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From Elon Musk to Bill Gates six social entrepreneurs reveal the tech heroes that inspired them to create positive change.

Instead of the classic “Where are you from?” or “What do you do?”, you can learn a lot about an individual by asking them what they are passionate about, and “Who is your hero, and why?”.

We asked the question to our Chivas Venture finalists, to find out which individuals have inspired them on their journeys to social entrepreneurship. From Nelson Mandela to a late grandmother, their list of heroes is extremely varied. Here we take a look at the figures in the field of technology who had an influence on some of our finalists.

Elon Musk

According to Forbes, Elon Musk is the man “trying to redefine transportation on earth and in space”. Tesla has managed to mass-market fully-electric vehicles and SpaceX, his private aerospace company, is aspiring to commercialise space travel. If Musk is changing tomorrow’s transportation, then Daniel Vach is looking to shape our future diet. The founder of SENS Foods is pioneering the use of insect flour as a sustainable source of protein. This edible vision of the future has been partly inspired by his hero Musk.

“Elon Musk inspires me with his clarity of thinking, vision, boldness and devotion to achieving the ultimate goal of improving the lives for people on this planet (and possibly on others too),” Daniel explained.

Ernest Doe

Lesser-known but no less innovative, the engineers behind the Doe Triple-D or Doe Dual Drive Tractor, built by Ernest Doe & Sons in the 1950s, are the unlikely heroes of Marios-Ermis Petrotos of Laddroller, who are developing an affordable standing wheelchair.

“The work of Britain’s Ernest Doe has played a key role in what we’ve achieved with our business,” Marios-Ermis explained. “He had the genius idea to combine the power of two tractors in one single vehicle, named Triple D, to overcome a technology bottleneck in the 1950s when the necessary horsepower hadn't been invented.”

The evolution of the tractor led by Ernest Doe & Sons was driven by a need for new functionalities, much like Laddroller and the wheelchair.

“We realised the need for a solution when we were hired to fully remodel a house, for someone with paraplegia due to an accident,” Marios-Ermis said. “As we lowered the cabinets, the light switches and made the toilets accessible, we realised that we could make the perfect house for them, but we couldn’t lower the rest of the world when they were not at home. Instead, we looked for a way to elevate wheelchair users in their everyday life.”

Bill Gates

Bill Gates founded the largest software company in the world, Microsoft, in 1975 and is also the co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest philanthropic organisation. Gates has topped the Forbes Rich List for 18 out of the last 23 years including in 2017, and his evolution from business magnate to philanthropist is a source of inspiration for Dickson Ochieng of Sanivation.

The startup founder from Kenya, whose innovative sanitation business transforms human waste into clean-burning fuel, said: “Bill Gates built a business empire from scratch, took a step back from an active role and now he’s giving back to the community of entrepreneurs through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.”

The Harley Davidson Brothers

From Bill to bikes or specifically those founded by the Harley Davidson Brothers. A totem of American design, engineering and pioneering spirit, Harley-Davidson was founded in a shed in Wisconsin, in 1903, by William S. Harley and brothers Arthur, Walter and William Davidson.

Like the iconic motorbike, which was borne out of a desire to “take the work out of bicycling”, the designs for a new wheelchair in Brazil were created by brothers, Julio and Lucio, who looked to optimise a traditional design.

Júlio Oliveto of Livre, the startup transforming simple wheelchairs into electric tricycles, said: “The history, creativity and innovation of Harley-Davidson inspires me greatly in the development of our brand and lifestyle.”

He continued: “We are determined to change the perception that someone in a wheelchair is reliant on other people, and we believe Livre can contribute to society by further integrating people with disabilities.”

Masayoshi Son

Masayoshi Son is one of the most revered, interesting and ultimately successful tech industry dealmakers in the world. Often called ‘The Japanese Bill Gates’, he is his country’s richest man and their most followed ‘celebrity’ on Twitter. The founder of SoftBank’s rag to riches story and perpetual reinvention is something that compels and inspires Toshio Yamada of Factelier.

The founder of the online fashion brand trying to revive craft in rural Japan, said: “Masayoshi Son, the founder of Japan’s telecommunications multinational SoftBank, has led a digital revolution, fought off challengers and stood up to the Ministry of Communications in defence of his business. I greatly respect his thoughts and actions.”

Ma Huateng

Ma Huateng is the founder of China's Tencent Holdings Ltd, whose fortune is estimated to be about $18.8 billion. The Shenzhen-based company owns WeChat, China’s biggest social media platform that is used by more than one billion people. Robin Jun Lu of First Respond, who are making mutual assistance a social norm through first-aid training courses, admires the way the entrepreneur has shaped a business that impacts people's’ daily lives.

“Pony Ma, also known as Ma Huateng, has used social communication tools to build an internet empire in China. Through Tencent Inc. he’s influenced the way people live and transformed social norms in the country.”

Follow @ChivasVenture on Twitter for all the highlights from the competition, and the latest stories, ideas and individuals that are helping to shape our future.

No endorsement or association is meant between those featured in this article and Chivas.

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