Five visionary tech entrepreneurs changing the world

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By Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen for The New York Times |

Suppose you want to help people in struggling communities become better health care consumers. Or to try to prevent terrorist attacks using Big Data. Or to develop lab tests that cost a fraction of what most providers charge. Do you create a business or a nonprofit?

There is no right answer. Because for a new generation of innovators, notions of what is right are different. The important questions are: What is the problem? What solutions can I develop to address it? And, can I help more people by operating as a nonprofit, founding a company, or utilizing elements of both?

A profound change is sweeping across the entrepreneurial landscape. In the quest to improve lives or preserve the earth’s natural resources, today’s top minds are not only coming up with game-changing products and services. They are also reinventing systems and harnessing diverse tools — from cross-sector partnerships to capital markets — to meet their goals. Many of these innovative thinkers are young, coming of age in the aftermath of Sept. 11, amid the destruction of two protracted wars and the economic uncertainties ushered in by the Great Recession. They are digital experts, who, thanks to social media, smartphones and access to limitless information, have grown up with a sense of global community that transcends geographic boundaries. And they seem to have social consciousness embedded in their DNA.

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