Evolver: An accelerator for social enterprises
Accelerators give startups a rocket boost in the development of their product or service. Where better to site an accelerator for social enterprises than in a struggling city? The perfect place to try out social business concepts locally.
[Evolver 2.0: A update based on all the great comments and links below.]
Social enterprises are commercial business which also try to solve a social or environmental problem. I write about technology, and high-tech startups in particular, and accelerator programs are a popular way for new startups to get seed funding, mentoring and access to investors. The only accelerator program (not incubator) I could find that does something similar for social enterprises is run by The Unreasonable Institute (http://unreasonableinstitute.org/).
An influx of young entrepreneurial talent, at least a subset of which should be able to apply their social enterprise concepts in the local city, would surely be beneficial.
In most high tech startup accelerators, the founders come to live in the city which is the base of the accelerator for 3 months and work intensively on their product or service. Some accelerators have follow-on programs which encourage founders to stay for longer. Most accelerator programs are privately funded, for-profit businesses which supply the following to the participating startups:
- A cash investment of up to 15,000 EUR (5,000 per founder), i.e. enough to get the founders through the 3 month program, in exchange for equity - typically around 8% of the company.
- Shared office space for all the startups in the current batch.
- A structured program for accelerating the development of each business. This is usually based around mentors in the form of entrepreneurs, investors, PR firms, legal advisors, sales experts, etc.
- Sometimes free access to services like software, legal advice, HR advice, etc.
What this accelerator adds to the formula is the following:
1) Focuses on for-profit, social enterprises.
2) Uses the city itself as a testing ground for the social enterprise concepts.The city could share its top 5 challenges with the accelerator as well as (ideally) access to relevant data, people and infrastructure relevant to those challenges.
I don't think this concept will work for every city. It will take something more than investment and cheap real estate to attract and retain young entrepreneurs in the city - a fantastic music or art scene as in Berlin, great people as in Ireland, etc.
Idea submitted by: Ciara Byrne
December 07, 2011,
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