Since starting my first company in 1992, I consider it a privilege to being able to work with so many extraordinary founders, entrepreneurs and leaders globally. They come from start-ups and multinationals, NGOs and public authorities. Their diversity is inspiring. But they all share one commonality: passion for impact. It’s easiest to feel passionate about something that does good. As an entrepreneur, I have founded, co-founded and invested in over twenty five businesses to date. Full disclosure is appropriate at this point: I enjoy making profits! But not in isolation. I always tried to focus on businesses that also do some good in the world.
No purpose. No passion. No success.
Until a few years ago, I had never heard of the term ‘impact’! A little like loving avocados just for the way they taste and then learning they are actually called superfoods, I realized that my passion, my entrepreneurial superfood, is ‘impact’. And I’ve also realized – a little too late in some cases – that my most dismal failures have been in businesses that didn’t focus on purpose and impact. No purpose; no passion; no success. It’s a truism, but one that I hold very dear.
Impact on the way to mainstream
So, I have always been passionate about it without having had a name for it. But giving a name to something really helps us focus on it, understand it more fully, and consequently do it better. More and more entrepreneurs focus on impact and the whole impact movement grows rapidly. The financial community quickly follows suit with impact investments becoming mainstream. It was remarkable when Henry Kravis and George Roberts, Co-founders and Co-CEOs of private equity giant KKR, prominently stated in their last investor letter the goal of making ‘a meaningfully positive impact on the world.’ Shortly thereafter, in the second quarter of 2018, they announced the launch of their first $1bn Global Impact Fund. As investors turn their attention (and money) to impact, we’ll see pledges to deliver market-beating returns AND specific, measurable impact at the same time. The annoying discussion of ‘impact first’ versus ‘outcome first’ is going to become silent.
Impact Entrepreneurship is going to change the world
But if entrepreneurship is going to change the world, it must include everyone. Every company, small or large, local or global can and should focus on impact. You don’t need to solve world hunger all at once or clean the world’s oceans of all the plastic waste overnight. Every improvement – big or small – counts. For my part, I found that the seventeen sustainable development goals (SDGs) of the United Nations provide a great framework for thinking about your impact. In each one of our ventures, we try to focus on purpose and impact. Whether it is the largest doctor’s platforms in Germany and India, our leading European plastic recycling company SkyPlastics, or our latest portfolio addition Enpulsion which aims at helping to drive the democratization of space – I am convinced impact is at the core of our success. Individually, as organizations and for society as a whole. One thing is crystal clear: what we’ll invest in today determines the world we’ll live in tomorrow.
As entrepreneurs, leaders and innovators – what will your impact be? And for those that are (still) primarily focused on profits: remember Peter Diamandis’ observation: “The best way to become a billionaire, is to help a billion people”.