Entrepreneur

Santa Clara University’s social benefit incubator: 202 enterprises graduated, 100 million lives impacted

Based in the heart of the Silicon Valley, Santa Clara University is one of the many educational institutions that have developed programs aimed at social entrepreneurs — people who want to do some good while doing well.

Last Thursday, 13 social enterprises — including Husk Power Systems, which is part of President Barack Obama’s Power Africa Initiative — gave speed pitches to a room of impact investors and social entrepreneurship practitioners. After the pitches, they showed off their enterprises as part of the Global Social Benefit Incubator (GSBI) Accelerator Showcase.

The startups were members of the program’s 2013 cohort, a group following some successful comapnies. Of the 202 enterprises that have completed GSBI programs since its inception in 2003, 90 percent are still in business and can boast of having positively impacted nearly 100 million lives around the globe and raising $89 million in funding.

The “global” in GSBI is not a misnomer. These social entrepreneurs, aged 27 to 45 and from 55 different countries, have gone through GSBI’s programs. There are two: GSBI Accelerator and GSBI Online.

The GSBI Accelerator’s central theme is investment readiness. Social entrepreneurs in the program work on refining their business models, marketing strategies, development and talent management, and fundraising strategies. These social entrepreneurs learn how to find appropriate capital that will allow the rapid increase of an organization’s impact.

The GSBI Online program helps early-stage social enterprises develop business plans, elevator pitches, annual operating plans, and marketing strategies. For many social entrepreneurs, the online program serves as a stepping stone to the accelerator.

Members of the 2013 cohort include Spring Health Water Ltd., a seller of affordable clean water to rural Indians; Clinicas Del Azucar, a provider of diabetes care to the middle- and low-income populations of Mexico; and Juhudi Kilimo, a financial services provider for small-scale farms in Kenya. Profiles of all the members of the 2013 cohort can be found on the GSBI Accelerator’s current class page.

Social entrepreneurs in both programs receive mentoring from both Silicon Valley executives and mentors local to the entrepreneur. Big name mentors include Jeff Miller, former chief executive at Documentum, and Andy Paul, chief executive of Corsair Memory. Other executive mentors have worked at Applied Materials, Hewlett-Packard, Siemens, Sun Microsystems, Intel, KLA-Tencor, Cisco, and Lockheed Martin, among others.

The program and its impact have drawn excitement from all involved, including Cassandra Staff, GSBI’s program director.

“Being a part of the convening of successful social entrepreneurs from all over the world, executive mentors from Silicon Valley, thought leaders in the impact investing and social entrepreneurship movement, and dedicated, inspired students, staff, and faculty is a magical thing unique to the GSBI Accelerator in-residence. The amount of work that is done to advance each venture’s cause is astounding, and I feel honored to be a part of the experience,” she said.

Readers looking for more information on the GSBI Accelerator can find it on its website or YouTube page. Those interested in learning more about social entrepreneurship should read this publication’s guide to the movement.


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