Disrupting Socialpreneurship with Technology and Transparency

#StartupSpotlight: Disrupting Socialpreneurship with Technology and Transparency

Feature Image Source: iStock.com/kevinwalker

The world was clearly demarcated as far as enterprises were concerned – you either worked for profit or non-profit. But by the end of the 20th century, the scenario changed and nonprofits, seeing how their counterparts were successful, took a turn for the better.

In fact they were forced into it according to Dees and Emerson (2001):

“Nonprofit leaders face government funding cuts, rising demands for performance measures by foundations, corporations that want strategic benefits from their philanthropy, new forms of competition from the business sector, and serious questions about the effectiveness and appropriateness of traditional charitable remedies for social problems.”

Today, nonprofit organizations work in the same manner as regular enterprises, with a marked difference: they focus on social good. So how much good can you do while growing profits? From spreading education to building houses for the poor to training for skilled work, there’s not an avenue that socialpreneurs haven’t explored to further their passion to do good for the community. Just have a look at this year’s list of socialpreneurs on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 and you’ll get an idea.

It was a tough decision for me to pick one to focus on for our #StartupSpotlight. Among the impressive list of young socialpreneurs, New Story stood out, and I’ll tell you why.

Telling a New Story

In their book, The Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets that Change the World John Elkington and Pamela Hartigan pointed out that there are “three critical needs” which make social entrepreneurs the most influential and I’ve found these elements to be prominent in New Story’s business model.

  • Legitimacy for their unreasonable models
  • Access to network of political, business and media leaders
  • Capital

StartupSpotlight- Founders of New StoryImage Source: New Story charity
In light of these premises, the founders Brett Hagler, Mike Arietta, Matthew Marshall, Alexandria Lafci, and Helena Housel fit the bill perfectly. The team wanted to pursue their passion to change the world by giving families new homes. Their mission:

“New Story funds life-saving homes, transforming slums into sustainable communities.”

These homes would eventually create communities and shape societies. So there you can immediately envision a continuously growing society where nobody is homeless; happy to feeling safe; and they can start to build their lives with work and education. Here’s what New Story believes in:

Video Source

The Unreasonable Demand

What’s so extraordinary about New Story is that it has bypassed the usual mandate of a charity organization to act as the intermediary hub, gather funds and transfer it to families who deserve them. Instead, they altered the whole process of donation and made it transparent so donors could see where their money is going and who is benefitting from the funds. In a world where corporate greed is predominant, and charity is a bottomless pit where everyone donate in good faith without knowing where their money is going, New Story has broken barriers. They are determined to disrupt the charity business model.


Through 100% transparency. Transparency, for the New Story’s founders mean that they not only have to ensure all donations go to the right families but also ensure that the delivery of the end product (homes) is accountable.

StartupSpotlight Building and Delivering Homes
Image Source: Fast Company
Instead of going to donor organizations and individuals for funds, New Story has made use of technology. And why not, when everyone and everything else is online? With emerging crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter.com and Indiegogo.com to turn to, startups have previously been able to successfully generate seed money to start enterprises for profit, so why not for charity?

New Story founders disrupted the seed funding process and turned it into an ongoing capital generating tool. They created two types of accounts: one for public donations for building homes where the public and investors can donate. The second account is for operational expenses like giving salaries, rent, marketing etc. Mike Arietta tells in an interview on DocuSign. That makes a difference for all those involved as they can now determine where and how money is being used towards the cause.

Network of Political, Business and Media Leaders

Traditional charity organizations struggle to make themselves known to be able to establish their identity before they can generate funding for their enterprise. Elkington and Hartigan are of the view that the social and environmental owners have to lead by example; they have to take huge risks and force society to look beyond the organization and at the outlying issues that these organizations want to resolve.

New Story in this context have a repository of skills to their advantage. When you have Arietta (speaker and entrepreneur), Hagler (ecommerce startup owner), Marshall (information systems and user experience designer), Lafci (expert in international development) and Housel (social media expert) in the house, you really have a powerhouse of influencers who can disrupt modern media and establish a brand identity in no time.

It’s not rocket science that today’s social media is more powerful than traditional mass media. And when New Story was accepted by Y Combinator, they got the acknowledgement that they really need to generate even more funding.

What Social Startups Can Learn

From New Story, we’ve learned that to do good you can start small but you don’t have to fit into a round hole if you’re a square peg. There are lots of avenues to explore, but the first one that you should capitalize on is your own resources and skill sets. So what if you’re a user experience designer and don’t know much about money or charity? You don’t have to be a political leader to create influence.

Start with yourself. A) Because you are already passionate about the cause; B) you don’t have to go to a third party to get your message across; C) you know what you really want to convey and who you really need to make your organization a success.

Being a brand enthusiast, what really impressed me is the fact that New Story’s founders have actually created their blend of brand identity that no one can ignore. From a simple logo design to an easy-to-navigate website, where they make the process to reach out to the founders, families, and donation procedures, the message is consistent: we are passionate and transparent. Even the little mark at the bottom of their web page “made with soul in atl/sf” has that personal touch that make you feel closer to the people involved. In the end, all I want to say is – New Story, you’ve made your mark.




Forbes 30 Under 30 List of Social Entrepreneurs at: http://www.forbes.com/30-under-30-2016/social-entrepreneurs/

The Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets That Change the World (2008) by John Elkington and Pamela Hartigan

Enterprising Nonprofits: A Toolkit for Social Entrepreneurs (2001) by J. Gregory Dees and Jed Emerson

New Story: Writing a New Chapter of Tech and Social Good by Will Schmidt at: http://tech.co/new-story-charity-crowdfunding-platform-2014-12

100 Homes In 100 Days: How A Startup Plans To Rebuild Haiti Where The Red Cross Failed by Adele Peters at: http://www.fastcoexist.com/3047311/100-homes-in-100-days-how-a-startup-plans-to-rebuild-haiti-where-the-red-cross-failed

New Story, New Rules: How to Disrupt the Traditional Charity Model by Rose Slaten at: https://www.docusign.com/blog/new-story-new-rules-how-to-disrupt-the-traditional-charity-model/

Janil Jean is an idealist blogger and social media addict who loves conversations related to branding, storytelling, startups and small business technology and design.

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