The 2013 GSBI® Accelerator program at Santa Clara University was the third year I’ve mentored social entrepreneurs who hail from far-off parts of the world such as Ghana, Kenya and India, or those who provide services or opportunities for the underserved far afield or close to home.
I am one of dozens of Silicon Valley executives, consultants and startup entrepreneurs that have volunteered over the program’s decade-long history, to counsel social entrepreneurs toward the university’s goal to positively impact a billion people by the year 2020.
This year, GSBI admitted 12 well-advanced social enterprises ready to scale their operations and their social impact, instead of the seed-stage entrepreneurs invited in past years. By starting with proven businesses, GSBI’s curriculum and our mentoring shifted towards operations and finance, and applied a gap-analysis structure to prepare the entrepreneurs for the rigorous questions and scrutiny expected from impact investors.
As a management systems consultant with a master’s degree in public health, GSBI matched me and two other mentors with Javier Lozano and Clinicas del Azucar of Mexico. Javier brought to GSBI Accelerator a well-thought-out and growing enterprise seeking to improve the lives of the more than 14 million people in Mexico unable to otherwise afford specialized diabetes care.
As part of the mentoring process, we applied the GSBI gap-analysis tools to set a framework for systematically identifying pitfalls potentially awaiting Clinicas del Azucar’s expansion, which is underway this year. Our involvement helped confirm for Javier where to focus for the transition from one to multiple locations, while still maintaining customer loyalty, quality service and brand identity. As it turned out, Clinicas del Azucar held up quite well under this analysis, clearly demonstrating an understanding of its patients and their particular needs. We felt Clinicas del Azucar had a huge potential for scalable social impact on a worldwide health crisis facing people with a life-threatening but totally treatable condition. We also learned that Javier was already in negotiations for his second round of funding.
Javier proved to be a highly capable CEO, and as mentors we were able to act as an experienced sounding board, validating his next steps for expanding the clinic offerings, innovating the lead generation process and capitalizing on the lifetime value of a Clinicas customer. We helped him further his plans for developing his team and brand, which we saw as key to growth and in turn key for closing a deal with investors.
Through Javier we learned about the possibilities that arise with a shift towards specialized medical care: fast, personalized, and streamlined delivery; distributed point of care; and flexible billing, to name a few.
Starting with a compelling story, we helped Javier fine-tune how he presented it: improving his messaging, editing for simplicity and impact, and offering several other podium tips. He always listened with a gracious but discerning manner, accepting and adapting much of our advice. He also exercised his own judgment – which was not only appropriate as a CEO, it was also the right call.
For example, in his practice presentations, Javier tag-lined his idea as the ‘McDonald’s of diabetes’. Neither I nor his other two mentors liked it, preferring a more traditional reference. We suggested alternatives several times, but he chose to keep his original. After the first live presentation, the audience feedback returned with surprising results. The popularity of the comment among the audience could not be ignored. As an attention-getter it was a winner, and Javier kept it in his presentation for the final program. Indeed, I look forward to seeing the newest response feedback when we resume work later this month.
The appeal of GSBI to mentors like me is its ability to attract and filter social enterprises (SEs) with as much potential as Clinicas, and to find and keep an amazing group of experienced mentors from one of the most innovative places on earth. These two groups paired together for a series of foundational ‘thought experiments’ gets the creative juices flowing that jumpstarts the SEs to their next level, and enriches the professional and personal lives of everyone involved.
Lynne Anderson is an environmental and business sustainability management professional in the San Francisco Bay Area who provides management consulting services for many Silicon Valley firms including NUMMI, SunPower Corp, and several confidential electronics manufacturing clients.