The term entrepreneur refers to a person who undertakes independent business activity to convert some form of innovation into revenue. Often, the term is treated as though it refers to a monolithic group of people pursuing similar ends for similar reasons, even though social and techno entrepreneurs pursue different ends for different reasons. You can differentiate between the two groups in a number of ways.

Driving Purpose

The driving purpose behind the business represents a key point of differentiation between social and techno entrepreneurs. Social entrepreneurs observe a social problem, such as hunger, and found a business with the express purpose of alleviating that problem through business action. Techno entrepreneurs start with a piece of technology, often new technology, and look for ways to convert or adapt that technology with the specific purpose of generating a profit. Developing apps for smartphones, for example, leverages an evolving technology for profit.

Funding Sources

Techno entrepreneurs pursue funding through the sources common to startups, such as venture capitalists and angel investors. The profit-driven business model makes techno entrepreneurship attractive to traditional investors. Social entrepreneurs often seek funding through sources not typically associated with business ventures, such as philanthropists or philanthropic organizations. The mission-based nature of social entrepreneurship makes it attractive to these investors, while also making it less attractive to venture capitalists. Although, as reported in a 2012 article on Venture Beat, some venture capitalists and angel investors do invest in social entrepreneurship.


In terms of profit, techno entrepreneurs operate in the same way as standard businesses and aim to create and maximize profit for stakeholders, such as investors and stockholders. Social entrepreneurs view profit largely as a means for either self-sufficiency or sustainability, depending on the business model. Social businesses set up on a nonprofit model treat profit as an avenue to self-sufficiency, typically reinvesting profits into improving scope and delivery of services. Social businesses built on a for-profit model treat profit as a means of sustainability, and stakeholders can earn additional compensation from that profit.


Although treated as separate categories at the level of theory, in practice social and techno entrepreneurship can and frequently do overlap. Microlending website Kiva, for example, leverages the worldwide reach of the Internet to alleviate poverty by providing loans to those lacking access to traditional lending sources. Samasource connects impoverished women and the young around the world with training and work performing outsourced data projects.