Inspiring these young social entrepreneurs are a new set of older "philanthrocapitalists," wealthy individuals who have made their fortunes in the high-tech industry. They include Bill Gates, who left Microsoft to run the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; and Pierre Omidyar and Jeff Skoll, who held top positions at eBay and now have established The Omidyar Network and The Skoll Foundation.
To these new generation philanthropists, "what really matters is actually improving the world.... They're kind of neutral whether the most efficient way is actually charity or investing," says Matthew Bishop, chief business writer at The Economist and coauthor with Michael Green of a new book called "Philanthrocapitalism: How the Rich Can Save the World." "They're looking at what can achieve the most positive change most quickly."
In some cases, a for-profit business "may drive change more quickly than classic charity," Mr. Bishop says.
Organizing as a for-profit company often allows a do-good enterprise to grow much more quickly. "There's a lot more investment capital and debt capital in the world than there are [foundation] grants," says David Bornstein, author of "How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas."