Our Venture Ethos
“Solving social issues for the 4 Billion people who live on less than $5/day is essentially about commodification: take socially beneficial goods and services and make them orders of magnitude cheaper, then sell them on massive scale”.
Why Are We For Profit
There are currently 600,000 Non-for-profit organisations in Australia alone. Of these 57,000 are ‘economically significant’ NFPs which have an active tax role. The NFP sector in Australia has an economic output equivalent to that of Tasmania, one of our nation’s states. There are clearly already enough NFP’s operating in Australia and adding to this insanely high number was not our intent at the outset or for our endstate. As a start point we aren’t necessarily good at raising donor money and didn’t particularly like the psychology that goes with rattling a tin cup in people’s faces (metaphorically speaking).
Being a NFP though doesn’t solve, what we feel, is one of the greatest misperceptions of our time- that creating social impact and creating wealth, in an ecological way, are mutually exclusive.
“In your 20’s you can afford to be a socialist but in your 30’s you have to be a capitalist.”
The predominant metric that consumers use to judge the success of a NFP is ‘what percentage of the dollar you donate goes to the cause’ which has nothing to do with the impact but regardless it is the metric that has a huge amount of acceptance in Western culture. This metric, and it’s religious following by NFP’s, places a natural pressure on the incomes that can be paid to employees who chose to work in socially related roles. Proof of this lies in the ATO providing charity tax concessions to employees who work for a registered tax concession charity for which the value of these is $31,177 per annum. The reason the ATO provides this tax cut is because of the lower incomes NFP’s can afford.
The real impact on social outcomes evident in NFPs of paying less income to their employees is the drop off from the industry that occurs when employees reach their 30’s. Throughout their 20’s people are happy to earn less income in order to fulfill the NFP’s vision as they have less financial commitments or are willing to put them on hold for personal work fulfillment. Upon reaching their 30’s though most people start a family and their priorities shift with these family commitments which are as wide ranging as children’s schooling and purchasing a home (a difficult task even on a private sector income in places like Sydney). What is evident then is that as employees start to become the most productive in their roles at the age of 30 they then leave to work in the private sector. This obviously has a negative effect on the important social outcome the NFP seeks to achieve.
If nothing changes then nothing changes and we at Project Everest seek social impact in accordance with our Social Enterprise definition and are proudly for-profit. This is simple because we believe the two outcomes of creating social impact and creating wealth in an ecological way are NOT mutually exclusive. In taking on this bold new path we want to encourage a generation of millennials to purposefully consider a ‘life’s work’ in the space of social enterprise by servicing the 4 billion that live on less than $5 per day. Many graduates are looking for roles in investment banks, defence contractors and pharmaceutical companies whose incentives are dubious at best however they pay exceptional incomes. Owning successful scale businesses can produce comparable or greater incomes for this same generation over the same time frame. We seek to be the example to follow in that your life’s work can encompass both social outcomes and achievement of personal wealth in a manner supportive to all stakeholders.
Design Thinking is a methodology used by designers to solve complex problems and find desirable solutions for clients. It draws upon logic, imagination, intuition, and systemic reasoning, to explore possibilities of what could be—and to create desired outcomes that benefit the end user (the customer).
Core Component is the five stages of the Design Thinking Process
The Design Thinking process
The five elements of Design Thinking are utilised in each of Project Everest’s enterprises. The first element, ‘empathise’ requires team members (students) to observe and understand the user or audience – who in this circumstance are the local communities. Team members (students) will interact heavily with the local community to understand their experience and the context behind it. This stage is critical in defining any pains and gains that may (or may not) exist and determining the most effective approach to solving these identified social issues, in this way Project Everest adopts an integrated approach with the local communities. This involvement continues through the remaining elements of Design Thinking; define, ideate, prototype, and test. Furthermore, the concept of social enterprise requires the thorough commitment of local communities to employ and embrace the business model for its success, thus the entire success of the Project relies on local community engagement and participation.
The purpose of using Design Thinking is to achieve ‘Product Market Fit’ which is where the customer segment we are targeting is aligned with the value proposition we are offering. This is effectively determined when the end user pays in cash or equivalent for the socially beneficial product or service.
Lean Start-up is a methodology for developing businesses and products. The methodology aims to shorten product development cycles by adopting a combination of business-hypothesis-driven experimentation, iterative product releases, and validated learning.
Build – Measure – Learn Feedback Loop
Once product market fit has been achieved the purpose of teams in country is to effectively build a sustainable business model with limited resources by using the lean start-up method. Teams build and carry out tests which prove/disprove every assumption placed within their Business Model Canvas (BMC). This firstly starts with the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) which was the result of the Design Thinking Process and confirmed product market fit. As a result of testing, measuring and learning through a disciplined approach the team will either Pivot or iterate on their existing business model. A Pivot involves a keeping one foot firmly in place as you shift the other in a new direction. In this way, the team process what they have already learned from past success and failure and apply these insights in new areas. Iteration involves bringing the desired result closer to discovery with each business interaction by learning and adapting within the original strategy.
A Project Everest venture continues to use Lean principles as it moves into the next stage, however, the purpose at this point is to prove out the business model ready for the commencement of scaling operations and thus social impact.
There are only two types of businesses; niche and scale. If a business is somewhere in the middle of those two extremes they are not a successful business. It is implicit that because of Project Everest’s definition of Social Enterprise that we are only interested in creating scale businesses. Thus scaling-up is an overarching term for our third methodology which contains three components; Gazelles, Exponential Technology and Venture Capital/Debt.
Gazelle Company: a high-growth company that is increasing its revenues by at least 20% annually for four years or more, starting from a revenue base of at least $1 million. This growth pace means that the company has effectively doubled its revenues over a four-year period.
Globally companies have been scaling their operations for hundreds of years using traditional methods focused on the four core components. This methodology has been researched and documented as a traditional method of building large successful businesses. Project Everest ventures seek to be defined as a ‘gazelle company’ through their financial and thus social achievements. A core proponent of our value proposition is managing People through our Leadership training opportunities. We practice what we preach at Project Everest through core tenants such as strategy planning, exercising decentralised leadership practices and continually adapting our internal processes.
Exponential Organisation (ExO): is one whose impact (or output) is disproportionally large — at least 10x larger — compared to its peers because of the use of new organisational techniques that leverage exponential technologies.
Massive Transformational Purpose
Staff on Demand (External)
Community & Crowd (External)
Leveraged Assets (External)
The 6 D’s of exponential technology describe the process by which a product or services initially becomes digitised and ultimately results in becoming democratised. Following on from this premise Project Everest seeks to utilise off-the-shelf technologies on exponential growth paths in order to enable scale in the magnitude of ‘10x plus’ what could be achieved by a traditional gazelle company. The starting point for Project Everest and our ventures is to have a massive transformational purpose (MTP) which brings purpose and meaning to what we do- it gives us a compelling reason to get out of bed in the morning and face another day of eating glass and staring into the abyss (as Elon Musk so eloquently describes the difficulty of building a business). Beyond this Project Everest has developed ExO attributes across the following areas: Staff on Demand, Community & Crowd, Leveraged Assets, Engagement, Dashboards, Experimentation, Autonomy and Social.
Venture Capital: capital invested in a project in which there is a substantial element of risk, typically a new or expanding business.
The third method by which we increase the social impact we have through scale is by venture capital. Venture capital provides a financial and expertise input enabling a faster realisation of an enterprise growing in social and fiscal impact. We see this type of funding and support as significantly more powerful and impactful than donor raised capital, the reason being because of the ‘dumb money’ versus ‘smart money’ argument. Donor’s gain their returns in terms of personal fulfillment at the point of providing the capital into the hands of the NFP they have chosen to support. Not in all cases, but in most cases the donor will not follow up with how the money was utilised or take any active interest in the organisation realising it’s stated objectives- this is dumb money. Smart money, on the other hand, has not just capital but also expertise and connections that come with it and a vested interest from the Venture Capitalist in gaining a return, which is both financial and social, at the point of realisation of the business model. For this reason, Project Everest sees venture capital as an expedient way to realise our purpose but also, validation of the business model built to this point.
Positive and negative, primary and secondary long-term effects produced by a development intervention, directly or indirectly, intended or unintended”
At Project Everest, our work in country is entirely community-based, thus inevitably there will be an impact. Measuring our impact is to ensure it is positive, and geared towards our vision, mission, and values.
‘This is not data collection for data collection’s sake. Every number is a person, every case study represents someone’s life. This is knowledge that has a direct impact on community well-being, people’s happiness, health and welfare for this generation and those that follow.’
Our projects are socially beneficial products [or services] that contribute to completing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. There are positive impacts that can be measured throughout the life of a project, students collect that information in handover documents, memories, testimonials, videos, and photos. However, the intent of the Impact Assessment as introduced in 2016 is to identify potential harmful impacts on the community. If you identify and acknowledge a negative impact, it can be mitigated, which would both ensure maximum social benefit.
Example: the introduction of a subscription for communities [water infrastructure project in Timor-Leste] to have the frequency of their water infrastructure repaired would leave the current member who is responsible for the village fund that manages those fixes obsolete [Group Maintenance Fund]. Involving that member in the solution would allow for the success of the business to go ahead without removing people from employment.
You could discover impact by using the tool ‘theory of change’, mapping out the entire user journey – you can follow alternate pathways where your product or service will ‘touch’ users and what that interaction may look like, doing so will release potential outcomes.
- How will you measure your [positive and negative] impact in country?
- What social, economic, environmental or other influences are you measuring and how?
- What are teams implementing to mitigate negative impact?
An Impact Assessment is a feature of each week on project, and a consideration of each major action within a project. It’s a moving concept that you use as a consideration at every stage, in the same way, you would use design thinking activities to broaden your understanding and develop new pathways, you would use an Impact Assessment to ensure the direction you have chosen does more ‘good’ than ‘harm’.
Through proper completion of the Impact Assessment, the teams will be able to mitigate any negative impacts and ensure that maximum positive impact is achieved. This needs to be a gradual process, with each team expanding and iterating on the previous month’s work.
SEE WHAT OUR AWESOME
Change-Makers SAY ABOUT
I strongly believe the reason I am working in AECOM is because Project Everest taught me the skills required to nail a job interview. The reason I’m promoted at AECOM is because PE taught me to be a leader and actively seek ways to improve the business.
Georgia H, Senior Leader
Since my exposure to the success formula of the Project Everest Ventures experience, I’ve departed university with a degree in engineering and, more importantly, demonstrated capability in a demanding team environment as both a team player and leader. These traits have been key to both scoring a postgrad placement and building an early career in Project Management in the Engineering sector
Nick K, Global Impact Program
Continually encouraged and challenged daily to reach my potential by like-minded individuals has increased my motivation for attaining an alternate/outside the box career path. Working in a role that aligns itself with the UN Sustainable Development Goals is an overarching career goal of mine and PEV do just that.
Adam M, Senior Leader
I’m so glad I decided to take part in PEV and I’ve formed lasting friendships with such a wonderful group of people, who all want to do something good in this world. PEV provides an environment for people to show their leadership potential, and not be limited by the fact that we are young, and that is truly special.
Emily C, Global Impact Program, Timor-Leste
I have never worked on something that made me feel ‘wow, I’m actually making a difference here’, not in my degree, nor when I was doing cancer research. The first time would have to be with the Project Everest Female Sanitation team.
Faith S, Global Impact Program, Malawi
I am currently majoring in Political Science, this degree along with the skills that I have learnt within the PEV program will assist me in first understanding how I can affect sustainable social impact. I have gained a better understanding on how not only I can make sustainable change, but also on a global level.
Sarah H, Virtual Impact Program
You guys are doing a really good thing because this changes lives
Seru, Village Pastor, Fiji
When I discovered Solar my business changed. Now I’m able to work past sundown and into the night; customers are able to see my stall and they are attracted to it by the lights…With the loan system, I can pay in small instalments. This makes the solar affordable for everyone. For villagers like me, the solar product is extremely useful. It allows people with no access to electricity to gain access to the social benefits light will bring.
Gift, local business owner, Malawi
If it was not of you I would not have achieved what I was aiming for in my business
Veronica, local business owner, Fiji
It’s very, very good. I don’t have problems when menstruating anymore, I am very happy!…I can even go to work or church without having problems – I can do everything!
Maria, on using our menstrual cups, Malawi
The whole leadership journey has been incredibly rewarding and valuable to my self-development. To stay involved with the company has been one of the best decisions I have ever made.
Haziq A, Senior Leader
The experience of Team Leadership Training is like nothing you could ever experience anywhere else. The structure and planning that goes towards facilitating your personal growth and development is immense. I learnt so much about myself and my own capabilities, in an environment which is supportive, encouraging and intense. Team Leadership Training was by far, the best investment I have made in myself to date.
Maddy L, Senior Leader
Project Everest’s training program covered all grounds in terms of theoretical knowledge, in country advice and practical challenges. It was great to learn more about the driving values of Project Everest and not only their role in achieving sustainable development goals but how I can help in this process. Every challenge came with a lesson and it was a fantastic overall experience.
Will A, Team Leader
This is a great experience for anyone wanting professional and personal development, as well as the chance to experience something completely different.
Riley C, Global Impact Program, India
The greatest experience while trekking is the people you meet. They are the best thing about PEV, because everyone is here for the same reason and all want to do something positive.
Nicholas M, Global Impact Program, India