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GLOBALOUTLOOK


Techfor good?


ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND START-UPS ALONE DO NOT ALWAYS CREATE ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL IMPACT. ALEX IRWIN-HUNT REPORTS


themhoping to improve the world andmake themselves rich. Venture capitalists make bullish bets on hunches over the next big tech com- pany and future profitability. Policy-makers are in on the hype


T


too. Supporting start-up ecosystems with the aim of stimulating innova- tion, job creation and economic development, all the while hailing local start-ups valued above $1bn— knownas ‘unicorns’—asmajor suc- cess stories. But the reality of the social and


economic impact of tech start-ups does not always align with this optimism. “Tech isn’t necessarily good or


bad,” says Melanie Hayes, themanag- ing partner of Bethnal Green Ventures, a London-based early-stage ‘tech for good’ venture capital (VC) fund,which backs those aiming to tackle social and environmental problems. “The biggest challenge in the


tech industry iswhen it lacks posi- August/September 2021 www.fDiIntelligence.com


he prevailing narrative around tech start-ups is a positive one. Ambitious people flock to


tive intent, it can very easily become harmful,” she says. “I don’t think jobs in start-ups are good or bad. But there are definitely good and bad start-ups to work for.” Stories of start-up failures and


excess pervade the media, such as AdamNeumann, the extravagant ousted founder ofWeWork, the office rental start-up that fell from grace in 2019. Besides, concerns mount over socialmedia’s impact on democratic societies, environmental damage fromtech operations, and the quality of work created by gig- economy platforms. There is a need to bring the tech start-up hype into a practical perspective. Tilting the dichotomy in favour


of the benefits created by start-ups over their unintended consequences will be crucial for these newly founded businesses to align with the environmental, social and govern- ance agenda.


Entrepreneurship above all Growing numbers of start-up pro- grammes worldwide aimto foster entrepreneurship-based growth by


21


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