At TechCrunch Disrupt, Reid Hoffman made the comment that entrepreneurs can “change the world” by making business processes better in the enterprise.

Uh … maybe.

With that, I attempted to look up the definition of “change the world”, and found it elusive.  But my sense is, to change the world, you have to do something more than make a web-based version of CRM, or a web-based invoicing solution, or a mobile document syncing solution.  It’s not that these aren’t great things, it’s just … the world would get there one way or another.  I think there’s a reason Sergey Brin is working on autonomous cars and Google Glass.

What you can do is make the world better.

  • When I look back at the first start-up I co-founded, the management team has since spun out three new innovative venture-backed start-ups out of it.  So you can seed new companies and new opportunities for the rockstars on your team, and create a virtuous cycle of innovation.
  • You can also create real, new jobs for people.  Truly creating new, good jobs — not just poached engineers from other start-ups, which has become zero-sum — but great new jobs, that’s really a great thing.
  • You can help buy people homes.  Money is always nice, but making people enough money one way or another to buy their first home, that is a good thing.
  • You can advance the careers of many.  Start-ups, if they are successful, are career accelerators for folks with smarts and chutzpah but maybe imperfect or lean resumes.  You can create great managers out of people that never might have managed, make highly successful salespeople out of raw enthusiasm, make heads of support and success, and more, where without your start-up, that opportunity might never exist.  And they will then go on to play leadership roles at other great companies.  Your team can, and often will, go on to create their own start-ups as well.
  • You can seed other great companies and start-ups.  I am not convinced Salesforce is changing the world, truly.  Close but not quite.  But it has helped create scores of other successful companies.  Without Salesforce, EchoSign would not have reached initial critical mass, wouldn’t have made it.
  • You can make a great journey.  Start-ups don’t last forever.  They grow, one way or another, or die.  But you can make a great journey.  You only get so many trips in life.  Having a great one is something everyone takes with them, forever.

I’m not sure where you are in your start-up journey.  But one thing I’ve learned as both a founder and a Fortune 500 VP — it’s not more lucrative to do a start-up.  And start-ups aren’t even any more nimble than the best teams in Big Cos.  But in a start-up, it is easier to make the world better.

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