Ben Brabyn, Head of Level39, argues that modern entrepreneurs are champions of change and explains how collaboration can help them reach their activist goals 

To grasp the spirit of the 20th century entrepreneur, let’s cast our minds back to Apple’s 1984 advertisement.  A play on the famous George Orwell novel, the advertisement starts with men clad in uninspiring grey uniforms marching down a tunnel for their daily intake of propaganda. Everyone looks the same, behaves the same and has the same ideals. In the background, and in stark contrast to this scene, we see a colourfully dressed woman who runs carrying a sledgehammer which she hurls at the screen delivering the propaganda speech, disrupting the dystopian order.

It served as a mere taster of what was to come. This advert had one job: to show the world how Apple differed from the rest and unapologetically challenged the status quo of the corporate world. In this it succeeded wonderfully. In a world where everyone followed the ‘corporate agenda’ so to speak, Steve Jobs, and his peers in the last century, made it their mission to get the world to expect the unexpected.  

Now in the 21st century, while this idea of the ‘disruptor’ entrepreneur hasn’t changed, the corporate world isn’t as corporate as it used to be. To be an entrepreneur is to be someone who isn’t worried about casting aside the old and bringing in the new, many global institutions have been slowly following suit.

Pushing for change

Today’s entrepreneur is driven by a mission and desire to shine the light on some of today’s biggest issues. They stand for change. Purpose is the priority, profit is the necessity to highlight the purpose. In addition to this, there is a reduced emphasis on making money, and greater focus on having a mission – standing for something larger than themselves; creating companies which aim to improve the world.

In the words of John Vincent, Founder and CEO of LEON “Lots of people come into business for money. It’s a huge mistake. If that’s your focus, then you will fall off balance.”

Changing the socio-economic status of the masses, promoting a greener economy and creating new ways of communicating using digital skills and transportation are more important to entrepreneurs of today than making profit. Entrepreneurs like Vincent do not only want to improve the world we live in, they want to transform it by addressing the biggest challenges we face today.

If there is one thing that drives the entrepreneurs of today, it’s the passion they have within them for that change. It is by no means an easy feat to set out to change the world, but today’s startup founders have a dedication like none other. If they fail, it’s not failure to them but a lesson, and if they succeed they are constantly looking at new ways to innovate their businesses and get their message to more people. There is a new wave of activism taking over the world, led not by the banner waving activists of the past, but by the new founders and CEOs of today.

A collaborative space

As Head of Level39, which is based in Canary Wharf, I see this in my interaction with over 1,200 entrepreneurs from across the world. Being at the heart of a vibrant and dynamic tech community drives my fascination and passion for the vision of young entrepreneurs, all of whom are working towards changing the future.

Notably, I have seen start-up and scale-up companies flock to Canary Wharf. While it may not be the obvious choice, it is not hard to see why when you take a deeper look. The entrepreneurs have an insatiable appetite to be involved with the major financial institutions which are located here. These institutions have a long history of innovation and creativity and constantly looking for opportunities to collaborate. When they work together, they are unstoppable and will shape the future of our cities, industries and our future.

Wood Wharf, Canary Wharf Group’s latest estate, aims to do just that. With the current expansion to the district, Wood Wharf will create a new community of businesses and innovators that will shape the future of London. It has the potential to become an invaluable new hub for the leaders that are activists and have the vision necessary to changing society for good.

New ideas need a place to flourish, connections need to be made and collaboration needs to be at the heart of innovation. We have to champion open, vibrant communities that become platforms for innovation, change and entrepreneurship.