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Accelerating the Accelerators: New Tools for Impact Entrepreneurs and Their Allies

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The impact investing world has borrowed a page from the tech-investing world, where accelerators like 500 Startups, Y Combinator and TechStars have helped launch Dropbox, Airbnb and hundreds of other companies.

In the last few years, dozens of “impact accelerators” have sprung up around the country and around the world. Most put entrepreneurs through boot camps of six to 10 weeks, hone their business — and impact — plans, and present them to investors at demo days and in private meetings. (Some impact accelerators, such as Village Capital and Hub Ventures, also make small equity investments in their portfolio companies.)

Now, some leading impact accelerators are taking another page from the tech playbook, creating some common tools for startups that aim to deliver social and environment benefits along with financial returns. Along the way, the accelerators hope to turbocharge their own operations as well.

isThe new Impact Accelerators Network page on F6S.com gives mission-driven startups a one-stop shop to apply for support from impact accelerators like Village Capital, Hub Ventures, Civic Accelerator, Impact Engine, Venture Greenhouse, Unreasonable Institute and the Global Social Benefit Incubator (GSBI) at Santa Clara University. Entrepreneurs can use the same application form across many of the programs.

There’s already lots of activity in the network. GSBI, one of the first to take advantage of the Impact Accelerators Network platform, opened applications Sept. 2 for its new cohort of ventures, which will be announced in January.

“We are pleased to launch a new, simplified application process,” says Andy Lieberman, GSBI’s new programs director. “We have aligned our application questions to those asked by other leading accelerators, and we are using the Impact Accelerator Network’s application platform. These changes make it easier for social entrepreneurs to apply to GSBI.”

Points of Light’s Civic Accelerator, which recently graduated its second cohort, is actively recruiting civic startups (both non-profit and for-profit) for its third round. Applications close Sept. 6. Impact Engine, in Chicago, will announce its second group of companies on Sept. 4.

Many of the network benefits are behind the scenes of the new platform, which is hosted by F6S.com, the London-based company that also hosts the Global Accelerator Network that includes many of the technology startup accelerators. F6S.com’s platform includes tools for managing applications, promoting programs and distributing “perks” from hundreds of business-support organizations.

Most importantly, founders and startup teams can get additional chances for acceptance into accelerator programs by opting in to a shared pool. If they are not selected by their original program, their application will be distributed to other accelerator programs that may be more aligned by geography, by sector or by stage of development. Likewise, accelerator programs can quickly increase the number of ventures available by participating in this shared pool.

Applicants can also opt-in to share some or all of their information with ImpactSpace, the open, global database of impact entrepreneurs, investors and deals. Watch for more information in the next few days about ImpactSpace, a project of Impact IQ. SOCAP, the Social Capital Markets conference kicking off in San Francisco this week, is also a sponsor of the new Impact Accelerators Network.

“The top entrepreneurs generating impact worldwide are so focused on creating real value for their customers that they’re rarely paying attention to what’s going on in the social capital markets,” says Ross Baird, executive director of Village Capital. “What we’re doing with ImpactSpace, F6S, and the Impact Accelerator Network helps us help the entrepreneurs in a friction-less way for incredibly busy, incredibly effective innovators.”

(Full disclosure: Impact IQ is a sponsor of the Impact Accelerators Network through our affiliated project, ImpactSpace.org. The author of this piece has been actively involved in launching the new common platform on F6S.com.)

About the author: David Bank

2 comments

  1. David Bank says:

    Rockefeller RFP for Impact Accelerators, due Oct 11: http://www.rockefellerfoundation.org/blog/accelerating-impact-enterprises
    “The recently announced “Innovations in Accelerating Impact Enterprise Growth to Scale” Request for Proposals process will enable us to gather, examine, and test effective and innovative concepts that can lead to the successful scaling of impact enterprises.
    Organizations interested in receiving support for breakthrough platforms, programs and practices that that enable Impact Enterprises in the US, Africa, and Asia to become self-sustaining, scalable and influential are encouraged to apply to the RFP before October 11. Continued innovation is critical to solve the needs of the poor and vulnerable and robust exploration of models for scaling social enterprises just might be what’s needed to accelerate impact.”

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