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The Human Truth of Startups (Okay, Business)

What is your “why”? It’s a question I’ve blogged about numerous times; “purpose” included. It’s resonated to me from Simon Sinek’s Start with Why to Lindsay McGregor and Neel Doshi’s Primed to Perform. So when I started reading Blue Apron’s S-1 filing for an IPO, their mission made me think to the why –
Blue Apron's mission is to make incredible home cooking accessible to everyone. 
We believe that sharing home-cooked meals with our families and loved ones is an important way to demonstrate our values and affection. It is at our kitchen tables, over a meal, where we often celebrate our milestones, acknowledge our setbacks, and appreciate the comfort of each other's company. Modern life has made this more difficult—many of us are too busy to grocery shop, lack the skills or confidence to cook, or cannot easily find the quality ingredients that make home cooking enjoyable.
I spent a few minutes thinking about “incredible home cooking” and accessibility wondering about its place as a purpose. Then, I recalled one of my old MBA professors who talked about “universal human truths” as the driving force behind company missions.

Real quick – from Nigel Hollis, EVP of Kantar Millward Brown, a global marketing agency, said this when trying to define universal human truth –
often heard in marketing in the context of global branding, where the accepted wisdom is that your brand’s positioning should be based on a motivation that transcends cultural boundaries. (Nigel, “What is a universal human truth?”)

I couldn’t place my finger on the validity of home cooking as a universal human truth. Perhaps an alteration to accessibility of healthy foods could’ve been more human truth oriented – being able to provide food to everyone, everywhere. After all, all humans must eat. Providing healthy options, then, would further that necessity to yield greater benefits.

Here are a few other mission statements. Do they align to a universal human truth?
  • Google: “To organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
  • Facebook (newly released, too!): "To give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together."
  • General Electric: “to usher in the next industrial era and to “build, move, power, and cure the world.”
  • Telsa: “To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.”

·        Apple: “Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store. Apple has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and has recently introduced iPad 2 which is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices.”

Of course, companies do not need a universal human truth. It’s arguable that it’s also a marketing ploy. However, many companies are incepted not to just make money, but because there’s a deeper desire to solve some pain. Many companies aren’t even started to build behemoth companies. Instead, they start with a problem, and they are approached by entrepreneurs – some ideological, some profitable, some competitive, or some other reason.

If you were to build a company (or are building one now), is your mission aligned to a universal human truth? Do you care? Does it matter?

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