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SCU's business boot camp trains social entrepreneurs from across the world and country

Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2007

SANTA CLARA, Calif.Aug. 8, 2007. How can a Silicon Valley venture capitalist like Jeff Miller (Redpoint Ventures) help a social entrepreneur who designed a smoke-free cooking stove? What might a technology marketing guru like Regis McKenna have to say to the manufacturer of a rope-water-pump device designed for low-income Cambodian villagers?

An incubator project at Santa Clara University brings social entrepreneurs and innovators from around the world and the U.S. to meet and work with Silicon Valley technologists, executives, and social venture investors to participate in a two-week incubator program.

The intensive residential program, celebrating its fifth year and being held Aug. 19 through 30, is aimed at helping successful social entrepreneurs to scale up their endeavors and achieve sustainability. Sponsored by the Center for Science, Technology, and Society and the Leavey School of Business at Santa Clara University, the Global Social Benefit Incubator (GSBI) supports the work of innovators who have demonstrated proof of concept in applying technology and promising new business models to address human needs through out the world.

The projects that represent the Class of 2007 are from 12 countries: Indonesia, India, Philippines, Macedonia, South Africa, Cambodia, Surinam, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Guatemala, Sri Lanka, and the United States.

Living and learning together, participants develop know-how in the areas of marketing, finance, business planning, and organizational capacity building. The incubator combines classroom instruction, case studies, and best practices with carefully matched mentoring on the sustainability challenges of each participating organization. The incubator participants will hear from Geoffrey Moore (Mohr Davidow Ventures) about crossing the chasm from early users to large-scale adoption; venture investors like the Acumen Fund, Skoll Foundation, and Good Capital; as well as faculty in the Leavey School of Business.

“The entrepreneurial spirit, rapid development and diffusion of technology that characterizes the best of Silicon Valley are propagated through this program,” said Jim Koch, executive director of GSBI. “The incubator brings together grassroots innovators and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs with University faculty to support the scaling up of technology applications that serve the common good all over the world.”

Koch said that like many Silicon Valley companies, incubator participants have been successful in uncertain business climates and against staggering odds. “Using creativity and a deep understanding of their local markets, they find new solutions that create hope and opportunity,” he said. “All promising technology innovations confront the challenge of growing their capacity. Nonprofit organizations need to become self sustaining if they are to grow over a period of time. Social benefit entrepreneurs in the developing world are cut off from knowledge resources that support innovation in places like Silicon Valley.”

Some examples of participants of the program are: The Freeplay Foundation from South Africa that designs and distributes wind-up and solar powered radios that provide life-saving information for some of the poorest people in Africa; Equal Access, a San Francisco non-profit that brings educational radio programming via satellite to remote villages in Nepal; Ideas at Work, a Cambodian non-profit that  manufactures, sells, and leases a rope water pump device designed for household water collection by low-income Cambodian villagers ;Nishant Bioenergy, a company from India that designed a low-cost, smoke-free cooking stove .

On Aug. 30, the final day of the two-week program, class participants will present their business plans. “We hope the resources of our region will advance their promising technological innovations in service to humanity,” Koch said. ”Much of their work is happening in emerging markets and in settings ignored by conventional approaches to technological design and market development. We can also learn a lot from their approaches to innovation in resource constrained environments.”

Geoffrey Bowker, Executive Director for the Center for Science Technology and Society at Santa Clara University said: “This event underscores the Center's role, serving as a bridge connecting Silicon Valley's resources with social benefit entrepreneurs to advance their promising technology innovations in service to humanity.”

For more information about the GSBI program and participants, visit www.scu.edu/sts

About Santa Clara University

Santa Clara University, a comprehensive Jesuit, Catholic university located 40 miles south of San Francisco in California’s Silicon Valley, offers its more than 8,000 students rigorous undergraduate curricula in arts and sciences, business, and engineering, plus master’s and law degrees and engineering Ph.D.s. Distinguished nationally by one of the highest graduation rates among all U.S. master’s universities, California’s oldest operating higher-education institution demonstrates faith-inspired values of ethics and social justice. For more information, see www.scu.edu.

Tags: entrepreneurs

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