Giving Compass’ Take:
• In the Stanford Social Innovation Review, an agriculture entrepreneur writes about getting rid of the “doing too much” stigma when it comes to investing in new social enterprises, especially since many startups don’t do enough.
• How can we think about ambitious plans without overextending resources?
The story goes like this: An impact investor considers a new social venture’s grand vision and feels moved. The entrepreneur persuades the investor that the company is worthwhile, highlighting the novelty of its approach: new technology and a new method rooted in meeting customers where they are. The venture has demonstrated strong traction and tapped into substantial demand with notable efficiency. Meanwhile, competition is thin on the ground, and the size of the market is practically limitless.
The investor is clearly impressed, excited even. But then comes the common refrain: “You’re doing too much.” In other words, your undertaking is too ambitious. Your business can’t take on everything that’s missing, everything that stands between your customer and success.
As both a seed-stage impact investor in frontier markets with Factor[e] Ventures and a cofounder of smallholder agriculture start-up Apollo Agriculture, I hear this all the time. It’s an alluring response. It sounds prudent, sober, wise. But it is flawed, and the setting for a recent meeting I had of exactly this type — a posh coffee shop in Nairobi — largely reveals why. The investor’s perception was riding on a popular, though partial, understanding of the tech economy and lacked context for smallholder agricultural systems. Though we were not in Silicon Valley, where the progenitors of digital social networks have recently discovered the farm and found it to be ripe for “disruption,” we may as well have been. As we sipped our precious coffee and tea, the smallholder farmers who grew the beans and leaves for our beverages and whose lives we were trying to improve could not have felt further away.
Read the full article in defense of entrepreneurs who try to “do too much” by Seth Silverman at Stanford Social Innovation Review.
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