Sean Blagsvedt

Sep 28, 2017

3 min read

Good Social Entrepreneur | Bad Social Entrepreneur

A Good Social Entrepreneur picks a problem she deeply believes in and is worth spending 5–10 years dedicating her life to solving. Bad Social Entrepreneurs cannot name the particular problem where they can demonstrably affect change or choose problems based on where donor or VC money is.

A Good Social Entrepreneur retains board members they respect, who care about their organization’s mission and generously and expertly give at least one of 3 things: connections, actionable guidance and/or money. They use board meetings as deadlines to think deeply and rigorously about the company’s most important problems and motivate their teams. Bad Social Entrepreneurs believe their boards can replace their own vision or don’t have the discipline to hold themselves accountable and thus lack any Board at all.

A Good Social Entrepreneur constantly listens and watches her customers to gain insight into the true nature of the problem she’s trying to solve. Bad Social Entrepreneurs only watch their customers when they interact with their product and wonder how to improve training or marketing, rather than create a product that has organic usage and truly solves their customers’ problem.

A Good Social Entrepreneur makes friends with reporters who can reach potential funders, customers and employees and thinks about how their company can make a great story that’s easy to pitch to an editor. Bad Social Entrepreneurs watch a lot of TED talks and wonder why funders, potential employees or customers are not begging to work with them and whether they should hire a banker, marketing director or recruiter, respectively.

A Good Social Entrepreneur picks a social problem against which they can measure their progress on how well their actions are addressing it. She spends incredible energy picking the right metrics to measure because she realizes her organization will optimize for these metrics and she better damn well get them right. Bad Social Entrepreneurs complain how hard it is to measure the impact of their work, how measurement dehumanizes their social impact and overly focus on oft-repeated anecdotal successes to keep themselves, their funders and employees motivated.

Good Social Entrepreneurs acknowledge that they and their employees cannot work for free for long and everyone needs a reasonable salary eventually, if they hope to buy a home, send their kids to school and care for elderly parents. They embrace that their role as leader is to ensure the organization always has enough profit or capital so salaries are paid on time for years into the future. Bad Social Entrepreneurs avoid excel models and projections as boring money stuff and focus on doing the social work themselves rather than ensuring there’s money to scaleably hire many others who can fulfill the organization’s wider social mission.

A Good Social Entrepreneur attends conferences and dinners when there is a clear opportunity and stage for fund-raising, recruiting, customer connection and/or strategic partnerships. She realizes that being the face of the organization is one of the core parts of her job. Bad Social Entrepreneurs attend conferences simply because they are asked.

Good Social Entrepreneurs realize they must be the cheerleaders of their organization, know how hard that is on some days but remind themselves and their teams to keep the faith because what they do matters. They seek out mentors and fellow entrepreneurs and coaches to complain to, cry with, lean on and learn from. Bad Social Entrepreneurs are undisciplined about which team members they complain to and let their negative emotions and doubt spill over to employees, partners and customers beyond their inner circle.

Inspired by the seminal Horowitz piece, Good Product Manager, Bad Product Manager. Every Social Entrepreneur I’ve ever met (myself included) is both a Good and Bad Social Entrepreneur. We read pieces like this to remind us of our ideals.

CEO, Founder of Previously Marco Polo and MSFT. Dad. Believer in Tech for Good.

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