There has been a radical shift in the role of business in society. People expect more from their businesses, especially the rising millennial generation. According to Deloitte, millennials believe that a business' success should be measured in terms of more than just its financial performance and 76% of millennials say businesses, in general, are having a positive impact on the wider society in which they operate. With the growing influence technology and innovation has on the way we live, it’s not enough for companies to just care about the bottom line.
If we look around at the world around us, we are faced with issues that can either be solved - or become more severe in the next technology evolution. Education, sustainability, and empowerment of disenfranchised groups will be key to ensuring that everyone has an opportunity in the fourth industrial revolution. As an example, while we are moving to an era where AI, virtual reality, and the internet of things become commonplace, 4 billion people around the world still don’t have Internet (World Economic Forum) and 1.2 billion people don't have access to electricity (International Energy Agency). Beyond that, in the United States, 5 million households with school-age children do not have high-speed internet service (Pew Research).
Our students are our future. They will make up our workforces, governments, consumers, and societies. The nature of work is fundamentally changing. If we don’t arm them with the knowledge and tools needed to succeed in the new technology age, we will almost certainly see a widening of skills and equality gaps across the board. This is a responsibility that businesses must own, along with community leaders.
Up until this point, certain groups, specifically minorities and women, have remained largely underrepresented in business and technology. This must change. When women and minorities are given access and empowered economically, our society booms. As an example, McKinsey found that $12 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2025 by advancing women’s equality. In another study, PolicyLink found that the American economy would gain $2.1 trillion in gross domestic product (GDP) every year by closing its racial gaps in income.
Finally, we have a responsibility to preserve and improve our environment. Environmental issues such as climate change and pollution have long-lasting impacts on our communities at large, especially among low-income populations and people of color. As technology advances, there are more opportunities to harness innovations for environmental sustainability. Companies have an opportunity to play a huge role in this, and not just by reducing their footprint.
In fact, corporations have the potential to become change agents in all of these areas. At Salesforce, we operate under the idea that businesses can be powerful platforms for positive change. Our CEO and Chairman Marc Benioff says, “the business of business is the change the state of the world.” Our company was founded on the 1-1-1 model — meaning 1% of our time, 1% of our equity, and 1% of our product would be donated to non-profits. Today, we also have committed to creating equality for all across equal rights, education, and opportunity along with sustainability through net-zero carbon emissions.
However, there is always more work to be done and as a company we are committed to taking our work a step further. Here in Silicon Valley, we are at the epicenter of growth and innovation. More broadly in the United States there are over 27 million entrepreneurs, many whom are thinking about how to tackle complex societal issues and change our world for the better. I began working with our corporate investment group, Salesforce Ventures, to create a way that we could leverage our capital power while working with these entrepreneurs to reach a common goal of furthering social change and improving the state of the world.
That’s how we came to create the Salesforce Impact Fund. The $50 million fund will accelerate the growth of companies using Salesforce technology to address challenges across workforce development, equality, sustainability and the social sector. We already have remarkable companies in our portfolio who are leading the charge in these areas. I am excited to include Angaza, Ellevest, Hustle and Viridis Learning into our Ohana
Angaza is a leading SaaS platform that enables manufacturers and distributors to make clean energy products more affordable to the world's 1 billion off-grid consumers. Ellevest is an investing platform designed for women that aims to solve the gender investment gap. Hustle is a peer-to-peer text messaging platform enabling non-profits, educational institutions and advocacy groups to connect with donors and constituents at scale. Viridis Learning is a leading human capital SaaS platform that uses machine learning and predictive analytics to facilitate career discovery, create career pathways and ensure learning aligns with 21st century workforce needs.
All of the founders of these companies are visionaries who want to change the world. For example, Felix Ortiz, the founder and CEO of Viridis Learning, is an army veteran who saw a lot of his fellow veterans come out of the army with great experience that didn’t translate into jobs. So, he came up with a platform to help nontraditional workers convert the skills they have and gain new ones to connect to employers on the other side of the marketplace. Already the company has a 70% job placement rate among first adopters, setting Viridis apart from other open online course platforms that don’t prepare or assist its learners to enter the new workforce. The company is positioned to help enable people of all backgrounds to succeed in the world of tomorrow.
When our companies use their influence and capital to empower business leaders who are creating change, the world changes for the better.The Impact Fund is an extension of our philanthropic commitment, Salesforce.org, that invests in innovation in the nonprofit space. For this fund, we are also advancing the strategic investment philosophy of Salesforce Ventures -- focusing on investing in companies with a talented management team, innovative products that extend our offerings, large market opportunities, and overall companies that have a strong core vision that will resonate with our customers and advance society.
Leaders like Emerson Collective and Omidyar Network have inspired us for many years by investing in both NGOs and for-profit enterprises for maximum impact. I am excited we can join along side them in the fight for improving the state of the world.
I truly believe that impact investing is both the right and smart thing to do. The new path forward is to have the flexibility to approach problems from both sides of the profit coin. When we innovate in societal change as we innovate in technology — everybody benefits. I encourage other companies to explore investment funds and invite founders who are passionate about technology and social change to partner with us on this journey.
Learn more about the Salesforce Ventures Impact Fund: https://www.salesforce.com/company/ventures/impact/