Last month in Silicon Valley, California, a dozen social entrepreneurs from countries including India, Mexico, Kenya and Ghana came to Santa Clara University’s campus as part of a 10-month mentoring and training program, the GSBI® Accelerator.
It was the university’s 11th year of hosting the program. But this year the focus reflected the fact that as a sector, the social entrepreneurship space is maturing and many former startups are trying to expand rapidly and exponentially – that Holy Grail known as ‘scaling’ – and to attract impact capital to do so.
In a nod to the fact that investors require entrepreneurs to have a thorough knowledge of their performance gaps, a clear path to reaching scale, and a rock-solid presentation pitch, this year the organizers of GSBI invited more advanced-stage social entrepreneurs to attend. Instead of the array of promising startups that had been invited in years past, the Class of 2013 attendees had an average of more than five years’ experience. They each had reached key milestones such as Series A funding, sub-20 per cent expense ratios, or financial sustainability. And each had proven their product or service’s fit in the overall marketplace.
During their stay, they spent three to five hours daily receiving counselling from a team of two or more mentors apiece, who grilled them on their business plan presentations and took them on a ‘deep dive’ into the weakest links in their models, management team or other business infrastructure. They got targeted lectures from instructors such as Al Hammond of Ashoka; John Kohler, co-founder of the investor consortium Toniic; and Steve White of Svaya Nanotechnologies. Topics included designing for impact, ‘sharpening your ask’, and alternative finance and international structuring.
On 22 August, they gave their final presentations to an invitation-only audience of 250 investors, startup executives, and other Silicon Valley luminaries interested in this space.
Over the next three days you’ll hear from three participants in the GSBI Accelerator program: a business mentor, an entrepreneur and an impact investor mentor.
You can learn more about GSBI Accelerator – as well as a companion program for startup social enterprises called GSBI Online – at the website of Santa Clara University’s Center for Science, Technology and Society.