33 Entrepreneurs Who Make This World A Better Place

We have interviewed more than 600 people here on IdeaMensch and gotten to know and hopefully introduced you to some amazing people.

Here are 33 people we have interviewed who are changing the world for the better. There is no ranking. There is no competition. And there is no scientific formula; just great people we’ve gotten to know through IdeaMensch who we want to share with you. There are social entrepreneurs, nonprofit leaders, an investor, a soldier, animal rights advocates, authors and even a reverend on our list. The one thing they all have in common: they are all doing work that is making this world a better place.

Do you know someone who is making the world a better place? We always want to know and interview more awesome people. Enjoy!

1. Marc Nager

Marc Nager is the CEO of Startup Weekend, a nonprofit organization that hosts events in which developers, designers, marketers, product managers and startup enthusiasts come together to share ideas, form teams, build products and literally launch an actual startup over the course of 54 hours. What we love about Marc is that he acquired a for-profit company, turned it into a non-profit and then scaled it into a global organization.

2. Emily May

Emily May is an international leader in the anti-street-harassment movement. She co-founded Hollaback!, a movement to end street harassment in New York City. The movement has since spread across the world, from Columbia, Missouri to Mumbai, India. What we love about Emily is that she created a crowdsourced movement leveraging technology to fight a very real “physical” problem. Her goal is to ultimately create a world in which everyone has the right to feel safe.

3. Simon Griffiths

Simon Griffiths is an Australian entrepreneur whose first post-graduate social enterprise was Ripple, a click-to-give and search-to-give website that donates 100% of its revenue to development aid organizations. His current project is a nonprofit bar called Shebeen. Shebeen sells exotic beer and wine from the developing world. The profits from each drink sale supports a development project in that drink’s country of origin. What we love about this is that Simon has finally found a way for people to do good by getting drunk.

4. Mick Donegan

Mick Donegan is the founder and director of SpecialEffect, a children’s charity dedicated to using leading-edge technology to enhance the quality of life of people with disabilities. More specifically, his organization helps young people with disabilities play and enjoy computer games. What we love about Mick is that he’s helping children who are severely handicapped be able to play.

5. Emile Cureau and Rachel Cope

Emile Cureau and Rachel Cope are developing a charitable web app called LazyAngel that allows Internet users to fight child malnutrition for free. What we love about Emile and Rachel is that these 2 young entrepreneurs have literally spent their entire, albeit short, careers trying to do good–and child malnutrition is an incredibly important problem to fight.

6. Joe Miller

We all know that printing on paper isn’t good for the environment. Yet we all do it. When Joe Miller found out that students on university campuses were printing 4 billion sheets of paper per year, he decided to do something to about it. Armed with the understanding that students would continue to use paper for academic purposes, his mission became, “what we can’t reduce, we must offset.” His company, Print a Forest, aims to plant 75 trees for every tree used for printing on paper. It’s a free software application that relies on a sponsorship revenue stream to donate to nonprofit reforestation efforts in endangered forests.  Print 100 pages.  Plant a tree.  With Joe’s company, we could turn 4 billion pages into 40 million trees.

What’s not to love about the potential impact of planting 40 million trees?

7. Brad Feld

Brad Feld is an early stage investor, an entrepreneur and a fantastic author and blogger. Prior to co-founding Foundry Group, he co-founded Mobius Venture Capital and TechStars, which is the number one startup accelerator in the U.S. He also founded Intensity Ventures, a company that helped launch and operate software companies. Why did we include Brad on this list? Because he has literally helped hundreds, maybe thousands, of entrepreneurs bring their ideas to life by investing in their companies. But more importantly, he is someone who believes in sharing knowledge and truly educating others. Check out his blog at feld.com.

8. Stephen Katsaros

Stephen Katsaros is the founder of Nokero International, which is building a better, longer lasting, and solar-powered light bulb for use by the 1.6 billion people worldwide that live without electricity. What do we love? We have gotten to know Stephen a little bit, and he’s a brilliant guy. The world needs more brilliant people like Stephen willing to help people who have big needs, but not big wallets.

9. Patrick Riley

Patrick Riley is the founder and CEO of Ark, a social shopping commerce network that allows you to earn and  donate 5% of everything you purchase from Amazon, LivingSocial, iTunes and about 3,000 other stores. People shop. Always have, always will. We love the idea of having a positive impact with every purchase we make.

10. Reverend John Helmiere

Reverend John Helmiere is the founder and “Minister of Listening” at Valley & Mountain Fellowship, a spiritual community in the Rainier Valley, Seattle’s most diverse neighborhood. Instead of being organized around doctrine or liturgy, the community is held together by common commitments to 2 actions/values: deep listening and creative liberation. It’s a multi-generational and multi-ethnic community that meets in a school gym. We love what John is doing because he’s doing something good, helping others and he’s creating innovation in a space that doesn’t see much.

11. Matt Flannery

Matt Flannery is the co-founder of Kiva, the original global microfinance platform. Kiva benefits low-income entrepreneurs by offering microloans from people like you and me. So far, nearly $274 million has been raised for the working poor. We obviously love Kiva. And we give huge credit to Matt and his team because Kiva has grown to become a very effective and sustainable platform that we hope will be around for a long time.

12. Bridget Hilton

Bridget Hilton is the 26-year old founder of Jack’s Soap. Founded in 2011 with the goal of saving lives through soap, Jack’s gives one bar away every time one is sold. Five thousand children under the age of 5 die every day because of diseases that can be prevented by simply washing their hands. Bridget is out to change that statistic. It’s sort of like Tom’s Shoes, except with soap. We love Jack’s Soap because there’s nothing wrong with copying a good business model – especially not when it benefits others.

13. Elliot Katz

Elliot Katz is the founder of the animal protection organization In Defense of Animals (IDA). Founded in 1983, IDA is an international animal protection organization dedicated to ending the abuse and exploitation of animals by advocating for animals and protecting their rights, welfare and habitats. Among other accomplishments, IDA has forced the closure of unnecessary animal testing facilities, shut down puppy mills, built chimpanzee sanctuaries and continues to fight for raising the status of animals beyond that of mere commodities, property, objects or things. We love what Elliot Katz has been doing for decades because standing up for animals is a selfless and noble act.

14. Hindol Sengupta

Hindol Sengupta is the co-founder of the Whypoll Trust, India’s only open government platform. Basically, Whypoll is trying to improve the communication between India’s citizens and its government. We love this idea. There are more than a billion people who live in India and any idea that helps them voice their opinions is a good idea to us.

15. Rebecca Pontius

Rebecca Pontius is the co-founder of the Do Good Bus, a transportable community service venture based in Los Angeles, California. In a nutshell, last year Rebecca organized a trip across the country where she picked up people along the way to volunteer on local projects for those in need. We love the Do Good Bus because what is there not to love about organizing a bus full of people to drive across the country and do good?

16. Jake Wood

Jake Wood is the president of Team Rubicon, the organization he co-founded following the massive earthquake in Haiti.  Team Rubicon unites the unique skills of America’s returning veterans with the expertise of medical professionals; all while interactively engaging donors through social media. We love Team Rubicon because Jake has created a win-win situation for both America’s veterans and some of the world’s citizens that need them the most.

17. Shivani Siroya

Shivani Siroya is the CEO and founder of InVenture. InVenture helps to expand small businesses around the world by providing access to growth capital and business tracking tools via the Internet and mobile technology. InVenture doesn’t make loans; it makes investments. We love this idea because we love investing in small business and, well, it’s not like investing in big companies has been kind to our investment portfolio.

18. Esther Jacobs

Esther Jacobs is a Dutch author, motivational speaker and creativity expert. Her motto is, “if you do what you always did, you will get what you always got.” For almost 2 decades she has helped companies, entrepreneurs and individuals realize their dreams. She walks the talk. She has visited over 100 countries, speaks 7+ languages, has raised $25 million for charity without a budget and was a participant in the European Survivor TV series. She only works a few months each year and lives alternately in Amsterdam, Curacao and Miami. Why do we love what Esther Jacobs does? Well, raising $25 million for charity is incredible. But, she’s also just the kind of person who inspires people like us to do more good.

19. Ben Wagner and Jonathan Yagel

Ben Wagner and Jonathan Yagel are working to change the way people interact online in order to change the way people live offline. Their company is LifeKraze, a web platform that facilitates active lifestyles and allows people to share their accomplishments. LifeKraze users share their personal achievements with 160-character posts and can attach links, pictures and videos. Each user has 200 Kraze Points each day that they can distribute to whichever posts they find most impressive. As users collect points, they can track their ranking against friends. These Points can also be redeemed for discounts and products from brand partners like Reebok, Men’s Health and Powerade Zero. We love this idea because we believe that being active helps us bring ideas to life.

20. Kendra Stitt Robins

Kendra Stitt Robins is the founder and executive director of Project Night Night, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing care packages for homeless and transient children living in shelters across the country. Founded in 2005, Project Night Night donates more than 25,000 Night Night Packages each year, free of charge, to homeless children who need childhood essentials to feel secure, cozy, ready to learn and significant. Each Night Night Package contains a new security blanket, an age-appropriate children’s book and a stuffed animal — all nestled inside of a new canvas tote bag. By providing objects of reliable comfort, Project Night Night reduces trauma and advances the emotional and cognitive well-being of the thousands of homeless children whom they serve. We love this idea and we love this cause. Please help support Project Night Night.

21. Ambassador Nancy Brinker

Ambassador Nancy Brinker is regarded as the global  leader of the breast cancer movement. Her journey began with a simple promise to her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, that she would do everything possible to end the shame, pain, fear and hopelessness caused by this disease. In one generation, the organization that bears Susan’s name has changed the world.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure  is now the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures. In 2009, President Barack Obama honored Nancy with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, for her work.

We love and admire the work Nancy Brinker has done because regardless of how you feel about the color pink , the impact Nancy Brinker has achieved is nothing short of remarkable.

22. Stuart Gold

Stuart Gold is the founder of the Trashy Bags Project, a social enterprise based in Accra, Ghana that makes recycled eco-friendly bags. Trashy Bags is leading the way in sustainable plastic recycling in Africa and has collected and recycled approximately 20 million plastic sachets since they started in 2007. We love turning something bad (plastic waste) into something good (hip bags). Kudos, Stuart.

23. Rachel Cohen

Rachel Cohen isn’t your typical college student. As a Penn student, she juggles undergraduate and law school classes while overseeing a citywide organization called Hand2Paw. Hands2Paw serves homeless youth and shelter animals. Rachel’s vision leading up to the creation of Hand2Paw grew from interactions with a group of homeless teens that would huddle under the Grays Ferry Bridge in Philadelphia, holding their pit bulls for warmth. Rachel befriended them and learned that the teens loved their dogs so much that they were unwilling to abandon them in order to enter shelters, even in the frigid winter. This unconditional love between the youth and their dogs inspired Rachel to create Hand2Paw, an organization that empowers homeless teens to volunteer in local animal shelters. We love this, because it’s a wonderful example of one person seeing the best in people and connecting two groups in need to help each other.

24. Alezandra Russell

Alezandra Russell visited Thailand in 2009 and witnessed firsthand the horrors of sex-trafficking and child prostitution. Just 3 months after her initial trip, Alezandra ditched her desk job, grabbed her passport and became a modern-day abolitionist, founding Urban Light. Urban Light provides various services and supports to boys who are victims of child prostitution and commercial sexual exploitation in Thailand. These boys are an often invisible, overlooked and neglected population. Alezandra is committed to empowering them by providing realistic opportunities, services and programs for a life outside the grasp of sex-tourists and sex-pushers. We love this, not only because of Alezandra’s commitment and bravery, but because it’s a wonderful example of what kind of difference one person can make.

25. Nate St. Pierre

Nate St. Pierre is the founder of ItStartsWith.Us, a global group of people committed to changing the world in just 15 minutes per week.  Nate utilizes the concept of microgiving to provide a fast, fun and effective way  to help those in need.  One example is Nate’s Love Drop initiative. You can join the team for as little as $1 a month and then each month the team focuses on changing one family’s life by easing their financial burden and plugging them into a caring community. We love this because it shows that small actions can make a huge difference for people in need.

26. Toby Tanser

Race director, author, runner, coach, philanthropist and writer, Toby Tanser is the founder and only staff member of the charity Shoe4Africa. Shoe4Africa started as a way to give used running shoes to those who could use them in Africa. The organization has expanded to include building a school, raising awareness of AIDS and feeding hungry African children. His latest and greatest project is building Africa’s largest public children’s hospital. He also holds the obscure world record (recognized by the Scottish athletics federation) for the fastest 10 km run wearing a kilt. We love this because Toby Tanser is a one-man operation using his passion for running to build a hospital in Africa.

27. Buzz Miller

Buzz Miller is the founder and president of PACT, an organization that builds and celebrates the human-animal bond. In 2007, Buzz Miller opened Buzzy’s Bow Wow Meow, a unique pet retail supermarket in Narberth Pennsylvania. It is much more than a store; it is also a companion animal education center. PACT and Buzzy’s both offer free educational seminars to teach the public about the benefits of the human-animal bond and host many adoption events. Why do we love this? Making an impact always starts with one person. Buzz is that kind of person.

28. Steve Pressfield

Steve Pressfield is the author of the hugely successful historical novels Gates of Fire, Tides of War, and Last of the Amazons. His debut novel, The Legend of Bagger Vance, was made into a movie starring Matt Damon and Will Smith in 2000. He also wrote the book The War of Art, which helps people overcome their inner resistance and bring ideas to life. Why do we love Steve? We have probably interviewed 3-dozen brilliant authors and most of them mention Steve as their favorite author. His writing helped them beat down their inner resistance, helping brilliant people finish brilliant work.

29. Jim Moriarty

Jim Moriarty is the CEO of the Surfrider Foundation and an innovative leader in the environmental and action sports communities. From a skateboarding punk-rock kid to an architect of the early days of e-commerce, Moriarty is committed to protecting the world’s oceans, waves and beaches. Jim’s vision has helped establish Surfrider chapters all over the world that are committed to preserving beaches, cleaning up oceans and protecting sea life. Why do we love Jim? Because he’s helping keep our oceans healthy.

30. Ethan Austin

Ethan Austin is the co-founder of GiveForward, a website that makes it easy to collect donations from friends and family for a loved one’s uncovered medical expenses.  Having lost his father at an early age to colon cancer, Ethan has always had a soft spot for helping others and spent much of his early life volunteering for various cancer organizations. GiveForward has raised millions of dollars for things like chemotherapy, organ transplants and life saving surgeries. Why do we love this? Because Ethan is brave, innovative and tackling a super important problem.

31. Chris Guillebeau

Chris Guillebeau is a writer, entrepreneur and world-traveler committed to pursuing adventure and helping people live unconventional, remarkable lives.

In 2002, after completing college at the age of 19 and starting a small business, Chris moved to West Africa to live full-time on a hospital ship deployed to Sierra Leone and Liberia. His first book, The Art of Non-Conformity shared his message: “you don’t have to live your life the way other people expect you to. You can do good things for yourself and for others at the same time.”

Why we love Chris? Because he inspires us and so many others to be remarkable.

32. Steve Markwell

Steve Markwell is the founder and mensch behind the Olympic Animal Sanctuaryin Forks, Washington. Long story short, the Olympic Animal Sanctuary takes care of dogs. Not just any dogs, but rather the ones that have been turned down by all other shelters and organizations because they were deemed dangerous. Dogs that have severely injured people or killed other animals, feral dogs, wolf hybrids, and coyote hybrids – animals that simply aren’t welcome in our society anymore are welcomed at Olympic Animal Sanctuary. Why do we love Steve? Because he oftentimes is the last and only hope for dogs who have none.

33. Craig Newmark

Craig Newmark is the founder of craigslist, a site where people can help each other with everyday needs including housing and jobs. The site has a culture of trust, based on shared values like “treat people like you want to be treated.” Craig is currently working on craigconnects, a platform where he helps military families and veterans, advocates for consumer protection and supports ethical journalism, among other things. Why do we love this? Because Craig had one brilliant idea, executed it, didn’t sell out and continues to try to do good in this world.

We want to thank all of the wonderful people on this list for being awesome. There are obviously many more. Feel free to suggest folks in the comment section, introduce yourself or just say a few words about the awesome folks on this list.

Oh, and please help us spread the word about these incredible people.

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