Yesterday, in Mark Zuckerberg's first public appearance since Facebook's IPO, he emphasized that Facebook is a "mission-driven" company, deflecting shareholder criticism by saying that they "don't build services to make money; we make money to build better services." Zuckerberg's remark highlights the growing trend of tech startups driven by strong social missions.
Though not often thought of as a "social enterprise," Facebook has impacted the way close to 1 billion people around the world interact with each other. As Zuckerberg wrote in a letter to shareholders after Facebook went public, "Facebook was not originally created to be a company. It was built to accomplish a social mission -- to make the world more open and connected."
For the first time ever at TechCrunch Disrupt SF, where Zuckerberg gave his speech, an entire pavilion was reserved to startups creating social change.
As a presenter at the Impact Pavilion, I observed firsthand the surprise and delight that many of the TechCrunch attendees expressed upon visiting our pavilion. As one woman said after learning about Mosaic, "Wow, it's so nice to see technology being used to build something other than another game or app."
Though there will certainly always be a place for more Farmville-esque games and recipe organizer apps, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs alike are beginning to recognize that mission-driven companies aren't just good for the world, they're good for business.
Last year, investments in cleantech alone accounted for a record 23 percent of the total U.S. venture capital activity at $6.6 billion. And this was in 2011, the year that scores of politicians used Solyndra to tell the public that cleantech was dead.
Mission-driven companies are also growing in popularity among the general population. Recent polling has shown that nearly 50 percent of today's workforce and more than 70 percent of college-goers are interested in jobs that make a social impact.
As I've written before, research has consistently shown that employees who believe that they are making an impact are happier and more productive. Millennials in particular consistently express a strong desire to feel that their work is towards a higher purpose.
Clearly, Zuckerberg understands that a great way to motivate employees and create a world-changing platform is to create social change. Though the "impact" startups were limited to a small pavilion at this year's TechCrunch, I have no doubt that someday there will be a pavilion for the startups that aren't aiming to create social change because everybody else will be mission-driven.