A social entrepreneur spots and solves social challenges on a large-scale. Just as other businesses create and change different industries, social entrepreneurs play the role of change agents for communities, identifying opportunities other entrepreneurs have failed to “identify, enhancing systems, developing, applying new models and promoting sustainable solutions with greater social impacts on majorities” (Martin and Osberg par. 2).
Social entrepreneurship differs from traditional business entrepreneurs. Social entrepreneurs focus on social values rather than profits. In addition, social entrepreneurs also differ from not-for-profit organizations. Rather than targeting short-term, immediate, small-scale impacts, social entrepreneurs focus on widespread, long-term changes.
The role of a social entrepreneur is to identify parts of society that have failed to move on and then offer new solutions. The model aims to identify what works and then uses such solutions to solve issues and spread change.
It is imperative to recognize that social entrepreneurs spot and tackle widespread social challenges. This is a daunting task, which requires commitment, vision and determination. The results must be measurable and evident from new opportunities for the disadvantaged masses and society itself must be transformed to effect social changes.
For the past two decades, there have been tremendous growth, interests, talent, money and attention in social entrepreneurship. These developments have shown that social entrepreneurship is a powerful business model that can transform the world when handled by first-class social entrepreneurs.
Nevertheless, one must not confuse what social entrepreneurship entails as many business models are now being referred to as social entrepreneurship (Martin and Osberg par. 1). The change is phenomenal and fundamentally transforms how society views its social challenges and defines new paths.
This research essay highlights how the social entrepreneur company, Obvious Ventures might scale its business model and market reach. It would show possible results when innovative solutions are supported by strong strategies to transform the world.
Obvious Ventures is a San Francisco-based investment firm. The company notes that in the near future, investors will invest with “a #worldpositive approach” (Obvious Ventures par. 1).
Obvious Ventures is made up social entrepreneurs who help many companies to launch, grow and generate great financial rewards. Some of these companies also influence positive social and environmental changes with all revenues they generate. Obvious Ventures is interested in funding and building such companies that add social values to society and that is what the company calls #worldpositive venture capital.
The company consists of experienced investors from successful companies with several IPOs. The team designs and builds companies. Obvious Ventures is guided with the mission of helping and promoting startups that focus on profit and purpose. The startups create new solutions for widespread global challenges in a profitable and scalable manner (Martin and Osberg par. 4). Obvious Ventures goes against the established notion of corporate philanthropy.
It is based on the notion that “#worldpositive business models have advantages in the market and have potentials to outperform their traditional counterparts” (Obvious Ventures p. 1). These types of “businesses have sustainable positive impacts and profits drive their purposes further while the margins promote their mission” (Obvious Ventures p. 1). Obvious Ventures plans to work with #worldpositive companies. Consequently, it has identified three major areas of investments and business themes
Obvious Ventures believes that people can live in a world of abundance through investing in new methods of creating, using and re-purposing resources. Its founders see opportunities and sustainable future as the global population rises to nine billion.
Consequently, the company is motivated by startups that focus on innovative ways to rebuild and re-imagine available products and services for everyday use. These startups strive to promote value and positive impacts on the planet in major big sectors such as real estate, transportation and agriculture.
New cloud solutions and mobile technologies have fostered digital democratization. Today, however, the world has become more connected through the Internet. Consequently, widely accessible solutions and platforms have surfaced across various sectors such as education.
Obvious Ventures has recognized startups that focus on people power as viable social entrepreneurs with innovative solutions previously only available to large corporations, people with capabilities and social networks. The company has focused on companies with breakthrough ideas in education and team capabilities on new methods of sharing knowledge.
There is an ongoing concern for healthy living and wellness, which have become the latest consumer focus. There are increased studies on benefits of healthier diets and active lifestyle coupled with criticism and concerns of presence of toxic substances in food and other household products. These issues are responsible for change and consumer awareness and encouraging demands for healthier options. Given these new opportunities, Obvious Ventures hunts for startups that focus on massive enhancement of human health, wellness and performance with different diets, fitness and medicine.
Scaling a Business Model and Market Reach
Currently, Obvious Ventures mainly relies on its Web site application platforms and referrals to reach potential customers. The company specifically targets social entrepreneurs who combine profit and purpose. Its business model is integrated with both internal operating strategies and external partnership to ensure that Obvious Ventures achieves its intended goals. It also provides financial resources to startups.
Effective business model for social entrepreneurs would ensure that social entrepreneurs transform inputs into tangible outcomes, which consist of social values as measurable impacts and economic values as revenues. An integrated social enterprise ensures that business activities support social programs and the business is established as a funding platform to promote social values as core mission of the company.
Scaling is necessary for social entrepreneurs so that they can focus on critical adaptations and approaches for market reach to ensure success. However, some researchers have observed that social entrepreneurs face significant challenges when scaling their business models and Obvious Ventures is likely to meet such challenges (Comolli and Etchart par. 2).
Reviewing sales approaches
Generally, the company relies on its Web site and other modes of communication and sales for market reach. Typically, Obvious Ventures has generated first few sales from referrals and leads generated and identified by the team.
Currently, the company is actively evaluating its three areas of focus to identify potential startups, understand the industry and what they want or willing to offer in return when they receive funds. This requires a coordinated sale process for in-depth results to facilitate decision-making for people power, healthy living and sustainable systems.
Obvious Ventures must scale its business model to achieve the product-market fit. However, markets are subjected to changes. The company must build its sales assets to support sales team so that they can reach a broader audience while providing time for senior executives to focus on better opportunities for the company. Obvious Ventures is currently developing its product-market fit. This implies that the company has few customers and case studies to support or guide sales activities (Comolli and Etchart par. 4).
Leverage technology for a wider reach
Obvious Ventures will have to redefine the use of technologies in its business model as tools for driving market reach. In this regard, the company will focus on four critical areas. First, there is a need for Web-based platforms for quick and immediate access to potential startups. The company must find new ways of utilizing smartphone and tablet apps to reach potential customers. These are effective methods of reaching customers at any time or place. Customers will also use similar platforms to reach the company.
Second, Obvious Ventures must evaluate possible ways of leveraging Web technologies to improve business processes. The company needs technological solutions that can facilitate interactions with clients and improving information processing. The traditional business models focused on the use of forms to be completed by customers. Today, however, Web-based solutions offer constant access to online forms and efficient means of completing them.
The company should invest in solutions that compile large amount of data in a central database. At the same time, the preferred solutions should offer several methods of interpreting and evaluating received information for funding. These advantages would enhance the speed of company operations and scalability. Although the company will collect much information from startups, the real values from these data will be realized when they are used to provide useful insights for decision-making.
Third, Obvious Ventures must use technologies to differentiate its business and develop a new scale. Although there are several venture capitalists that focus on promoting social entrepreneurs, Obvious Ventures focuses on unique niches.
Nevertheless, it must learn how other firms use technologies to promote market reach. Technologies for the company should be unique. Finally, the company will also integrate technology in its brand. Obvious Ventures shall ensure that it has the latest solutions used in the industry to promote investments.
Obvious Ventures offers capital for social entrepreneurs. It creates opportunities for startups to launch, grow and generate revenues from their businesses. In this process, the company offers necessary education, mentor programs and training required to ensure that startups succeed in their market and they can compete with their traditional peers.
Obvious Ventures must reduce barriers faced by entrepreneurs by offering opportunities for budding startups to conduct ‘tests’ to determine if their business ideas are viable. This will require time investment only. At the same time, the company must limit chances of negative outcomes from its investments by reducing massive investment requirements and possibly limiting financial failures. These approaches will reduce losses, which Obvious Ventures or startups may incur in case of challenges. It does no harm to startups.
Obvious Ventures should offer business training as a component of risk reduction. Partners will understand how to market and sell their products and services. It must go beyond training and education. They must engage in constant product reviews to determine their social impacts, revenue generation and health related benefits to society. These requirements need effective marketing and administrative systems and support personnel to ensure success of the company. In this way, Obvious Ventures will define new practices in the industry.
Leadership and vision
Obvious Ventures requires great leadership and vision to drive the company to new markets. There is a need for strong, capable leaders who are committed to redefine the business model and reach new markets. This would ensure that business scaling is successful. The company must ensure that all internal stakeholders understand scaling agendas.
Right leadership remains a fundamental element of organizational success. The company requires leadership at all stages of its growth, including incubation and scaling periods. It must evolve with right leaders who understand industry trends and products. Scaling will require the company to support greater flexibility to ensure effective redesign of processes, company strategies and the new business model for a more focused market approach.
Obvious Ventures shall ensure that it is performance-driven. Before embarking on scaling, the company must collect adequate information from the market. Its performance must show increasing sales activities, revenues and profitability with purpose. Most important perhaps is that Obvious Ventures must demonstrate that it has achieved social impacts it had identified to accomplish. At the same time, the company will need genuine opportunities and interests to embark on scaling.
While the company may consider its market niche as obvious, the current available startups in the portfolio may not be adequate to sustain the business to grow. In this process, the company should have a well-developed business plan to support scaling and market reach strategies.
Reviewing impacts against business performance
The company must understand that scaling of a business model and market reach is a daunting task. It must review impacts on society against business growth. The company may engage in costly social programs such as launching, nurturing and ensuring success of the business. Obvious Ventures must understand what elements to be integrated or streamlined during business model scaling and market reach.
Supporting both local and international social entrepreneurs
Obvious Ventures will have to scale its business model to support both local and international ventures. Today, there are useful technologies in emerging economies. In addition, cases of chronic diseases associated with poor lifestyles have spread to these new economies. These are new market opportunities for Obvious Ventures. This approach will support local budding entrepreneurs in San Francisco as well as other parts of the world. Moreover, the company has identified three areas with great impacts on society with sustainable outcomes.
Obvious Venture is a for-profit business. The company has a vision to fund social entrepreneurs. It is not limited to San Francisco and therefore needs partners in other locations for a widespread global market reach. The company must ensure that it supports local entrepreneurs to stimulate local job creation. To get more local budding entrepreneurs, the company must collaborate with other stakeholders to reach potential startups. Identifying these startups could be a major challenge for the company. This strategy would expand the business and perhaps reach new undiscovered talents globally.
Working with both local and international startups will bring several advantages to the company. Both local and international startups will offer strong customer base for Obvious Ventures. Identifying these startups, developing long-lasting relations and being able to develop suitable products and services that meet their needs would be challenging, but ultimately rewarding. The company must understand that creative solutions might be difficult to find and must identify and exploit available opportunities.
For traditional companies, it may not make financial sense to invest in startups with social values. However, Obvious Ventures may be able to justify such investments because of its focus on profit and purpose. Obvious Ventures must not provide funds at high costs because this could result in expensive social solutions. Premium products might limit market opportunities for startups and in turn could make it hard for Obvious Ventures to scale its business model and market reach for further growth.
Integration as the hybrid
Obvious Ventures must continue to define its business model as hybrid by integrating both commercial revenues and social values. As the company as noted, its approach differs from traditional business philanthropy. That is, there is interaction between commercial activities and social impacts.
For a long time, traditional business models have assumed that businesses could not impact social welfare positively, and social activities could not improve commercial activities within a single strategy. Consequently, organizations that focused on commercial revenues and social values had different approaches. For example, corporate philanthropy was considered as non-profit activities and could only be done separately (Battilana et al. par. 6).
Today, however, organizations have realized that it is possible to integrate both social values and commercial revenues in a single strategy. It is imperative for the company to understand that both strategies of social values and commercial revenues can support or weaken each other. For instance, the world has experienced the risks associated with social costs (negative externalities) when corporations engage in uncontrolled profit-oriented activities. However, positive externalities are available for business.
Obvious Ventures must understand the role of hybrid model in its business. The company must fully integrate hybrid model in its strategies to support business and social values. As a result, all its activities will result in both social values and commercial revenues. The company will not have to choose between profits and its mission because of the integrated approach.
A single strategy will serve both features of the model. The most important outcome is that the business should be able to realize both social values and commercial revenues and facilitate reinvestment of profits in social activities that solve widespread social challenges.
Microfinance models have demonstrated how organizations can foster an integrated business model for both commercial and social purposes. Likewise, venture capitalists can adopt the same approach and solve financing challenges among many startups. When effectively executed, venture capitalists could offer financial aid for startups and the desired social support for society.
Today, social organizations are increasingly becoming common, particularly among budding entrepreneurs. Social entrepreneurs want to generate revenues and create social impacts to solve widespread social challenges. Obvious Ventures is an example of a funding organization that promotes social entrepreneurship. It would be imperative for the company to review successful models and other organizations with the aim of enhancing market reach.
For Obvious Ventures, focusing on scaling of its current business model and market reach could yield positive outcomes. The company must balance both its commercial and social activities by identifying startups with real solutions to widespread social issues in its three areas of investment. It needs focused leadership to guide its business scaling and market reach approaches.
It must focus on both local and global opportunities to ensure widespread social impacts. Most importantly, Obvious Ventures must understand its commercial and social impacts on society. Without scaling a business model and market reach to demonstrate widespread social impacts, it would be difficult for the company to have large impacts, build a brand and customer base.
Battilana, Julie, Matthew Lee, John Walker and Cheryl Dorsey. “In Search of the Hybrid Ideal.” Stanford Social Innovation Review. 2012. Web.
Comolli, Loïc and Nicole Etchart. “Setting the Stage for First-Stage Scaling.” Stanford Social Innovation Review. 2014. Web.
Martin, Roger and Sally Osberg. “Social Entrepreneurship: The Case for Definition.” Stanford Social Innovation Review. 2007. Web.
Obvious Ventures. About Obvious Ventures. 2014. Web.