Are we at the beginning of a tech for good emergence?
Last week I attended an event in London, Unbound, a showcase of innovation with over 100 presenting companies across all sectors of the tech startup scene.
Arriving at the event, it’s busy, closer inspection suggests perhaps a third of the exhibitors are delegates from Italy or Belgium, some of whom have very interesting offerings. One catches my attention, FairBnB, a blatant and unapologetic clone of similarly named global platform. FairBnB, launching in the coming months, offers a comparable service to the more well known namesake, with a number of social and community benefits added in. Essentially, it’s an ‘ethicised’ version of the established company, designed to benefit community projects in the areas in which it operates. Will it gain traction? Quite possibly, personally I hope so.
It’s not difficult to take existing business model and make it more ethical, the challenge is competing with the incumbent ones that aren’t. Yet this is only the same challenge the fintech companies faced a few years ago, how to compete against the old school institutions? They found a way, many ways, taking thin slices from the pie, and growing with each mouthful. Today those same companies are clearly the future of the sector.
Several of the panel debates and presentations focused on questions such as ‘Can tech save the World’ and ‘Do we need a new ethics for a new tech?’ These were packed rooms, every seat taken, and speakers from the likes of Bethnal Green Ventures and the World Economic Forum discussed how the issue of ethics has suddenly become a hot topic. Appropriate, given that Global warming has recently been escalated to the status of climate crisis.
Encouraging that the creative and problem solving minds of technologists and entrepreneurs are focussing on the pressing problems of the real World.
Tessa Clarke, Co founder and CEO of Olio, a well funded 4 year old company with a mission of reducing food waste spoke passionately regarding a number of issues, suggesting our existing systems are becoming unfit for purpose, fundamental systems upon which our civilisationsh rest. Capitalism is flawed and dangerously so, the prioritisation of shareholder return over all else now looks positively suicidal, whereas just a decade ago it stood as bedrock. Democracy and political systems are equally fragile, crumbling from under the very houses built upon them.
Disruption used to be a buzz word in the startup sector, yet like so much technology the term is now obsolete. It’s as if there’s enough disruption in the World without tech companies adding to it. So what will the next trend be, the next sector to draw in talented minds to solve the problems of the day?
The funding for startups may well be less apparent, including the lack of tube adverts. But according to the CEO of BGV, funding for ‘Tech for Good’ businesses has doubled every year for the last three years, and this is a big indication of where the market is heading. It’s quite conceivable a ‘Tech for Good’ boom is on the way.
As the event closed, I walked through Shoreditch, ever the barometer of cool. I stopped outside a pub. The Green Vic, aiming to be ‘The most ethical pub in the World’. And I am reassured.