Is that fair? Is that a decision I’m morally allowed to make? I have the skills to help other people out but instead I’m running a startup and writing on my blog. Should I feel guilty? Do I have a moral obligation to use my engineering skills to give back to the world in a bigger way?
This is a question that I have grappled with a number of times. Some people will feel this is irrelevant and doesn't matter. Others will feel that the entire point of entrepreneurship is precisely to control how you give back to society, and be able to ensure you contribute something worthwhile.
After much consideration, I lean towards the latter camp. Running my own business has enabled me to be so much more effective and "direct" in the way that I give back to society. As an employee of a business, most of your contribution will be through taxes. As a business owners, you will probably end up doing your best to reduce these taxes, but suddenly many opportunities will open to contribute back to society in meaningful, tangible way.
Whether those opportunities consist of teaching others who to become entrepreneurs themselves, or building a useful product, or helping other entrepreneurs build useful products, or advising people, or providing them with resources, or even the simple task of deciding to hire someone who deserves a chance and would otherwise not get that chance, opportunities for entrepreneurs to give back abound.
The more successful you become as an entrepreneur, the greater your leverage becomes, and therefore the more impact you can have on the world around you. A broke founder of an early software startup has little chance to contribute meaningfully to the world's big problems. Meanwhile, a highly successful entrepreneur like Bill Gates can influence heads of state and pour vast amounts of money into an attempt to eradicate Malaria.
I say keep doing what you love, get rich doing so (if you can), and keep an eye out for opportunities to align doing good for the world and doing good for you. After all, successful people focus on building more success, not on self-sacrifice.
If you read this far, you should follow my RSS feed here.