For Arlan Hamilton, founder and managing partner at Backstage Capital, helping fund 100-plus companies run by underrepresented populations didn’t happen by following all the rules. John Padgett, chief experience and innovation officer of Carnival Corporation didn’t streamline vacation time for people without questioning the status quo. And in order to change the way people think about food and lower the ecological impact of meat production in the food system, Patrick Brown, CEO and founder of Impossible Foods, wasn’t going to wait for someone else to help lower our ecological footprint by making plants as tasty as hamburgers.
On a panel moderated by Shelly Zalis, CEO of The Female Quotient, these business leaders said that the key to their success was democratization — giving people opportunities they wouldn’t have been able to access otherwise. Grit, passion, hard work and failure also paved the way. Here are some of the techniques the panelists used to disrupt their industries:
Changing technology to change perceptions
Brown knew that he wouldn’t be able to make people stop eating meat — so he asked himself how he could counteract the meat industry and its environmental damage in a different way. If he couldn’t change people’s diets, he could change the way in which foods are made — he decided to revamp the technology of food, specifically meat, production. “There’s absolutely no reason — as a biochemist — why we ought not to make all these foods vastly more sustainable, but to make them better in a way that matters to consumers,” he said. “The animals we use to make food did not evolve to be eaten.”
In beginning her entrepreneurship journey, Hamilton claimed she read about all of the “biases” associated with minorities in business and wanted to make a change. “People that I know that are much further along than I am and are brilliant are being overlooked just because of their skin — there’s something there people are missing.”
For Hamilton, it’s been about persistence and believing in her mission: “I can’t imagine a world that does not have this fund.” She knew both the people and the need were there for her business — but that it would take community support to help Backstage Capital emerge as a disruptor. Just year — Hamilton said her company announced a $36 million raise to designed to invest in black women, a million dollars at a time.
Chasing ways to solve problems — not make money
For Padgett, disruption isn’t the goal — the goal is to give people better opportunities. The creator of Disney’s Magical Express, FastPass+, and the MagicBand, said he saw a need to maximize consumers’ vacation time — because long lines for attractions and lengthy bus rides to destinations deducted from valuable experiences and memories.
Padgett says it takes a village – a global effort — to bring your ideas to life, and that getting investors on board with your mission involves clearly articulating the macro value of the change you’re pursuing. “Innovators can’t really be worried about where the next dollar is coming from; they need to be worried about solving whatever problem that is,” Padgett said. “Having that funding in place — whether it’s enterprise funding or venture funding — with folks that you can trust, gives you the confidence to go after whatever those solutions are.”
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