The missions and business models of these companies vary widely, but there are three main things that they all have in common:1. They depend on the social web. There’s nothing brick-and-mortar about these companies – they thrive on digital interactions. Without the ability to reach millions of people regardless of geography and time zone, the model just wouldn’t work.2. They challenge traditional relationships between institutions and individuals. Rather than stick to the traditional advertise/buy/sell model of most institutions, Bolder asks individuals and organizations to make a difference together. Kickstarter democratizes the process of obtaining venture capital for artists and entrepreneurs. And Edot is founded on the simple, elegant premise that if everyone does just one thing to make the world better every day, then the world will actually get better.3. They ask users to take some kind of action for a higher purpose. This is a big one. Unlike most institutions, they don’t, indeed can’t exist purely to perpetuate themselves and their profits. They depend on their users to engage and help shape a vision of the greater good, and it’s the strength of that vision – much more than the strength of the balance sheet – that determines whether the business sinks or swims.
In short, this is what a 21st-century business, one that’s based on mattering, not revenue, looks like. This is a big topic, and there’s lots more to discuss.