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Twenty global entrepreneurs chosen for summer business incubator program

Tuesday, Apr. 7, 2009

SANTA CLARA, Calif., April 7 — Teaching slum dwellers in Guatemala to sell worm byproducts as fertilizer. Helping disabled Nigerians become business owners rather than beggars. Turning weeds in India into fuel.

These are some of the noble ventures being undertaken by the 20 “social entrepreneurs” who have been selected to join the seventh annual Global Social Benefit Incubator (GSBI) at Santa Clara University.

The program, which received over 350 applications—triple last year’s total—taps Silicon Valley veteran financiers, marketers, and executives as well as Santa Clara University faculty to help promising but resource-starved entrepreneurs with key business concepts: completing a cohesive business plan, generating ideas for funding sources and investors, and finding ways to increase their impact while maintaining positive cash flow. 

The entrepreneurs get months of coaching from afar from Silicon Valley executive mentors like Tim Haley and Jeff Miller. Then, in mid-August, they come to SCU’s campus for a two-week “boot camp’’ of back-to-back classes, lectures, business-plan honing, and cross-pollination with other entrepreneurs.

Members of this year’s class are working on businesses that improve the lives and increase the economic self-reliance of their countries’ poorest residents. They are focused in four general areas: information and communication technology; economic development; environmental or alternative energy; and health and education. Among the businesses:


•    Cosmos Okoli’s Mobility Aid and Appliances Research and Development Centre helps otherwise-shunned, disabled Nigerians create a community and a livelihood making and repairing wheelchairs and other mobility aids.
•    Maria Rodriguez’s Byoearth helps the poor in Guatemala earn money by raising worms that produce an organic fertilizer for sale to small-scale farmers.
•    Yugandhar Mandavkar’s Grass Roots Action for Social Participation utilizes “carbon credits” (fees from “polluting” companies in developed countries) to manufacture affordable, ecologically friendly wood stoves for India’s rural poor.

Businesses that have graduated from the GSBI™ program have gone on to collectively serve or benefit millions of people. Alumni include the micro-lending website Kiva.org, African solar-radio maker Freeplay Foundation, and reading-glasses provider Vision Spring.

GSBI™ is funded in-part by grants from the Skoll Foundation, the Palo Alto–based supporter of global social entrepreneurs created by eBay’s founding president Jeff Skoll, the education-focused Robert N. Noyce Foundation, created in honor of the cofounder of  Intel, and the Palo Alto-based Peery Foundation, a family foundation established to empower youth, reduce poverty and encourage social entrepreneurship in the Bay Area and around the world.

“The online application process for the Global Social Benefit Incubator, taking place every year on Social Edge, has become a unique learning experience for social entrepreneurs who have a chance to refine their business model with the help of Santa Clara University’s talented community,” said Victor d’Allant, executive director of Social Edge, the Skoll Foundation’s online community for social entrepreneurs.

“We are gratified that each year the GSBI attracts interest from some of the most gifted and promising social entrepreneurs in the world,” said Jim Koch, Bill and Jan Terry Professor of Management at SCU, who cofounded GSBI in 2003.

About the Global Social Benefit Incubator GSBI
The signature program of Santa Clara University’s Center for Science, Technology, and Society and cosponsored by the Leavey School of Business, GSBI was founded in 2003 by SCU Management Professors Jim Koch and Al Bruno, and entrepreneur Patrick Guerra. The trio saw a need to “incubate” promising businesses that were trying to address vital social needs of their home countries. The program now attracts hundreds of applicants from more than 25 countries every year.

Additional Contacts:
Jim Koch, GSBI cofounder and program director, 408-551-6027 or jkoch@scu.edu.
Albert Bruno, GSBI cofounder and academic dean, 408-551-6027 or abruno@scu.edu.
Eric Carlson, SCU GSBI Associate Director, 408-551-6027 or ecarlson@scu.edu

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 8,758 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.

Media Contact: Deborah Lohse, SCU Assistant Media Relations Director, (408) 554-5121 or dlohse@scu.edu.

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