Iulian Circo

I am a recovering humanitarian and impact entrepreneur. I build businesses that use tech as a force multiplier for impact at scale. 

I am fluent in both business and philanthropy and am on a mission to get the two closer to each other. My thesis is that in the new Economy purpose is profitable and profit needs purpose.

This website is a collection of writings, links and half-baked thoughts as I am documenting my own learnings and insights from this space.

Articles & co.

I write regularly from the front lines of the Impact Economy. That means I write about the business of doing the right thing. I write about better ways to fund and deliver impact and I write about my own journey as I am experimenting with impact funding and delivery models globally.

There are more articles of mine collected here.

Here are some of my classic Long Posts
  • The Blockchain Will Change Doing Good Forever – First published a life ago (in early 2017). Practical ways in which Blockchain will change the impact industry.
  • The Impact Generation is Here – Outlines my fundamental thesis as an entrepreneur: a new generation is emerging that is redefining economic fundamentals. Companies that build for them will be the unicorns of tomorrow.

Other Things that I do

Innovation and Exponential Technology

The impact space is notoriously conservative and plagued by a limited use of data and technology. This is a tremendous opportunity for smart insurgents to leapfrog past incumbents through the use innovation and exponential technologies.

The waters are murky, though. Early adopters have to deal with bad usability, lack of infrastructure and difficulties to scale. They also have to navigate the hype that accompany any exciting technology in its early days.

Smart Impact Investment & Innovative Financing

Traditional funding – whether non-profit or investment models – exclude small, data-driven organizations & favor incumbents with large teams of professional fundraisers.

In spite of increasing demand, small impact investors have very limited investment opportunities on a market that is both exclusive and illiquid.

New impact frameworks, powered by exponential technologies such as blockchain allow us to structure entire new categories of impact financing and delivery models. A new generation of highly liquid impact investment products allows investors access to profitable impact investments regardless of amount invested. Smart, data-driven companies have better ways to monetize their work.

It is a new paradigm. And new paradigms call for new business models.

High Performance Teams

Ideas, opportunities or capital don’t mean much without a strong team that get things done as one. Execution is the secret ingredient in any successful organization and many a failure in the impact space can be traced back to bad or absence of execution.

Putting together a team that can get things done and setting them up for success is an art that combines experience with strategy with processes with access to networks with the ability to identify high performers in places where few people bother to look. Add to that people skills, accountability frameworks, growth & improvement programs and coaching. This gets exponentially harder in frontier markets with scarcity of talent.

Organizations that Work

Agile. Lean. Horizontal. Cell-based. Non-hierarchical. There is no shortage of hype and buzzwords when it comes to the modern organization.

The truth is organizational change is hard. And this difficulty is multiplied at scale. How can large, global operations coordinate and adapt fasts without devolving into analysis paralysis? How do you build together with virtual teams that will never meet in person and may not really have a common language? How do you keep pace in a rapidly evolving market? How do you design your organizational structure for hypergrowth? How do you stay relevant?

Every team that goes past a certain size struggles with some or all of the above questions. Yet, not embracing profound transformation will almost certainly lead to frustration, lack of productivity and, eventually, irrelevance.

Impact organizations are particularly old-fashioned: top-down, heavy footprint, high-overhead, low-tech, slow-moving. This creates exciting opportunities for anyone – large or small – who is willing to embrace profound transformation all the way and evolve into a leaner, smarter, faster-moving organization.

Frontier Markets & Field Operations

Kick-starting operations in frontier markets is a dark art, usually not covered by typical MBA courses.

Business models need to be adapted to often counter-intuitive consumer behaviors . Recruiting locally involves requires to go beyond academic credentials and work references. Setting up local structures and agreements with governments and partners can be tricky. Experience, credibility and local knowledge go a long way.

I have set up dozens of large, mission-critical operations across the world, in frontier and extreme environments and have a wealth of insights to share.

Occasionally, I share with my network a super-short, curated list of my favorite content from across the internet (“The Long &The Short“).

There is a bias for impact, innovation and technology. But I will also add to the list other stuff that I find interesting.