carousel | February 9, 2017

Dispatch from the NewCo Shift Forum: Purpose is the new profit in tech startup pitches

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How are entrepreneurs plotting to disrupt business as usual? By empowering their employees, reflecting their customers’ best selves and engaging the current political environment. That’s the vibe over the last few days at “Capitalism at a Crossroads,” the first NewCo Shift Forum in San Francisco.

Honor, for example, is targeting the $30 billion market for home care with AI-powered tech, but CEO Seth Sternberg says his real product is his employees. Currently, there are two to three million home care workers — and more than half are on public assistance. “To make home care great, we have to make their lives substantially better,” Sternberg said.

Brandless, a semi-stealth startup targeting the $770 billion consumer packaged goods market, staked its claim as a consumer advocate even before it decided what to sell, said CEO Tina Sharkey. The company is launching in the spring under the banner, “life, liberty and the pursuit of fairly priced everything.”

NewCo’s John Battelle planned the event well before November’s election to highlight the changing relationship between the tech community and public policy. The event became especially timely as tech companies have taken the lead in fighting the Trump administration’s immigration and other policies. “I wanted to understand impact of tech on society,” Battelle said. “The most rational actor is business. Business has to lead.”