It only takes one moment to realize that a gathering Santa Clara University isn’t the traditional Silicon Valley get-together reports Mike Cassidy for the Mercury News.

Rajnish Jain has ducked out of a session on developing markets and forecasting revenues to tell me about his latest venture. No. Not the next “FarmVille” or the next iPad application. Jain is building a company in the Himalayas that turns pine needles into cheap and clean electricity for modest mountain homes.

Yeah, pine needles. It’s a triple win that starts with a tiny piece of biomass. Removing the needles from the forest floor reduces the risk of wildfire, eliminates the need for villagers to cut down trees for firewood and gives them jobs: They collect needles for a nearby gasification plant and receive free electricity in return.

“It is not just about making money,” says Jain, who lives in the Himalayas, a place he calls the most beautiful on Earth. “We can actually create entrepreneurial success and quality of life and ecological sustainability and make money.”

“It’s not just about making money.” Imagine.

No doubt many valley entrepreneurs follow their hearts. They are passionate about doing something that has never been done or doing something better than the next person does it. They often provide a social good — jobs, an easier way to do things.

But the entrepreneurs who participate in Santa Clara University’s Global Social Benefit Incubator tend to follow their hearts in a different way.