Voted “Young Global Leader” by the World Economic Forum in 2015, Nicolas Hazard is the perfect example of a successful social entrepreneur. When he founded INCO, a global accelerator supporting social enterprises, back in 2010, he managed to bring together the financial sector around social actions. We got the chance to interview him and get his take on his journey as a French entrepreneur in Austin, USA.
Entrepreneurship: A Means to an End?
The creation of a business often arises from the Entrepreneurs’ observation of their surroundings, with the goal of solving a problem. This is what happened when Nicolas Hazard founded INCO. He went through difference professional experiences abroad and in the French public sector and saw that his need for doing good was not being fulfilled with traditional means, as he tells us, “I quickly noticed how limited political actions were”.
What was his solutions? He turned to entrepreneurship: “I decided to turn toward the private sector, specifically the entrepreneurship part of it, to induce a much-needed difference in this world. I decided to become an entrepreneur so as to become an actor of change and ameliorate the situation”. He then narrowed his attention to the financial sector. As he tells us, the 2008 financial crisis trigged this choice. After 2008, the financial sector was characterized by mistrust and fraudulent behavior, as Hazard points out: “I see finance as a tool that needed to be re-anchored in reality, at the service of startups who make the world more inclusive and sustainable”. This tool, usually used for profit driven behaviors, turned into something useful for the startup community, following his beliefs of making the world a better place.
Social Entrepreneurship: A Distinct Way of Doing Business
We can already start to notice that Nicolas Hazard differs from most entrepreneurs. He looks for a better economy, to make a social change, and uses social enterprise as a mean to an end. Social businesses are organizations that use commercial means to maximize a social or environmental outcome.
After graduating from Science Po Paris and HEC Hazard could have followed the path everyone has, of the traditional financial industry jobs. But he didn’t, and ended up creating INCO after working in different jobs abroad and in the French Public Sector.
INCO operates in more than 20 countries with the goal of “creating economic opportunities for ALL.”.
The choice to make his company a social business reflects his views, but not only that. He wanted to make it a holistic company that helped startups from start to end: “INCO invest in companies who combined both a financial viability and a positive social and environmental impact. Since we quickly noticed that the startups we financed also needed some support to fully mature their projects, we decided to make INCO an integrated accelerator, combining all the stages of development needed for these young companies”, these include investment funds, incubation programs, workforce development and media.
Mr. Hazard is also the president of CALSO, a non-profit organization helping disadvantage individuals on their journey to success. His companies are not the only mean he uses to reach that social business potential. He organizes each year the Impact. event, dedicated to social entrepreneurship, which brings together 1,500 political and economic decision-makers from 50 countries every year in Paris.
Austin, an Exemplary Technological Hub
Austin, capital of Texas, with a population of 970,870 individuals, is where Mr. Hazard chose to create one of his incubation programs. An entrepreneur may overview a city like Austin as a place to set up a business and go for more mainstream locations like Silicon Valley, however they may be wrong. Hazard’s reasons to set up in Austin his incubation program, Tarmac TX, was well thought through:
“By exemplarily adding technological, entrepreneurial and academic talents, the city of Austin became one of the major technological hub where big companies in the likes of 3M, IBM, Google or even Silicone Labs implanted themselves. Besides, the administration of Austin, especially City Hall, wanted to make the city an example of inclusiveness and durability, capable of rising to the social and environmental challenges inherent to large metropoles. Austin is also known today for its excellent quality of life, with a dynamic cultural and artistic scene. So many reasons that pushed us to prioritize the capital of Texas compared to other American cities.
Where the Tech industry tries to answer the ecological challenges and fight against inequalities, INCO would like, with its partners, to be present to contribute to this convergence. It is in this very fertile context that in January 2016 in Austin, our program of incubation, Tarmac TX, was born. An adventure made possible thanks to strategic partnership made with the enterprise 3M.”
The French Social Know How
France is known for many thing, like its food or the beauty of the country, but the French Social Know How is also something to be pointed out. As Hazard tells us “I personally try to export the “Social Made in France”, and in particular the model of social enterprises that unites economic performance and general interest, by putting vulnerable individuals back to work”. As an entrepreneur, he tells us that “there is a lot to learn from other countries, especially in the United States, where all entrepreneurial dreams can be realized.” And that is why he travels so much and exposes himself to “as many entrepreneurial mindsets as possible”. He also notes that France doesn’t have to be “ashamed” of itself in comparison to other countries, and this Social Know How is a very valuable asset. He also tells us that paradoxically “this model works well in the U.S., a country where they value individuals who give themselves a chance to succeed, whatever path they have”.
“Every Entrepreneur has his own experience, his own path”.
We asked him if he had any advice to give to entrepreneurs:
“What I learned and I appreciate the most from the United States is that to be successful you first need to fail. When raising money, you need to be able to show that you have learned from your setbacks and that you weren’t discouraged. More than money and partners, who always end up being found if the project is good, you first need to be tenacious and know how to admit what did not work the first time, so as to be able to start again.”
An Article by Syrah Ribourel
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