This start-up made doing good a business priority – and flourished

startups

(Franck V., Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Katharine Rooney, Senior Writer, Formative Content


Businesses cannot afford to ignore the social impact of their business or the interests of their wider stakeholders, as the Business Roundtable explained in the updated Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation. Today, the “business as usual” approach to social and environmental concerns is simply insufficient given the rapid pace of change and disruption of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

To achieve the ambitious 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), governments and businesses alike will need to take action. And as employees, consumers and wider stakeholders increasingly demand companies step up and lead the way on sustainable development, businesses in particular must make social impact part of their core business model.

Doing good can actually help companies succeed. Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan provides a clear example of what is possible when business leaders decide to prioritise social impact. One might argue larger companies are better positioned to invest the necessary funds to redesign their businesses, while smaller businesses and start-ups struggle to make social impact part of their business proposition because of the initial costs and concerns that the return on investment will not significantly contribute to revenue.

Yet, in the experience of one of the 2019 World Economic Forum Technology Pioneers, making social impact a core business focus has actually been beneficial to a start-up’s growth.

What is the World Economic Forum’s Sustainable Development Impact summit?

It’s an annual meeting featuring top examples of public-private cooperation and Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies being used to develop the sustainable development agenda.

It runs alongside the United Nations General Assembly, which this year features a one-day climate summit. This is timely given rising public fears – and citizen action – over weather conditions, pollution, ocean health and dwindling wildlife. It also reflects the understanding of the growing business case for action.

The UN’s Strategic Development Goals and the Paris Agreement provide the architecture for resolving many of these challenges. But to achieve this, we need to change the patterns of production, operation and consumption.

The World Economic Forum’s work is key, with the summit offering the opportunity to debate, discuss and engage on these issues at a global policy level.

How Truepic realized its social impact potential

In 2015, a seemingly distant time before “fake news” and “deepfakes” became part of the common vernacular, Truepic CEO Jeff McGregor and Co-founder Craig Stack set out to develop a tool to counter highly edited and curated online content and fight fraud. Truepic’s engineers developed an image verification tool leveraging blockchain, machine learning and computer vision technology. The business applications of this type of authentication technology – from insurance to peer-to-peer commerce – were obvious.

But shortly after raising seed funding in 2017, Jeff received a message from a US diplomat, Mounir Ibrahim, who suggested Truepic’s technology could have a far greater social impact. Image verification, Ibrahim suggested, could empower citizen journalists documenting alleged war crimes and other atrocities around the world to help protect them against accusations of fraudulent claims, a significant problem on the world’s biggest geo-political stages. Ibrahim also saw immense utility for oversight and monitoring of international development, particularly in hard-to-reach or non-permissive locations.

McGregor and Stack were quickly convinced. As McGregor put it: “From day one we understood that more truth, more transparency is positive for the entire world. It’s good for business because we know that countering fraud and improving transparency can have immense benefits within an enterprise, but it’s also impactful on a global scale. So, it’s been very natural to have a social impact mission as a core value.”

Recognizing the value and power of the image verification technology, Truepic’s leadership decided to redesign the company’s business practices and make partnering with social impact organizations a central part of its business. This key leadership decision early on in Truepic’s trajectory has had an overwhelmingly positive impact on the company’s growth.

New research from Nielsen finds that increasingly global consumers are willing to pay more for products and services from companies committed to positive social and environmental impact

Image: Nielsen

How Truepic’s focus on social impact benefited the business

1. Recruiting and retaining top talent

Perhaps the most immediate benefit of aligning its business with a broader social impact mission was Truepic’s ability to attract and retain top talent. Several key, early hires cold-emailed Truepic’s leadership to build a relationship and find an ideal, dynamic, mutually beneficial role. For example, Sherif Hanna, Truepic’s Vice President of Ecosystem Development, was formerly a director at Qualcomm. “I recall sitting in a meeting with Jeff completely in awe of the positive impact that Truepic already had in some conflict zones, empowering the powerless to communicate truth visually. It immediately clicked in my mind how this technology can help so many others. That day I decided to dedicate my career to help proliferate Truepic’s technology as widely as possible, and I was privileged that the company agreed to take me in.”

In addition to Hanna, Truepic’s mission also attracted top-tier talent from Dropbox, SpaceX and board members of the likes of Dr. Hany Farid, one of the world’s preeminent scholars on image veracity.

2. Beta-testing

As anyone in the tech world will tell you, developing useful, secure and evolving technology is an expensive undertaking. So, it might seem counterintuitive for a company to provide access to a product or capability for free, let alone use early-stage resources to set up an entire division within the company for social impact. Yet for nascent technologies, especially ones addressing fast-evolving or looming problems (e.g. the proliferation of deepfakes), it is critical to test the technology with a wide range of users in order to build a deeper understanding of user interaction and deployments of the technology. This helps companies constantly iterate, improve and evolve their product.

In Truepic’s experience, partnerships with social impact organizations expanded the company’s horizons in terms of users and use cases. “Our social impact work demonstrates the boundless and borderless nature of our technology,” according to McGregor. Truepic has several partners who use the technology to monitor and evaluate the progress of development projects. One such partner has taken tens of thousands of images from over 200 sources to track the progress of development projects in some of the most remote areas of Syria. This can be applied to a range of other business compliance needs, whether it’s remotely assessing the progress of a construction project or tracking supply-chain integrity.

Financing Sustainable Development

The world’s economies are already absorbing the costs of climate change and a “business as usual” approach that is obsolete. Both scientific evidence and the dislocation of people are highlighting the urgent need to create a sustainable, inclusive and climate-resilient future.

This will require no less than a transformation of our current economic model into one that generates long-term value by balancing natural, social, human and financial conditions. Cooperation between different stakeholders will be vital to developing the innovative strategies, partnerships and markets that will drive this transformation and allow us to raise the trillions of dollars in investments that are needed.

To tackle these challenges, Financing Sustainable Development is one of the four focus areas at the World Economic Forum’s 2019 Sustainable Development Impact summit. A range of sessions will spotlight the innovative financial models, pioneering solutions and scalable best practices that can mobilize capital for the the world’s sustainable development goals. It will focus on the conditions that both public and private institutions should create to enable large-scale financing of sustainable development. It will also explore the role that governments, corporations, investors, philanthropists and consumers could play to deliver new ways of financing sustainable development.

3. Media recognition brings investors

In addition to being selected as one of the World Economic Forum’s 2019 Technology Pioneers, Truepic was recently recognized by FastCompany as one of the 50 most innovative companies, ranked #1 for Social Good. The State Department, TedX and many other organizations have picked up on Truepic’s social impact work and featured their leadership at major conferences, which has led to new and innovative partnerships with business, government and non-governmental organizations.

Rather than using limited early-stage capital for a marketing team and public affairs strategy, Truepic’s investment in the work drives the media attention. The positive recognition for Truepic’s efforts in this space has had a cascading effect, drawing additional media and partnership attention, as well as investors.

How start-ups or other small businesses can make social impact part of their core business

Truepic’s experience shows that having the courage to embrace social impact as a core business value can benefit profit and growth. The Blueprint for Business Leadership on the SDGs is a good starting point for business leaders looking for guidance on how to take action towards supporting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

As Truepic’s experience shows, when leaders prioritise social impact goals, act on those goals and learn from the impact to improve their business model, they create a virtuous cycle with dramatically positive effects on a business’ bottom-line.

Truepic recognizes their work is far from done. As a start-up, the company is rapidly expanding and Truepic’s leadership must remain mindful and committed to ensuring support for social impact.

As Tara Vassefi, Truepic’s Washington Director of Strategic Initiatives, notes: “There is no clear roadmap for smaller businesses looking to embed SDGs at the core of their business. Given Truepic’s positive experience, we plan to work with our partner organizations and peers to help chart the path and build a roadmap that might help other early-stage companies put the SDGs at the core of their business.”

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

the European Sting Milestones

Featured Stings

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

MEPs propose measures to combat mobbing and sexual harassment

EU Commission: The banks are not obliged to finance the real economy

How much more social deterioration can the EU people endure?

ECB guarantees the liquidity of the Atlantic financial volume

Only the Americans are unhappy with the ceasefire agreement in eastern Ukraine

UN rights chief welcomes new text to protect rights of peasants and other rural workers

Khashoggi case highlights ‘very worrying practice’ of overseas abductions, says UN expert

Security Council urges ‘maximum restraint’ around Gulf region as Iran and United States trade diplomatic blows in New York

Three ways Finland leads the world – and education isn’t one of them

Siemens-Alstom merger: Can Germany and France lobby to circumvent EC’s rejection, against EU consumers’ interests?

Trade barriers: EU removes record number in response to surge in protectionism

G20 LIVE: “United States and Turkey stand in solidarity with France and its people in handing the perpetrators of this crime and bringing them to justice”, US President Barack Obama underlines from G20 in Antalya Turkey

Kazakhstan continues to push for a nuclear-free world

Germany’s strong anti-bribery enforcement against individuals needs to be matched by comparably strong enforcement against companies

Afghanistan: Bring ‘architects’ of latest ‘appalling’ suicide bombing to justice, says deputy UN mission chief

Drones are saving lives in Tanzania’s remote communities

Reusable packaging: 6 benefits beyond sustainability

Finland has giant supermarkets that only stock second-hand goods

Macron leads EU-wide minimum wage call as Merkel, Medvedev warn of global injustice

Action needed to end deadly clashes between African herders and farmers: UN chief

Eurozone: Even good statistics mean deeper recession

Court of Auditors: EU budget money is there to be spent not to create value

International Literacy Day: What you need to know about youth literacy

What does Tsipras have to offer to the rest of Europe? Is it worth an early advance of €10 billion? Berlin sturdily denies it

New Zealand will have a new ‘well-being budget,’ says Jacinda Ardern

Hate speech exacerbating societal, racial tensions with ‘deadly consequences around the world’, say UN experts

Why financial services can kickstart Africa’s digital economy

Where are the charities in the great Artificial Intelligence debate?

Is your smart home as safe as you think?

DPRK reports ‘little progress’ since historic June 2018 summit with US

EU security and defence industry prepares positions for ‘producers’ and ‘customers’

6 facts to know about EU alternative investment funds

European Union supports survivors of sexual violence in conflict

3 unexpected consequences of the US-China trade war

Mergers: Commission approves the acquisition of Flybe by Connect Airways, subject to conditions

EU to give more power to national antitrust authorities in a bid to secure regulatory fines

What is inclusive capitalism, and why does it matter?

Peacekeeping chief highlights challenges facing UN Police

This is how social media giants are helping stop the spread of measles

The EU’s trading partners: US, China and the rest

China has made a shocking food production discovery – electro culture

Did young people just kill television?

Parliament to ask for the suspension of EU-US deal on bank data

New legislation on transparency and sustainability of the EU risk assessment model in the food chain

When will Eurozone’s unemployment rate stop being Europe’s worst nightmare?

COP21 Breaking News: Paris Pact on Water and Climate Change Adaptation Announced

Earth already has a perfect recycling system. So why not use it?

Drinking water: new plans to improve tap water quality and cut plastic litter

Gaza: deadly violence continues to escalate, top UN officials work to restore calm

Seven trends shaping the future of the mining and metals industry

Why is the EU launching a doomed policy in stopping immigrant waves? What are the real targets?

EU to relocate 40,000 migrants across the bloc: first step of a long due substantial reform?

China hopes EU Commissioner De Gucht drops super anti-dumping tariff on solar panels

Medical students: The need for emigration

Nuclear test ban treaty critical to global collective security – UN chief

Few countries are pricing carbon high enough to meet climate targets

Hollande protects the euro from the attacks of extremists

A shocking new report reveals what we’ve done to the natural world

US cities are going to keep getting hotter

Does research make sense any more? The dire need for new ways to measure success

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s