7 Examples of Using Important Issues to Fuel Startup Ideas

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Published
Feb 7, 2020

Feb 7, 2020 • by Rebecca Smith

Not all startup founders dream of dollar signs and unicorn exits — at least, not exclusively. With a variety of important social and environmental issues facing the world today, a new generation of impact companies is rising to the challenge.

Mission-driven startups combine business savvy with global empathy to create solutions for the world’s biggest problems. From environmental sustainability to income inequality, these companies (and their founders) take on big challenges and engineer creative solutions to make the world a better place. By pursuing ambitious goals, these businesses attract some of the best talent in their industries, working with brilliant teams to solve problems no one else can.

Keep an eye on these mission-focused startups and founders who dream of changing the world for the better:

1. Be My Eyes

Blind and low-vision people face struggles that sighted people rarely consider. To even the playing field, Be My Eyes connects people with vision difficulties to sighted volunteers and company representatives on video calls. Once connected, Be My Eyes volunteers can help users figure out where to point the camera, read important information, or navigate unfamiliar surroundings. Right now, Be My Eyes is working to translate the app into more languages and spread the word about its services to provide help to people all over the world.

2. Pela

With concerns about climate change on the center of the global stage, new companies are coming up with creative ways to reduce humanity’s impact on the environment. One such company, Pela, is going up against one of the environment’s biggest foes: plastic. To reduce waste in an industry where thoughtless consumption has become the norm, Pela offers a line of compostable phone cases (and other accessories) made from a blend of plant-based biopolymer and flax shive. Pela’s cases are as durable and hardy as traditional options, but when users get new phones, their old cases break down naturally for a softer environmental footprint.

3. Mission Measurement

Founders of impact companies face a conundrum. They want to make a difference, but to get the funding and support they require, they need to be able to demonstrate the efficacy of their methods. Mission Measurement seeks to bridge that gap by providing companies a way to standardize, measure, and predict outcomes. With a data-driven approach in an industry often frustrated by incomplete data, Mission Measurement hopes that its “social impact as a science” approach will help nonprofit companies prove their value with hard numbers.

4. Haven Connect

People who need affordable housing face huge obstacles in a process that frustrates both property owners and the people trying to find them. Haven Connect, which moved from San Francisco to Austin in 2018, helps applicants find housing more quickly through a streamlined online platform. Users can get help building their applications, manage their waitlist positions, and communicate quickly with potential openings. Haven Connect’s service reduces the amount of time units spend empty and makes it easier for applicants to get into housing quickly.

5. Countable

Young people are passionate about politics, but even the most enthusiastic of activists can get bogged down by bureaucracy. Enter Countable, a startup out of San Francisco that makes it easier for constituents to reach out to their representatives and track bills under consideration. Countable’s product works because no one in government needs to install an app to receive input from concerned citizens. Users review information and submit their thoughts, and Countable takes care of the communication.

6. Enevo

Companies produce waste, but they shouldn’t be wasteful about that waste. That’s the philosophy of Enevo, a leader in what it calls the “trash revolution.” Enevo offers waste technology and IoT devices to help businesses and waste management organizations measure, analyze, and optimize their waste removal processes. Instead of sending trucks to take care of half-full dumpsters, companies can lean on Enevo to make smarter waste management choices. Garbage may not be the sexiest industry, but for Enevo, reducing waste through creative solutions takes top priority.

7. LifeStraw

Around the world, people in developed countries take safe drinking water for granted. Billions of others do not have the same luxury. LifeStraw seeks to eliminate water insecurity and ensure that everyone has access to clean, drinkable water. Every LifeStraw product purchased buys safe water for a child for a year. Customers can also donate to the company’s Safe Water Fund, which facilitates rapid disaster responses in places where emergencies cut off access to safe drinking water. Lifestraw takes its obligations as a social impact company seriously, with resources dedicated to a sustainable supply chain, environmental conservation, and humanitarian work in addition to its central mission.

The world needs more companies like these to take on the challenges of the next decade and the decades to come. With a focus on more than money, these startups are challenging the status quo and helping people see new solutions to old problems.