Tech for good is starting to get serious investment and Detroit is its home

By August 15, 2017

Tech for good hasn’t undergone the rise we thought it might but Detroit-based investment fund Macomb Innovation Fund is now stepping in to provide some proper cash.

So far “Tech for Good” has been a nice idea which the tech community has held aloft as a sort of moral licence. This licence is also composed of anti-Trump statements which are only really given lip service by the biggest tech firms. The two combine to satisfy the tech community that they are doing things a little differently and that they have a social conscience. They’re the nice sector, the ones who tackle social ills.

Tech for good is supposed to be the techies who get together specifically to make society better, to tackle social problems. And, somehow, they were going to use their disruptive wiles to find a way to make this kind of thing profitable. But it doesn’t really seem to have taken off as it was supposed to.

There’s a fairly active Twitter hashtag (#techforgood), and there’s a few accelerators like Bethnal Green Ventures. But if you check out Nestas 10 Tech Heroes for Good they probably aren’t people you’ve heard of. Even sites for crowd-sourcing your next charitable event have come in for criticism over their business model.

Macomb Innovation Fund is ploughing ahead though, having so far invested $1.6 million into 29 startups in the Detroit area since 2015. And it still has over million left to spend. Stacey Frankovich, director of the Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Michigan’s Macomb Community College, a partner in the program, told OZY the recipients of funds “haven’t just been passionate and dedicated to their ideas — they’ve also had a social mission.”

Macomb Innovation Fund has invested in a broad range of companies in various sectors. This includes a company looking to improve the process doctors use to intubate patients; an agriculture business developing supplemental greenhouse lighting technology; and a ride-sharing app which focuses on things like getting elderly patients to non-emergency appointments.

One hopes that well-funded organisations coming through with a genuine social mission might spur this sector on. Tech companies have been capable of making profits in ways no one could have predicted before, so who knows what else they are capable of?