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Tech Startups Are Spearheading A New Era Of Giving Back In The UK

12/01/2017 15:49 | Updated 13 January 2017

The UK's tech sector has seen remarkable growth in recent years - in fact according to Tech Nation 2016, the industry now accounts for 1.56 million jobs nationwide. And the startup sector is particularly strong, with a 92% increase in tech companies incorporated in London alone over the past three years.

The health of the sector has clear benefits. For a start, it represents an increase in exciting and rewarding new jobs. In addition, innovation driven by the tech sector helps all UK business grow and thrive - with technologies like cloud, mobile and artificial intelligence empowering businesses to scale more quickly, function more efficiently and, ultimately, better serve their customers.

But there's also another benefit that may be a little less obvious. And that's the potential positive impact on philanthropy.

Among startups, most notably the tech ones, there seems to be a real spirit of 'giving back' baked right into their DNA. For example, we have already seen more than 50 companies join the Pledge 1% movement in the UK, where businesses and entrepreneurs commit one percent of equity, product and time to charity. Most of the companies who have joined to date fall within the tech space.

I can't help but wonder what is driving this tech philanthropy?

One reason has to do with a cultural change that is being shaped by millennial digital natives. People in this age group (aged 18-34) represent a high percentage of those with startup ideas that centre around technology. And while there has been a lot of analysis of this generation, one thing's certain: they genuinely want to make the world a better place. According to research company Achieve, 84 percent of millennials make charitable donations and 70 percent volunteer.

Further, millennials don't seem to see a clear line between philanthropy in their personal lives and philanthropy at work. This generation is interested in being part of a company that shares their values. According to a 2016 Deloitte Millennial Study, among the factors a candidate evaluates before accepting a job, a 'sense of meaning from my work' and 'the impact it has on society' are both ranked at the top.

I also think that people interested in technology are always thinking about how technology can help improve everyone's daily lives. For people in the tech sector, particularly young talent, there's an increasing desire to see technology applied to help all parts of society. So, I suspect (and hope) an integrated approach to giving-back, like the Pledge 1% model, will become increasingly common.

What's really exciting is thinking about the impact these smaller, socially-minded tech companies will have as they grow. For example, Salesforce took an integrated approach to giving back when we first began, which started with the donation of a single Salesforce CRM license. Now, more than 28,000 non-profit organisations benefit from these licenses.

I, for one, am truly proud to be part of the industry spearheading this evolution in giving back. Of course, events like Comic Relief will continue to grow, but they are becoming increasingly intertwined with corporate philanthropy, much of which is from the tech sector. And as the idea of integrated philanthropy takes off and more millennials with their 'joined-up' view of life enter the workforce, this will only have a greater and more positive impact.

So I urge everyone in the tech industry to encourage the would-be entrepreneurs in their lives to not only follow their dreams, but to remember that what might seem like a small amount of giving back today, can make a massive difference tomorrow.

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