Impact Investing #1: Social Unrest

I’m probably not saying anything new here, but since a couple of years an increasing number of founders want to launch startups that have an impact on the societal and environmental problems that our world faces.

Climate change is probably the first topic that comes to mind, but I dont think it’s the only one worth pursuing. The past two years I’ve been reading and searching about the challenges that our world and societies face and my personal “thesis” is converging toward three macro problems which I think are equally important:

  • The first one is obviously climate change
  • The second one is the rise of social unrest
  • And the third one is the demographic crisis looming around the corner

In this series of three videos, starting with the rise of social unrest, I will briefly share what I found while searching these topics as well as how founders are contributing to solving them.

If you will, it’s kind of my personal thesis around the theme of “saving the world with startups”, a.k.a impact startups.

Without further ado, let’s start with the topic of social unrest.

The rise of Social unrest and upheavals

“Data from the 2020 Global Peace Index shows that civil unrest has doubled over the last decade. Between 2011 and 2018, the number of both protests and riots roughly doubled.”

This rise of civil unrest covers a very wide variety of movements with very different motivations and forms. It ranges from oppressed minorities who legitimately want more equality to workers asking for better working conditions, to controversial movements such as anti vaxxers or other conspiracy fueled communities. My aim here is not to judge them, but rather to say that I believe that, in many cases, this social unrest is fueled by “economic unhappiness”. 

In most western countries wages have stagnated the past 20 years and many people feel like there’s a lack of opportunity for them to evolve professionally while at the same time they see the 1% of the richest people create enormous amounts of wealth without seeing it trickling down to the majority of the population. 

Again, I’m not here to judge that, but I believe that if we want to improve the situation on that side it’s not going to happen by convincing people to change their mind with rational arguments but rather by improving their economic situation and by empowering them more, so that they don’t feel left to the side by the society.

And to loop back to the topic of this video about “Startups to save the world”, I believe that founders can create companies that tackle this problem of social unrest and imo, it is as useful as climate change startups.

Illustration: new labor union models

To illustrate concretely what I mean, I will take the example of labor unions. I currently see a small but growing trend of startups that help workers of various industries to unionize in order to get more leverage and negotiation power with their employer. A good example of that is Unit which is a platform that helps workers of private companies form a labor union easily.

Labor union is probably a controversial topic among the viewers of this video, but if we look at it from a historical point of view, unions played a great role in improving labor’s working conditions during the industrial age. The decline in union membership is a relatively recent trend, starting back in the 80s and   Many people believe that this is due to globalisation and the fact that employers could find cheaper labor abroad and hence had increasing power over workers.

But this situation will potentially change in the next few years as globalisation is decelerating and as chinese labor is getting older and not replaced. Some people believe that we’re at the beginning of a new cycle where labor will increase its power relative to the employers after decades of the opposite trends, and hence new union models that will emerge. Add collective efounders


In conclusion,  I’m speaking about startups enabling workers to unionize but it’s just an illustration of the services that are built to improve people’s economic situation. There are plenty of other problems which are addressed by entrepreneurs, whether it’s wider access to education in order to land better jobs or services built for gig workers to increase their revenue and job security. For sure it’s not startups only that will solve the problem of social unrest, but i believe that they can contribute to it and that it’s a problem worth going after, as much as climate change.