Home > DCU Ryan Academy for Entrepreneurship, Propeller Venture Accelerator > The New Hybrid – Socially Good and Making Money?

The New Hybrid – Socially Good and Making Money?

One of the really interesting things about the social sector is the level of innovation it shows, doing it with very little resources (probably the key for that type of innovation). A lot of students these days seem to be interested in social enterprise or social entrepreneurship. Actually probably more interested than in commercial companies, which is slightly worrying. With funding for social being tight, and the country needing to produce high growth companies, I have reached the point where I am arguing the issue of whether starting so many potential social companies is such a good idea. But there is another model the ‘partial’ or ‘hybrid.’

A favourite example of this (and there are a few going back a few years) is TOMS Shoes.

TOMS Shoes was founded in 2006 by Blake Mycoskie, inspired by a trip to Argentina where he saw extreme poverty and health conditions, as well as children walking without shoes. That’s when he recognized the traditional Argentine alpargata shoe as a simple, yet revolutionary solution. He quickly set out to reinvent the alpargata for the U.S. market with a simple goal: to show how together, we can create a better tomorrow by taking compassionate action today. To realize this mission, Blake made a commitment to match every pair of TOMS purchased with a pair of new shoes to a child in need.

TOMS Shoes is an example of what the Ryan Academy defines as a ‘partial’: a commercial company with a strong social element that goes far beyond corporate social responsibility. The founder of Grameen Bank, in the light of the global financial crisis, has called for a ‘new’ kind of more socially conscious capitalism. TOMS Shoes is a growth company with a nice angle and a slew of stars willing to promote the brand. There are questions to be asked of this of course….

How many of these kinds of companies can an individual sector sustain? Could it be done geographically? Is there a need for a ‘socially conscious’ brand like there is with Fair Trade? Can we persuade a generation of youth that want more than the ‘social network’ styled greed to investigate such models? Is this just an advanced for of consumption philanthropy? More importantly will the venture community see this as a valuable competitive advance or positioning or will they see it as a revenue-draining element? Not all partials need to give away as much as TOMS Shoes of course…..I guess time will tell…

  1. April 12, 2011 at 14:32

    Interesting as always…thanks for the blog.

  2. April 28, 2011 at 16:32

    I found this a really interesting post. I believe that these types of business are a far more ethical way to support oneself and help others and can only be a good thing for us all.

  3. Twocentsguy
    June 23, 2011 at 09:34

    There is a need for companies and startups to engage more in so-called corporate social responsibilities (csr) related activities, be they giving shoes away or reducing environmental waste through recycling existing products (think rothar.ie). However, such companies can only live if they have customers. In Tomshoes’ case, it is because they have a large US market base that they are able to do what they do on a daily basis. To replicate such business here in Ireland would require selling a product that attracts a large number of customers. In Tomshoes’case, the market is as big as the US population. It is not the same as the irish market. Obviously, this is my roundabout explanation to say that ireland is smaller than the us and that hybrid companies still need to survive on something. Which is why I say that regardless of their mission statement/vision/ethos, etc., it is still about surviving as a business/organisation…

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