When BGV launched in 2012, the idea that startups could generate both positive impact and market-rate returns was considered niche at best and impossible at worst. But fast forward a decade and 16% of total capital invested in European tech companies was reported to go to purpose-driven ventures.
Over those years we’ve been at the centre of a burgeoning tech for good sector, experiencing our fair share of ups and downs, twists and turns. Like all startup journeys, we’ve learnt many things along the way. So here are our ten lessons from ten years in tech for good.
1. Understand the system
Our mission has always been systemic in part - to mainstream tech for good. To do that we’ve always tried to understand the system we’re working in. For example we benchmark ourselves against traditional VCs, not just other tech for good funds.
2. Transparency earns trust
Over the years we’ve built an authentic reputation and a strong community thanks to our openness. In a traditionally closed industry, it’s helped us stand out.
3. Take pride in being different
Our differences have allowed us to spot opportunities where others don’t. Sometimes people haven’t always understood us, but we’ve remained patient, open and ambitious.
4. Make complicated things simple
This speaks to being genuinely diverse and inclusive; we never assume or expect early-stage founders to understand industry jargon we might take for granted.
5. Talk is cheap
We don’t shy away from being ambitious with our vision, but talking a good talk isn’t enough. That vision only feels credible when it's backed-up with evidence, proof, and track record.
6. Don’t wait for others
We’ve never waited until there’s an industry consensus or benchmark on how to do something. Whether that’s on diversity and inclusion or impact management. Consequently we often end up setting industry firsts.
7. The sum is greater than the parts
We’ve always recognised the value in community. Building a thriving portfolio where founders support each other provides so much more value than we ever could on our own.
8. Recognise and correct power imbalances
There has always been a power imbalance implicit in the investor / founder relationship. But we’ve never sought to abuse that and have called out bad behaviour in other investors when we’ve witnessed it.
9. Leave the ego at the door
People are sometimes surprised about how open and ‘nice’ we are to our competitors. We’ve even played a hand in helping some of them set-up. But we don’t see it that way - the more investors in tech for good the more likely we are to realise our vision.
10. Stay practical, stay optimistic
Solving big challenges, and changing industry norms isn’t easy. But we’ve always tried to avoid being overwhelmed by doom or boom. Instead we keep a sense of practical optimism.