I recently got a chance to communicate with Mladen Jovanovic, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of BindiMaps, through email about Social Entrepreneurship and how people can break into this field?Forbes has recognized him recently as Forbes 30 under 30 Asia, 2020.
BindiMaps, an Australian tech startup launched in 2017 and has created a mobile navigational app to help visually impaired navigate indoor spaces. It has assisted more than 1,600 people to date. The app maps the physical surrounding using Bluetooth beacons, a mapping, and route-guidance system and smartphone sensors to understand where the user is and then guide them through audio cues to their destination.
Why did you take up social entrepreneurship?
I initially founded a company that solved problems for large-scale infrastructure projects and saved construction developers large volumes of costs. After meeting my co-founder at my university, I learned about some issues within the blind/vision-impaired space, which interested me. I conducted several user research interviews, and after learning the problems people face daily due to their vision impairment, I felt that solving this problem would change lives and make a more significant impact in comparison to my construction tech company.
What does social entrepreneurship mean for you?
To me, social entrepreneurship is solving substantial social, cultural, or environmental problems for people who are unable to do it themselves or are unaware that the problem exists.
What is the main difference between social entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs?
Both classes of entrepreneurs are very similar and are solving big problems. Both have a passion for solving the problem. One happens to have a sharper focus and drive on solving persistent problems.
Why do you think there are fewer social entrepreneurs compared to entrepreneurs in general?
It tends to be more challenging to sustain a company that is for purpose due to the problems being in less lucrative markets. People think that most companies in this sector are not-for-profit. I am a firm believer in for-purpose and for-profit companies.
So, what actions can we take to encourage more social entrepreneurs to break into the field?
Raising awareness around social issues and educating people on how to create business models that solve these problems yield a financial return and make a social impact.
Can you share a personal story of how you dealt with a particular challenge you faced along the journey?
The transition from a ConstructionTech startup to a company that predominantly works with people who are blind or vision impaired was a significant challenge. I did not know the space and needed to learn quickly how to navigate this new landscape.
Do you have a mentor that helped you?
I have a few mentors, although I read a lot and extract much of my information from books.
What advice you have for people who are looking to break into this field?
Make sure you are passionate about the problem you are solving. Even though the money may not come in the early days, having someone tell you that you are changing your life or having an impact is priceless. Stick with it.
To know more about the fantastic work done by BindiMaps, click here.