Investment Wave on Growth For Good
Martin Leuw, the founder of Growth For Good, an accelerator focused on technology businesses with a social dimension. To put that another way, Leuw is determined to make a return on his investment, but he doesn't see that as incompatible with working with businesses that have a positive impact on the world around them.
Growth For Good is part of a growing social investment movement in the UK, already estimated to be worth £1.5bn by Big Society Capital and spanning everything from education to health and from conservation to financial inclusion. That reflects the growing desire of investors and entrepreneurs alike to build businesses motivated by profit - but not only a financial return.
For Leuw's part, he spent 10 years building a successful IT company, Iris Software, growing sales to £50m a year before eventually bowing out in a $1bn management buy-out in 2011.
"When I sold Iris, I wanted to find ways of giving back to society," Leuw recalls, initially focusing on charitable and philanthropic ventures. "They're great, but they're not sustainable - a charity always has to be looking for the next donation.
"Drawing on his background, Leuw decided there was space for a technology accelerator in the social space. "The whole point of Growth For Good is that we should demonstrate it is possible to build very attractive businesses where the interests of all shareholders are aligned."
Leuw has long been focused by the short-term horizons of many businesses. His argument is that while such ventures may be able to maximize profits over these short-term periods, such a mindset is not sustainable, because it undermines the long-term prospects of the business - whether through an internal culture that doesn't get the best out of disengaged people, for example, or because of some sort of external problem such as a scandal.
A great business has to be built on solid foundations," he argues. "That's your culture - the values that you stick by and which inform the decisions you make and the direction in which you're headed."