Entrepreneurs at the beginning of their journey occupy much of their time with idea formation, consisting of two steps:

  1. New Idea Generation – a free form flight through hundreds of possibilities using the network of relationships and trends we subconsciously build up over time – what my Stanford Professor and Silicon Valley veteran Steve Blank calls the neural network.
  2. Feasibility Exploration of those ideas – market opportunity, revenue streams, competitive analysis, customer development, sales strategy, exit strategy, and so on (plenty of good books on this, contact me for recommendations).

The successful passage of any idea through the formative stage is an exhilaration, and for obvious reasons, thoughts of taking the idea further usually don’t follow far behind. But, there should be another factor in this consideration.

The issues entrepreneurs commonly consider are important, indeed necessary, for any business to be successful. However, there seems to be relatively little attention sometimes paid to the change potential of what we have conceived and are now choosing to bring into the world. I define change potential as ‘creating the most profound positive change for the most people’. Consider:

  • a profit-making startup building a better cooking stove for the 3rd world is likely to make a significant daily difference in its users’ lives, reducing the consumption of firewood, reducing burns, improving efficiency, and reducing cooking times.
  • a profit-making startup creating a cheaper tester for diabetes could genuinely help people struck with a serious illness.
  • a profit-making startup building software to reduce a health insurer’s overhead is helping a large company make money at limited benefit to the sick.
  • a profit-making startup designing a new pair of high-end jeans is creating / cashing in on a trend that may make affluent people feel more stylish or attractive for a temporary period.
  • a profit-making startup building a new app for the iPhone or a new social media site, which is likely to divert and entertain already-affluent consumers for a few hours or days’ worth of time. And yes, everyone who has an iPhone is affluent on the global scale.

Whether you agree or disagree with the subjectivity above, which companies are making the profound difference? We don’t like ranking true value because it conflicts with every other ranking we have.

Entrepreneurs are the gifted few. The choice to be one is not even available to those without money or access to it, without certain education, without a network of supporters, listeners, collaborators, and advisors, without self-confidence, or without an environment allowing for such a positive view on the world. You are a changemaker. Ask yourself what true value your work is bringing to the world. Who are you helping, and how profound is the change you’re bringing to the world?

All new companies change something. Most change their environs for the better. Precious few change lives in a dramatic and meaningful way. You have a choice – live in the third category.

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