It seems that everywhere you look…we are all striving to find meaning in our lives. Each of us wants to feel like we are doing something worthwhile, making a difference, helping the world run better. Over the last few weeks I have had the privilege to sit with a group of 9 amazing CEOs, all Acumen investees, who are running businesses across Africa and India, all focused on making a difference for underserved populations in the countries they operate. The companies fall into a category often referred to as social enterprises…wikepedia’s definition being ‘an organization that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being’. So what does that really look like? Take Ajaita Shah, CEO of Frontier Markets.
She is forging a business focused on delivering clean, solar products to rural villages in Ragistaan. When you see the passion she has for her ‘customer’…to find effective ways to deliver remote villages light and power, and remove reliance on dangerous kerosene, stories of which cause me to shudder and wipe away tears…there is instant connection and motivation to find ways to accelerate her success.
And Ashifi Gogo, CEO of Sproxil, who is combatting the dangers of counterfeit medicine by provide authentication on mobile devices and help fight the epidemic of 700K annual deaths from ingesting false medication. These leaders operate with a sense of urgency and commitment that is truly humbling…and their challenges are those that any business executive would relate to as they look at scaling organizational growth – human capital management, leveraging technology, understanding customer insight, and developing leadership skills. It was a distinct honor to bring together a powerhouse of a cohort to the first SAP Social Entrepreneur Fellowship, in an effort to increase their capacity and growth, and in turn affect more positive change in society. The Fellowship, a collaboration with Acumen, married together a structured agenda focused on core topics most relevant to their business, with 100 experts and executives across SAP, Silicon Valley corporates, start ups, investors, and influencers…and let’s not forget the tremendous knowledge and insights each of the CEOs carry from their experience. Over the course of 10 days, the CEOs worked through exercises, engaged in dialogue with experts, questioned panelists, dived into business model canvases, challenged me, developed an incredibly special bond as a cohort, and honed in on what they could tangibly walk away with. And now we continue over the next 90 days to keep our foot on the pedal…support the CEOs to find that sought-after balance of progressing against goals and managing day-to-day business…to see if the needle can move, and if the investment all around can propel these incredible businesses forward. It’s an exciting time in the SAP corporate social responsibility team – this is meaningful work and we are just getting started! To learn more about the CEOs and the work they focused on in the SAP Social Entrepreneur Fellowship, watch this short video.