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The Influence Of Olivetti: Detailing The Impact (And Inspiration) A Purpose-Led Business Can Realize "Camillo Olivetti inspired me to see any business as a potential force for good, and its impact on my personal life drove me to launch C3, or Companies Creating Change- a platform helping emerging changemakers use the power of business to make a change in the world."

By Medea Nocentini

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.


I grew up in the small Italian town of Ivrea where Olivetti, the famous designer and manufacturer of typewriters founded by Camillo Olivetti, established a working model for corporate responsibility.

Olivetti's initiatives extended beyond his employees to the full community of Ivrea. While my parents did not work for Olivetti, I and others like me were given access to medical and sports facilities, art and culture initiatives, educational activities, and much more. And when added to the government's provision of basic services, plus charitable initiatives for underprivileged minorities, an ecosystem of incredible opportunity for all children was created.

Olivetti inspired me to see any business as a potential force for good, and its impact on my personal life drove me to launch C3, or Companies Creating Change- a platform helping emerging changemakers use the power of business to make a change in the world. My thinking was simple: if one private company could impact an entire town positively for over a century, imagine what a community of innovative founders intentional about their impact could do, especially when backed by like-minded investors and operating in a conducive ecosystem?

Olivetti's Valentine typewriter. Source: Olivetti

Impact-driven founders already have plenty to focus on: building a great business solution aligned to their mission, creating a sound governance structure, securing funding, scaling their impact, while bringing financial returns to investors. Yet, despite the challenges they face, many pioneering C3 alumni have shown it is possible to use the power of business to bring systemic change to their community and the world. At C3, we believe a purpose-led business contributes more to humankind than any other type of organization.

The MEA region's challenges are increasingly daunting, despite decades of international aid, government investments, and generous private donations. C3's vision is to help good businesses become great at solving the world's most pressing issues. In the MEA, we have a growing network of over 2500 impact-driven founders, 4000 experts, and 150 investment firms helping to accelerate over 200 startups from 18 countries via our flagship programs.

With a 97% survival rate, hundreds of millions of dollars raised, and incredible awards received, C3 alumni make us proud every day. Success stories include Desert Control, which successfully went public in 2021, Hydro Wind Energy, the energy and desalination startup that secured EUR50 million in funding pledges, and Almentor, which secured multiple rounds of funding and significantly scaled its impact and reach, to name just a few.

While C3 has enabled so many emerging changemakers today, we remember a time where being "impact-driven" was an idealistic theory. Few people believed the triple bottom line was attainable, and for most, it was not clear what it meant. Fortunately, and even more so after the COVID-19 pandemic, there is growing understanding of what it means to run an impact-driven business.

Related: Entrepreneur Middle East's Achieving Women 2019: Medea Nocentini, CEO, C3

For example, if the focus of a business is on green mobility, the solution needs to be affordable to ensure adoption in emerging economies. When a blockchain-based marketplace is launched in energy-scarce markets, the chosen blockchain protocol needs to be efficient in terms of energy consumption. If a food security solution is introduced in arid areas of the world, it needs to leverage widely available natural resources (i.e. salted water), rather than scarce natural resources (i.e. fresh water).

Moreover, companies focusing on impact from the get-go should seek alignment between their mission and financial performance, avoiding having to find trade-offs between returns and impact. To make their impact targets a reality, and create sustainable change, all stakeholders must create an environment where startups can flourish. NGOs, governments, academia, corporate organizations, and investors have an opportunity to join and support the journey of incredible changemakers.

Now, impact investing is gradually becoming mainstream. BlackRock anticipates that by 2030, over 75% of its investments in companies and governments will be tied to net-zero emissions targets- up from 25% now. Likewise, Citibank provides thorough analysis showing how investors are moving from impact awareness to now contributing positively and measuring impact. At Global Ventures, where I am a Senior Partner and COO, we have partnered with incredible founders in healthtech and diagnostics (Proximie, Helium Health, Altibbi, Valeo, Vivoo, Ilara, and Remedial Health), financial inclusion (Paymob, Nowpay, Mamopay, Abhi, Tabby, Democrance, and Pyypl), edtech (Nexford, Lamsa, and Meta School), as well as enterprise software as a service and foodtech. We have also invested in agritech (Red Sea Farms), sustainable food (Seafood Souq), future of work (Minly, Ogram, Neol), and green mobility (MAX).

For emerging economies, new solutions must address critical societal and environmental challenges such as food security to financial and healthcare inclusion, to accessible learning and job readiness. Investors who embrace this new wave of innovation see a lower risk -as suggested by the 97% survival rate and the successful fundraising rounds of C3-accelerated startups- and potentially higher returns for LPs.

We are confident grassroots solutions for, and from, the frontier will continue to attract backing from investors worldwide. Not only because of the growth potential from the large untapped markets of emerging economies, but also because supporting them will give humanity a better chance at realizing a global transition to a sustainable, just, and inclusive future. Now, Global Ventures and C3 are exploring jointly supporting early-stage regional changemakers. And on a personal note, I hope that Camillo Olivetti would be impressed.

Related: Policies For Progress: Enabling The Dynamic Growth Of Social Entrepreneurs In The UAE

Medea Nocentini

Senior Partner and Chief Operating Officer, Global Ventures

Medea Nocentini is Senior Partner and Chief Operating Officer at Global Ventures, an international venture capital firm investing in startups with innovative business models and disruptive technologies, with the potential to transform emerging markets, and scale globally. She is also the co-founder and CEO of C3 (Companies Creating Change), a UAE-based social enterprise helping impact-driven entrepreneurs in the Middle East and Africa unlock their growth potential and maximize their positive impact on the community. 

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