As we plan for the September 2017 programme we reflected back on some of the learnings we took, not only from the programme itself but also the selection process.
In the commercial space we have always visualised a start-up as a journey of discovery, to find the business that can be built from the concept the founder starts with. While it also true that the founder undergoes a personal journey as well, this is very much as part of the enterprise journey.
In the social space, even when a commercial motive is strongly present, these two journeys, enterprise and personal, are far more intertwined. The reason for this is that the motivation of the founders is far more interconnected with what is a suitable journey for the enterprise. In a commercial startup it is to find the viable business model that works. In the social it is not only that, but also, as importantly, the manner in which it does that.
Social entrepreneurs can be quite a mix
As an example, at least two of our 2016 start-ups were driven to provide provision of support to disadvantaged children. In these two cases, in the absence of any state infrastructure that values those interventions, to become viable their initial audience evolved to one which dealt with similar impacts but not necessarily in financially disadvantaged groups. In other words, to get to where they want to go they need to build not necessarily in the most needy sector now.
Others that we encountered in the selection process did not necessarily want to create an enterprise themselves but rather wanted to aid the creation of such an enterprise. Others again, simply wanted to raise awareness of the gap and through that motivate others to address – in effect an advocacy role.
So, while commercial start-ups all share the specific goal of creating a financially viable business, in the social space those that act as the catalyst to the enterprise may not always be the party that wants to bring it to that point of viability.
So social entrepreneurs can be quite an exotic mix of advocate, initiators, commercial but always passionate, motivated and driven! In supporting them we need to understand the dual journeys that are occurring and what widely varying paths there can be to the end goal.