Venture Capital not just for maximum financial returns, the world be damned — some investors try to do better

What do you think when you hear this:

“Value creation requires investing in companies that design for people; manage for trust and accountability; build products that benefit people fairly, and thereby grow sustainably. We want to invest in companies that aim to become the gold standard in building privacy, security, fairness, and inclusivity into their products and processes. We require our portfolio companies to respect human rights, as well as the norms and values of the people and communities they serve.

Sound like a typical venture capitalist to you? Me neither. Nevertheless, a group of 25 VCs recently adopted these principles to guide their investment decisions. What’s going on here?

I have a bit of insight here, because I was able to participate in two of the meetings of this Race-To-The-Top initiative, representing the point of view of an entrepreneur who believes he is building privacy-protecting, secure and fair products. The kinds of entrepreneur who has not pitched his business to any VC at all exactly because I cannot make a privacy promise to my customer, take the customer’s money, then take venture money, and 6 months later the VCs force a change of direction (as it happens so frequently) and all the privacy promises are out the window.

Best I can tell, these guys are serious, and I’m majorly impressed. It boils down to saying: no, we will not insist on getting the last fraction of money out of our investment at the cost of screwing the customer over. Their motivation, to be sure, is financial: by not screwing the customer over, and promising not to do so, privacy-conscious consumers are far more likely to use the products of the startups they invest in, so they win.

Is that a big enough market? Traditionally: no. But it’s changing: in a recent survey, 58% of participants agreed with the statement: “The privacy threat is a crisis, and we need to force companies to change.” 58%??? The Race-To-The-Top VCs may be way ahead of their fellow VCs, but the market seems to be even further ahead. Sounds like a sound investment opportunity to me.

P.S. We are creating a community of privacy-related startups in the MyData Silicon Valley hub. If you are an entrepreneur with a related startup, please reach out!