Plenty of startup founders create their company with the thought of changing the world, and many of them have. Uber changed the way we hail a car and Facebook changed the way we connect with the world.

But while plenty of companies have changed the way the average citizen interacts in today's world, it's a much larger task to tackle an issue that can save the environment, or even lives.

At Techstars, we started to realize a trend in the companies that were applying to our programs. Mission-driven startups building tech to solve the world's social and environmental issues had grown by an average of over 50 percent each year during the past three years.

Social-good entrepreneurs have a long road ahead because investors are harder to find and there are fewer support networks, but it hasn't stopped startups from sprouting up to change the way our world operates.  

When bringing like-minded startups to Austin with the Impact Accelerator and Denver with the Sustainability Accelerator, we're looking at specific areas where technology can make a real change. So, where do we really need tech to solve these major issues?

Disaster response.

2017 saw numerous major hurricanes, including Harvey, Irma and Maria. All three had a major effect on lives, causing more than 260 deaths and estimated $300 billion in damages - the most disastrous Atlantic hurricane season ever.

With any major disaster, response time and efficiency are critical in minimizing damage. There are many areas that can be improved and some startups are already bringing solutions to the table.

Opti, a U.S-based startup, developed technology that helps cities predict floods and control where rain is carried and stored after it falls. The company monitors weather forecasting and predicts the overage in retention ponds, where water is normally channeled and kept during floods or heavy storms, and remotely drains ponds to make room for more water when needed.

Zipline, a Techstars company, created Zip, a small robot airplane designed for a high level of safety, using many of the same approaches as commercial airliners. It can carry vaccines, medicine, or blood. Their drones have delivered crucial medical supplies to those in need in Africa.

When the next disaster hits, we need more solutions at our disposal so we can minimize as much harm as possible.

Agriculture and farming.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the number of farmers under 35 is on the rise - 69 percent who have college degrees, which is higher than the population as a whole. There's also a rise in new "ag tech" startups who work to make these newfound farmers' jobs easier, and to create more natural food to sustain our ever-growing population. Techstars recently announced a program to cater to this technology with our Farm to Fork accelerator program in Minneapolis.

Farmers have also taken up the use of drones and use them to more efficiently plant seeds, thanks to companies like PrecisionHawk. Cloud-based software, and companies like CropX, boost crop yield by saving water and energy. Once those crops are harvested, companies like BluWrap use oxygen management to extend the shelf-life of fresh protein.

African-based Techstars company Farmcrowdy has taken a spin on ag tech to allow local Nigerians to sponsor existing farms for profit return on their initial investment. This method allows for larger farmland, more crops and faster yields, while allowing non-farmers in the area to reap some of the benefits by sponsoring a farm.

Investment in agriculture has gone up 80 percent since 2012, and will continue to increase as more startups make products and services for a sustainable future.

Where we need you.

Developing transformative technologies is more than just a challenge, but when our society is faced with new, ever-changing issues in financial services, education, energy, land and animal conservation and healthcare, we need solutions to alter our ways before these issues compound and are passed on to our children.

According to the Stanford Graduate School of Business, 90 percent of millennials rank social responsibility high on their list of needs when working for a company. The world is asking for more socially responsible companies. By following your passions and using your technology prowess, you can create a solution to make a better world for tomorrow.

Published on: Jan 17, 2018