How Mentorship Impacts Social Entrepreneurship
By Randy Haykin, Founder of The Gratitude Network
Over the last 25+ years I’ve spent in the Silicon Valley, I’ve had many opportunities to work with highly innovative entrepreneurs. I began to get involved in the social impact space about 15 years ago through Opportunity International, a microlender that works in 30 countries around the world. I noticed a similarity between the tech entrepreneurs I was working with in Silicon Valley and the way that Opportunity International was operating. The commonality was leverage. In the Silicon Valley, a technology advantage or an incredibly bright team, or money, in some cases, would lead to an innovation such as Yahoo, Google or Twitter. With the right kind of leverage, that innovation could affect millions of people. I founded The Gratitude Network so I could use my knowledge and leverage to positively impact innovative entrepreneurs who are helping those in need.
The Gratitude Network’s approach to creating change is to help innovative social entrepreneurs with connections, mentoring, and access to capital. We seek out people with the drive, skills, and passion to leverage and scale the enterprises they build. Through mentorship, we help these entrepreneurs turn their ventures into something that can positively impact the lives of thousands or millions of people. Winning a Gratitude Award means gaining access to influential people and organizations that provide the mentorship and money that helps enterprises grow.
Helping Entrepreneurs with a Passion for Helping Others
In 2006 Matt Flannery and Premal Shah met with me to discuss their new social impact startup, Kiva. They told me they knew I had helped Yahoo and Overture and other startups and they wanted to know what I could do to help them. And I introduced them to a few folks, but I realized there was no system set up to help social entrepreneurs like Kiva. For those entrepreneurs in the Silicon Valley who wanted to create something that benefits others there was no process, no money, no mentors…nada. Matt and Premal were fortunate enough to land with Bill Draper and a number of other key people in the Valley who really helped them launch their business (and to get on the Oprah Show a few years later). From observing them, and watching the growth of their company, I learned that we needed to build something in the Silicon Valley that would work with entrepreneurs in a different way. We needed to look for entrepreneurs that had a heart and a passion for helping others and then devise a way of helping those folks just as much as making the next million with a tech entrepreneur.
Mentorship in Action: The Growing Impact of DrinkWell
Minhaj Chowdhury, the co-founder and CEO of DrinkWell, is exactly the kind of passionate social entrepreneur the Gratitude Network aims to help. Minhaj was a SOCAP entrepreneur scholarship recipient and Gratitude Award winner in 2014. His enterprise, DrinkWell, uses a micro-franchise model in impoverished areas that lack access to safe drinking water because of arsenic contamination. DrinkWell supplies filtration technology and business tools to a network of entrepreneurs who sell clean water within their local communities. This innovative enterprise is creating jobs and building local economies while providing clean water to over 200 million people across India, Bangladesh, Laos, Cambodia, and Nepal. Minhaj’s story demonstrates how helping entrepreneurs like him can impact the lives of millions of people.
Minhaj Chowdhury’s story is a classic example of how leverage increases impact. By spending a few hours of time mentoring Minhaj, or in the case of the Gratitude Network, tens of hours of time with Minhaj, and connecting him to resources that helped him acquire funding–that leverage will impact millions of people. Since winning his Gratitude Award, Minhaj was designated one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs and Drinkwell was the first place winner at the Global Social Venture Competition. This year, I spent a week mentoring Minhaj in the Silicon Valley. Right before he got on the train to leave Palo Alto he gave me a hug and said it had been an incredible week.
SOCAP and The Gratitude Awards
I am a long term follower and attendee of SOCAP. Interest in social entrepreneurship has risen over the last 5 to 10 years and social entrepreneurs are coming to the SOCAP conference in great numbers. SOCAP is known as the conference that focuses on the intersection of money and meaning. It is the one event where the money is showing up. But, I noticed a number of years ago that many young entrepreneurs at SOCAP were roaming around, searching for help (taking a needle-in-a-haystack approach) to identifying and locating people that could help them and their start ups. Today SOCAP is addressing that issue in many ways, including our partnership.
The reason the Gratitude Network is a great fit with SOCAP is that our mission is to discover and nurture the most leverageable social entrepreneurs in the world. The ones that could really benefit from leverage. So a little bit of support and a little bit of money creates leverage that could impact millions of people. That is what we are searching for and they are coming to SOCAP.
How Could Mentorship Impact Your Enterprise?
As I stood in front of the SOCAP audience in 2014 to present the nine Gratitude Award finalists I asked, by a show of hands, how many in the audience would love to work with one of these entrepreneurs this coming year. Most of the hands in the audience went up. People were really enthusiastic. I’ve got to say I was the luckiest guy in the world, because I would get to work with all nine of them over the coming year. Do you want to stand with me on the main stage at SOCAP15? If you are the kind of entrepreneur who can create greater impact with the mentorship and support offered by the Gratitude Network, apply for the SOCAP entrepreneur scholarship and your opportunity to be selected as a Gratitude Award winner.
To learn more, read Your Guide to The Gratitude Awards at SOCAP15.
About the Author
Randy Haykin is a Silicon Valley angel investor, entrepreneur, educator and venture capitalist who founded The Gratitude Network. This is the second year that The Gratitude Network will partner with SOCAP to present The Gratitude Awards. He began his career at Apple Computer and went on to become the founding Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Yahoo. He is the co-founder and Managing Director of the early-stage venture fund Outlook Ventures. He is also a Professor at the University of California, Berkeley and visiting faculty of the University of Cambridge, teaching courses on New Venture Finance and Innovation/Creativity. Randy holds a BA in Organizational Management from Brown University, and an MBA from Harvard.