Dropping the social in social entrepreneur

fork-in-the-road-2-pathsAbout 9 months into my TechSangam blogging journey (that would be circa 2012), I was one of the guest bloggers at the Villgro Unconvention 2011. I recall a discussion where panelists were asked to predict where the social enterprise ecosystem would be in 10 years.

You are probably yawning and rolling your eyes. I did too when the moderator posed the question.

One panelist’s response stayed with me. She said “in 10 years I predict that there will be no such thing as social enterprises; they’ll all be enterprises.” The quote was from National Entrepreneurship Network’s Laura Parkin.

For a social entrepreneur wannabe (which I was at the time), this was anathema. Surely she was wrong, I thought to myself, and resumed live tweeting.

A year later (in the midst of my mGaadi journey) I was reminded of this ‘social entrepreneur’ business again. The first salvo of Say hello to mGaadi emails were making their rounds within my social graph. A friend had just introduced me to colleagues within his company with a blurb that ended with “he fancies himself as a social entrepreneur.”

That gave me pause.

The road to mGaadi had gone through TechSangam and my friend was intimately aware of my journey. The reason mGaadi’s mission had deeply resonated with me in the first place (and why I decided to startup) was because of its social enterprise roots. An opportunity to dramatically improve the lives of auto rickshaw drivers (the mission) by delivering a superior experience for commuters (the means) was the raison d’être for mGaadi.

But was a I social entrepreneur? Was mGaadi a social enterprise?

Technically speaking, the answer to both was yes. But social entrepreneur had a pretentious (and borderline holier-than-thou) ring so I eventually dropped the adjective.

mGaadi may have started out as a social enterprise but when a heavily funded mainstream startup entered our turf, we turned into a plain ol’ pre-Series A startup :)

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