Just as it takes a whole village to raise one child, it takes a global support network to help one social entrepreneur reach their vision. That isn’t because social entrepreneurs are as needy and tender as children. Instead, it is because social entrepreneurs have such large visions of transformative change that they can’t achieve them single-handedly. (Not to mention that their visions and passion are so exciting that many of us can’t help but want to be a part of the solutions they are working towards.)
One of the best supports for social enterprises looking for a boost to get to the next level of their venture is participating in one or more of the growing number of social enterprise accelerator programs available. As the field of social entrepreneurship has mushroomed over the last decade, so has the offering of accelerators.
Today’s plugged-in social entrepreneur is bombarded by invitations to apply to accelerator programs, but each has its own timeline, format, and focus. Some accelerators such as the Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) – with which I’m affiliated – and The Unreasonable Institute source participants globally. Depending on their location, entrepreneurs can also apply to localized programs such as Villgro’s SEED program in India and Village Capital’s programs in places as diverse as Nairobi and Hawaii. Accelerators like the GSBI have been around long enough to see some of our ventures go on to achieve dramatic success, like Kiva (’06) and VisionSpring (’06). The next big success stories are surely among the hundreds of ventures participating in accelerator programs today, and it will be satisfying to see them break into the limelight.
For those of us lucky enough to spend our days (and nights) thinking about how to help more social entrepreneurs help more people, the messiness of the impact accelerator landscape leads to a lot of questions. How can we reach more entrepreneurs? How we can guide the right entrepreneurs to the right program at the right time? How can we maximize our impact on the enterprise? Not to mention, how can we cover our costs of helping these enterprises? My work with the GSBI centers on answering these questions by strengthening and expanding our program offerings.
These were among the questions we discussed more broadly at the Innovations in Capacity Development for Social Enterprise panel that I moderated at the SOCAP13 conference earlier this month. The panelists were SEED’s PR “Guns” Ganapathy, Unreasonable Institute’s Teju Ravilochan, my GSBI colleague Cassandra Staff, Village Capital’s Victoria Fram, and the World Bank Development Marketplace’s Drew vonGlahn.
Last year’s report, Bridging the “Pioneer Gap”: The Role of Accelerators in Launching High-Impact Enterprises, looked at 52 impact-focused accelerators and found that 73 percent are less than five years old. Fortunately, the accelerators are evolving together and are collaborating. In 2011, Halloran Philanthropies recognized the accelerators’ role in global social impact and began bringing us together for pre-SOCAP work sessions to foster collaboration. There are some tangible outcomes, like the creation of a common application questionnaire that is being used by Village Capital and GSBI among others to make it easier for busy entrepreneurs to apply to our programs. To simplify further, these accelerators are also migrating to a common platform called F6S for the application process.
With so many accelerators and competitive application processes, it can be hard for a social entrepreneur to choose the right program at the right time. The entrepreneur has to prioritize between applying for an accelerator program over, say, applying for a grant or bidding on a project. Smart entrepreneurs will do their own diligence on an accelerator to see if what is provided will be right for them at their current stage. Fortunately most accelerators give quite a bit of detail about their programs, mentors, and past participants, through which, prospective applicants can gauge the fit before applying.
Each accelerator targets a specific type of enterprise. Villgro’s new SEED program focuses exclusively on helping for-profit Indian social enterprises raise their first outside investments. Unreasonable Institute provides mentorship, capital, and a global support network through a multi-week in-residence experience. GSBI takes an in-depth business model-centric approach and provides seasoned mentors with Silicon Valley start-up experience. Village Capital’s program is built around peer-to-peer support and guaranteed investment for the best ventures from each cohort.
The World Bank Development Marketplace brought another innovative model to the panel discussion. After more than a decade of giving grants to promising enterprises, the Development Marketplace has made a commitment to providing capacity development services to their grantees. In order to avoid reinventing the wheel, they are partnering with existing accelerators in an interesting experiment. As part of their latest competition in India, on top of the cash grant, they have assigned an additional dollar amount for capacity development and will allow each entrepreneur to use those funds to retain the services of a vetted group of service providers.
The Development Marketplace’s new model creates value and efficiency for all parties, and it points to a potential opportunity for overcoming a limitation that most accelerators face today. Of the accelerators studied in the Bridging the Pioneer Gap report, 74 percent rely on philanthropy. This limits our own sustainability and scalability. Villgro is piloting another approach, which is to charge a success fee, in which entrepreneurs who successfully raise investments are required to pay the accelerator for the services they received.
The Center reinforced its position as a thought leader and practitioner in social enterprise. Read about our role in mentoring entrepreneurs and advancing impact capital.
The eighth Social Capital Markets Conference (SOCAP13) took place earlier this month (Sept 3-6) at Fort Mason in San Francisco. SOCAP focuses on the space between philanthropy and traditional capital markets. Over the past six years this gathering has grown to be the flagship conference in social investing and draws over 2000 social entrepreneurs, corporations, philanthropists, NGOs, and impact investors who believe you can invest with the goal of making a positive impact, while also making positive financial returns.
The Center was well represented at SOCAP. We co-hosted a reception with ANDE, Opportunity Collaboration , and the World Bank that drew over 400 attendees and guests. At our booth on the main floor of the conference facility, we promoted GSBI Online, GSBI Accelerator, and our Impact Capital program.
Most importantly, the Center submitted three panel proposals for the conference, and all three were selected with capacity attendance. John Kohler moderated Impact Investing: Keeping the Investor and Entrepreneur Happy. ThaneKreiner hosted Impact Investing and Spiritual Belief: Breaking the Cycle of Persistent Poverty; and AndyLieberman organized Innovation in Capacity Development for Social Enterprises. Read these and other blogs here.
The Center for Science, Technology, and Society would like to thank all of our supporters who voted for our panels for SOCAP 2013. All three of our panels were accepted out of 128+ submissions! Your efforts helped us make it to the top and we could not have done it without you.
Can we Keep Both the Investor and Entrepreneur Happy?
I met Emily Stone of Maya Mountain Cacao in Nicaragua early this year. She is bright, energetic, and laser focused on building prosperity for cacao farmers in Belize. We were both participating in a business 'boot camp' hosted by Agora Partners. I had an opportunity to speak to the 30+ Agora entrepreneurs about new forms of financing constructed to better fit their reality, in this case, the Demand Dividend concept we have been pioneering at Santa Clara University. Emily immediately grasped the advantages, as did several other entrepreneurs. A 'venture debt' vehicle that only pays out from a minority share of free cash flow, a sensible upside for investors but then extinguishes all claims and leaves company ownership in the hands of founders and employees. It also recognizes the agrarian nature of many developing economies and allows for variable payments, not installment debt with a revenue sweetener. She also liked the 'honeymoon' feature which, like equity, allows the investment to work for the enterprise first before seeking to be paid back. Emily became an advocate. Equity financing for Maya Mountain was not in the cards.
Two principals at Eleos Foundation, Andy Lower and Jim Villanueva, were also fans of the Demand Dividend concept and Jim found himself inspired by the great work Emily had already done. She was intent on expanding Maya Mountain to Guatemala with the same success recipe that was already working in Belize - working with cacao farmers, pruning and renovating dozens of farms, planting scores of new trees and working with the farming communities to improve yield, quality and reforestation of the mountains. Expansion financing came together quickly - based on the Demand Dividend structure.
Can we keep both the entrepreneur and investor happy? So far, yes! But come here their story and commentary on leading impactor sector participants as we discuss the role of structured exit financing for impact investing.
From the Desk of John Kohler
Director, Impact Capital
Two Center for Science, Technology, and Society directors will speak at the BoP Summit 2013: Creating an Action Agenda for the Next Decade at the University of Michigan (www.bop2013.org), set for October 21-23 in Ann Arbor. While there’s lots to celebrate about inclusive business, there’s also plenty to question, ponder and reconsider - especially when it comes to barriers to success and the inability to replicate successful business models across industries and geographies. Registration for the summit is open, but spaces are limited. The three-day event will be limited to 200 practitioners who will:
1. Take stock of what is known thus far about the BoP domain
2. Identify critical success factors and on-going challenges that must be overcome
3. Determine an action agenda that builds upon existing successes and addresses current limitations
Thane Kreiner, PhD, is Executive Director of the Center for Science, Technology, and Society at Santa Clara University. The Center's mission is to accelerate global, innovation-based entrepreneurship in service to humanity. Its signature Global Social Benefit Incubator (GSBI™) program has helped more than 180 entrepreneurs build sustainable and scalable ventures that deliver essential goods and services to the poor. Collectively, these enterprises have positively impact the lives of nearly 100 million people in base of pyramid communities worldwide. In addition to leading the Center, Thane teaches Entrepreneurship for Social Justice and co-teaches the two courses for the Center's Global Social Benefit Fellowship.
Thane was formerly Founder, President, and CEO of PhyloTech, Inc. (now Second Genome), which conducts comprehensive microbial community analysis for human health applications. He was Founder, President, and CEO of Presage Biosciences, Inc., a Seattle-based company dedicated to bringing better cancer drugs to market. Thane was the start-up President and CEO for iZumi Bio, Inc. (now iPierian), a regenerative medicine venture based on the break-through iPSc (induced pluripotent stem cell) technology. Prior to his efforts as a “parallel entrepreneur”, Thane spent 14 years in various senior leadership roles at Affymetrix, Inc., which pioneered the DNA chip industry. Thane currently serves as a Board member for the BioBricks Foundation, the Living in Color Foundation, and the regenerative medicine company Didimi, Inc. Thane earned his MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business; his PhD in Neurosciences from Stanford University School of Medicine; and his BS in Chemistry from the University of Texas, Austin.
Jim Koch is Don C. Dodson Distinguished Service Professor, Founding Director of the Center for Science, Technology, and Society, former Dean of the Leavey School of Business, and Emeritus Director of the Global Social Benefit Incubator at Santa Clara University. The GSBI empowers social mission entrepreneurs to build sustainable, scalable organizations and solve problems for people living in poverty around the world. For over a decade, the GSBI has helped mission-driven enterprise build, sustain, and increase the reach and impact of their businesses. The GSBI Network extends this decade of work in the discovery, incubation, and Silicon Valley mentoring of social ventures to a global alliance of Jesuit and other mission-aligned universities. Jim received his Ph.D. from UCLA and has published in a wide number of journals including: Journal of Applied Psychology, Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, Journal of Vocational Behavior, California Management Review, and Innovations. His current research focuses on best practices and the emergence of BoP off-grid energy needs as a growing market opportunity research and the role of technology and business model innovation in the development of scalable market-based solutions to poverty alleviation.
Every summer, millions of moviegoers flock to crowded multiplexes across the globe to see the latest hero don a really cool costume and venture out into the night to save the world. The notion of heroes has always been linked to individuals who possess superhuman abilities and use their powers to protect humanity against supervillains and evil enterprises. After being thoroughly entertained for a couple of hours, the story ends and we exit the world of “make believe” into the harsh realities of the real world. However, in our 21st century world, danger still exists.
Amanda’s passion for social justice and creating a more just and humane world, is why she decided to join the GSBI™ as a mentor – a critically acclaimed social entrepreneurship accelerator program at Santa Clara University’s Center for Science, Technology, and Society. In a recent conversation at the Center, Amanda shared about how much she loves growing things and getting to the heart of why things matter. She enjoys working with social entrepreneurs because they build products and services that have an immediate impact on the lives of people who need them most. Very humble and non-intimidating, Amanda has a natural essence that engages people in a way that they feel they are a part of a greater human story. Just ask Erika Brannock, who says Amanda saved her life. In response, Amanda modestly says, “I felt like there was a reason why I was there. I just felt this compulsion to go over to you…”
It is this same compulsion to act and do something that drives Amanda in her hands-on work with the Center. The Center follows a simple strategy in its mission to benefit the lives of 1 billion of the world’s poor by 2020: Help social entrepreneurs help more people. It’s simple, but powerful in scope and vision. The vision works because it constantly seeks out entrepreneurs who are inspired to dream big, to build something of great value, and who are motivated to get the training and discipline necessary to impact the greater good.
We are proud of Amanda North, and mentors like her who work closely with entrepreneurs that venture out into sweltering hot days and feverishly cold nights tackling everyday problems that face people living in persistent poverty. GSBI Mentors are more than teachers and guides; they are heroes who encourage us to rise to the challenge and do something.
What is the future of innovation? How can we successfully integrate investments in sustainability and social change?
About the class
It is time to become social entrepreneurs 2.0. The social sector has matured enough to provide valuable lessons to today’s social entrepreneurs. There have been enough like you to teach what worked, what didn’t and why. It’s time for the next generation to go to school on this. As you prepare your companies for financing, you must understand new tools for financing, what investors are looking for, and how the continuing evolution of social finance effects the way you design, build, and operate. John Kohler brings three decades of experience in venture capital and entrepreneurship to the social sector.
HUB San Francisco 901 Mission Street San Francisco,CA94103
Wednesday, May 22, 2013 from 5:00 PM to 6:30 PM (PDT)
Equity vs. Grants – what was wrong with the binary
New Instruments – what types of financing are available and in development including Demand Dividend
Understanding ambitions to scale: community scale or global scale companies and impact on financing considerations
Understanding the promise you make to investors: what is it, and how will you make it worth their while?
About John Kohler
Executive Fellow – Center for Science, Technology and Society
Santa Clara University
Co-founder – Toniic
For the past several years, John has been a mentor to Social Entrepreneurs at the Global Social Benefit Incubator and now also serves as an Executive Fellow and Director of Social Capital at Santa Clara’s Center for Science, Technology and Society. Last year he co-authored a report on impact investing entitled Coordinating Impact Capital: a New Approach to Investing in Small and Growing Businesses. In addition, he is one of the founders of Toniic, a syndication network of impact investors. Outside of this, John manages technology investments through Redleaf Venture Management. He has been heavily involved in technology product formation and has been concentrating on Internet and Life Science startups since 1994. John’s background includes twenty years of executive level positions at technology corporations including Hewlett Packard, Silicon Graphics and Convergent Technologies and Unisys. He was one of the founding executives at Netscape Communications. John is currently on the board of Redleaf Group, chairman of the board at LucidMedia, and serves as a board member at PACT, an NGO based in Washington D.C. He previously led investments at AdRelevance (JMXI), Mosaic Communications (TWX), NetGravity (DCLK), RedCreek Communications (SNWL), and Wireless Online. John is a managing member of the UCLA Venture Capital Fund and serves on the UCLA Sciences Board of Visitors. John received his bachelor’s degree in international economics from UCLA and completed executive programs at Wharton and Stanford business schools. He also serves on advisory committees at CSTS, the UN Foundation, and HUB Ventures. He is a nationally accredited soccer coach, an avid skier, sailor, and a member of the Santa Cruz Yacht Club.
SANTA CLARA, Calif., April 4, 2013 —When pressing social problems and innovative entrepreneurs collide, dramatic change in the humanitarian landscape is possible. That’s exactly what is happening at Santa Clara University’s Center for Science, Technology, and Society (CSTS), which today announces the latest group of 15 social enterprises chosen to receive training through its signature Global Social Benefit Incubator or GSBI™.
The newly named GSBI Accelerator program has been revamped to focus on investment-ready social enterprises that have the potential to vastly increase their impact on the lives of the poor—as CSTS strives to improve the lives of 1 billion by 2020. This year’s cohort of 14 was selected through a competitive process that began last November.
"As the GSBI enters its eleventh year, we have intensified our focus on helping successful social enterprises scale,” said Thane Kreiner, Ph.D., executive director of the CSTS. “The 2013 GSBI Accelerator will develop, train, and guide investment-ready social enterprises to rapidly expand their reach."
"As a long-time GSBI mentor, I have worked with hundreds of social enterprises over the last decade. This is unequivocally the most accomplished cohort I have ever seen,” said Paul Meissner, Ph.D., senior director of the GSBI. “Their momentum reflects how quickly social entrepreneurship is expanding, and how many millions of lives can be impacted by their work."
Leaders from 14 enterprises have been selected to take part in the eight-month GSBI Accelerator program, beginning in April and ending in December 2013. Participants will receive mentoring from top-level Silicon Valley executive experts, highly specialized instruction, and intense on-campus education. For the first time this year, the social enterprises are being directly monitored by an elite group of interested funders, the GSBI Impact Investing Partners. While not necessarily committing to funding the ventures, the partners will help participants evaluate their organizations from a funding perspective.
The in-residence portion of the program will take place August 15–23 at Santa Clara University, culminating in a networking event with the impact investors. The GSBI Impact Investing Partners include: Accion, Acumen Fund, Bamboo Finance, Beyond Capital Fund, The Eleos Foundation, Emcor Securities, Grassroots Business Fund, Halloran Philanthropies, Hub Ventures, Invested Development, Khosla Impact Fund, KL Felicitas, Skoll Foundation, Toniic, and Village Capital.
This year’s GSBI class members are building businesses including “biodigester systems” that help small farmers treat animal waste and convert it into powerful organic fertilizer and methane-rich biogas for cooking and heating; “100-percent biomass waste gasification” to generate electricity and distribute power to rural households; water pumps that run on solar power; two-way, on-demand mobile platforms that teach reading and writing skills to poor families; low-cost, pre-paid electricity meters that enable the extension of renewable energy to global communities living off-the-grid, and many more.
In addition to launching this year’s GSBI Accelerator, the CSTS joined with longtime GSBI sponsor Applied Materials last year to make a Clinton Global Initiative commitment to support 18 clean energy social enterprises over the next three years. Including this year’s GSBI Accelerator class and the related online program, GSBI Online, the partners have already reached 15 clean energy enterprises.
For more details about the program and the 2013 GSBI class, visit the Center for Science, Technology, and Society’s website at www.scu.edu/socialbenefit/.
About the GSBI The GSBI is the signature program of the Center for Science, Technology, and Society at Santa Clara University. The mission of the Center is to accelerate global, innovation-based entrepreneurship in service to humanity. The GSBI empowers socially-minded entrepreneurs to build sustainable, scalable organizations and solve problems for people living in poverty around the world. For over a decade, the GSBI has helped mission-driven enterprises build, sustain, and increase the reach and impact of their businesses. The GSBI is currently funded in part by a grant from the Skoll Foundation, corporate gifts from Applied Materials, and generous support from individual donors.
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 8,800 students rigorous undergraduate curricula in arts and sciences, business, theology, 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.
Quality livelihoods depend on access to energy. Paul Meissner, Ph.D., GSBITM director, is joined by leading social entrepreneurs in clean energy to share findings from the Center’s recent field research. We will also unveil the latest edition of the Energy Map and our vision of the potential for innovative technical and business approaches to distributed energy.
This new approach is informed by over 10 years of experience, with more than 170 social enterprises that have impacted the lives of over 80 million people. As practitioners on a global scale, we predict that a convergence of technology and business model innovations will disrupt how off-grid energy is produced, distributed, and financed in the next 10 years.
Come hear GSBI Online alumni Gemma Bulos with the Global Women's Water Initiative speak about "Maximizing Potential through Entrepreneurship and Education" at The Stanford Association for International Development's.