Sometimes Social Doesn't mean Facebook…


This past weekend I stopped by ESCP Europe to see how their Social Edition of Startup Weekend Paris was going. I got invited to be a Jury Member for the teams, but I stopped by first to listen to Gawad Kalinga founder Tony Meloto about GK’s vision, accomplishments and mindset. For those unfamiliar with GK (like me, before Saturday), GK is a social company in the Philippines working to bring the country out of poverty by 2024.

Sometimes Social doesn’t mean Facebook.

For Entrepreneurs not often involved in the realm of “Social Entrepreneurship,” the term might easily be confused with startups working with/around/on top of Social Networks. While the definition is vague, a social startup is generally accepted to be a startup whose primary goal is to affect social change, or “an alteration in the social order of a society.” They actually are disrupting the Status Quo.

If Belgium can do it, so can The Philippines.

“Tito Tony” talked about how GK has taken the over 170,000 hectares of unused farm land in the Phillipines and turned villages full of unemployed drunkards (his words, not mine) and given them jobs paying above minimum wage. He pointed out that, while Belgium is known for their world-class chocolate, they import their cocoa from the Philippines, and so why can’t the Philippines just create their own chocolate? Well. Now they do. In addition, they also use grow plants and harvest oils from trees native to The Philippines for 100% natural facial products – oh, and it doesn’t cause cancer, like other leading products used in The Philippines.

Judge, Jury, and Executioner

With Tony’s words in mind, I came back Sunday to be on the Jury Panel for the Startup Weekend pitches. While the three winners were voted by consensus in the panel of 8 jurors, including Cole Street‘s Wessel Kooyman, I have the pleasure of NOT consulting 7 other people as I tell you MY top 3 winners for SWParis -Social Edition:

  1. Ma Moustache – Taking advantage of the recent Hipster trend of sporting mustaches, Ma Moustache proposes monthly events raising money for different causes, for which the entrance fee is €5. Your required ticket to get in, a mustache mailed to you in advance, which must be warn at said Mustache Party. Similar to LiveStrong bands which infected the wrists of people around the world a few years back, I think that this idea has a strong virality to it – afterall, don’t you want to “Save the world by wearing a mustache!”?
  2. Recup’Hair – The actual winners of the event, Recup’Hair wants to take recycle the more than 1,000 tons of Hair thrown away in Paris each year. The group will rely on already existing hair-based products such as fertilizers for potted plants and oil absorbents, such as those used in the Gulf Oil Spill last year. Looking to major produc companies as early adopters, Recup’Hair hopes to use the fashionability of being socially conscious (Bio!) to convince companies to process, manufacture, and sell hair-based products, buying their hair from Recup’Hair. While the idea is not the most Social-minded, I’m all for sustainable development and eco-friendly startups.
  3. écolien – Ecolien wants to be the AirBnB, CouchSurfing, and (rideshare) for packages. Utilising the untapped market of everyday commuters, Ecolien will track people’s daily commutes, sending them push notifications when a package needs to be taken on their route. Looking past the security issue, both for packages and for delivers, I think this idea, if doable, is great. As a couchsurfer myself, I hate the idea of paying for something that is already available for free – like a couch, or a deliveryman. While people are quick to point out how unviable it is to rely on strangers to deliver packages, let’s not forget how strange the idea of sleeping on someone’s couch in a foreign country first sounded – could ecolien create a global community of 3 million street messengers?
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