03 Nov 2014

Why tech for good makes sense in startup land

By Jessica

This is a guest post by Sinead Mac Manus, CEO and Founder of Fluency. It was originally posted on Fluency’s blog on 30 October 2014. 

This week I gave a talk to the new recruits at Startup Institute, along with the lovely Melanie Hayes, partner at ‘tech for good’ incubator Bethnal Green Ventures. Startup Institute is one of a new breed of startups and organisations trying to fill the talent gap in tech startups around the world by fast-tracking bright young(ish) things in startup culture as well as hard skills such as coding, product development and technical marketing.

Melanie was there to talk about their incubator and give an overview of the tech for good sector and some of the companies they have invested in. I was there to share my experience of launching a tech for good startup and to share some of the challenges and highlights of the last fifteen months.

What struck me was that out of a group of twenty, only two of the students said that they were interested in the tech for good space. Hopefully by the end of the session we had convinced a few more, but I think the others are missing a trick. To me, working in a startup that uses technology to make money and create social impact is a no-brainer.

Here’s three reasons why:

You get to change the world every day

There aren’t many jobs where you get to say that you can make a real difference to peoples’ lives. In a tech for good startup, we are trying to solve some of the world’s most pressing social problems, such as depression and self harm in young people, conflict minerals in smartphones or dementia in older people. But instead of using the charity model of raising donations and running programmes, we combine a market opportunity with a social need. In our case we fill a digital talent gap in the market with young people in need of work. It’s so easy to be passionate about your work (even the boring bits) when you are changing the world.

Instead of using your coding, sales or marketing talents on the latest fashion app, why not use them to make a difference in the world?

You get to work with super-passionate people

This is true for many startups, and maybe it’s a bit egotistical, but you get to work with passionate founders like myself and Ian. Many startups I speak to seem to have randomly plucked their startup idea from the air, based solely on its potential to be a huge success and exit rich. It’s hard to be passionate about something that’s just about money-making.

By contrast, Ian and I started Fluency because we felt we are failing our young people and that global youth unemployment is one of the most pressing social problems we face in terms of world security. We are uniquely placed to do something about this problem and this passion for our work shines through in the office. We’re not in this to make a quick buck, and we’ve thrown everything into making this a reality.

The story sells itself

A major benefit of being a tech for good startup is that PR opportunities are relatively easy to get. We are not another faceless app selling to the market, we are doing something different in the startup space. This allows us to stand out and be noticed in a crowded startup space where everyone is clamouring for the attention of press, potential customers and investors.

In our short fifteen months we have been featured in the national press, have won or been shortlisted for numerous awards, and have got every meeting with any investor, partner or customer that we have asked for.

If you want to work in a sales or marketing function for a startup, then working in a tech for good startup can mean that you are pushing against an open door. People are also more willing to share contacts and resources and offer help for free than they are with a purely commercial startup.

So change the world, work with super-passionate people, and have an easier job. What’s not to love?

[If you are interested in working in a tech for good startup, then check out the new tech for good jobs board from TechforGood.tv.]