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Leader Insights | The Rise of Tech for Good with Christian Arno, CEO of Pawprint

Ross Kelly

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Pawprint

DIGIT caught up with Christian Arno, founder and CEO of Edinburgh startup Pawprint to discuss the changing face of business and the rise of tech for good.

With his latest venture, Pawprint, Chief Executive Christian Arno is on a mission to help consumers and businesses improve their environmental impact and make the world a better place.

“I had great experiences with Lingo24, but I always felt that I wanted to achieve more through business and to have more positive impact than I could by building a translation company,” he says.

The app, which launched officially this week, works by asking users a series of lifestyle questions, which enables them to compare their carbon footprint – or ‘pawprints’ – across sections such as ‘Home’, ‘Diet’ or ‘Travel’.

Users can compare their own carbon footprint with others and are incentivised with rewards to reduce their environmental impact.

Previously, Arno founded translation tech business Lingo24 in 2001, built it to reach over £10 million in revenue and a forged a real success story of Scottish tech. With Pawprint, however, he aims to do more than just build a business – it’s about building a movement.

“The idea for Pawprint came about because I was frustrated that it wasn’t easy to find out what I could do, as an individual, about climate change,” he explains. “I wanted to build a ‘vehicle’ that could empower people to do their bit to fight climate change.”

“It’s also about bringing people together in this, whether it’s’ people at work, in their local community or wherever else,” Arno adds.

The changing face of business

This movement Arno hopes to create through Pawprint forms one part of an ever-growing global community.

Globally, we have seen a massive rise in the number of ‘tech for good’ startups supported by a generation of socially-conscious consumers – many of whom are more than willing to support businesses with which they share common values.

Among the key drivers of this tech for good movement is the idea that, fundamentally, businesses should be purpose-driven and create positive outcomes for consumers, society and the earth itself.

Statistics compiled by Tech Nation show that ‘tech for social good’ companies were worth more than £2.3 billion in 2018 and generated over £732 million in turnover.

These statistics show that tech for good is more than just a ‘buzzword’; this is a multi-billion-pound global industry with huge potential. And moreover, it is rapidly shaping the future of both business and consumer culture.

Research published by HSBC in May this year underlined the growing importance of sustainability to businesses in a host of sectors. Over 85% of businesses surveyed as part of the HSBC research said they view environmental sustainability as a priority.

Two years prior, research from Carbon Credentials highlighted the concerning lack of awareness on this issue among many businesses. At the time, it was reported that just 10% of British companies had any strategy in place to reduce their carbon emissions.

“We’re seeing a lot of big businesses genuinely wanting to lead on the issue of sustainability now. I think things are changing and people are beginning to see that we need to act to change humankind’s relationship with nature, which is very destructive,” he says.

The onset of the coronavirus pandemic, he believes, has also given many a chance to re-assess their relationship with the environment and explore how they can create their own positive impact.

In April, a poll revealed that nearly half (48%) of Brits believed the government should do more to address the issue of climate change. The research also showed that Brits want their government to respond to the climate crisis “with the same urgency” as it has with the pandemic.

“I think a lot of people have been asking themselves existential questions lately, mainly about what they’ve been put on this planet to do,” he asserts.

“I certainly wonder about my kids and the world they’re going to have, and so I think we’re in a situation where people want to feel the business they support, or work for, is one they believe in,” Arno adds.

The new reality

Long-term, Arno believes the concepts of ‘tech for good’ will simply become woven into the very fabric of consumer culture and business practices. Social conscience, positive impact and ethical business practices will all underpin the culture at companies in the future.

“Tech for good is a bit like people talking about ‘mobile phones’. Now it’s just a ‘phone’ and ‘eCommerce’  is just commerce. Eventually, these things will just become embedded in businesses.”

“I do think it’s useful to have buzz phrases that people get on board with initially though, because it accelerates the pace at which change happens. Ultimately every business should, at its core, be a force for good,” he adds.

The popularity of companies working in these areas also transcends consumer culture, Arno believes. Many people entering the workforce, or indeed those already along their way, view purpose-driven companies as an opportunity to be part of something lasting and fulfilling.

“We’ve been recruiting for Pawprint and we’ve brought on people who probably could’ve earned bigger salaries elsewhere. Really, they joined us because they believed in the mission.”

Increasingly, Arno adds, “the best and brightest don’t just want good pay and commission, they are searching for purpose”.

A Deloitte report published last year highlighted the benefits for employees at purpose-driven organisations. Many companies see higher market share gains and, on average, grow up to three times faster than competitors.

For employees, the benefits are obvious; the opportunity to work at a company where the ethos and mission resonates. Workers were also found to be far more satisfied in their jobs at such companies.

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Reflecting on his experiences building Lingo24, Arno highlights a notable difference between that journey and the current Pawprint path; particularly in regard to the excitement over the basic premise of the business.

Tech for good is in vogue, and people are more interested in supporting impactful businesses, he says.

“This is something that a lot of people get excited about, whereas it wasn’t quite the same with Lingo. If you say you’re focusing on climate change, and working with Mike Berners-Lee, then people want it to succeed and it’s great to see.”

“I think there is always an openness to how people can help, and even more so when it’s a business that people want to see succeed,” Arno adds.

This excitement has accelerated the early stages at Pawprint, Arno notes, bringing challenges and adding a layer of intensity to the process. That impetus to maintain a certain pace, however, has proven beneficial.

“We’ve raised more money earlier and I’ve recruited more senior-level staff from the get-go. The great thing about this is that by having senior people who you trust in key positions, you can move so much faster and get things done at a greater pace,” he says.

Pawprint, which officially launched yesterday (Monday 28th September) has raised more than £900k in funding from over 1200 investors since its launch, with prominent investors including entrepreneurs Oli Norman and Kevin Dorren.

Ross Kelly

Staff Writer

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