November 27, 2013
Great people and social missions
After another whistle-stop week, which included a very exciting set of meetings about our Launchpad programmes in Birmingham and the Black Country, I’ve finally sat down to answer the second question I alluded to in my post on Elastic Capital. What is our approach to the ‘social’ in our ‘social investment’.
Now, regular readers of this blog – both of you – please be warned, this post mentions company / corporate forms, asset locks and governance structures. If these are things that are more likely to sink your boat than float it, then I can happily point you to a couple of YouTube videos to while away some time:
WHAT WE DO
We look for and invest in people with a social mission, rather than people with a specific business plan.
Why do we do this? Because the business plan will always change. That’s not necessarily a bad thing: it’s inevitable for a sustainable business to emerge over the long term.
The question I referred to at the start, reiterated on Twitter by Nick Temple, was about Hub Launchpad’s approach to the ‘social’ in our investment.
My response is that it is the missions people come to us with which are social, not the money we invest. Money is just part of how we support individuals to try and make the world a better place.
There is a very famous quote from the cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead which influenced me when considering whether to take the plunge to set up social organisations with big missions:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Organisations are great, insofar as they offer a structure for individuals to create impact. I don’t think there is one legal structure, definition or governance model which is appropriate in for every organization that wants to create impact.
There is a deeply personal and complex set of decisions that need to be taken when founding a company to decide how to best create the impact you want from your efforts. Organisations, and the intellectual property they create, are fundamentally dependent on the individuals who run and operate it.
We have multiple safeguards in place at Hub Launchpad, through our assessment process, investment terms and agreements with all of the founders on our accelerators. We do this to ensure we set the bar as high as possible when looking for people who have the talent and character to be a part of our cohorts of founders.
Ultimately, we have to put our trust in the people we invest in at Hub Launchpad. It is a risk, of course it is. But it is a risk we are inherently comfortable taking – we assume the best in people and view this risk in a positive light.
In order to ensure that founders have the best chance of success, I think it is crucial that we embrace the idea that different businesses require different corporate forms and governance structures.
Each case is entirely dependent on the ambitions, resources and individuals involved. So we are agnostic when it comes to corporate form: our investment is structured so that we don’t force anyone into any one structure.
Where we are not agnostic is when it comes to the social mission: there simply has to be one inherent in any team that we invest in.