Impact X is creating the world’s largest Impact Technology ecosystem. Their goal: shift $5 billion in capital in the next five years to solve systemic problems on a global scale.
By Robert Snow
What’s more important? Technology for convenience, or technology with purpose?
You know the old, bad joke. It’s been going around since the advent of smartphones. You mention an annoying or obscure or insignificant task you must do, and someone says, “I’m sure there’s an app for that.”
And it is almost like that today, isn’t it? Food delivery in under 30 minutes? No problem. Check the football score? Done. Order that new panini press for delivery tomorrow morning? Guaranteed – by 10 AM.
Yes, they’ve made our daily lives a little easier. But let’s be truthful with ourselves: we can easily live without them.
Alexandre Lazarow, in his excellent book, Out-Innovate, speaks about how Silicon Valley “thrives on the stereotype of the twenty-two-year-old college dropout building a company in a garage.” But he also says “Silicon Valley is known for its ‘tech bros’ – the young behooded warriors often accused of building products and services to do tasks Mom doesn’t do for them anymore.”
The fact is, far from Silicon Valley – all around the world – there is a groundswell of extraordinary technological innovation being developed by small, grassroots startups who are going far beyond just creating more fun-to-use conveniences. Solely purpose-driven, these entrepreneurs are developing Impact Technology – innovations that are taking on the world’s most urgent problems by making profound positive changes to the health, well-being and future of our society and our environment.
Can technology really make meaningful, transformational changes to the status quo?
Their skill, dedication, and ingenuity are helping to overcome the most difficult challenges facing our planet today. Still, one of the biggest challenges they continually face is funding.
The founders of Impact X, Tony Boatman and Tony Gourlay, saw that 90% of Impact Technology startups – even those with the worthiest ideas – do not find the adequate funding to take their innovations from the lab to market at scale.
As a result, Boatman and Gourlay decided to embark on a mission to fund early-stage Impact Technology startups. With Impact X, their solution is to catalyze discovery by funding innovations that will improve society, restore natural resources, or create sustainable systems.
With a combined 50 years of experience in technology-driven sustainability initiatives, Boatman and Gourlay have identified six areas where they will enable entrepreneurs: Food Systems, Energy & Carbon, Inclusive Finance, Resilient Cities, Improved Health and the Circular Economy.
Impact X: a global ecosystem for Impact Technology startups
“We launched Impact X to discover, match and ultimately fund technology entrepreneurs who are not only dedicated to solving global systemic problems, but can do it in a profitable and scalable way,” says Boatman.
Impact X is currently organizing a global program across 24 cities for launch in January 2021, working alongside select national and city governments, university incubators, startup accelerators, corporate VCs and various technology communities. Called SHIFT!, the program will organize local competitions that allow entrepreneurs to pitch their solutions to potential funders. Throughout 2021, SHIFT! will continue to roll out in more than 100 cities worldwide.
“SHIFT! is about shifting capital for improved lives and a healthier planet,” Gourlay says.
“And it’s important to note that we’re not launching SHIFT! in the obvious places,” Boatman adds. “There's so much that's happening outside of Silicon Valley. Jakarta will be the first SHIFT! city to go live, and there will be six SHIFT! cities in China to start.”
China will be an important launchpad for SHIFT! simply based on the sheer scale of innovation happening there. There are reports of as many as 10,000 startups being founded in China every day. The country has more than 11,000 incubators, and in fact overtook the United States in the number of VC deals it has initiated. And in Haikou, the provincial capital of the island of Hainan in the South China Sea, the government is establishing a tech hub, innovation community and global free trade zone to attract foreign innovators.
Winners of the SHIFT! competitions will be funded to participate in a larger event: the Impact X Summit, which will showcase their solutions to investors, partners, customers, and future employees. Impact X Summit events will be held annually in cities throughout the world, the first of which is scheduled for August 2021 in Haikou, China. Future Impact X Summits are planned for Hangzhou, Amsterdam, and New York City through 2022.
Five billion dollars in five years
Gourlay is clear about the ambitious goal of Impact X, which is to accelerate the shift – already underway – of moving $5 billion to Impact Technology. “Impact X will be the world’s largest Impact Technology ecosystem,” he says.
Boatman and Gourlay have a great head start through the strong partnerships they’ve formed over more than 20 years with numerous UN agencies, local governments, innovation accelerators, technology incubators, and major corporations.
“It comes back to providing an easier route for the next generation of innovators and the current generation of investors to see the value in funding initiatives that apply technology in a more purposeful manner,” Boatman says.
The world doesn’t need another Snapchat. Not that there’s anything wrong with the technology underlying Snapchat, but if you’re a talented programmer, and you can apply your genius to anything, Impact X is saying there are bigger problems out there that you can solve.
Certainly, there’s been more and more momentum across all economic strata in all parts of the world to do something that has real, positive, world-changing impact. And what could be more exciting and meaningful and rewarding than to help these innovators get the recognition and funding they need to make it happen?
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