When I was taking the ‘L” home a few nights ago, pondering on what I would say today, I thought about the last 12 weeks and what I witnessed firsthand. Watching these eight entrepreneurs grow, change, and test the bounds of what business could be, I realized that I had a front row seat to something special: The Rise of the Impact Entrepreneur.

So who is this Impact Entrepreneur?

Are they an entrepreneur that went through Impact Engine? Well, yeah, but they are also the thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of entrepreneurs that have not ONLY decided it’s no longer enough just to make money, it is ALSO no longer enough just to address an environmental or societal issue. They must do both.

The Impact Entrepreneur talks about building a sustainable company, but not purely in the green sense. They know they need to build companies that are long lasting, that will be financially sustainable through time.

They see it’s not just that government and NGO’s aren’t big enough to tackle all of the challenges we face, but that they can make money while solving these challenges using new and innovative business models.

They understand that to be sustainable means that they need to be competitive today, and being competitive today means they will need to hire the best talent, and increasingly that talent wants to work in companies that have a mission they can align with.

To be competitive today, they need to build companies that are moving away from dependence on the carbon-based fuels that traditionally powers businesses.

To be competitive today, they need to make products that improve the health of their customers, instead of making them obese or sick from toxins.

To be competitive today, they realize that they need to pay people living wages, not pollute the water we drink, build products designed to be recycled at the end of their useful life, and protect our ecological systems that are the foundation of our economy and our civilization.

They recognize that the next 10 years are going to be very different than the previous 10 and that business as usual is dying. And to be successful, they will need to be bold.

The Impact Entrepreneur is not your dad’s entrepreneur. Today we call the people we idolize “business titans,” the Bill Gates, Larry Page, Jeff Bezos or Michael Blumberg’s of the world. But entrepreneurs starting companies today, who build sustainability and social mission into the strategy of the businesses, and who build very profitable businesses that improve the human condition, they will be called Impact Titans. Some of the Impact Entrepreneurs that you see today just might be called Impact Titans someday.

The Impact Entrepreneur will find business models where none previously existed. They will inspire others to follow in their footsteps. They will find the best capital, hire the best talent, deal with the least regulation, and be highly profitable, but most importantly, they will attract loyal customers.

It is my belief that one day all entrepreneurs will be Impact Entrepreneurs.

Before we bring our Impact Entrepreneurs out, let me show you the view I had from my front row seat and why I was inspired. We specifically choose entrepreneurs whose business models and social mission were intertwined. Meaning, they weren’t buy one, give one or give a couple percent of profits to a charity. But every time they sell a product they are addressing their mission.

Let’s take a look at our first cohort of eight Impact Entrepreneurs and give you a sense of what you are about to see without spoiling any punch lines (see chart above).

– Chuck Templeton
Managing Director, Impact Engine