All First Time Entrepreneurs Should Start Social Ventures

Do you run a startup?  If so, chances are you are probably going to fail.  More than 90% of startups do.  And if you’re a first time entrepreneur, oh boy, your odds of failure are even greater -like 99.999%.   There’s no getting around it – startups are hard.  But here’s a trick that might give you your best shot at success.

If you are a first time entrepreneur, start a social venture.

Here’s the logic:  If you do good, people want to help.  If people help you, you have a better chance to succeed.  On the flip side, if people don’t help, you are on your own.  If you’re on your own, you better be damn smart and know what the hell you’re doing. By default, if you’re a first-time entrepreneur you have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what you are doing!!!  Therefore, if you are a first time entrepreneur you should start a social venture to give yourself the best chance at success.

I know I’ll probably catch some flack from the social venture community for saying this, but compared to a regular startup, I don’t think you have to be as smart (in terms of business acumen) to run a social venture.  Running a social venture is like cheating because everyone in the world wants to help you out.

Here’s an example.  I went to an incredible concert this past weekend called the Bridge School Benefit.  It’s a concert that Neil Young has organized for the past 25 years with all the proceeds going to the Bridge School for autistic children.  The show had an all-star lineup including Arcade Fire, Eddie Vedder, Beck, Dave Matthews, Mumford and Sons, and Nora Jones.

All these artists volunteered their time because they wanted to help the cause – it feels good to do good.  I think the same rule applies for startups: if you do good, people will want to help you.

We see the same phenomenon at GiveForward all the time.  In the past few weeks alone, I’ve had a former  producer for ABC and CBS news in NY offer to pitch stories for us pro bono.  I’ve had two CEOs of software companies offer to give us their software for free – no charge whatsoever for as long as we want to use their software.  These acts of generosity from strangers give us a small leg up on the competition.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  By no means am I saying starting a social venture is easy. I’m just saying it’s a tiny bit easier.  However, when you’re in a world where the odds are already so severely stacked against you, that tiny leg up might just be the difference maker.

So if you’re a looking to become an entrepreneur and trying to figure out what kind of company to start,  do yourself (and the world) a favor and start a social venture. You’ll do more good for world and more importantly for you, you’ll give yourself a fighting chance to succeed.

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2 thoughts on “All First Time Entrepreneurs Should Start Social Ventures

  1. heidimassey says:

    Ethan,
    This post may be distasteful to some, but you are just speaking the truth. Tho I would be curious to know what percent of social ventures fail vs succeed…is it higher than regular startups?

    I think the other piece that may play a role is the passion that comes into play when doing social good. I am most certainly biased about this, but my gut says that there is a drive that pushes just a little bit harder when you feel like what you are doing is at least a little altruistic. There is a sense of obligation that pushes folks on. Since I have never run my own startup, I can’t say if it is the same…perhaps others can help with this.

    Lots to think about. Thanks for putting it out there!

  2. ethanaustin1 says:

    You bring up a good point. I don’t know if social ventures have a higher success rate than regular startups. Would be interested if there is data on this.

    Agree with you about the passion. I think that’s the most important thing regardless of whether you’re running a social venture, web startup or barber shop. You’ve gotta love what you’re doing or you’ll never inspire others to join you.

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