of innovators would never attain access to larger operations if not for enlightened people on the inside and those driving innovation there).
But there are some unique aspects to social entrepreneurs that make them the catalyst. One being that they have the least path to resistance to try new models and methods of doing things (no corporate red tape when you're working out of coffee shop on your world-changing idea).
But maybe the most important part is they are out to save the world, which means they won't take 'no' for an answer and want to move fast and big. This makes them susceptible to the greatest rule for entrepreneurship, "fail often, fail fast". Social entrepreneurs are the test bed for what will succeed or fail in a business atmosphere. They also show us where a huge market exists, often by going against all odds to prove opportunity where it's been overlooked for ease of profit.
Can they change the whole business infrastructure themselves? Probably not, but they push the frontiers of what we know as possible, which is extremely important and starts a cycle of demand (better business is possible, which leads us to demand better business). This then opens the door for their real potential of proving feasibility and and the integration of their practices into larger scale operations where it makes sense.