What's Goin' On? An Inside Look on Why The Good Startup Exists
Y'all call it an author's note; I call it a super-personal explanation you deserve. Here's how a story of seeking personal freedom and life fulfillment led to the public endeavor that's now The Good Startup.
I'm Le. I'm someone sees the world in decision-trees, pros and cons charts, and optimizing life's opportunities under constraints, and because of that, doing everything I want became doing everything I can. I never considered myself to be a dreamer because I always felt that I was planning my goals realistically and that through hard work, my success in whatever I wanted was inevitable.
I did what I could to satisfy my personal and career goals with money -- many ways that would seem beyond backwards compared to the typical summer internship or part-time job route. Many examples I can't even name without the FBI agent in my laptop camera getting suspicious.
Did I want to live in New York for my first summer in college? "Cool. Get a digital marketing internship and live with six girls in one room in Soho."
Did I want to eat during the school year? "Sell literally every product you can create in the moment. Lipstick, hair conditioners, jewelry, beach towels, inappropriate shirts that say "eat a**" and "ruin my life" that you designed in your boring class -- you got it. Sold."
Did I spend too much on shipping my industrial design projects across the country? "Sucks, start freelance marketing or else you can't go to LA this summer."
Did I want to stop accepting my parents money so they could feel relieved their responsibility for me was done sooner, but didn't want to give up my happiness in the workplace? "God d@mñ!t YES - well good thing freelancing's going well, but also, you should literally exchange your looks and personality (minus the intellect) for 3 times the rate you'd make at an internship by working promo girl events."
Getting what I want meant doing what I can.
Naturally, I have had more failures than I can count, but what guilts me more are the bigger opportunities I let go because the timing wasn't right. These were opportunities where my business ideas worked for a mission or cause that was beyond myself, but everything I had or could do in the moment wasn't good enough. What worsens the guilt is thinking about whether the timing was actually off or if I was just good at making excuses, and in reality, I expect the truth to be a combination of both.
One summer I was in a startup program in Boulder and fell in love with an concept I never intended to even pitch until last minute, but my team and I worked on an eco-tourism venture that allowed citizen science projects to become fun, exciting excursions for adventurers who had the means and desire to help advance our knowledge of the natural world. Basically, I wanted going on dinosaur digs and tracking endangered amphibians in the rainforest to be the "new, hip, cool thing for rich and somewhat altruistic people" to want to do.
It didn't last long, especially because we had no science or eco-tourism industry knowledge or connections, and the learning curve was steep. Like many startups, we gave up when things got too difficult for our liking, not really sure whether to blame our own capabilities or the validity of the idea in the first place. The only thing we did really have was a love for science and the world.
More recently, I took an engineering class where my team proposed and researched the sustainability of a bio-based atmosphere cleaning technology. In this research-intensive instance, we had a lot of information about the industry and our target audience, but when friends asked if I was pursuing the venture after the semester was over, I said no and blamed it on the too many moving parts in R&D, supply chain, and engineering that required more capital than I could ever learn how to ask for.
So sick of not working on a product or service that mattered, I actually took a hiatus (and still am on hiatus) from industrial design work because everything I was actually creating for a living added relatively so little marginal value to the lives of others while having detrimental downstream effects on the environment. It was better for me than to do nothing at all than to create consumer products with sexy prices made possible by manufacturing processes that destroy the environment.
But there's a recurring theme to the big, "meaningful" ideas I worked on earlier: they had a mission to save the world somehow, and God knows why I gave up on the big ideas that could save the world. I didn't think much of it fit under the constraints of the circumstances I was in at the moment, and it was unfortunately way easier to make excuses not to work on these projects.
However, during my research for all these socio-environmental impact endeavors, I knew there were existing companies trying to achieve what I was thinking about. They had way more resources, capital, and technology to make a difference. All they needed was recognition and support from the public. But why didn't the world know their name?
While 99% of tech and startup blogs focus on who's growing the fastest or becoming the next ridiculous "Airbnb for X, Uber for Y" unicorn that no one in a third world country ever asked for, I started The Good Startup, the blog that's covering the companies that are doing what matters. As a content marketer with PR and design experience in the startup world and an almost-ex Ivy League business chick who watched friend after friend take a job they weren't passionate about just for the financial security of a bi-weekly paycheck, I knew I had to do my part in using every skill, talent, privilege, and blessing I had to help people and the planet in the best way I could. At least for the moment.
That way happened to be The Good Startup.
There was some sort of mismatch in my head: statistics say 70% of workers are unsatisfied at work while 40% think their jobs are provide no meaningful contribution to the world whatsoever, but very rarely do we hear about the businesses that are trying to solve the world's biggest problems. Whatever happened to those companies in the quick viral videos you'd see on Facebook about machines cleaning the ocean, lab researchers creating cures, or saving the biodiversity of the Amazon Rainforest? You'd see them once, tag a friend, forget the brand's name, and never hear about them again.
That's why The Good Startup exists: to share the inspirational interviews and stories of the founders, execs, and employees at businesses that do add a meaningful contribution to the world and advance us away from our planet's biggest problems. I want you to know their names, what they're doing, and why any of this even matters to them. Their stories deserve to be shared. It should be normal to love what you do for a living because you're doing what matters.
These are the companies doing things that I thought I could never do.
Maybe as we get older, more of us stop believing that we can save the world. But that's not the case with the rise of socio-environmental impact enterprises, and it's The Good Startup's role to make sure their work is known. As far as we know, we have one lifetime on this one planet and an entire universe left to explore and understand, and we've got to make it count. The Good Startup is my way of trying to maximize my contribution to the world for the time being, and we'll see where this new journey takes us.
I hope the stories I have lined up remind you why you even do anything you do and inspire you to do better in every aspect of your life. I'm not at all requesting you to do what these companies are doing, but I only hope you see the circumstances you're in, the gifts and talents you have, and the truth that you've been given too much in this lifetime to do anything less.