A few weeks ago I resigned from my position as Head of Revenue at Monzo to start my own entrepreneurial journey. But my journey really started fourteen years ago.
In 2004 I founded a startup called Projected Games. I made and sold games via my website, www.projectedgames.com, to youth groups with projectors. It failed. There aren’t that many youth groups in the UK. Youth workers don’t have much money. Youth groups didn’t really “need” my games. Driving awareness and demand was expensive and difficult. And yet, I loved every moment (well, almost!) — it was the most rewarding and exhilarating time of my life and I knew the entrepreneurial life was for me.
Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Monzo
And so I then spent the next twelve years of my career in the “corporate” world
Actually, this was partly by design. I got on to Microsoft’s grad program in the UK and my goal was to spend three years learning how a great software company works before having another go at a startup. Somewhere along the way, I met my wife and we started a family. Becoming a parent has been the most wonderful, rewarding, challenging and exhausting time of my life — all mixed together! So I opted for stability over chaos in my career. Three years turned into twelve and I ended up also working at Google, Facebook and Monzo in a variety of roles across sales, partnerships, engineering, management and product leadership.
A change of goals
And now here I am, picking up where I left off twelve years ago, restarting my entrepreneurial journey. But something changed along the way. My goal used to be to build a successful business, measured by the amount of money I made. Now my goal is to make a difference in people’s lives, especially those most in need — to have a social impact. Over the years I’ve wanted to combine my love of building technology and my entrepreneurial flare with my Christian faith.
So how can I make a difference in the lives of the poor, the marginalised and the oppressed with technology? I’m not sure yet, but I have some ideas.
A friend recommended I start my entrepreneurial journey by watching Poverty Inc. It’s a film that critiques the world of NGOs and the impact they have. It opened my eyes to the challenge of making a sustainable difference in people’s lives. After the earthquake and tsunami that hit Haiti eight years ago, NGOs flooded in to address the humanitarian crisis, bringing food, clothing and shelter. But they didn’t leave. They’re still there, eight years later. This has wreaked havoc on their local economy and has caused a dependence on aid. The importation of free rice meant that local farmers couldn’t compete with “free” and so went out of business. Local clothes merchants couldn’t compete with “free” clothes that were brought in. People lost their jobs and the community has become dependent on aid, which is unreliable. This keeps them in a cycle of poverty, unable to escape.
My main take away from watching the film is that a great way to have a sustainable impact is to create jobs for people. I recently went to a pitch night held by Resurgo Ventures, a social impact startup accelerator. The social impact most of the startups in the program were having was job creation for marginalised people, such as victims of human trafficking, single mothers, the unemployed and ex-convicts re-entering society. They were setting up businesses like bakeries, personal assistants, manufacturing soft drinks and employment training.
A sustainable impact
Now I’m not sure how I can apply technology to have an impact at scale through job creation, but it’s something I’ll be thinking about as I embark on this journey. One thing I’ll be sure to do throughout my entrepreneurial journey is question the sustainable impact I’m having and try to consider any unintended consequences I could be having.
Making a sustainable difference in people’s lives feels complex — certainly more complex than making money. But it feels far more worthwhile to dedicate my career to that and I still have a few decades left in me to have a go. So let the journey begin! …
Follow along with future blog posts on my website at www.philhewinson.com.