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Startups for good?

Disruption has long been a key word when describing startups, but while the last couple of decades has seen an plenty of unicorns, many of today’s startups are looking beyond a billion dollar valuation to making a real positive impact on the world.

Uber and Airbnb are impressive beasts that have turned the taxi and hotel industries on their heads and made their founders and investors rich, but they are not fixing the problems of poverty, poor sanitation, and other issues that still plague billions of people around the world. Here are three companies trying to do good and make some money at the same time.


Millions of people all over the world suffer from some form of social anxiety disorder that can prevent them from truly enjoying life, and Joyable is fix that. The online service offers cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), with psychological tasks broken down into more manageable bitesized chunks and real coaches that will help you stay on the right path.

Mental health services are underfunded around the world, and private healthcare remains prohibitively expensive for many, so by making CBT available via a website and app, Joyable makes the therapy available at a much more reasonable rate.

Ruby Cup

Feminine hygiene remains an under-discussed subject, and while tampons and pads may be taken for granted by women in developed nations, such products are not available to the poorest in society and their disposable nature has an environmental impact.

The Berlin/Nairobi-based Ruby Cup is an online store for menstrual cups that are made from medical-grade silicon, offer women 12 hours of protection, and are reusable – making them a more environmentally friendly choice. Not only that, but the company has a policy where for every Ruby Cup sold, they offer one to a girl in Kenya at a symbolic price of whatever she can afford, ranging from completely free to a few dollars.

The firm was launched with the help of a seed fund from the ministry of development in Denmark, and they have already shipped 5000 cups, with a further 10,000 waiting to be distributed soon.


UK households bin £13bn worth of food each year, while thousands of people struggle to make ends meet and rely on food banks to eat. The Olio mobile app is helping to solve both issues by giving people a way to share unwanted food for free with those who want or need it.

The app relies on volunteers both sharing their own unwanted food, but also collecting food from local cafes, restaurants, and supermarkets, adding details of this food to the app, and meeting their neighbours in need who will come to their address to pick up the food on offer.

The food ranges from fresh bread from a bakery to tubs of ice-cream and biscuits from dieters looking to remove temptations from their cupboards, fridges, and freezers.

Not every startup needs to right a pressing social or societal need, but companies with a conscience is a growing trend and as Chrissy Weems said on Global Pay It Forward Day “It’s truly incredible to see a community of people coming together! The world needs more love, more kindness, and today is a day where random acts of kindness will warm hearts around the world!” – the more the sharing economy means really sharing and improving other people’s lives the better.

Photograph by 3DMan EU