Silicon Valley's reputation is a mixed bag.
On one hand, it's regarded as an international magnet for the most brilliant and innovative young folks to come up with game-changing ideas that transform the world of technology and engineering.
On the other, Silicon Valley is often seen as a place where predatory profit-seekers practice capitalism without limits, with little concern for anything but their paychecks -- as humorously exemplified by the HBO series of the same name.
But according to HP -- one of the best-known Silicon Valley goliaths -- these two faces of Silicon Valley aren't necessarily incompatible.
In a slew of recent initiatives, HP wants to show that the financial empowerment associated with entrepreneurship both can and should be used to make the world a better place.
"We view entrepreneurship primarily as a tool for social impact," says Nate Hurst, HP's Chief Sustainability Officer, whom I recently interviewed. In tune with HP's vision to "help everyone, everywhere," Hurst explained some ways that Silicon Valley startups can make a tangible difference in the world -- rather than just in their founders' bank accounts.
Fostering young entrepreneurship
Core to HP's philosophy is the idea that young entrepreneurs hold the keys to the future -- regardless of where they're from. They were among the first, for instance, to respond respond to the White House's Call to Action for private-sector companies to commit to helping refugees who reside in countries in the throes of the global refugee crisis.
To that end, HP implemented several technology centers in Lebanon and Jordan, which focus on building entrepreneurship and tech skills specifically tailored to the needs of refugees.
Of course, setting up international tech studios isn't a realistic option for all startups. By sponsoring domestic conferences, however -- such as the Forbes Under 30 Summit, of which HP is a platinum sponsor -- startups can help promote the entrepreneurial spirit while staying stateside.
Giving back to the community
To Hurst, sponsorship alone isn't enough. "We don't want to just sponsor a conference," he says. "We want to see real impact come out of these events."
As such, HP is contributing to Forbes' Hack-a-thon, which will cap off the four-day Summit. Hosted at Boston's District Hall, the Hack-a-thon's theme is "Reinventing the City," and it provides a chance for the Under 30 honorees to give back to the city that hosted them.
The end goal of the all-day project is to gather some of the brightest young minds to provide the city of Boston with concrete takeaways they can use to solve the problems presented by the rapid urbanization that the city is currently experiencing.
These cover diverse issues ranging from healthcare to public transportation to snow and garbage removal.
"Sustainability has been a core part of HP for many years," Hurst explains, "and our ethos of giving back to the communities we live and work with is of the utmost importance to us."
In this way, events like the Under 30 Summit and the Hack-a-thon align perfectly with Hurst's philosophy: that entrepreneurship and social good aren't mutually exclusive; in fact, they go hand-in-hand.
And, according to Hurst, young entrepreneurs in particular -- who, born into a tech-saturated era, are constantly pioneering new ways that technology can be used to improve the world -- are the perfect ones to do it.
Ultimately, then, despite its slippery reputation, Silicon Valley has the potential to unlock a better future. As Hurst puts it: "Every time I interact with this younger generation [of entrepreneurs], it gives me great hope for the world my 5-year-old is growing up in. I'm inspired by the future and what it might hold."