Singapore continues to position itself as a startup hub for various industries, and has been successful at wooing several companies to make the island nation their home. However, there is something else in the startup world that is making a splash – social enterprise. In 2017, the social enterprise sector in Singapore grew by 32% with 401 registered social enterprises, up from 303 in 2016. The Singapore Centre for Social Enterprise (raiSE), which provided this data, was founded to develop the sector in Singapore by offering advisory services, programmes, training, and resources.
Simply put, social enterprises are business entities that are founded on clear social goals in areas such as education, health, and the environment. Even though they are similar to traditional businesses in terms of aiming to earn a sustainable profit, social enterprises are committed to making a significant change that will benefit society.
Why Are Social Enterprises Important?
Even though governments and NGOs try to address different social needs, it is an impossible task to fill all its gaps. Social enterprises came about as a hybrid solution to this problem, providing products to address unmet and emerging needs while also contributing to the business community. Take for example Singapore’s ageing population, which will eventually put a strain on the government’s resources. Social enterprises that specialise in providing services to the elderly (transport, engagement, etc.) will be in greater demand in the future to assist in filling these gaps.
Social enterprises are also ultimately an empowering endeavour for both the recipients and the business. Many millennials report needing to make meaningful contributions in their jobs, and companies that prioritise social needs along with profits are a great way to achieve that objective. Many founders of social enterprises are truly passionate about their specific cause, and this, in turn, flows through to the people they are trying to help. An organisation that hires refugees to provide a service is more fruitful for society as compared to simply handing out aid, and is mutually beneficial to everyone involved.
Case Study: Taizo Son’s Mistletoe and its Partner Organisations
One of the most prolific entrepreneurs in Asia, Taizo Son is a highly respected individual who also happens to believe in the power of impact-driven startups. His company Mistletoe is a “collective impact collective”, which aims to empower startups and innovators create a more human-centred and sustainable future through technology. Investing in startups that have a social conscience is only part of what Mistletoe does, as it also partners with founders, investors, and other visionaries within the startup and venture communities that share its goals.
Many of the companies that Mistletoe has invested in are solving a social problem. One of them is dedicated to creating a new kind of planter that allows everyone to conveniently grow their own vegetables, while another is passionate about installing individual home water filtration systems to encourage sustainability. Taizo Son and Mistletoe’s newest partnership is with Singapore-grown fund management and venture capital company Golden Equator (GE).
Founder of Mistletoe Taizo Son said, “Golden Equator has created a unique set of elements with huge potential that we are very happy to have found. Working with Golden Equator will enable us to accelerate our activities of building a community here in Singapore. I believe that together, and with our curated technology and innovation community, we can “update” people’s daily lives now and create a better world for future generations.”
Golden Equator, together with Taizo Son, aims to collaborate with individuals and businesses to build a dynamic ecosystem centred on technology and innovation that create positive social impact globally. The partnership will focus on six different sectors including healthcare, education, and housing which they have identified to be the most relevant for today and also in the future. The company’s passion for guiding and educating future generations to reach their full potential is also a part of this initiative. GE’s strong focus on building communities can be seen through their technology and innovation business club, SPECTRUM, which will be launching in mid-January.
The trend of focusing on bigger societal goals that are beyond the business bottom line is a positive step towards building a more caring and inclusive society. The Singaporean government as well as the businesses that call it home should try to adopt a more socially-conscious mindset, even if they are not technically social enterprises. This is probably society’s best chance at encouraging future generations to take more responsibility and make the world a better place.