The winner of the recent TechCrunch Disrupt start-ups contest was a company that is developing yet another virtual reality/social game. This game takes place in a virtual Facebook bar, where your avatar can meet and “socialize” with other people’s avatars.
Granted, this may be just the thing for those who otherwise have no lives. Perhaps there are many of them, judging by the popularity of virtual life games, such as The Sims, Farmville, and Second Life.
However, it begs the question: is this really what the world needs right now? Have we already solved all the real problems and needs of real people out there? I may be wrong, and yet last time I checked there were still many problems to be solved.
Please don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with entrepreneurs pursuing their own dreams and passions. Even if they have nothing to do with the real world. It’s their dreams, their time, and their choices.
And yet, VCs and start-up incubators are a different story. I believe that they should have some social responsibility; some greater purpose than just making money for their investors and themselves. Such a mission should also guide their investment strategies and choices.
It’s no wonder that many view Silicon Valley as a bubble within the current US social atmosphere. Especially when elsewhere so many continue to suffer from the ‘Great Recession’.
There is a need for organizations that are doing some good for society. VCs are in a unique position to do so themselves and influence many entrepreneurs and start-ups in the process.
Doing Good is Good for Business
In fact, VCs can look to India for a great example of successful companies with meaningful purposes. This model behavior is presented nicely in the article ‘Indian Companies: Doing Well Becuase They Do Good’, by Peter Cappelli.
I’m impressed and inspired by these Indian leaders and their business philosophy. They see the purpose of their companies in terms of a social mission. They expect to make money, but they expect to do so while doing good.
This is not just the right thing to do socially. It’s also the right thing to do in order to achieve long-term business success. And it’s very much relevant and applicable to VCs and companies elsewhere in the world.
As Cappelli points out, a social mission creates a powerful means for motivating employees. We know that employees perform better when they see how their tasks contribute to the overall goal of the organization. Furthermore, new research shows that the results are especially powerful when those goals relate to helping people.
Moreover, a strong and meaningful purpose makes it easier to attract and retain employees. Purpose drives employee performance, which in turn drives organizational performance.
I know that some of you may think I’m naïve. I’ve been accused of that before. And yet, I believe that we all want to feel good about ourselves and be proud of the companies we work for. VCs and start-up companies included.
Indian companies have shown us that doing good isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s also good for business. And isn’t that the ultimate purpose of every company?