Growth hacking with CROs for Impact and Ecological Businesses

Originally Published in the Green Prophet

Paris is melting right now. So with the planet getting warmer from climate change, mass extinction of species and almost every city in the world wanting to ban plastic straws and bags and disposables, we can probably all agree that something super big needs to change. It hardly seems likely that the type of softies working in the ecological and green non profit organizations will bring about radical and quick change. I have worked with these types for years and while people who build and work in nonprofits have a definite and undeniably important role in changing our society from within, the efforts made there usually do more to educate and inform than scale real change.

Change usually comes when it hurts someone’s bank account. It comes from the business world. The people who make decisions at Exxon, at Walmart at Chase Bank. We choose the cheaper less direct flights to save money. We shop at the super throwaway culture of H&M because the clothes look okay and hey they cost peanuts, and we often pass over the organic food isle, because who can pay $20 for an organic watermelon.

What the world needs in impact driven ecological businesses is not just great founders and a CEO with a vision on how to create a world for the next 5 to 10 years. While start-up companies (like flux, let’s say) create ideas for changing polluting agriculture, we need interim and then forever positions created inside start-ups so these great visionaries can generate revenues while trying to get their dreams off the ground.

This vision might be fulfilled by a new kind of role we are seeing coming from Silicon Valley and the position is driven by growth hackers normally working in bunkers from the basement or working hand in hand with the marketing VP.

The new vision for “growth hacking” or helping the company find innovative methods for generating sales quickly, ethically and inline with the company ethos can be filled by a new role as CRO – or Chief Revenue Officer. Add this position to CEO, VP Marketing or CMO, and CTO –– or better yet as a founder position from 3 roles and skillsets to 4, and you might have a startup impact company that will have Silicon Valley paying attention.

Or better yet, if you have a super savvy CRO you might be able to think more sustainably as a business and stop wasting weeks, months and sometimes years chasing venture money and focusing the team’s efforts instead on creating a business that can sustain itself without an injection of over-priced capital. What makes a great CRO? ← This article breaks it down.

The cannabis business in Canada and the United States, while perhaps “green’ in a different or less traditional sense of the meaning, is a good example. Since cannabis is broadly “legal” in more than half of the US states, but all over Canada, federally it is still not legal in the United States, making it a super risky investment for traditional venture capitalists and funds that answer to a varying board and powerful banks. Cannabis businesses had to adapt.

What cannabis businesses have done therefore have created technologies and services that bypass the need for extravagant funding, by becoming profitable from day 1. SaaS technologies for instance have become super important to cannabis businesses like legal dispensaries. They have also done some serious and legal growth hacking by creating ways around having to work with traditional banking and reporting procedures.

While cannabis businesses think just like growth hackers do and should, we need this nimble thinking to transport good ideas from areas like sustainable, degradable plastics to fabrics free from micro-fibres, to novel and new living spaces, to greener food, to better transportation. And no, not scooters or electric bikes please!

It is likely the sales people from today, the types of sharks that like to go out and sell sell sell, will be working under a savvy CRO, probably someone from marketing, or the type of young wolves I met in NY at firms like VaynerMedia.

Impact and sustainable businesses are not charities. For these businesses to really work and be profitable, they need to think like every other business –– have an aggressive business model to make money now, but by staying in line with a perfect vision and trajectory for changing the planet as well, today and at least 100 years into the future.