If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be? Air travel? Education? The health care system? Think about it for a minute.
While it’s kind of a daunting question, we feel like it’s a pretty good way to start a conversation about the kinds of companies and organizations that aspiring (and current) entrepreneurs could build to give their communities and the global collective some much-needed TLC. (And all serious topics aside, it’s also a fun way to fantasize.) That’s why we asked the men and women interviewed on our site to share their perspectives on what they would change and how they would do it.
Do you know of any great entrepreneurs to be featured on IdeaMensch?
If you need some inspiration or a motivational kick in the butt, here are 20 things worth changing:
1. Limited access to electricity
“I think everyone on this planet should have access to electricity and the opportunities that come with this access,” says Brian Gramm, Founder of Peppermint Energy. “In fact, I wake up every day and work to make that happen.”
2. Poor treatment of animals
“We really need to change the way society treats animals. Animal testing, breed-specific legislation, and over-populated shelters are all contributing to an issue we cannot possibly solve without major changes,” says Brandon Forder, co-owner of Canadian Pet Connection. “I don’t believe this problem has a single solution. With that said, the best way to lay solid groundwork is through education. Give people the knowledge to make better decisions when it comes to pet ownership. Too many people know too little about animals, and in the end, it’s always the animals that end up suffering.”
3. Underfunded green technologies
“I am a big believer in green technologies, and I don’t think we should be so short-sighted when it comes to deciding when to start developing them for our future,” says Falco Freeman, founder of Future Audio Design Innovation. “We should increase support for universities and major research centers to tackle these important challenges, and should properly incentivize schools and promote more collaboration within them. It is only a matter of time before these technologies will be essential, and the United States should be the world leader in that effort.”
“Bullying is a hot topic these days, and I am glad it’s getting the attention it deserves. It’s about time,” says Amy Porterfield, co-author of Facebook Marketing for Dummies. “The way I go about helping to eradicate bullying is by starting in my own home. My husband and I talk to my son about it, and teach him about the importance of acceptance. We talk about how being gay, looking different or acting different does not mean you should be treated differently–and I love when we get to have those talks that I know are shaping him to see the world in a new light.”
5. The shortage of jobs
“Right now, people need jobs,” says Wade Eyerly, co-founder of Surf Air. “So I’m building a business that employs a lot of people. Airlines don’t scale with technology. More server boxes don’t make us more money. More planes, more pilots, and more sales do. We hire 30 people for every two planes we fly. That’s a lot of jobs–good jobs that we’re proud to be creating. (It’s even better that we get to employ former military pilots, real American heroes.) My proudest moment as a startup CEO was the day we first made payroll.”
6. Public education
“Every child deserves a good, free education,” says Erin Levin, Producer of African Children’s Choir Film. “If I had all the money and time in the world, I would spend it making sure each child on Earth has access to that. Thankfully, making my film is a small step in that direction. The African Children’s Choir has created a clever, compelling, entertaining and sustainable way to educate children across Africa and people around the world. I am humbled and honored to share their success story as an example of how we can all help make a difference.”
“The [education] system has lost its common sense–it’s purpose,” says Brett Neese, founder of Just Run. “It’s turned into a giant, impersonal, bureaucratic, structured factory with a huge amount of accepted waste because ‘that’s the way it is.’ Even those working in the school system have admitted that it’s broken, and yet millions of young people are forced to suffer through this madness every year. I know I can’t solve this single-handedly. In fact, I’m not even ready to tackle it head-on. It’s a huge problem. But if I can make a dent in the lives of a few young people who are going through it, then maybe the system will start to change and mold and improve.”
“I would want every person to have access to a quality education, from kindergarten to [doctorate programs], if appropriate,” says Gary Flake, CEO of Clipboard. “I know this seems like a pipe dream at the moment, but I think within my lifetime this will be possible with a mixture of scale economics, AI, better online curricula, and the heroic efforts of folks like the Gate’s Foundation and Khan Academy. Every other problem that we have, be it health, technological, social, or humanitarian, is almost always better pursued—and sometimes outright resolved—when people have the context of a broader education.”
7. Time and gravity
“I would make everything that’s bad for me, good for me,” says Vince LaVecchia, director of operations at Instrument. “I’d start with time and gravity, the two most powerful negative forces in my life. I would find the world’s smartest scientists and ask them to find me more time and to reverse gravity’s effect on my life. Then I’d figure out a way to sell my new-found powers to people–and I’d give it away to all of the people I love.”
8. The traditional career mentality
“I would change how people think about careers,” says Cal Newport, author and assistant professor at Georgetown University. “The sooner as you transform from thinking, ‘What does this job offer me?’ to ‘What can I offer this job?’ the sooner you can actually start down the path that really leads people to work they love. Don’t follow your passion; let it follow you in your quest to become good at rare and valuable things.”
9. Concealed information
“I’d champion the basic civil rights of adoptees and change the laws that bar access to their original birth certificates. Everyone deserves to know their own history,” says Lisa Kenefick, founder of Probate Research.
“I went to Rwanda with Save the Children to support their No Child Born to Die campaign,” says Ruth Clemens, creator of The Pink Whisk. “The conditions I saw there were unbelievable. When I came back I was very angry with the world, and it has been difficult to deal with that. There is such inequality, pain and suffering in the world, including in the UK. There’s also a huge feeling of apathy for the charities trying to change things. If I could change one thing it would be for more people to support charities, and I’m not talking monetary donations. I’m talking about simple things, such as signing petitions or raising awareness; these actions would actually work wonders. Apathy isn’t something I can change, but I will continue to support worthwhile charities where and when I can.”
11. Skewed self-perceptions
“I’d teach people how to have a better relationship with themselves,” says Trevor Silvester, training director at The Quest Institute. “If we loved ourselves, we wouldn’t start wars, buy things we don’t need, over-consume or contribute to other people’s unhappiness. I’m going about changing it now; I see therapy as improving the world one person at a time.”
12. Nutritional education
“I would improve nutritional education, ” says Jan Senderek, co-founder of Popset. “We grow up in a society where people simply do not know how important good nutrition is or how bad sugar is for our health. Kids need to grow up with a better understanding of what good food is and how they can prepare healthy meals that help their bodies and brains. I don’t have a solution off the top of my head, but this needs to be fixed.”
“There are many issues that we do not have control over, but [childhood obesity] is one that we theoretically do,” says Edward Garber, president of The Florida Design Group.
“I have a whole vision for changing the food industry as it relates to what can be bought with public assistance and what can’t,” says Derek Wyatt, co-founder of Consulting And Knowledge Exchange. “It all begins with corn and its presence in everything. Nutritional food is too expensive, which leaves cheap, processed foods as the main alternative for people with restricted budgets.”
13. Gun policies
“I’m feeling pretty hurt and angry about the shootings that have happened this year involving innocent people,” says Laura Pepper Wu, co-founder of 30 Day Books. “I hope that there is a big change in gun policy and weapon availability in the U.S. soon.”
14. Separateness and attitudes
“Few things bug me more than the ‘us vs. them’ mentality that so many people (including myself) tend to have,” says Billy Coffey, author of Paper Angels. “I think it’s important for everyone to understand our common humanity—that despite who we are on the outside, on the inside we all love, we’re all struggling, and we all want to make a world that is better for our children.”
“I would encourage more interracial relationships,” says Brian Shields, co-founder of #IncubateNYC. “I find that interracial children have a much more balanced view of the world and understand on a basic level how to bridge divides between viewpoints and cultures. People of the world would find more ways they are alike than different if we were all mixed.”
“I just know there is no way of changing only one thing, as changing something requires a lot of changes,” says Andrew Rachmatovas, Owner of PUBLIC SCROLL. “It’s better to just change your attitude or understanding of the things you don’t like. Yeah, changing your attitude is the place to start.”
15. Spam and computer viruses
“I’m a big techie and spammers, virus-writers and other people up to no good really bother me,” says Phil Simon, author of The Age of the Platform. “I wish that I could write a piece of software that eliminated malware, viruses and all of that crap. Imagine what those smart but misguided folks could do if they put their talents to productive uses rather than causing destruction.”
16. Bad sex
“I imagine there are a lot of people out there having pretty bad sex,” says David Embree, founder and CEO of Athletepath. “We all have had it at some point, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I’d hope that everybody finds somebody that really makes bedtime fun time because life is so much more vibrant when you do. I don’t know how to solve this one, but I’m pretty sure Dr. Ruth is on it.”
17. The political system
“I would choose to change the way our legislators and politicians interact with one another,” says Bennett Resnik, creator of The Hands We Shake. “We have become a hyper-partisan nation racing to the far-left and far-right. If we are going move forward as a global super-power, we need to collaborate and push for policies that complement both sides of the political spectrum.”
“I would change politics because the state of the two-party political system in the U.S. is a complete joke,” says Sunil Rajaraman, CEO and co-founder of Scripted.com. “We need outsiders with fresh ideas to step up and take over the government.”
18. Too much seriousness
“I’d send an email reminder to everyone on Earth, in the middle of their day, to tell them to stop whatever they were doing to laugh at themselves for up to three minutes,” says Brook Lundy, co-founder of someecards.
19. The surplus of CO2
“I would take the vast surplus of CO2 that’s going into the sky and pay the poorest people in the world for pulling it out,” says Tim Whitley, founder of Carbon Offsets To Alleviate Poverty. “I’d do this by paying them to plant trees through the instrument and system of accredited forestry carbon offsets. I’d do it by launching a new nonprofit called Carbon Offsets To Alleviate Poverty.”
20. A lack of empathy
“World change can only come from personal change,” says Brigitte Lyons, founder of Unfettered Ink. “The one area I focus on above all–and I think this applies to all of us–is empathy. Empathy is something we can always use more of, and it’s nearly impossible to put into practice. Think about it. Can you really put yourself into another person’s headspace? Of course not. The best we can hope for is to try. It’s useful to make a habit of asking where people are coming from, while acknowledging that you can never know their motivations or feelings. All we can do is accept that they are doing the best they can do with what they have, just as they are.”
Here are some more entrepreneurs we’re keeping our eyes on.
- Awesome Young Entrepreneurs to watch
- Remarkable Female Entrepreneurs to watch
- Ingenious Tech Entrepreneurs to watch
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.