Mission Driven Startups

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A BBC journalist asked me a few weeks ago to prove that we are a Mission Driven Startup. The question threw me at first, but on reflection I was able to give him a few examples

What is a Mission Driven Startup?

Customer driven businesses are increasingly common these days. Focussing on customers and putting customers at the heart of your business makes good business sense.

Mission driven startups go further. They have a cause, a wrong in the world they are passionate about resolving. This purpose motivates them beyond their own short term commercial success. They are grounded in not only creating a positive change for their customers but for the world.

Examples of mission driven startups range from companies that are trying to solve very large problems and hence have a clear purpose: e.g. Google “organising the worlds information”; to more cause — where there is a systemic imbalance they are righting: e.g. Tesla, SpaceX, Kiva.

It’s not a job it’s a revolution

Mission Driven founders

Mission Driven founders aren’t motivated by making a billion. They don’t start by writing a business plan or with the exit in mind; they are inspired by solving a problem they are passionate about. At TransferWise — it was losing 5% of the value of their money every time they transferred money internationally that motivated Taavet and Kristo

In our case a personal pain point helped to see an epidemic dysfunction in the entire industry, which lacked any natural force of improvement or move towards resolution. — Kristo Käärmann & Taavet Hinrikus

Customers > Team > Ego

Passion for customers above all else

As mission driven startups scale and grow, they develop a strong culture, which is easy to confuse with the startup’s reason for existing. At TransferWise, we don’t exist to have cool offices or to develop individuals. We exist to bring transparency and fairness to the world of financial services. Even the way we run (with a high degree of autonomy) — is a means to an end and not an end in its own right. If the mission could be achieved in running in a more autocratic way we should do it.

We get it done

Growing a mission driven startup

Mission driven startups prioritise customer metrics — they take pride in the number of #happycustomers who use them every month. And are ruthlessly focussed on turning the few unhappy ones into happy ones.

Using a mission driven product = Building a mission driven product

Customers of mission based organisations change the world for the better every time they use the product. Many of these customers move from being transactional users of a product, to evangelists of the cause the company stands for.

Using the product for the first time can ignite a passion in customers for the cause. This fuels their evangelism for a better world. It’s hard to use the service and keep it secret. Mission driven startups figure out how to transmit their passion for their cause to their customers and the world.

No Drama Good Karma

Mission driven startups and competition

Mission driven startups welcome and support competition. Competition keeps mission driven startups sharp and supports the overall mission. At TransferWise, we are working hard to help banks reduce fees for their customers. We’re waiting for banks to join our revolution

Not For Greed

Price, profit and value at mission driven startups

Mission driven startups think of the money they earn from their customers as their customers’ money. They invest the money prudently where it can have the biggest impact on customer happiness, which creates the biggest boost to evangelism and growth.

Mission driven startups are comfortable with charging for their product: they are creating value for their customers and need to generate cash to invest in taking their revolution to reach more customers. Raising capital and generating a return is a tool Mission Driven Startups may use to accelerate their revolution. Solving large problems, will create value for the world and for people who back the revolution.

Of course venture-backed mission driven startups need to reach a certain scale and eventually become self-funded to pay back their investors. But the momentum this generates helps them charge forward and spread their mission at light speed.