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Interview with Nicholas Fusso, Program Director of D-Prize [AUDIO]

Earlier this year Innov8Social interviewed Nicholas Fusso, Program Director of D-Prize. D-Prize is an innovative competition dedicated to scaling distribution (i.e. the “D” in D Prize) of solutions to global poverty.Now that multiple cohorts have passed through the social innovation competition, Nicholas back in an audio interview to overview past winners, the types of social entrepreneurs that have been selected as D-Prize recipients, and what is ahead for the program.The call for Fall applications concluded at the end of November. Applicants from that round who advance past the first round will have until the end of December to submit their social venture plan, and if they are selected to advance, will be required to complete additional items by January 24, 2014. Winners can receive up to $20,000 to implement their proposed solution.

There will be another call for applications in Spring 2014. You can find out information about past winners and competition details at www.D-prize.com. Good luck to all of the D-Prize participants!

 

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Recap: Santa Clara University GSBI Accelerator Showcase + New Applications Open

When enough people, especially those not otherwise connected with each other, recommend something, it can do wonders to capture your imagination and fascination. That happened with Santa Clara University’s Global Social Benefit Incubator program.

Global Social Benefit Incubator (GSBI)

Though I learned about GSBI while researching social innovation startup accelerator and incubator programs, over the past few months I have heard it mentioned in various conversations with social innovators and entrepreneurs in the space.

Then, at the Womens’ Social Entrepreneurs’ Panel hosted by GABA at the Kiva offices in SF, a few panelists were also graduates of the program—and were doing absolutely fascinating work. My interest was building, and every subsequent mention of GSBI was akin to a “Klout” moment on my personal interest pique-o-meter.

Attending a GSBI Accelerator Showcase

GSBI accelerator showcase

More recently, SCU hosted a GSBI Accelerator Showcase on campus. The pitch event featured over a dozen social entrepreneurs, hailing from around the globe, who presented pitches and status updates on their endeavors directly to impact investors and the broader philanthropic community.

These driven problem-solvers were educators, artisans, farmers, and engineers—but took on the role of social innovators in the face of deep-rooted issues in their communities.

VentureBeat covered the event noting that “of the 202 enterprises that have completed GSBI programs since its inception in 2003, 90 percent are still in business and can boast of having positively impacted nearly 100 million lives around the globe and raising $89 million in funding.”

Thane Kreiner, Executive Director of the Center for Science, Technology, and Society, at Santa Clara University, which is home of the Global Social Benefit Incubator also published a recap of the event on NextBillion.

The pitches were direct asks for funds to help social enterprises cross the proverbial chasm in scaling to the next level.  Here is a sample of a few of the asks:

  • Clinicas de Azucar requested $3.3M to scale low-cost diabetes solutions to reach 200 clinics in Mexico.
  • Avani requested $500K to scale sustainable textile production by women to 101 villages in northern India
  • Nishant Bioenergy requested $600K to scale production and distribution of energy-efficient, sustainable, cookstoves.
  • Literacy Bridge requested $500K to scale their accessible (non-literacy dependent) audio solution for teaching agricultural practices to rural farmers in Africa
  • Drishtee requested $3M to scale their solution to extend last-mile distribution of products to remote regions in India.
  • Iluméxico requested $250K to scale solar grid electricity solutions to open 30 branches in 10 states in Mexico.
  • Husk Power requested $5M to scale mini powerplants and provide electricity as a service from 5K to over 25K households in India and East Africa.

(Note: videos of the pitch event can be seen here and will be posted on YouTube here.)

The Courage to Try

The pitches represented more than a singular idea. In social innovation, as in entrepreneurship, ideas often come “into vogue”concurrently—i.e. if you are thinking of a new innovation or improvement, there’s a good chance someone is thinking along the same lines too.

This simple realization humanizes the social entrepreneur’s experience and also takes it out of the abstract. These entrepreneurs who venture into the dimly lit space of creating value and impact aren’t necessarily the first, they are the the ones courageous enough to grab the torch and stumble into the darkness to test out their potential solution.

In the coming weeks I look forward to interviewing a few of the leaders of GSBI to learn more about the program, the selection process, how the institute has evolved, and what the organizers have learned from hosting an annual accelerator/incubator program for social innovation.

 

Apply to GSBI by October 31

Applications for the 2014 class of GSBI are available now and you can apply until October 31, 2013.

Application for GSBI are here.

 

GSBI accelerator showcase
GSBI accelerator showcase
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D-Prize: A Focus on Distribution of Social Innovation Solutions

Visit D-Prize.org and your bound to do a double take when posed with the question:

“If you were awarded $20,000, how would you fight poverty?”

I had a chance to learn about this innovative program that identifies and funds promising social ventures that are still at an idea phase through a conversation with Nicholas Fusso. Nicholas serves as Program Director of D-Prize.

Q & A with Nicholas Fusso, Program Director of D-Prize

Nicholas FussoWhat is D-Prize?

[Nicholas Fusso] D-prize is a competition program to identify top social entrepreneurs focused on innovative initiatives for distribution.

It was launched by Andrew Youn, of One Acre Fund. Andrew has been working with African farmers to help them become more sustainable. Since One Acre fund started in 2006 it has expanded in scope and scale, now serving over a 100K families.

Through his work at One Acre Fund, Andrew became increasingly frustrated because he saw easy solutions to major problems but they were not being scaled & distributed effectively. He and a few co-founders launched D-Prize to focus on the distribution end of the social enterprise equation. The “D” in D-Prize stands for “distribution equals development”.

How does D-Prize work? Is it an accelerator program?

[Nicholas] D-prize is not necessarily an accelerator program. It is a mechanism to fund ventures that are at the idea stage.  Entrants are considered based on: (1) distribution-focused venture; 2) that can radically scale up (i.e. create massive amounts of impact). Ideal candidate will read the description and come up with concept that meets (1) and (2) and then can apply for D-Prize.

D-prize applications are generally accepted on a rolling basis. Our first round of applications was due April 30, 2013, and we received over 300 applications.  The next deadline for applications for the Fall 2013 cohort will be November 30, 2013.

What are the requirements for candidates? U.S.-based? Proven Model?

[Nicholas] There is no geographic requirement, however, solutions have to be launched in developing areas. The organizations that D-Prize looks to fund are generally highly proven, and just need innovative methods of scaling and distributing solutions. The other skill we look for is the ability of the founders to listen and find out what people need in the area.

How is D-Prize funded?

[Nicholas] By the co-founders & colleagues.

How is D-Prize structured?

[Nicholas] It has applied for non-profit status.

Tell us a little about yourself

[Nicholas] I have been in the role of Program Director since February 2013. When I started, D-Prize had already  published and launched the first competition program, and interested applicants had about 5 weeks to submit an idea. We had an aggressive schedule but were able to identify entrepreneurs in that space.

A little about me…I studied political economics in college and had a lot of friends with idealistic goals pursue nonprofit and ngo-work. I was one of the few to go into business. My first social enterprise was right out of college, called “Sustainable of Sexy.” The mission was to educate people of coffee-drinking habits, especially sustainability of coffee-related goods, such as coffee cups. We took the problem on from a business perspective, trying to show how reusable coffee cups could be better for business all-around. We had a blog, and received some great press coverage. The whole experience really excited me about entrepreneurship. D-Prize was a great fit and has been an exciting experience.

What do you see as the connection between enterprise and impact?

[Nicholas] I see entrepreneurship as the surest path to sustainable development.

How is funding disbursed?

[Nicholas] People submit a 1st round application, then if its a good fit will invite them to a final round. Selected finalists will receive $10-20K funding. Payment method will be Lump sum or in parts, based on what makes more sense for the concept and work. It’s important to determine what type of venture to figure out how to fund. (i.e. build website, market, etc.). D-Prize does not necessarily take an equity stake. The amount of funding is partially based on the budget that applicants must include as part of the final application.

What are you looking for in D-Prize candidates?

[Nicholas] Measurable impact, and lots of it. Whether applicants are non-profit or for-profit, we look at whether they are committed to creating responsible change—that it part of their core business, and not just a consideration. Finally, we are look for ideas that are transformational in their approach to meeting the distribution challenge.

How does a team apply?

Visit the D-Prize competition page for deadlines, etc. and download the application packet.

[Note: This post has been updated to reflect that D-Prize may not necessarily take equity stake in startups.]
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Learn About Imagine H20 + How to Win $200K for Your Social Innovation Business Plan [VIDEO]

 Did you know global water issues can affect education, health, deforestation, and can especially impact women and girls?Do you think you can create a business plan for unique, sustainable, and scaleable social innovations that address these kinds of issues?

Meet ImagineH20.org

If so, there’s a way to take your idea to the next level. In the video below, Brian Matthay, Program Director of Imagine H20 explains the organization’s creative approach to inspiring social innovation for global water issues.


Imagine H20 is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring and empowering people to solve water problems. It is based in San Francisco, California and hosts an annual competition for global water solutions. The prize baskets run upwards of $100K, with this year’s grand prize totaling over $200K.

Not just a one-time prize

Perhaps the best aspect is that the competition doesn’t end with a strong finish. Winners of Imagine H20 join a specialized accelerator program to further develop their ideas, seek guidance from experts and specialists, and put them in the running for cash resources, in-kind services, and global exposure.

Facts to inspire action

Imagine H20 highlights statistics that are startling and serve as a call to social innovation action. Here are a few eye-catching ones:
  • Water related diseases are the leading cause of child death, killing 4,500 children per day (UNICEF)
  • 1.1 billion people live without clean water today (World Water Forum)
  • 20% of clean water is lost due to leaks (EPA)
  • Water scarcity affects every continent and affects 4 out of every 10 people (World Health Organization)
  • Demand in the U.S. has tripled in the past 30 years while the population has grown only 50% (Goldman Sachs)
  • Up to $1 trillion is needed to rebuild America’s aging water infrastructure (Goldman Sachs)

How to Win $200K for Your Social Innovation Business Plan

Though the 2011 entries were due by November 15, 2011—here are steps to know about the 2011 process to help put you on track to compete in next year’s competition.
  • Be an individual or team comprised of members older than 18 years (who are not previous winners or finalists)
  • Focus on the year’s specific theme (i.e. the 2011 theme was wastewater) and consult the ImagineH20 competition guidelines to find out what kinds of solutions are being sought.
  • Teams must form a for-profit business entity before receiving any prizes.
  • Teams must submit entries in 1 of 2 tracks: A) Pre-Revenue Track or B) Early Revenue Track
  • Teams must submit an executive summary of a business plan for a social innovation venture (using a designated template) addressing the year’s specific water crisis theme. Along with resumes of each team member, and the designated entry fee.
  • 2011 applications were accepted from September 1st 2011 to November 15th 2011.
  • The top finalists from each track will be invited to participate in Round 2.
  • In 2011, 2 grand prizes and 4 runner-up prizes are slated to be announced at the ImagineH20 Showcase

Building a Social Innovation IQ

When you are in the midst of an emerging field, there is often no shortage of related terms and buzzwords. Social innovation is a prime example. Associated words and phrases include:Social innovation IQ

  • social entrepreneurship
  • social enterprise
  • impact investing
  • conscious capital
  • double bottom line
  • triple bottom line
  • social accounting
  • benefit corporations
  • flexible purpose corporations
  • low-profit limited liability companies (L3C’s)
  • hybrid corporations
  • blended value
  • social ventures
  • maximizing stakeholder value
  • doing well, by doing good
  • corporate social responsibility
  • and more….
Terminology, a Social Innovator Does Not Make
Through Innov8Social or various other blogs and resources, you may be (as I am) building your familiarity with key buzzwords in the field. But, as I begin to read books, listen to podcasts, and become more familiar with questions that those outside of social innovation have about the field—I realize that terms and buzzwords may not be enough to achieve the overarching goals of building new kinds of businesses that generate monetary profit while positively benefiting society & the environment.
We Need to Collectively Build Our Social Innovation IQ
What makes social innovation an intriguing prospect is also what makes it complex: it blurs the traditional distinctions between sectors such as financial, government, social, and environmental and seeks to connect them in new ways that align with mainstream business.
Judging by the burgeoning number of social innovation fellowships and accelerator programs available, it looks like more people and institutions are seeking connect with and expand the social innovation arena.
If we are putting out time into engaging and investing ourselves in this emerging field, it may be helpful to build our collective social innovation intelligence.
Components of Social Innovation IQ
Full disclosure, I am not an expert in this field. But as I learn and grow into it, I find myself developing more focused questions about what it will take to succeed as a social innovator and what it will take for the field of social innovation to succeed in impacting the way business is done. Here is my (evolving) understanding of components that can make up a social innovation IQ:
  • Financial intelligence
  • Social & environmental cause intelligence
  • Adversity intelligence
Much of it, I suspect, will begin with understanding the flow of money. Even though capital is one element of the triple bottom line, it is the one that is often most identifiable with mainstream business. Currency is like the electric current that powers machines. Though causes and action often eclipse capital in their reach and karmic importance—to understand that even the most compelling projects will require steady, consistent, and adequate funding is to understand the important role it plays.
Additionally, if we do not have a clear understanding about the history, root, and context of the social and environmental causes we aim to address—we may not be addressing issues in the most effective ways possible. Worse, we may not realize future problems that we are seeding with our best-intention ‘fixes’.
Finally, any start-up entrepreneur will tell you that there can be a fair dose of adversity required to launch and succeed. And, this likely only multiplies when your business is focused on maximizing a triple bottom line (people, planet, profits). We have to be able to identify re-frame our problems, dwell in resilience, and connect with the social innovation community for support and guidance.
What to Read
I am in the process of trying to build my social innovation IQ. I would love to connect with others interested in doing the same. Here are a few books I thought could get the ball rolling:
If this topic interests you, and you are also seeking ways to build a social innovation IQ, connect through the comments below, on the Innov8Social Facebook page, on Twitter, via email.
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Start-Up Accelerator and Incubator Programs for Social Entrepreneurs

Accelerator programsWith the success of Y Combinator there has been a steady rise in the number of accelerator programs available for start-up entrepreneurs. Social entrepreneurs can now seek assistance from accelerator programs specifically designed to help build cause-based businesses that generate profit and seek to operate beyond a single bottom line.
Here are a few we came across. Feel free to add others in the comments section. Also, you can find a list of 50+ fellowship programs for social innovators here.
Start-Up Accelerator and Incubator Programs for Social Entrepreneurs

1. Matter Media Entrepreneurship Accelerator.  Matter invests $50k to give four months of runway to do needfinding with customers, prototype media solutions, and build traction with an audience.
San Francisco, CA
Apply by January here.

2. CHANGE Accelerator. The CHANGE Accelerator provides needed business support to social entrepreneurs who are developing innovative solutions to unmet social needs. 
Rhode Island.
Apply by February (Newport) or April (Providence) here.

3. Startl Accelerator. Startl Accelerator is a three-month immersion into Product design, market strategy and business development for early stage learning enterprises. 
New York City, NY.
Apply by March here.

 

4. Tumml Urban Ventures Accelerator. Tumml Accelerator is a three-month program supporting early stage companies developing innovative urban living solutions.             
San Francisco, CA.
Apply by March here.

5. StartX Accelerator runs three times per year, takes no equity, and is aimed at propelling startup founders out of Stanford through mentors, resources, and networks. 
Apply here.

6. GoodCompany Ventures. Accelerates the growth of early-stage ventures that generate profit and have a positive social impact.
Philadelphia, PA.
Apply by April here.

7. Social Entrepreneurs of New Orleans (SENO). The purpose of the Accelerator program is to significantly accelerate an early-stage social venture’s impact and financial sustainability. 
New Orleans, LA.
Apply by April here.

8. Dasra Social-Impact. Dasra Social-Impact is an executive education program, which provides successful non profits and social businesses with transformational skills necessary to build sustainable and scalable organizations to accelerate their impact. 
Mumbai, India.
Apply by July here.

9. Praxis Accelerator Program. The Praxis Accelerator is focused on four distinct areas: mentorship & customized expertise, action-oriented education & planning, peer networking, and access to capital sources. (note: faith-based)
New York, California, Washington D.C.
Apply by July here.

10. Agora Accelerator. Agora’s Accelerator is an intensive, 6-month program designed to give outstanding small businesses poised for expansion access to the social, human, and financial capital needed to accelerate their growth. 
Nicaragua.
Apply by October here.

11. Unreasonable Institute. Accelerates the world most unreasonable entrepreneurs and their ventures. Unreasonable Institute unites 25 entrepreneurs from every corner of the globe to live under the same roof for six weeks. 
Boulder, CO.
Apply by November here.

12. Greenstart Accelerator. Greenstart focuses on cleantech companies that are expanding the use of clean energy or reducing the use of dirty energy and can validate their business model quickly. The goal is to help more than 500 cleantech startups launch more successfully over the next decade.
San Francisco, CA.
Apply by November here.

13. Imagine H20 Prize Competition and Accelerator. Imagine H20 hosts an annual competition for global water solutions with prizes of upwards of $100K. Winners of Imagine H20 join a specialized accelerator program. (note: full post here)
San Francisco, CA.
Apply by November here.

14. Hult Prize. In partnership with the Clinton Global Initiative,  thousands of college and university students pitch their social impact ideas at one of six regional events in Boston, San Francisco, London, Dubai, Shanghai, and online. The winners receive the Hult Prize–an opportunity to spend the summer at the Hult Accelerator in Boston, MA.
Boston, MA.
Apply by November here.

15. Santa Clara University Global Social Benefit Incubator. The GSBI empowers socially-minded entrepreneurs to build sustainable, scalable organizations that solve problems for people living in poverty around the world. It is a combination of online, experiential, and skill-building offerings in an eight-month program.
Apply by December here.

16. Hub Ventures. Hub Ventures is a 12-week evening program providing funding and resources to a community of 16 entrepreneurs building for-profit solutions for a better world. San Francisco Bay Area, CA.
Apply by December here.

17. Investment Accelerator Fund (IAF). The Investment Accelerator Fund (IAF) helps accelerate the growth of new technology companies being established in Ontario and positions them for further investment by angels and venture capitalists.
Ontario, Canada.
Apply here.

18. NYC Acre. The New York City Accelerator for a Clean and Renewable Economy (NYC ACRE) helps clean technology and renewable energy companies in New York City grow, advancing the City as a role model for environmental sustainability and smart growth.
New York City, New York.
Apply here.

19. Canadian Cleantech Accelerator. The Canadian Consulate will select high potential companies from Canada to grow at the San Jose Environmental Business Cluster.
San Jose, CA.
Learn more here.

20. Social Innovation Camp. Social Innovation Camp brings together ideas, people and digital tools to build web-based solutions to social problems – all in just 48 hours.
Multiple locations.
Learn more here.

21. Ogunte Make a Wave Pre-Incubator Programme. Make a Wave provides learning and co-mentoring opportunities related to women angels and impact investors to 12 women social entrepreneurs through 6 lunch-time visits. (note: for women)
London, England.
Learn more here.

22. The Impact Engine. Impact Engine is a 12-week accelerator program that supports for-profit businesses making the world a better place. It provides $20K seed funding in exchange for 7% equity. 
Chicago, IL
Learn more here.

23. Sustainability Innovation Lab at GSVlabs. Powered by the Cleantech Open, the Innovation Lab provides focused content designed to help Sustainability companies grow and thrive. 
Redwood City, CA
Learn more here.

Other lists of Accelerator Programs:List of Global Start-up Incubators [Robert Shedd]
15 U.S. Startup Accelerators and Incubators (Ranked) [Tech Cocktail]*Updated on July 2015

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5 SF Bay Area Funding Resources for Social Entrepreneurs [Green Business Academy]

Green for All‘s Capital Access Program recently convened a two-day event focused on serving social entrepreneurs. The event, titled the Green Business Academy, was held September 29th-30th 2011, was a no-cost event, and took place at the University of Phoenix campus in San Jose, California—located in the vicinity of two of Silicon Valley’s noted tech & innovation pillars, Cisco and eBay.The Green Business Academy gathered green business leaders, socially responsible (impact) investors, legal experts, and support institutions providing local resources including legal services and mentorship necessary to build a social enterprise.Green Business Academy Day 2: Impact Investor Panel

Green Business Academy impact investors panel

Day 2 of the Green Business Academy in San Jose kicked off with a panel of impact investment firms discussing types of funding resources available to local SF Bay Area social entrepreneurs and how to go about pursuing them.

The panelists included:


5 SF Bay Area Resources for Social Entrepreneurs

The panelists largely spoke about their organization’s focus and resources. Below are key points about each of the 5 local resources introduced.

1. Opportunity Fund (@OpportunityFund) is a non-profit organization that supports local entrepreneurship by providing small business loans to maintain and grow companies. It has lent more than $17M to small businesses throughout California.

Panelist Alex Dang mentioned that Opportunity Funds has primarily served 2 types of green businesses: 1) smaller businesses that have had to go green because of regulatory requirements, and which have in turn formed marketing opportunity with new green business models; and 2) businesses that have chosen to source products sustainability.

You can read about Opportunity Fund success stories from their clients.

2. Hub Ventures (@Hubventures) is a 12-week program providing funding and guidance to Bay area social entrepreneurs, based in Hub SoMa and Hub Berkeley. Participants refine business models and investor pitches and build broader networks through weekly sessions, and compete for $75K in seed funding, as decided by their peers.

Panelist Wes Selke mentioned that Hub Ventures is raising $3M in funding to expand the program.

You can browse through the recent cohort of social entrepreneurs from the last Hub Ventures session.

3. Toniic is an angel investor currently comprised of 30 investors in 5 countries, with 3 global chapters, and is growing. Toniic has placed 18 investments with other $3M over last year.

Investors are interested in funding “tranformational enterprises”–that seek to do well by doing good. Toniic funds social ventures across the globe addressing issues such as poverty and climate change.

You can view selected investments by Toniic.

4. Investor’s Circle (@InvestorsCircle) invests in early-stage social start-ups and works to grow its base of “patient capital” investors. Patient capital investors prioritize external rates of return and optimize internal rates of return. Investor’s Circle hosts 2 social venture fairs per year where entrepreneurs and investors meet to discuss potential investment.

You can read about recent presenters at Investor Circle venture fairs.

5. GreenVC (@GreenEconomy) aggregates news and resources on green venture capital, funding, and startups. It is a go-to place to learn about green incubator programs, green funding resources, upcoming events for social entrepreneurs, and registration discounts.