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Opinion and Editorial

New businesses that are social will thrive

Jean-Philippe Courtois
Filed on January 28, 2020

I believe that companies like Microsoft will always have a responsibility to play a role in addressing societal issues.

Throughout my career, nothing has brought me more joy than empowering talented individuals and supporting their vision of changing our world for the better. What inspires me is seeing how so many different people are using technology to transform society. From diagnosing and treating diseases, to growing food more sustainably, to harnessing energy more efficiently, technology plus purpose lifts us all up.

I've met a few people through Live for Good, a foundation my family and I run to honour the legacy of my late son, Gabriel, who dreamed of helping young entrepreneurs.

The foundation helps people between the ages of 18 and 30 to reach their full potential through social entrepreneurship and digital innovation.

Aimé Galmi is a young man on the autism spectrum who launched a Paris-based firm called Bakhtech. It helps companies to make their mobile sites and apps more accessible for people with disabilities.

The company's mission talks about making digital accessibility a "no-brainer" and a "requirement" because nobody should be left behind.

Then there's Théo Desprez, the founder of Fil & Fab, a startup on the Brittany coast in France that recycles old fishing nets. Theo was inspired to create his company in 2015 when he was a design student at the European Higher School of Art and noticed all the discarded fishing nets around the docks. Where others saw waste, he saw potential - useful raw material for a prototype shoe. Since then, Fil & Fab has developed a commercial process for collecting, cleaning, and sorting the nets, then turning them into plastic pellets that can be used to create a wide range of products. So far, the company has recycled more than five tonnes of discarded fishing nets.

To see one young person's original idea grow into something that can start to create real impact, is what makes me so passionate about Live for Good.

I believe that companies like Microsoft will always have a responsibility to play a role in addressing societal issues. But a growing population of social entrepreneurs, driven by a mission for positive change, can also offer us new approaches to solving tough challenges, that we can learn from and support.

So how can businesses help nurture social entrepreneurs?

It's true that social entrepreneurs can sometimes struggle to attract support from investors who are often focused more on finding the next billion-dollar startup than on funding an organisation with metrics for lives saved or hectares of wilderness preserved. Yet we can create new possibilities when businesses partner with social entrepreneurs to offer our expertise, our products & services and our networks. I have seen through the support Live for Good offers to young social entrepreneurs, when we connect social enterprises with investors, enterprises, governments, and communities, amazing things happen.

The more we can do to help social entrepreneurs make progress in tackling local problems and then scale to apply what they have learned more broadly, the faster we will accelerate sustainable and equitable economic growth, opportunity for all, and drive positive change. And that is good news for every single one of us.


Jean-Philippe Courtois ?is EVP and President, ?Global Sales, at Microsoft

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