At NewCo, we spend a lot of time thinking about mission statements. We ask companies that apply to become NewCos for their mission statement, and we remind them that while most companies have mission statements, we look for companies that are in fact on one. There’s a difference — companies that are on a mission are filled with people who live and breathe their organization’s purpose. If you ask them about the “why” of their business, they’ll usually trace it back to the change their company is trying to make. That change is a verb — an active shift the company wants to see happen.
Put another way, great companies view their business as an argument. The company has a thesis about how the world ought to be in some way different — and every product, service, and customer touchpoint is part of proving that thesis true.
We’ve worked hard to make NewCo’s mission statement clear and active: To identify, celebrate, and connect the engines of positive change in our economy.
Central to that mission is the phrase “engines of positive change.” I’m often asked what that means. What’s positive change, anyway?
Positive change doesn’t have to mean your company is a philanthropy. Not every company can or should be charity: water or DonorsChoose. Sure, both those organizations are NewCos, but we define positive change as making some part of the world better in a measurable way. It can be a huge change — Hampton Creek Foods and Impossible Foods are trying to wean the world off animal protein. Or it can be a small one — many adtech firms are trying to make automated buying of advertising inventory more efficient and cost effective for all involved. What matters is that the change is positive — if the company succeeds, the world gets better somehow.
We believe that engines of positive change are worth celebrating, and by connecting them to each other and to our festival goers, we believe we can play a small part in accelerating that positive change.
We’ve got an informal test for identifying companies that are effecting positive change. NewCos can quickly complete this question: “Wouldn’t it be cool if….”. Microsoft in the 1980s was all about “Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a computer on every desk?” Google in the 2000s: “Wouldn’t it be cool if all the world’s information was organized and made accessible?”
This opening gambit then leads to a reveal — a declaration of the positive change that would occur if the company is successful at achieving its mission. “If everyone had a computer, the world would become a smarter, more empowered place,” was Microsoft’s reveal. “If everyone had access to the world’s information,” Google might argue, echoing Microsoft’s original mission, “the world would become an even smarter, more empowered place.”
The best mission statements are evergreen: They can never be finished. That may be why Microsoft’s mission — which seemed immense back in 1986, had to change over time. Great missions are aspirational — at NewCo we strive to connect all those engines of positive change, but we know that great new companies and organizations are created each day, and we’ll always be identifying, celebrating, and connecting them — in more than a dozen cities around the world, and growing. We think that’s pretty cool!