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Mark and I go way back. We’ve known each other for a few years and even had a chance to work together for a while. I learned a ton from collaborating with and observing Mark, and he could even be credited with bringing me to the Indianapolis startup scene right out of college.

But it was during our most recent conversation over a cup of coffee that I learned my greatest lesson from Mark Hill.

Social Entrepreneurship ExampleOne thing that’s really interesting about Mark is that he’s founded and supported several software companies with his wife, and he now sits on just about every major board of directors in Indianapolis (seriously). Yet, he’s the kind of guy who doesn’t like to talk about himself, but instead, loves to tell great stories about the incredible companies and organizations he’s working with.

On this morning we last had a chance to sit down and chat, Mark spoke more passionately about one thing more than any other. I could tell that he truly cared about his work with United Way and that his life is completely energized by it.

And that got me thinking.

How could we take all of the growth and momentum behind Verge and use it to create positive social impact now?

Our Verge organizing team put their heads together. Naturally, we all found ourselves taking an entrepreneurial approach to the challenge, and thought through all the popular social entrepreneurship examples (TOMs Shoes, Seventh Generation, etc).

But at our last Verge event, 225 startups leaders came together to build our own social business model:

Social Entrepreneurship Examples

8 startups—including past pitch winners and even some of Peter Theil’s college dropouts—filled our startup gallery. A crowd of interested investors and founders packed the house—or, I guess I should say, mansion.

Legendary Kessler Mansion exploded with entrepreneurial energy as people engaged with startup founders and enjoyed a few local brews. Mayor Ballard, the Mayor of Indianapolis, and even the mayoral candidate at the time, Melina Kennedy, came out to support the cause and to sneak a peek of each startup pitch.

With each ticket sold, Verge made a $5 contribution on behalf of the Indiana startup community to United Way. We figured that would be the perfect cause to support since it was Mark Hill’s involvement with United Way that had sparked it all.

I reached back out to Mark to let him know what we had been up to since we had last spoken. And of course, being the giving people that they are, Mark and his wife Karen matched all contributions on behalf of Collina Ventures, which only amplified the  positive impact.

Verge Gallery Social EntrepreneurshipDespite the fact that half in attendance were still in bootstrapped-startup mode, the startup community came together to make a real difference. By the end of the evening, we had raised $4,800 for the United Way.

How ’bout that!?

Not too bad, considering our goal was $3,000. The Verge organizers built something that people care about and value deeply. They took great care in architecting an event that would be like nothing anyone had ever seen before. By connecting the event to a cause, people gave intentionally—even beyond the $5 donation!

Giving provides context to the work that you do everyday. It fuels our motivation and fills us up with a sense of purpose beyond the next user, customer, or client. And besides, it just feels good.

I’m confident this is already very top of mind as we head into the giving season, but maybe this year we could all think a little different.

What are some of your favorite social entrepreneurship examples? What other creative ways have you given back?

 

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