As a way to help social ventures scale faster and benefit more people on the ground, Doug Galen started connecting CEOs with Silicon Valley experts to address their main pain points. Doug is MBA 1988 at Berkeley Haas, and he is the Co-Founder and CEO of Rippleworks. Before Rippleworks, Doug has led numerous companies to increase their revenue and expand their operations. This article delves into the events that led him to his current ventures, the challenges he faced as he pursued this path, and the impact Rippleworks creates globally by empowering social ventures.
While attending Haas in college, Doug was able to express himself through music and sports and enrich himself academically. He showed interests in sports, Jazz music, and government. He recalls being involved in the student government and participating in a Jazz music festival.
“And so I really got to enjoy Cal. Academics were tough for me, but I hung in there, and I loved everything else that Cal had to offer.”
Doug’s Formative Years in Business
Doug tried out a career in real estate, and though he realized that he didn’t want to be an intermediary between the clients and the real estate companies, he ended up closing a couple of deals. And he used the money to fund his MBA program at Haas. The graduate school equipped him for a corporate leadership role as he joined E-Loan, a finance company. Doug was the third employee and the first executive to join the founders, where he completed 70 alliances with companies such as Yahoo, Charles Schwab, eBay, and AutoTrader. His responsibility covers all business development partnerships. These are also his formative years in business, where he learned how to build a company.
People are Naturally Wired to Do Good
Doug went on to join Shutterfly, a print and photography company, as Senior Vice President of Business Development and M&A. He got a chance to create and run a foundation and saw how it is to make an impact through small organizations. He didn’t keep the opportunity to help others to himself, and he brought their employees to the Barrio and Redwood City to assess the needs where they could help out. They brought their IT experts to fix the school’s IT system, they brought marketers to mobilize the social media and went as far as cleaning graffiti off the school walls and building a vegetable garden. By rendering these services, his team felt fulfillment and a sense of purpose. Seeing life from a different perspective where you got to deal with a lack of resources every day can change how you see corporate life, where the company provides everything, and you seldom run out of resources to do the daily work. Doug tucked away that moment, and he saw that people are naturally wired to give back and do good if you can set it up for them. And that’s how he came up with the idea to create an impact through social ventures.
Moments in the Mirror
Doug was the Chief Revenue Officer of Shopkick, a mobile shopping app they were about to launch, when he had a moment in the mirror— a moment of reflection of where he wanted to spend his energy and resources. He figured that he would be more fulfilled if he could create an impact by improving as many lives as by supporting social ventures.
It took a lot of courage and humility to admit that his current situation, albeit favorable in his career, was not creating as much impact as he wanted. He engaged in difficult conversations with his wife to prepare her for the decision he was about to make, as it would affect their finances.
“I almost think of it as insecurity, but I had a great partner, my wife, and we talked it out, and we literally had the money conversation. And for me, the money conversation gave me the courage to leap. How much do we need? What do we need to pay the bills? Do we think we can do that? Can we afford to take this risk? And that was enlightening for me cause I didn’t know where I was going or what I was going to do.”
Doug realized then that most CEOs lack guidance during their significant crossroad moments, and they are often required to make critical decisions and handle business aspects. He became the first customer of the organizations he was trying to build.
“And that’s where I found out that CEOs of social ventures didn’t have a lot of access to organizations to help the CEOs scale their social ventures. “
Having this kind of awareness, Doug started coaching 2nd year MBA students with the process of building a startup company and using their startup desires as a case study.
Multiplying Community Impact by Disrupting Old Systems
After gaining clarity on his next plans, Doug met Chris Larsen, his former partner at E-Loan, and initially discussed setting up Ripple, a blockchain company. However, blockchain wasn’t gaining enough traction back then, so they decided to create Rippleworks, an independent organization that focuses on helping the world’s fastest-growing social ventures solve their most critical scaling challenge. Rippleworks supports the trailblazers, the CEOs by zeroing in on their toughest challenges and providing resources to address them. As part of the support they’re providing, Rippleworks matches venture capitalists with Venture Growth Managers to commit to coaching sessions for the next 2-4 months. It becomes a sounding board of ideas to create strategies for growth.
Among the remarkable projects of Rippleworks that created multiple impacts on the communities they serve is Babban Gona, located in Northern Nigeria. Due to small crop production, the community has lived with hunger and poverty for decades. Their traditional way of farming has been limiting them to increase their crops. And when families have nothing to eat, they are prone to be recruited into violent acts and insurgencies. Through the help of Machine Learning expert Wiley Wang, the Babban Gona project produced twice the normal crop production and created millions of youth jobs. It has huge economic effects that curb youth unemployment and eliminate the risk of being recruited to commit violent acts because of extreme poverty.
“Babban Gona is now reaching 280,000 farmers. People who would never now hopefully become a terrorist and create sustainable living. And they are going to hit their 1 million farmers by 2025. That’s just one of the 150 projects that we get to do.”
Social Ventures and How They Work
Doug defines a social venture as someone whose purpose is to make the world a better place. Social enterprises are created for various reasons, such as improving the climate, assisting with education, helping the poor, or promoting health and human rights. The most pressing question for companies today is what their product is doing to humanity. Is it helping or hurting people? Doug looks at these three elements to qualify the social venture that they would partner with:
- The depth of impact on a human being. Social ventures must measure how much income they contribute to the community to move the people out of poverty.
- The breadth of impact. An organization should clearly project how many people will benefit from it.
- The target population. The enterprise must define the economic status of the community they are trying to involve. Rippleworks is interested in helping people who are struggling with life.
“So we look at the breadth of impact, depth of impact, target population to determine, do we believe in their impact if they’re having an impact on human beings. And then we look at the team and think that they have a shot at scaling their impact, at helping a lot of people. And that’s how we pick who we work with. We work right now with about a hundred organizations in 60 countries, but we’ve grown up quite a bit over the last six and a half years. We’ve done about 150 of those projects that I mentioned in 60 countries, 10 to 20% of the United States, everywhere else and then 59 other countries.”
Doug Galen and his team at Rippleworks are always looking for the next social venture with a chance to have an impact at scale. Additionally, they are also actively inviting tech experts and seasoned corporate leaders who can be a player-coach and are culturally empathetic to join their coaching team to create a positive impact where it is most needed.