The enthusiastic, well-rehearsed pitch. The nods of approval. And at the end, a big fat check.
If you’ve binge-watched Shark Tank—like every entrepreneur worth their salt—you’ll be familiar with the recipe for getting investors interested. Clear profit and loss figures, a proven track record, and a good product are key.
But there’s one other thing that turns investors’ heads: your social impact.
Yep. How does your product or service change the world for the better? For tech startups, the answer may not be as readily obvious as it was for LuminAid, which distributes solar-powered lanterns to disaster relief areas, or The Bouqs, which sources flowers from eco-friendly farms that minimize environmental impact.
But we think there’s definitely room to work in social impact. Tech startups have considerable weight, with the combined valuation of Southeast Asia’s tech startups set to increase by more than 3x in a mere five years, from USD 340 billion to USD 1 trillion in 2025. It means investors are definitely looking to get in on the action.
And it also means you have a better chance of standing out if your startup can create positive social impact.
Think about it: there’s a lot more that can be done for investment beyond just a check and a handshake. Investors can and should be putting their considerable resources to good use by consciously choosing startups that can help change the world for the better.
Both local and foreign investors have a huge presence in SEA — Cento Ventures reports that VCs made 393 investments in Southeast Asian startups in the first half of 2021. According to predictions of Golden Gate Ventures, startup funding in the region will exceed USD 14 billion by 2023.
Imagine if even a fraction of that money went to helping local communities or conserving the environment.
Here are some examples of what’s possible:
- Developing a program that educates local communities, enabling them to learn new skills that lift them out of poverty. TechLadies is one such program, giving women the skills and mentorship they need to break into the male-dominated tech industry.
- Putting tech in the hands of small local businesses, empowering them to earn more and helping to boost the economy. Mastercard and Grab are doing this, and so is Indonesia’s Bukalapak.
- Encouraging environmental sustainability either via the product or by reinvesting profits into an environmental program. GrowHub is an example of how Web3 tech can enable food traceability, increasing environmental accountability up and down the supply chain.
Is it a crazy idea? Not really. Both startups and investors should be working together toward the greater good, and can hold each other accountable in their pursuit of this goal.
Investors can make it a requirement that a portion of their investment be spent on social or environmental good. Startups can choose investors who are aligned with their bigger vision and are willing to help them make a difference in the world.
Besides, think of all the grants and great PR you’ll get with the current buzz around ESG. (We’re kidding. Don’t do it just for the publicity, or you’ll only be greenwashing your company.)
If we make social good as much of a priority as we do profits, we have a better chance of impacting not only the current community and environment, but also making a positive difference for future generations. And isn’t that an ideal worth fighting for?
All opinions expressed in this piece are the writer’s own and do not represent the views of KrASIA. Questions, concerns, or fun facts can be sent to [email protected].