3 Best Social Good Startup Accelerators You’ve Never Heard Of
Scott Henderson is managing director of CauseShift, writes about social impact for the Chronicle of Philanthropy, and is founder of NewEmpireBuilders.com, a media collaborative covering the startups, non-profits and companies making the world better.
Startups have become the darling children of the world, it seems. Aspiring Mark Zuckerbergs, Caterina Fakes and Jack Dorseys are eager to launch the next big thing.
This rising entrepreneurial tide is having an impact on all sectors. The latest generation to enter the work force arrives at a time of high unemployment. Its members see large problems that need to be fixed, and often, they have little faith in incumbent institutions’ ability to solve them. In an attempt to change the world, these aspiring entrepreneurs are choosing to launch new ventures, for profit and non-profit, that embrace transparency, agility and innovation.
No single company, non-profit or individual can solve the problems facing humanity, however. It will take leadership from all directions, converging on the social impact sector. To that end, social entrepreneurs are pioneering a new wave of charities and socially minded companies.
What differentiates social entrepreneurs from other entrepreneurs? They have a focus on solving social problems and a greater willingness to reinvest profits into the communities they serve.
Some choose the traditional non-profit structure; others elect established, for-profit models; still others are embracing corporate structures, such as benefit corporations and low-profit limited liability companies (L3C). No matter the structure, these startup founders seek to deliver value to the marketplace while simultaneously solving community problems.
Non-Profit Startup Accelerators
Realizing the potential, venture capital firms, angle investors and civic leaders have created programs to help these startups take root in the marketplace. In exchange for equity stakes, for-profit accelerators and incubators provide robust resources and access to experts. Y Combinator, TechStars and a growing population of other companies have paved the way. Fortunately, social impact startups (for-profit and non-profit) are feeling the love, too, thanks to springboard organizations like Skoll Foundation, Scwab Foundation, Echoing Green and Ashoka.
Here are three more programs worth considering if you want to accelerate the growth of your social-impact startup.
- Unreasonable Institute – Boulder, Colorado: Unreasonable’s marketplace is open; you can help determine or even be one of the projects selected for this summer’s program. Do you like the mountains and being connected to a global roster of mentors? Check this program out.
- Civic Accelerator – Atlanta, Georgia: Just announced this year, the Points of Light Insitute’s Civic Incubator program is expanding to launch one of the first accelerators focused on social entrepreneurs. Learn more as it rolls out the program in the coming weeks and months.
- MassChallenge – Boston, Massachusetts: In its third year, MassChallenge is open to all startups and has no strings attached. Compete for $1 million in cash prizes, interact with over 600 mentors and experts over four months, and enjoy free office space overlooking Boston Harbor. Four of last year’s top cash prize winners were social-impact startups. Apply for this year’s program starting March 1.
What do you think about the social entrepreneur trend? How are you planning to take advantage of it?