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Faith in the Free Market

Faith in the Free Market

Wes Selke's HUB Ventures invests in entrepreneurs whose products create a social good.

Like so many before him, Wes Selke's life took a turn after he went on a short-term missions trip. When he returned from Mexico as a 25-year-old, however, he did not enroll in seminary or hop on a plane to begin life as a missionary. Instead, he quit his job in finance and went to business school.

Selke, now 36, is part of a vanguard of young Christians who believe that God uses not only the church and formal ministry but every sphere of society, including business and free markets, to advance his work of shalom. Selke parlayed his experience analyzing companies, creating spreadsheets, and evaluating profitable opportunities for an investment bank into helping social entrepreneurs—people who create organizations in order to benefit society.

In 2010, Selke co-founded Hub Ventures, an accelerator in San Francisco investing in entrepreneurs launching companies that produce a social good. The 12-week program provides up to $20,000 in seed funding, mentorship, workshops, and access to investors in exchange for an average of a 6 percent ownership stake. What separates Selke's program from other business accelerators en vogue in Silicon Valley is the focus on "entrepreneurs building technology solutions for a better world," Selke says.

For example, Hub Ventures is an investor in MobileWorks, a startup that allows low-skilled workers in the developing world to join the outsourcing economy. Ten thousand people in more than 60 countries use it to earn money doing simple tasks on a computer such as labeling data. Selke helped to find, vet, and invest in the company in 2011.

Selke is an investor who views his work as a form of worship. But worship isn't just where you might expect. For some, a mall can be a modern temple, complete with iconography and rituals, a false faith of consumerism directed at shaping people's desires. For Selke, worship is embracing capital as a means of achieving human flourishing, an outpouring of his talents in finance and his faith in God.

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Displaying 1–5 of 11 comments

Paul Schryba

July 09, 2013  4:17pm

As to my 'pie in the sky' utopian ideas, they are not that at all. They are only the application of Gospel principles to our life in this world. Love your neighbor; share your talents. Economics rests on individual choice; that mindful, valued economic activity has not brought greater reduction in poverty is because the majority of global wealth is held by a relatively small percentage of people and institutions. Wealth not being shared, most must struggle to survive. People in their economic decisions are conditioned to believe that they must be 'smart consumers', which is limited to buy at 'low price' without respect to understanding why the prices are 'low' and what effect that has on them. People are not educated by their cultures to place value on things other than 'profit'. Some people do; but few, in part because people like YOU say that individuals CAN'T make a difference. People have power in their purchases, and they should act as stewards for God's gifts.

Paul Schryba

July 09, 2013  3:55pm

Roger: That the reduction in 'poverty'- no real reduction, only less poor poor- is attributable primarily to 'freer markets' is your unreferenced, unsubstantiated opinion. There are many factors that have gone into the creation of jobs and reduction in 'poverty' in China; price competitiveness due to massive differences between labor supply and demand, lack of work safety and environmental standards, and also the Chinese government, like the US, had a stimulus package to counter the most recent downturn. The Chinese currency is probably undervalued with respect to the US, another factor in the migration of jobs to China. China's assumption of some of our debt, enabling our spending to continue. Economic growth has also benefited the wealthiest most, with greater wealth inequality in China now than before.

Roger McKinney

July 09, 2013  8:19am

Paul, show me one example where "people in government, businesses and elsewhere acting consciously from and through Love/Spirit; and not in pursuit of "maximizing material gain" has reduced poverty anywhere in the world on the same scale as the freer markets in China and India. You can't because there are none. You offer pie-in-the-sky utopian ideas, but nothing for the real world. Shouldn't Christians be more grounded in reality and care about what actually works to reduce poverty?

Paul Schryba

July 08, 2013  6:59pm

Roger: "Paul, as usual you did not read my post. Again, you offered nothing but criticism." When all else fails, go to the personal attack-right, Roger? Previously posted: "The 'marketplace' of itself does not value anything but material gain; people will always be poor as a result of the 'marketplace',***except as individuals, government, and businesses act consciously to value human's and God's creation more than 'profit'. This individual, and others mentioned by CT, are good examples.*** The last is positive, and shows where the 'solution' lies; people in government, businesses and elsewhere acting consciously from and through Love/Spirit; and not in pursuit of "maximizing material gain" (profit- you cannot serve God and Mammon-Wealth-Money) or political power.

Roger McKinney

July 08, 2013  8:34am

Paul, as usual you did not read my post. Again, you offered nothing but criticism. Show me any scheme at all that has raised the standard of living of any group of people to the degree that freer markets in China and India have over the past generation.

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