I like making money. Who doesn't? But for me, entrepreneurship means solving problems and trying to change the world at great scale. For me, business is an opportunity to help humanity.
"Social entrepreneurship," "benefit corporations," "social enterprises," and "impact investing" are just a few of the terms that have been invented to help describe and define the growing trend of businesses that are trying to do good at the same time they watch their bottom lines. The entrepreneurs themselves generally aren't so concerned with labels. The focus is on a vision that can make the world a better place and also generate a solid ROI along the way. Technology startups have led the way, finding new ways to leverage mobile devices, robotics, and crowdsourcing to solve social problems. Here are 10 tech companies, ranging from early stage startup to post IPO, that are affecting humanity with brilliant technology and execution:
Telesofia is tackling the problem faced by many patients leaving the hospital or doctor's office: understanding complicated take-home medical instructions. Printed instructions may confuse, but seeing is understanding: This startup's solution is personalized and informative video demonstrations, customized for each patient through Telesofia's video-creation platform. Think step-throughs of discharge instructions after gall bladder surgery, or demos of diabetic blood-monitoring.
The health care provider or pharmacist enters specifics on patient conditions, prescriptions, and demographics. Using its library of recorded segments for all conditions, ages, and genders, Telesofia's software automatically assembles a video to match. Instead of being tucked into a folder and forgotten, lost or misunderstood as printouts often are, these videos can be emailed, texted, or streamed on any device, making it much more likely they will be watched and followed, and improving patient outcomes through better follow-through.
An alumnus of Microsoft's Israel Accelerator program, Telesofia has raised $1.5 million in funding and is in talks with chain pharmacies. Its product is one of the best options available today to help bridge the gap between a doctor's or pharmacist's instructions and the action taken by a patient at home.
Surgical Theater is exactly as the name implies--a rehearsal platform that turns CT scan and MRI images into dynamic, interactive 3-D models for lifelike simulations of actual brain-related surgical procedures. Surgical Theater's product, the Surgical Rehearsal Platform (SRP), has a screen and two joysticks, making it look like a flight simulator. This is no coincidence. Two of the three founders are former Israeli Air Force R&D officers; the third is a neurosurgeon. Surgical theater has raised almost $600,000 through venture and crowdfunding to support its mission of providing surgeons with the tools to practice their operations in advance, just like fighter pilots do.
GlobalGiving is an online marketplace that connects charities with donors. Started by two former World Bank executives, it's the original crowdfunding site. And, like Kickstarter, it gives fundraisers a platform to pitch themselves and donors a chance to shop. GlobalGiving also puts viral marketing to altruistic use: The site's social media links spread word of your largesse and encourage friends to follow your lead.
Since 2002, GlobalGiving has raised $108,439,966 from 380,293 donors, supporting 9,868 projects and provided visibility to causes that lack the fundraising budgets of established, well-known organizations.
4) Zuta Labs
A printer that prints anywhere--from your smartphone? And travels just as easily? That's the creation of Zuta Labs, whose Pocket Printer is a mini mobile robotic device. It slides across a sheet of paper as it prints text and graphics on a page of any size. Great for those on the go who are far from standard wireless printers, it ushers printing into the truly mobile age.
Started as a project at the Jerusalem College of Technology in March 2013, the company has raised just over $480,000 from Kickstarter to fund production. Future development is aimed at making the Pocket Printer print on other surfaces besides paper, and using color inks.
Umoove, founded in 2012, has developed technology that enables people to control computing devices with eye and facial movement. A godsend to victims of paralysis and a deeper, more nuanced level of interactivity for anyone, Umoove runs on any mobile device with a front-facing camera. By tracking eye or facial movement, it allows the mobile device to respond to not only touch or orientation, but also to the user's level of interest. Think of the conversational possibilities.
Umoove aims to license this technology wherever it can be useful--including games, education, and medical applications. With a total $2.75 million raised in two rounds of funding, it has launched a successful mobile app on iOS and has several application partnerships in the works.
6) Top Hat
Leveraging the mobile devices that students carry in order to interact remotely, Top Hat creates a more engaging classroom experience, up close and in person. The application uses all the desktop sharing, annotating, and polling tools of remote collaboration--locally. It also lets professors control and annotate their presentations on the fly via smartphone, or give out questions and get instant results. On the other end, students participate with smartphone, tablet, or laptop. This isn't your father's clicker. It's much more interactive, giving students a more hands-on way of absorbing lectures and professors' real-time feedback. Harvard is one of the 350 universities around the world using Top Hat.
Founded in 2009, Top Hat has raised a total of $20 million in capital.
A computer-controlled, motion-sensing exoskeleton, ReWalk is restoring the lives and mobility of those who have given up hope of ever standing or walking again. The creation of Israeli entrepreneur Dr. Amit Goffer--the founder of Argo Medical Technologies and a 16-year quadriplegic himself--the ReWalk is in effect a wearable robot that features light brace support integrated with computer control that enables users to stand, walk, turn, and even climb and descend stairs. The company plans to expand on its life-changing product offerings with wearable robots for many different needs, injuries, and illnesses.
ReWalk has raised $13 million to date and is raising additional growth capital.
Founded in 2010, Appsfire is building new mobile advertising tools that better fit ads to mobile content and to users, while reducing the clutter of unwanted banners. Even better, it accomplishes this while showing respect to consumers: Ads are clearly marked as such and placed in front of their best-targeted users. Appsfire is also a mobile app recommendation and marketing engine, helping app publishers and consumers find each other.
By filtering out apps and ads that are irrelevant to users, these tools enable advertisers to use the limited screen real estate of mobile devices more efficiently. And by avoiding impressions that are irrelevant to mobile advertisers, they increase the value of those ads and hence, app publishers' revenue potential. Appsfire also offers developers a way to draw feedback by supporting push notifications and in-app messages. Keeping the mobile ad market honest, targeted, and profitable? That's progress.
Appsfire has raised $6 million in funding to date.
When can taking online courses beat being there? When the courses are developed and delivered by faculty with the multimedia, presentation, and live collaboration technologies of 2U. With a "no back row" approach to student engagement, 2U is a cloud-based platform for building, conducting, administering, and marketing online degree programs. It combines recorded and live conferenced online sessions with face-to-face classes. Traditional top-tier universities like USC, Syracuse, and Georgetown's School of Nursing have already used 2U to build and offer graduate degree programs.
2U raised about $104 million in venture capital before its March 28 Nasdaq IPO.
Developed with media and medical experts, Totali LLC's TotallyPregnant packs everything expectant moms want to know, share, or buy into one mobile app. Photo album, advice forum, instructional video library, shopping portal, and discussion board, it's also a media platform for maternity-related advertisers. The app takes parents-to-be from Week 1 to Week 40 with 3-D animations of fetal development, video blogs from pregnant couples, and even online birthing classes. It dispenses pregnancy and birthing information and holds all relevant scans and documents for easy perusal on desktop, tablet, or smartphone, while at home or in the obstetrician's waiting room. It shares baby pictures, too.
These 10 startup companies are changing the world. Now it's your turn. Which of these companies do you think is helping humanity the most? How are you changing the world with your startup or idea? Please let me know your thoughts in the Comments section below.