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Social entrepreneurship 2.0 – The modern road to creating impact

Three years ago, Anouk Binkhuysen and her team at Faqta provided their educational platform to just ten schools. Today they work with 220 and revenue increased 2.000% since. And, with a little bit of help from the lockdown and homeschooling, growth isn’t slowing down either.

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In the early days of the company she was repeatedly told not to be high up in the clouds all the time and to deal with what the real world demanded of her. “Think about your business model, be a good employer, work hard,” Binkhuysen recalls as common mantras. Over the years she has learned that having strong values & principles and thinking commercially are actually two sides of the same coin.

“You cannot build a sustainable business without a healthy revenue model. But in times, when doing the right thing is becoming increasingly important to a large number of people, you will not grow when you don’t have a soul. You will not be able to attract & retain the right talent and customers when you’re not working on anything bigger than yourself.”

“Building a company is hard and therefore, the energy I get from watching the company grow and working on something that makes the world a better place, is essential to our success.”

This is just one of the insights Binkhuysen discovered during her career as startup founder & CEO so far. In this interview Binkhuysen shares what she believes to be the next most important lessons she’s learned when it comes to social entrepreneurship.

What it means to start a social startup

The least motivating aspect about becoming a startup founder is to only focus on return of investment. “But not everything has to lead to financial results immediately,” Binkhuysen says. “If you can do something for someone without asking for something in return, other opportunities will appear.” During the corona lockdown, Faqta decided to provide their services for free to a large number of schools, so that they too could get used to homeschooling.

“We have high expectations from our team members, our commercial targets are ambitious, but we don’t forget when to make an impact. Because of this authentic approach, because of what we do, we are able to build strong relationships with customers and stakeholders. An added bonus is that this also makes it easier to say goodbye to those who don’t relate to this mindset.”

Market leadership

“To create a huge impact, you need to think about the category you want to be the market leader in. What helped us to decide on what market, was the book Play Bigger: How Pirates, Dreamers, and Innovators Create and Dominate Markets.” It got Faqta to their mission statement: We want to be the market leader in platform education and within one generation we want innovative education to be available everywhere.

“From that perspective you start to think about what type of company you want to be and with whom you want to work with. In our situation, that meant we wanted to be different from the incumbents who do nothing but maintain the status quo. As it turned out, our team’s personal goals were already aligned with that approach and our long term goals.”

This is where Binkhuysen says they’re making a difference. “We approach schools with our drive to change the future. As opposed to others who simply provide a product presentation. We think about the customer first. Secondly, we ask ourselves, can we afford this. And then, we calculate what the return on investment will be. And it’s not just me. Our entire team is purely focused on helping customers join us in this journey.”

It’s all about people

“The biggest thing I learned about social entrepreneurship is that it’s all about people,” Binkhuysen says. “Humans are not resources, people don’t have to work fulltime, women striving for a career don’t have to be hindered by motherhood. We just promoted someone who works three days a week to the position of product owner, because we know she meets her targets and achieves her goals. This signals you appreciate someone, both for who she is and for what value she adds to the company.”

“We’re tough on our goals, being average is not in our DNA, but a great team is essential to achieving them. Therefore, we challenge all team members to develop their talents, to become masters of their skills. Then it’s up to us as founders and as an organization to support them in getting there.”

Be ambitious

“Social entrepreneurship doesn’t make people think about tree hugging hippies automatically anymore. Today’s challenges are bigger than ever and if you want to solve them you need to work hard, set high standards and chase ambitious goals. Not to mention commiting for the long term. That means you will face yourself on multiple occasions as a founder. So it’s important to be clear about who you are and what you want to achieve.”

Clarity in your personal goals will help you attract the right people. “If you want to work in a social startup, you need to love big challenges, solving complex problems and being at the forefront of innovation. And if you see your job as merely a way to pay your mortgage, you might be a better fit elsewhere.”

Tailor your approach to customers

At too many companies, people who acquire the customer are also responsible for onboarding them. “This is a mistake,” Binkhuysen says. “Sales and customer success are two separate professions in their own right and require people with a completely different skill set. Sales agents need a ton of energy and enthusiasm to get the buyer excited. Whereas customer success managers need to bring up the patience to take clients by the hand, ignite a spark within the organization and let them take on onboarding by themselves further on.”