The Editors’ Post: When the feel-good bubble bursts

Wealthy business founders turning to impact entrepreneurship should be a cause for celebration – or should it? The debate rages on. Plus, last chance to grab your place at Tuesday's Social Business Coffee Break. 

As I was listening to BBC World Service in the middle of the night this week (we have an elderly dog whose nocturnal pacing was keeping me awake), my attention was grabbed by a segment on the Business Matters programme. It was an interview with Niklas Adalberth, the co-founder of hugely successful buy-now-pay-later app Klarna which achieved the revered $1bn unicorn status within a couple of years of its launch.

But, said Adalberth, he realised as he was celebrating with a first-class champagne-fuelled trip to Las Vegas that he wasn’t at all happy with his financial success. In fact, he said, he had a profound feeling of “emptiness and meaninglessness” as he wondered if his company was making the world a better place.

So he started up the Norrsken Foundation to nurture impact entrepreneurs, rather than those entrepreneurs whose businesses solely focused on generating growth.

The interview went on to explore Adalberth’s passions for the enterprises that Norrsken is supporting. 

But then that feel-good bubble abruptly burst as the show’s presenter, Roger Hearing, turned to studio guest Simon Littlewood, president of mergers and acquisitions company ACG Global, for his reaction. 

Modern industry leaders who were concerned about the societal impact of their companies verged on the Messianic and narcissistic, said Littlewood. In his opinion, businesses were about returning money to shareholders. Companies, he said, should focus on making money and then let the state decide what to do with it. 

It’s a useful reminder that while we should celebrate the work of those who are trying to support the creation of a new type of economy, which puts people and planet ahead of profit, it’s also important to listen to those who oppose it. Because they are out there, putting the brakes on – something which Doughnut Economics’ Erinch Sahan eloquently pointed out at the Social Enterprise World Forum during his debate with B Lab’s Katie Hill. Our story about that conversation, ‘Finance is the monster in the room’, has proved popular food for thought with the Pioneers Post audience – do check it out if you haven’t already.

Don’t miss Tuesday’s Social Business Coffee Break

Have you reserved your free place yet for our webinar on Tuesday? Our founding editor, Tim West, will bring two social business leaders together to discuss ‘How to take tough decisions when things go wrong’. There’s lots to learn from their experiences. Book now.


This week’s top stories:

Transparency, accountability and following commercial terms: what are the biggest challenges facing UK social investment today?

How to: use AI to make more impact in your social enterprise

Climate-focused blended finance deals plummet by 55% in 2022 – Convergence


Top image: People holding up champagne glasses (credit: Cottonbro Studio via Pexels)

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