Mission-based businesses are a different breed. You can't expect your mission to matter if your company doesn't put it front and center.

Here, Luis von Ahn, the co-founder of Captcha and most recently, Duolingo, identifies three things mission-based companies need to thrive.

1. Get the culture right. It's not enough for employees to be talented. They need to have strong moral compasses and be true believers in what they are doing.

2. Constantly restate the endgame. At Duolingo, von Ahn never tires of reminding staff members that they have the potential to help millions of people. Success at the company is seldom if ever defined in monetary terms.

3. Put mission before money. In most cases, entrepreneurs focus on making money first, then perhaps doing some good in the world. With mission-based companies, von Ahn says, it's the opposite: Get the mission right, and the money will come.