Let me tell you a story that is very close to my heart – because it represents what I believe is important in entrepreneurship, about the role of entrepreneurs in society, and also because I witnessed it first hand.
More than 15 years ago, when I was starting Ukibi, I had one of these chance encounters that change your life: I met with Alexandre Mars, CEO of Mars Capital, who became our first investor. He was much more than an investor, and we spent so much time together that we created a very strong bond. In addition to our objectives for Ukibi, we shared the common dream of “making the world a better place”.
Fast forward fifteen years, and Alexandre has been an incredibly successful entrepreneur, starting and developing startups that were subsequently acquired by Publicis and Blackberry. And then, instead of launching another tech startup, he stopped. He remembered that he wanted to change the world, and so he applied his skills of entrepreneur not to make another commercial success, but to find better ways to help children around the world – “disrupting the world of charity” in startup speak.
I am very bad at telling stories, but Bloomberg does it much better than me. The following video – part of the Bloomberg TV “Good Fortune” series about philanthropy – portrays Alexandre’s experience as an entrepreneur and what he is building with Epic Foundation. You might see a bit of me in there too…
Direct link to the Bloomberg video if it doesn’t show on mobile
This story is important to me, because it shows that entrepreneurs can – and should – make the world a better place. Entrepreneurs face – and like – challenges that most people would find disheartening. Entrepreneurs must show a combination of hard work, ingenuity, audacity, just to keep their business going. Entrepreneurs are not afraid of the impossible.
And this is what our society is facing today: impossible challenges. The very sad events of Paris this week-end are a stark reminder that our bubble of unicorns* does not represent the real world. Our real world has to cope with real questions about integration, poverty, refugees, and much more. We need more successful entrepreneurs to give back to society, not just by giving money, but by doing what they do best: find a problem and solve it.
I like the story of Alexandre, because it shows that entrepreneurs can also apply their skills, their energy, their ingenuity, to help society be better. And I hope that we will see much more people like him.
* And I am not criticising entrepreneurs who want to build billion-dollar companies, on the contrary! We need entrepreneurs to create wealth.
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