Sustainability and Entrepreneurship: Business With A Purpose


Business In BC is becoming more purposeful, and sustainable.

Last week’s Technology Impact Awards, and this year’s New Ventures BC competition proved once again that clean technology and sustainability are beginning to dominate the technology industry in BC.


Sure the TIA’s big winners were more old tech than clean tech. Sierra Wireless, for example, won the Company of the Year award for, among other things, passing the $500 million in annual revenues milestone.

But other companies based on sustainability emerged. And with a good showing in the NVBC final 30, it’s clear that cleantech is now a recognizable force.

Some of this comes from government incentives, of course. The Liberal government has not exactly been secretive about its plans to to boost the energy sector here. Most of the stimulation money it has directed to technology is earmarked for cleantech.

But I like to think that another incentive comes from the most important factors in entrepreneurship today – passion and purpose. Passion is what makes an entrepreneur start a business in the first place; purpose is a value system that keeps that entrepreneur and the team around him or her going through the tough times.

No one can deny that BC has a lot of passion about sustainability and clean technology. Half the new businesses I see are built on the foundation of passion for the environment and its ancillary threads.

But previously, we often lacked for purpose, which is more than the simple b-plan term “mission”. Having purpose means that you truly believe that what you are doing is right and needed, despite the prevailing or conventional thinking, and despite advice that you should start a business with more commercial potential.

It’s the creative or inventor gene that makes you see a different future when everybody is focusing on the familiar, and the immediate — things like recession, cash flow, customers, costs and all the other details of business.

I’m not saying that you don’t need to bring some business smarts to a new venture. Not to do so would be suicidal.

But, without purpose, you’ll just be going through the motions of making a buck. It might work and you might do very well. But your heart won’t really be in it.