Thursday, November 8, 2007

Looking for Some Capital- Tech Laureates

Annually, the Tech Museum in San Jose hosts tech laureates award where the best of the best "humanitarians with business plans" are recognised. This year, as every year since 2001, people with mind boggling innovations with a potential to eradicate poverty, solve the renewable energy crisis, bring education to all, not to mention make healthcare affordable and accessible were recognised and honored. Everybody who is anybody in the field of social entrepreneurship awaits this event. A quick look at the website told me that so far 175 of these incredible innovations have been recognised. But, here is the big BUT why has poverty been increasing at the global level? Why are we still deploying fossil fuel based solutions for electricity production? Why are these innovations reserved for the poor who can't pay? I wish I knew the answer! I attended the day long seminar at Santa Clara University today (Technology for Humanity) where the tech laureates, foundations and representatives of multinationals talked about the difficulty of scaling socially motivated businesses. With the billions of dollars being invested in all sorts of tech businesses (Tesla Motors raised something like $100M for a 100K electric car) how do we get capital providers to take more risk in socially motivated businesses? Can we think of it as R&D for social impact? R&D that will eventually pay off not just socially but also financially? Can social entrepreneurs band together - sort of like mergers- instead of each one being individually heroic?

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