#204: Selling Better World Books (One of the First B-Corps) to the Creator of Amazon's Alexa with Xavier Helgesen
Xavier shares how he created a company that impacted the world, donated $20M+ to global literacy, maintained double digit growth for years and sold to a charity founded by the creator of Amazon's Alexa for millions of dollars.
What You Will Learn in Today’s Podcast Interview:
- How and why Xavier sold his company to the creator of Amazon’s Alexa
- A framework to evaluate what problems in the world you connect with
- What a B Corporation is and how it works
- How rapid growth can lead to needing an investor
- Why Xavier would have had more options if he grew at 25% CAGR instead of 40%
- Xavier’s views on the “Triple Bottom Line”
- The value of transparency and public commitments
- How to approach working with venture capital
- How to integrate Conscious Capitalism into your business model
- How a strong mission and vision can lead to outsized long-term growth
- How to align your company’s vision and mission with a buyer
- How to learn and approach the sale of your company as an entrepreneur
- Tips for founders on how to pass along knowledge in your company
What does it mean to bake your mission and vision into all aspects of your company?
The guest on today’s episode, Xavier Helgesen, explains to us just how he did that as the Co-founder of one of the first B Corporations, Better World Books. B Corps formally combine public interest goals with profit earning throughout their business model—other B Corps you may know include Patagonia and Tom’s Shoes.
Xavier shares how Better World Books raised over $20 million dollars for global literacy and donated tens of millions of books, while also maintaining double digit growth 15 years in a row.
The company’s rapid growth led them to take on investors and ultimately sell to a charity, which is unique in and of itself, but the charity also happened to be founded by the creator of Amazon’s Alexa.
Today’s episode hits home the power of building a company while intentionally linking it to the life you want to live. The underlying values and mission of a business can range from charity work to financial stability, and Xavier emphasizes the added growth a business can experience by integrating that mission into the company’s cost and future plans.
This conversation focuses on how to intentionally align a social cause with a company’s mission at each stage of starting, growing, and selling a business—it is an inspiring story of how a “conscious capitalism” oriented company proves that good business is not just good marketing.
About the Guest:
Xavier Helgesen is an entrepreneur, technologist, global citizen, and builder of world positive companies. He co-founded Better World Books, the first ever b-corporation. Better World Books is an independent online bookstore with a unique triple-bottom-line model who has raised over $28 million for literacy and donated over 26 million books.
He was also the founding CEO for Zola Electric, a solar energy company that powers over a million lives in Africa. Through Zola, Xavier raised over $100 million to make solar energy affordable through the mass market via prepaid, plug-and-play technology.
Xavier is also the co-CEO of Enduring Ventures, a company that buys beautiful businesses and holds them in the model of Berkshire Hathaway, working to build a more sustainable economy where wealth and economic growth is broadly shared.
06:07 – “It had even been the start of, what I considered the kind of, fetishization of entrepreneurship where there is this one very particular path of ‘I want to be like the AirBnB founder or like Jeff Bezos so I have to raise a lot of venture capital. I have to kill myself for a decade or so.’” – Xavier Helgesen
15:02 – “What I valued really highly was independence and probably what I valued second-most highly was working on something that, in some way, was bigger than just, like, a hustle. I really came into myself as an entrepreneur not as, like, ‘How can I make a million dollars quickly’ but ‘How can I build something?’” – Xavier Helgesen
20:57 – “If you do build your company to be an economic engine, that’s okay. But think about how you can share the wealth then, with more employees.” – Xavier Helgesen
22:15 – “It’s amazing what you can do when you really get specific and you say, Hey, this has to all hold together. This can’t just be something where we say, ‘We fund literacy’ and someone asks how and you say, ‘Oh… We give a little money to this charity.’ It’s gotta be a lot more specific and intentional than that.” – Xavier Helgesen
Links and Resources:
Reach out to me if you have questions about the boot camp!
You can also reach out to me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, on my LinkedIn.
Brought to you by Ryan Tansom of Intentional Growth