“Social entrepreneurs are not content just to give a fish or teach how to fish. They will not rest until they have revolutionized the fishing industry.” ― Bill Drayton
When trying to understand a broad term like social entrepreneurship, you can break down the definition to think of its application in terms of a scale. On one end of the social enterprise scale lies companies that were not originally motivated to create a solution that would improve lives or leave a positive social impact, but did just that as a happy accident. On the other end lies companies that have disrupted and forever changed the reality of an underserved market. At Tecla, we wear many hats as a social enterprise. Our diverse team comes from different professional and cultural backgrounds. We are a mix of healthcare and assistive technology experts, advocates, developers, graphic designers, artists, writers, students and more.
According to a Pew Internet study, just 54% of Americans living with a disability use the Internet versus 81% of adults who are non-disabled. Our primary mission at Tecla is to deliver a product that will reduce the barriers to accessing mainstream technology for people with disabilities so they can receive the same benefits as their able-bodied peers. The social problem we aim to solve is the lack of inclusiveness in mainstream technology products and services. Individuals with motor impairments and limited upper body mobility resulting from spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, or stroke are restricted from accessing iPhones and Android phones, tablets, computers and have been excluded from the digital and mobile revolutions. So, instead of segregating them even more by creating a new accessible phone or home automation device specifically for people with mobility impairments, we created a bridge to use powerful and affordable mainstream technologies designed by Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon and more tech leaders that have recently integrated accessibility features for motor, vision, and hearing impairments.
- “Achieves large scale, systemic and sustainable social change through a new invention, a different approach, a more rigorous application of known technologies or strategies, or a combination of these”
- Attempts firstly to create value in a social or ecological issue and secondly to optimize financial value creation
- Fosters innovation through a new or improved product, service, or approach to a social problem
- Co-creates and uses user feedback to refine and adapt the approach to different needs
- Has a set of characteristics that merge those possessed by Richard Branson and Mother Teresa
- Unreasonable: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man” - George Bernard Shaw
- Motivated through emotion: social entrepreneurs possess a passion and internal drive to address the issues of the world in an innovative way
- Seek profit in the “unprofitable:” through the creation of never-before-seen products or breaking into underserved markets, social entrepreneurs challenge what is considered commercially profitable.
There are millions of issues that affect local communities, nations, and our planet that could be solved through social entrepreneurship. Some areas that are in constant need of social innovation include healthcare systems, education, pollution, biodiversity loss, ageing, and social and economic inequality. Thankfully, we can almost guarantee a growing trend towards social entrepreneurship with our more conscious and empathetic younger generations. Leading universities are offering resources and programs on entrepreneurship, including our partner, Ryerson University, which has a social entrepreneurship course, faculty, and incubator for innovation.
Check out this list of 8 Canadian startups that have left a significant social impact (Tecla is one of them!).