The LBS Social Impact Club (SIC) works toward its goal of igniting purposeful leadership through its four pillars: Impact Investing, Development and Policy, Corporate Sustainability, and TechForGood. On 17 November 2020, SIC’s TechForGood team hosted a panel of top VCs and start-ups to educate students on the industry and attract top talent to its career opportunities.
“Tech for Good is the intentional design, development and use of digital technologies to address social challenges.” – Dan Sutch, CEO at the Centre for Acceleration of Social Technologies
To highlight both the funding and operational sides of TechForGood, SIC’s panel consisted of two VC investors— Emma Steele, an Investment Manager for Ascension Ventures and Bethany Greer, an Investment Associate for Bethnal Green Ventures—and two start-up executives—Paschalis Loucaides, UK Country Manager at Too Good To Go and Chris Baker-Brian, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Product at Bboxx.
The four panelists shared their backgrounds, highlighting how a wide range of professional experiences can find success in the field—from Chris, who founded his social enterprise directly out of university, to Bethany, who transitioned into early-stage investing from creative positions in the New York fashion industry. Despite differences in their prior and current roles, a theme emerged that flexibility, passion, and hustle are necessary to realize success in this quickly growing and evolving field.
While each approached the space from a different angle, the speakers were aligned in their conviction that technology is not the end goal, but rather, a tool to scale social solutions. As Chris explained, Bboxx is primarily in the energy access space, so he and his co-founders first imagined how to provide hardware directly to households. However, to create a sustainable business model, they also needed to develop accessible payment technology to customers at scale. They’ve done so quite successfully in their decade-long history, and in October, Bboxx accepted a million monthly payments for the first time.
“Is this business closing the disparity gap? How are they really addressing the biggest issues in the world and using tech as a conduit to do that at scale?” Bethany Greer, Bethnal Green Ventures
The fundamental conflict of all decisions in social entrepreneurship, including TechForGood, is the balance of impact and profit. Each of the speakers emphasized that founders need to be mission-driven at their core, as it becomes more difficult to maintain a social imperative as the company opens itself to outside influence and commercial investors. Rather than sidestepping their profit-driven intentions, the panelists asserted that profit can be used as a motivator to scale impact solutions. In addition to focusing on their core area of impact, two speakers touched on the importance of having progressive and inclusive employment practices to safeguard against ancillary negative impacts.
“We are unashamedly proud that we want to achieve a profit.” – Paschalis Loucaides, Too Good To Go
The panel closed with poignant advice for students interested in pursuing a career in this space:
- Make yourself (and your brand) valuable.
- Develop your worldview to carve out your niche.
- Constantly be on the lookout for new funds being raised.
- Don’t be afraid of cold calling—boldness is a good thing in VC.
- Understand why you want to do this. Don’t do anything just to tick a box.
- Demonstrate your passion—volunteer with a charity if you can’t work in impact full-time.
TechForGood will continue to grow in prominence in both the Tech and Impact sectors, and LBS students who are passionate about pursuing a fast-paced, mission-driven career should not overlook the plethora of opportunities in this field.
Liz Wolohan (MBA2022) is passionate about expanding London Business School’s reputation as a global leader in impact-focussed business education. In Autumn 2020, Liz led a London Business School Impact Consulting Club engagement with an Australian NGO and will chair Social Impact Week in March 2021. She is a Social Representative for her class and a member of the Women’s Touch Rugby Team. Liz is an intern for the Wheeler Institute, contributing to the creation of content that amplifies the role of business in improving lives.