Accelerator programs have emerged as a popular way to experience the startup process, especially within the social innovation context. One of the most visited pages of Innov8Social is the expanding list accelerator and incubator programs for social entrepreneurs.The ingredients for an effective accelerator program for social innovators appear to be:
- a balanced combination of resources (in-kind and seed funding),
- a focused purpose or social innovation niche,
- a robust panel of mentors and supporters, and
- a non-intrusive take (i.e. limited equity hold or monetary stake in the startup).
Meet Tumml, A New Urban Innovation Accelerator Program
Tumml is a new social enterprise accelerator program that seems to fit the bill for success. Its focus is supporting urban innovation—that is, harnessing entrepreneurship to address issues related urban development. Tumml is poised to become a platform for meaningful social impact addressing the unique problems and issues that arise in city settings.
Tumml is structured as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and has received funding from sources including a grant from the Blackstone Charitable Foundation and sponsorship from Accela.
Meet Julie and Clara
Innov8Social had a chance to talk to one of Tumml’s Co-Founders, Julie Lein about the accelerator—which is a startup itself gearing up for its first cohort of startup teams.
Interview with Tumml Co-Founder Julie Lein
Q1 | Innov8Social: What is Tumml?
A1 | Julie Lein, Tumml President and Co-Founder: Tumml is an urban ventures accelerator, with the mission of empowering entrepreneurs to solve urban problems. As a nonprofit, Tumml’s goal is to identify and support the next generation of Zipcars and Revolution Foods. Through a four-month program, Tumml invites early stage companies into its office space to receive hands-on support, seed funding, and services to help grow their businesses and make a significant impact on their communities.
Q2 | Innov8Social: What is the problem that the Tumml accelerator program is addressing?
A2 | Julie: From growing obesity levels to a less competitive education system, our generation has a huge number of challenges to overcome. And, in the current economic climate, we cannot rely on government alone to tackle these problems. More than half of US cities canceled or delayed infrastructure projects in 2011 and 2012 was the fifth straight year of declining city revenues. These cuts are having profoundly negative impacts on the safety, education, mobility, and health of the 81% of Americans who live in and around cities.
Q3 | Innov8Social: What do you envision as the solution?
A3 | Julie: Urban impact entrepreneurs can fill an important role in the current economy. From Recyclebank to Alta Bike Share, entrepreneurs start companies that are nimble and scalable – and we believe that there should be more of them tackling urban problems.
Q4 | Innov8Social: What are the unique challenges that urban impact entrepreneurs face?
A4 | Julie:
1) They have trouble securing seed stage funding – In a Tumml survey of 106 entrepreneurs, 33% of traditional entrepreneurs had secured venture capital or angel investment, compared with only 15% of urban impact entrepreneurs.
2) They’re more than twice as likely to want to connect with civic and government leaders – These entrepreneurs aren’t looking to get hired or embed themselves in government, but they need help when it comes to navigating the urban landscape.
That’s where Tumml comes in. Applications launch in March — look out for it on our website at www.tumml.org.
A5 | Julie: My partner Clara and I met at MIT Sloan and co-directed the women’s conference. We had such a good time working together that we decided to start a company after business school. Clara came from a real estate and sustainability background, and I came from a local politics and polling background, so urban challenges were very core to both of our passions. And then Tumml was born!
(By the way, the name is Yiddish for a “shake up”, which Clara’s grandmother came up with).
Apply for the Tumml Accelerator Program
- $20,000 of seed funding (in exchange for approximately 5% equity)
- $10,000 of in-kind resources including legal support, mentorship, and access to a co-working space
- An opportunity to pitch to VC’s, angel funders, urban policy, experts, and potential customers and gain valuable feedback, as well as an opportunity to scale their projects