During the past weeks we have started to engage with CEOs of high growth technology companies across Europe and the US for a book we are writing on how to scale a tech firm. One of our first interviews was with Simon Bransfield-Garth, CEO of renewable energy firm Azuri Technologies, and one of the most striking ideas that emerged in our discussion was the idea of trying to do some good for the world through business.
We live in cynical times, and it’s easy to sneer at those who want their work to be meaningful. The TV show, Silicon Valley, lampoons this notion in a very funny way, but the reality is that human beings are complex, and the desire to make money is not enough to sustain the growth of a strong business.
Simon referred to the ‘cocktail party test’ – ‘when you tell people in this setting what your business does, what kind of reaction does it evoke?’ Azuri delivers renewable energy solutions to the poorest parts of Africa, and does so in a way that is cost effective for its end users. Their customers save money and reduce their carbon emissions by switching from fossil to solar – Azuri does well commercially, the consumer saves money, and the more people are using clean, renewable energy.
Azuri represents a new type of business – one where making money is still the main goal, though this objective is complemented by a genuine desire to improve things. The generations coming up below my own are increasingly conscious of how we are treating the planet, and more focused on doing something about it. Simon spoke about his focus on ‘…hiring people who are capable of doing much more than what they start out doing’ as a key reason for the success of Azuri.
Our assumption at Zartis is that those at the top of their field will increasingly choose to work for companies that strive to do some good in the world. In a world where there is increasing competition for the most talented workers, this is something to keep in mind for entrepreneurs.