Traditionally, successful people turned their attention to the woes of the world only after they made their bundle. Think Bill Gates, Ted Turner, Andrew Carnegie. Now, however, the charitable impulse comes early and often to entrepreneurs still in their formative, company-building years. They view the world as both their oyster and their responsibility, and they see no reason to wait.
This new truth was first driven home to me at the Inc. 500|5000 Conference last year in Washington, D.C., after a presentation by Scott Harrison, the charismatic 36-year-old founder of charity: water, an organization that digs wells in countries with limited access to clean water. After his presentation, the conferencegoers literally tried to press checks into his hands. Many ended up giving through a charity: water birthday campaign with my name on it. Later, I discovered that as a result of the generosity of others, I had won a trip to Ethiopia to see firsthand the improved health and happiness that Scott and his wife, Viktoria, have brought to that dry, rock-strewn nation.
We traveled with a merry group of charity: water employees, friends of Scott and Vik's, and young entrepreneurs, two of whom Inc. has written about-John Vechey of PopCap and Matt Mullenweg of WordPress-and several of whom it hasn't: Shakil Khan, Troy Carter, Brooke Hammerling, and Paddy Cosgrave.
It was my privilege to be with these young entrepreneurs who are looking beyond their own backyards, Scott Harrison first among them. Scott has taken an entrepreneurial approach to his philanthropy, and it's a marvel to witness.
While I was in Ethiopia, editor-at-large Leigh Buchanan traveled in Uganda to meet Moses Kizza Musaazi, an entrepreneur whose work represents, as Leigh writes in her story about him, "a kind of turnkey thinking about human suffering." I had learned about Musaazi from Alexis Ettinger of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Oxford. Musaazi is another inspiration to me, and I think he will be one to you, too.