Gulf social startups take flight

Good business is coming of age in the GCC. We went behind the scenes of The Venture, a global competition for social startups, to meet the entrepreneurs using business for social good

Around the world, entrepreneurs are increasingly searching out fresh and creative ways to combine business with social impact. From technology-based innovations to bricks-and-mortar businesses, social enterprises are chipping away at problems as diverse as poverty, health inequality, unemployment and food insecurity. Investors, too, are starting to put their money where their mouth is, dedicating $15bn in 2015 to finance businesses tackling social and environmental problems, up from $10.6bn in 2014.

In the GCC and wider Arab world, social enterprise is also beginning to take root, driven in part by young entrepreneurs who want to combine profit and purpose.

We met some of these startups at the recent GCC final of The Venture, a global contest that seeks to find and scale sustainable social businesses. This year's finalists included t-shirt company Ilovemypocket, which gives 10 per cent of its profits to education charities; Charicycles, which upcycles old bicycle frames and donates a portion of its revenues to fund bicycles for child refugees; and fintech startup NOW Money, which financial services to low-paid migrant workers unable to afford traditional bank accounts.

After scooping first place, NOW Money now has a chance to win the global final of The Venture, and a shot at the $1m prize fund. Here, the finalists shared their thoughts on why social enterprise is a growing trend in the Arab world.