ONE WORLD: Innovations in Corporate Social Impact Summit

A fantastic line-up of corporate professionals will offer insight into the various initiatives underway at their organizations geared at increasing corporate social and environmental impact. With many activities now extending far beyond traditional corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts, the primary goals of this event are to educate participants about the practical programs and initiatives achieving success and generating maximum impact through an in-depth program of talks, panel discussions and peer-to-peer networking.

Focus - This program is focused on corporate initiatives where both financial and social goals are achieved simultaneously.
Participants - Attendees across a variety of corporate functions: Executive Office, Product and Service Line Leaders, Finance, Marketing & Sales, HR and Operations.
Local - The program is designed for companies based in the Bay Area to build the community of local professionals working toward a common cause.

COHERENCE COLLABORATIVE: Wisdom Quest for Leaders: A Retreat to Connect, Regenerate, and Create Impact

Now more than ever, business leaders and professionals are choosing to make financial, social and environmental accountability a priority at work and at home. Whether you are someone who is already an active part of this shift or looking for the inspiration and support to begin to take those first steps, Wisdom Quest for Leaders is about creating a foundation to help leaders implement change in their organization, industries, and/or communities.

Join like-minded business leaders and professionals at the beautiful Garrison Institute for two and a half days of group convening, peer-to-peer interactive activities, networking, discussions, gentle physical movement, relaxation, writing, contemplation, and time spent in nature during Hudson Valley's peak foliage color season. Conducted by leading experts, the goal of this journey is to share with you the tools to align your day-to-day performance and that of your organization with your socially conscious priorities.

As a business leader, you are in a unique position to effectuate significant change in your business and your community. Be inspired, create positive social impact, and inspire others!

Whether you are an entrepreneur, CEO, COO, impact investor, activist, public servant, director of a for-profit or nonprofit organization, or of an economic development agency, this retreat is for you.

Early Stage Entrepreneurship Support Programs

Early entrepreneurship support programs come in various forms, however, there are four main types: accelerators, incubators and coworking spaces, events and competitions, and formal degree or educational programs. They exist across multiple sectors (e.g., public, private, social) and vary widely in quality and scope, which contributes to a mix of research findings about how they impact entrepreneur formation and startup outcomes.


Early stage entrepreneurship support programs are increasingly popular, with thousands of programs existing across the U.S and abroad to support entrepreneurs and startups. Many of these programs are relatively new and hail from a range of sectors, including federal, state, and local governments. Universities play an increasing role, with most colleges having some form of entrepreneurial support program, and many larger universities hosting several. Non-profits and for-profit corporations alike also create programs to support startups and their founders. A whole industry now exists around supporting entrepreneurs with varied business models including fee-for-service, rent-for-workspace, equity-for-seed investments, philanthropic donations, and more. Entrepreneurial support programs have become ubiquitous, however they come in several types. Four main categories of early stage entrepreneurship support programs are outlined below.



The accelerator is a new form of financing and early stage entrepreneurship support program that was pioneered by Y Combinator in 2005. While the number of privately-funded accelerators has increased rapidly in the United States and worldwide, university-based and government-sponsored accelerators are growing in numbers as well. The typical accelerator consists of a time-boxed program with a combination of education, mentorship, and funding, often culminating in a demo day, but the exact structure and terms continue to diversify.

  • Privately-funded accelerators such as Y Combinator, Techstars, and 500 Startups operate primarily as early-stage investors in startups. Similar to venture capitalists and angel investors, accelerators invest in startups in exchange for equity, but the investment amount is much lower. Applications to this type of accelerator are typically open to any founder, and they are followed by a rigorous screening process to narrow down to the final cohort of startups. During the program, founders learn more about building a company through educational workshops, and are connected with various mentors affiliated with the accelerator. The large number of mentors is one of the distinguishing features of accelerators. Oftentimes, these accelerators also offer coworking spaces for the cohort, so founders are also able to learn and receive feedback from their peers. The end of the program is marked by demo day, which is an opportunity for founders to pitch their company in front of an audience with the goal of raising additional funding and awareness. Corporate-sponsored accelerators operate similarly, but usually with a focus on a specific industry sector or technology platform (such as Windows Azure).The academic literature has largely focused on privately-funded accelerators, specifically, on how participation affects performance and learning outcomes Hallen, Bingham, and Cohen, 2014; Winston and Hannigan, 2015; Yu, 2015. While the findings on fundraising have been mixed, research consistently finds that companies that participate in accelerators go out of business faster—potentially a positive “fail faster” situation.
  • University-based accelerators such as StartX tend to emphasize education and entrepreneurial experience over financial returns. Moreover, often founders have to be affiliated with the university. The main difference between university and privately-funded accelerators is that founders receive grants rather than having to dilute the company in exchange for seed financing. In the handful of instances that university accelerators do extract equity, they tends to take lower percentages than non-university accelerators (~2-3%). These arrangements are also found more often in biotech and life science university incubators than more open tech incubators. Furthermore, many university accelerators are built around a structured curriculum such as Lean Launchpad and offer students their first exposure to entrepreneurship.
  • Government-sponsored initiatives such as Start-Up Chile and the Growth Accelerator Fund generally invest in accelerators rather than companies themselves. The primary goal is to encourage economic growth, which in turn attracts accelerators and startups focused on specific aspects of regional impact, such as job growth and education. While government-sponsored accelerators are still growing in numbers, there is some evidence that certain aspects of the accelerator, such as schooling services, can increase the performance of companies Gonzalez-Uribe and Leatherbee, 2016.
  • In addition to different sponsoring entities, accelerators may also differ by their technology focus. For example Y Combinator is industry-agnostic while QB3 admits only startups in life sciences. Furthermore, several accelerators focused on underrepresented groups, such as MergeLane, have also emerged as a vehicle to increase diversity in the entrepreneurship ecosystem.

Incubators and Coworking Spaces

Incubators have overlapping functions with accelerators—namely mentorship, technical assistance, and often some form of seed funding—yet they can be differentiated from accelerators in a few key ways as well. Incubators tend to be longer in duration, usually around two or three years, compared to the multi-month accelerator timeframes. The impact of Incubators on their portfolio companies is difficult to untangle, but research has suggested that incubation has mixed results: decreasing survival rates but improving sales growth in companies that "graduate" out of the space (Amezcua 2010) Incubators tend to have a broad range of local companies rather than cohorts of industry-specific companies. And incubators tend to provide physical infrastructure more often than the culminating demo day approach found more commonly in accelerators (Dempwolf, Auer, D’Ippolito, 2014). Coworking spaces share this emphasis on providing physical infrastructure with incubators, often with educational opportunities as well. Coworking spaces differ in that many allow freelancers or branches of small companies to occupy space, in addition to startup ventures.

  • Incubators themselves have different strategies and practices. In terms of selection strategies, some are idea-focused while others are entrepreneur-focused. Concurrently, some select earlier stage ventures with a “survival-of-the-fittest” approach, while others carefully vet already promising teams for a “picking-the-winners” approach. The range of business support and innovation exist along a continuum from laissez-faire to strong intervention. Some have an emphasis on certain technology or regional innovation area clusters (e.g., life sciences, hardware, social ventures), while others tend to be more open (Bergek and Norrman, 2008).
  • Different types of incubators tend to have different kinds of outcomes. Private and basic research incubators tend to outperform economic development incubators at achieving their goals, while university incubators appear somewhere in the middle (Barbero et al., 2012).
  • University incubators are a rapidly growing part of the incubator landscape, claiming about a third of the share of incubators in the U.S. (Torrance, 2013). Like incubators outside of the academy, they also display a wide range of quality and industry foci. More recently, incubators targeting student entrepreneurs have emerged and are spreading at a range of institutions, including lower-ranking universities and community colleges (Mars and Ginter, 2012).
  • Coworking spaces have many of the elements of incubators, however they are not always exclusively for startup ventures. They often include individual freelancers and small staff teams that may function as a satellite site of a larger company headquartered in another city. Most provide open floor plans with drop-in desks for a few hundred dollars a month, and with more expensive plans for designated desk space or private offices (Spinuzzi, 2012). Their effectiveness in spurring synergy, productivity, and knowledge sharing are still under review, but it does appear that proximity to colleagues has modest benefits (e.g. Parrino, 2015). Coworking spaces are a growing phenomenon in most U.S. cities in part because of rising interest in startups, but also because of the steady increase in alternative work arrangements in the new economy (e.g., freelance, independent contract, contingent, and part-time).

Prize Competitions and Events

Prize competitions have a long and storied career in the history of innovation and entrepreneurship, including the solution to the calculation of longitude by English clockmaker and entrepreneur John Harrison (Sobel, 2007). Since the Longitude Prize, policy-makers have attempted to facilitate the entry and success of new innovative ideas through the creation of prize competitions for both the ideas themselves and new businesses that incorporate them. Prizes excel at inducing entry (especially heterogeneous) of new participants in an innovation ecosystem, but prize competitions also redirect labor and attention toward competition (potentially at the cost of useful work) so that prize competition design can have surprising consequences. Early theoretical work on the mechanism behind prize competitions has stressed monetary rewards, but the empirical work in prizes has suggested that non-monetary incentives seem to dominate monetary in the actual operation of prizes. The emerging empirical evidence on prize competitions has stressed the non-monetary impacts of competitions such as the signal value obtained by winning a competition (Brunt et al., 2012). Thus, prize competitions are one of the ways in which entrepreneurs can improve their capacity to gain access to critical resources. Another set of institutions that facilitate the process of resource acquisition are networking events which improve an entrepreneur's social capital. Taken together, competitions and prizes are critical institutions in an innovation ecosystem that facilitate the improvement of the capacity of early stage firms to gain resources.

  • Much of our understanding of prize competitions comes from the innovation literature that has focused on comparisons to other funding mechanisms. In his analysis of patents, prizes, and procurement, Wright shows that each of these mechanisms can be the optimal funding mechanisms in his model under different parameter conditions (Wright, 1983). Gallini and Scotchmer (2002) use patent design to explore the impact of institutions on how information aggregation shapes cumulative innovation, suggesting that critical information and capacity/willingness to pursue a new opportunity are not always housed in the same firm (Gallini and Scotchmer, 2002). A similar theme is echoed in Kremer and Williams (2010) who sketch out the trade-offs of a range of incentive mechanisms for innovation, stressing the importance of demand uncertainty as a main driver in market failures for products like vaccines (Kremer and Williams, 2010).
  • Other researchers have noted that there is a significant discrepancy between the theoretical motivation for prizes developed in the economics literature, which stresses the incentive effects of monetary reward, and the rationale for competition participation put forward by participants, who stress the importance of additional non-pecuniary receipts including novel information on customers, media attention, and a certification effect of winning (Murray et al., 2012). These non-monetary incentives evoke previous discussions by economists about the signaling rationale for participating in open source software development (Lerner and Tirole, 2002), but otherwise economic theory has remained relatively blind to the importance of non-monetary rewards.One of the few empirical attempts to characterize the impact of prize competitions on innovation is Brunt et al. (2012) on the agricultural prizes in England where they find that the value of monetary rewards was not as important as the medals that were given out (Brunt et al., 2012). The participants in the agricultural prizes benefitted more from the credentialing effects of prizes as a signal of the quality of their innovation than from the direct resources provided. The importance of non-monetary rewards in prize competitions has also been found in modern prizes such as the X-Prize and Northrop Grumman’s Lunar Lander prize (Kay, 2011). Similarly, the benefit of SBIR grants by entrepreneurial firms is more in the signal value to other external funders than the dollar value of the grant (Lerner, 1999; Howell 2015). In that sense, prize competitions operate in much the same way as other status mechanisms that operate to enable entrepreneurs to acquire resources more easily (Stuart, Hoang, and Hybels, 1999; Waguespack and Fleming, 2009). Relatedly, participating in prestigious accelerators and incubators can have a similar status signaling effect on startups, providing nonmaterial value that goes beyond the seed money or physical space these programs offer. This effect contributes to the mixed results in the literature on the effectiveness of such programs.
  • Formal networking events also increase the capacity of entrepreneurs to acquire critical resources to build their new ventures. A plethora of studies have noted the importance of entrepreneurs’ initial social capital in determining the survival chances of a new company (Shane and Stuart, 2002; Shane and Cable, 2002; Hallen, 2008). At a more macro-level, regional studies have found that geographies with higher levels of social capital produce more successful startups (Laursen, Masciarelli, and Prencipe, 2012; Samila and Sorenson, 2013; Kwon, Heflin, and Ruef, 2013). Fewer studies have explored the mechanisms whereby startup founders can improve their social capital. The likelihood that entrepreneurs seek outside advice is moderated by the provision of networking events and the level of entrepreneurship in their area (Davidsson and Honig, 2003), but their ability to capitalize on these networking events is highly influenced by their status characteristics (e.g., race and gender) (Abraham, 2014).

Degrees and Education

Entrepreneurship education programs have become widespread in U.S. colleges and universities, numbering more than 5,000 thousand courses on entrepreneurism nationwide as of 2008, with continued growth since (Torrance, 2013). Nearly every accredited school of business in the country hosts at least one class if not several, and hundreds offer formal certificates and degrees in entrepreneurship. Nor are entrepreneurship programs limited to business schools, with programs springing up in engineering and computer science schools, medical schools, law schools, and more. Beyond post-secondary programs, entrepreneurship education programs are offered in a variety of contexts from secondary and vocational schools to students enrolled as part of an unemployment relief program (Valerio, Parton, and Robb, 2014). Indeed, internationally, entrepreneurship education has been deployed as part of an effort at poverty reduction in a large number of contexts (McKenzie and Woodruff, 2013). Yet despite the huge number of programs, the literature on entrepreneurial education programs offers less than straightforward answers on how effective they are at increasing entrepreneurial intention, rates of startups, and long-term venture success.

  • Part of the lack of clarity comes from conflicting research reports. Some of the contradictory findings, however, can be explained due to entrepreneurship education research that suffers from: (1) a lack of theoretical grounding; (2) lack of methodological rigor; (3) lack of examination of moderators—or confounding variables, like family exposure to entrepreneurism, race, class, gender, immigration status, nationality, etc.; and (4) and lack of longitudinal tracking (Honing and Martin, 2014).
  • A meta-analysis shows that despite some of these contradictory outcomes, overall a modest net positive influence exists between entrepreneurial education and entrepreneurial knowledge and skill, positive perceptions of entrepreneurship, intentions to become an entrepreneur, and to a lesser degree on startup creation and performance outcomes. Academic entrepreneurship education environments appear to be slightly more effective than training or non-academic environments (Martin et al., 2013).
  • Another review of the literature on entrepreneurial education outcomes—this one exclusively in higher education settings—similarly finds modest positive relationships between entrepreneurship education and various entrepreneurial outcomes, especially the subjective outcomes (e.g., intention to startup, inspiration, knowledge) over the objective outcomes (e.g., actually starting up, long-term venture survival, financial outcomes). Notably, the relationships were stronger where the education included an emphasis on experiential learning rather than primarily classroom-based pedagogies (Nabi et al., forthcoming).

Future Research

  • Accelerators: While academic research related to accelerators has increased in recent years, there are still open questions surrounding the role of accelerators in the entrepreneurial process and their impact on the ecosystem as a whole. For example, do accelerator cohorts encourage founders or create competition? Do accelerators enable more entrepreneurship in a region? Furthermore, collecting data on nascent firms and having good counterfactuals for comparison remains a challenge. Quasi-experimental techniques and randomized controlled trials would be beneficial for establishing causal linkages between accelerators and performance outcomes.
  • Coworking Spaces: Future research on coworking spaces should look at the differences between spaces made up mostly or exclusively of entrepreneurs compared to those with varying proportions of freelancers and independent contractors. Do these groups share enough similarity in culture to benefit each other, or not? More work also needs done on the impact of spatial layout on synergy, information sharing, and productivity.
  • Incubators: Future research on incubators will benefit from attention given to the rapidly growing share of incubators found in universities. How do university-sponsored incubators compare with non-university sponsored incubators? Further, some evidence exists that startups may move between incubators, sometimes moving from less to more prestigious programs as the startup develops. Does this “fish-ladder” approach to moving between incubators enhance startup outcomes (by nurturing startups in evolving stages of development), or potentially hinder them (by putting unviable startups on “life support” for longer than they perhaps should be)?
  • Prize Competitions and Events: Future research on the impact of prize competitions and events should attempt to dissect the impact of the design of these institutions. In terms of prize competitions, researchers should focus on how the structure of judging impacts the startup firms that are selected and how the changes to prize terms vary the startups that apply to the competition. In terms of events, researchers can use the institution itself to understand better the mechanism whereby startup founders accrue and mobilize social capital in order to acquire the resources necessary to build their firms.
  • Educational Programs: Future research on the effectiveness of entrepreneurial education should improve by comparing several institutions (avoiding single institution studies), gaining a longitudinal over cross-sectional emphasis, drilling into the actual differences of course content and pedagogical styles (not all education is equal), as well as taking seriously variables related to the students (e.g., race, class, gender, previous entrepreneurial exposure). In addition, some evidence suggests that certain types of entrepreneurial education (e.g., a single course in business plan writing) actually can decrease the likelihood of the student attempting entrepreneurship. How do one or two courses, compared to a certificate, compared to a formal major or minor, and/or master’s degrees in entrepreneurship impact outcomes? Is it possible that undergraduates at the traditional age (18-22 years old) are not served well by an emphasis on the rigors of entrepreneurism, which detracts from their academics as well as more traditional internship experiences (nor appears to lead to high rates of sustainable venture creation)?

Data Sources


This post originally appeared on the Kauffman Foundation site and is republished here with permission. Daniel Davis of the University of California, San Diego; Daniel Colin Fehder of the University of Southern California, Marshall School of Business; and Sandy Yu of the University of California, Berkeley contributed to this article.

C2 Montréal

Welcome to the three-day immersive event that will transform the way you do business.

C2 brings together commerce and creativity to explore trends, opportunities, disruptions and major shifts on the horizon. Each year, in a collaborative environment specifically designed to provoke collisions and spark new ideas, C2 Montréal inspires 5,000 executives across continents and industries to challenge their biases, shift their perspective and explore completely new ways of doing business.

• Getting your hands dirty:
C2 brings together talented creatives, young entrepreneurs, and high-level executives across industries, disciplines and countries. A broad variety of workshops encourage the collision of ideas and approaches. Together, participants examine case studies, experience new processes, and prototype creative solutions to real business problems.

• Meeting the right people:
Each year, C2 Montréal gathers 5,000 of the most innovative people from around the world. When you’re in such good company, you could potentially learn more from the person sitting right next to you than from the person on stage. Online and offline connection mechanisms help participants find their match and plan ‘braindates’, as baptized by peer-learning pioneers E-180.
Every element of the event is also designed to maximize meaningful connection opportunities that appeal to all participants – from terrified introverts to avid hand-shakers.

• Celebrating our successes and failures:
Participants are invited to connect on a whole other level through a series of spectacle-filled evenings showcasing leading international and promising local artists and performers. C2 festivities have involved artistic partners including the world-renowned talents of Cirque du Soleil, Moment Factory, Centre Phi, Circo de Bakuza, James Murphy, Cirque Éloize, Win Butler of Arcade Fire, and Moby.

• Blending influences and ideas:
C2 was created in Montréal, and that is no coincidence. Montréal mixes cultures and languages, bridges America and Europe, flirts with the old and the new. Much like this natural hub for creativity and innovation, C2 is a blend of influences, a cross between disciplines, a hybrid creature that pulls together divergent trends to turn them into exciting opportunities.

The Entrepreneurial Mindset Is Your Swiss Army Knife

Most, if not all, entrepreneurs share a set of traits which can be described as the entrepreneurial mindset: An insatiable curiosity with a strong drive towards action plus a high(er) tolerance for risk which comes coupled with an elevated level of resilience. These characteristics allow the entrepreneur to identify issues, see solutions where others might only see problems and turn those ideas into products, services, and businesses.

Although some of us have been socialized to live these traits, all of them are trainable and learnable. Entrepreneurship programs around the world prove this on a daily basis. And these skills are not only useful if you are embarking on your own personal entrepreneur’s journey but rather they make for highly useful tools in today’s rapidly and constantly changing world.

Curiosity, the sense of wonder in this world, is something we all have. It’s the reason why children endlessly ask “why” in their quest to make sense of the world around them. All it takes to reinvigorate this skill is to simply become curious again. Don’t just brush things off when you encounter something new — ask why. With today’s tools, it is easier than ever to find an answer (without annoying your parents). And an answer often leads to more questions as you keep asking why and how.

Risk and resilience go hand in hand. Even if you consider yourself as highly risk averse (which in itself is not a bad thing), a powerful hack to overcome your potential fear or unease is to ask a simple question: What is the worst that can happen? If the answer to this question still seems daunting, break your approach down into smaller chunks until you get to the point where you feel comfortable with the risk you take (and the answer to your question).

Resilience is a muscle you build over time. The easiest way to flex this muscle is to take some (well calculated) risks — you will eventually fail; if you made sure your “worst case scenario” is not fatal, you will comfortably recover from the risk you took. The more often you take a risk, the more often you flex the muscle, the more resilient you will become (and you will feel more comfortable with taking calculated risks).

Armed with the trifecta of curiosity, risk-taking, and resilience there is little to nothing in the way of your ambition, plans and dreams.

This post was written by Pascal Finette, and originally appeared on The Coaching Fellowship Blog. It is republished here with permission. Pascal Finette heads up entrepreneurship at Singularity University and is Director of Everything Digital at The Coaching Fellowship. 

How You Can Help the Entrepreneurs You Care About Succeed: Lessons from 26 Communities Worldwide

She Leads Africa, a female founder-focused VilCap Community in Lagos, Nigeria

Silicon Valley is the envy of the entrepreneurial world, and it deserves to be. It’s a seamless ecosystem for entrepreneurs: if you’re in the Silicon Valley system, and have a great idea, you can find the resources you need to succeed.

But in other cities, local leaders have had to create this ecosystem from the ground up.

In 2007, in Boulder, Colorado, Brad Feld and Dave Cohen built Techstars as an early “accelerator”, surrounding new businesses with the resources and mentors they needed to succeed. Since then, local leaders have launched accelerators in more than 1,000 communities across the world.

But do accelerators and other entrepreneur support programs actually work? In 2013, our team at Village Capital joined with Emory University and the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs to release the first global research study on entrepreneur support programs: Bridging the Pioneer Gap. Three years later, the Global Accelerator Learning Initiative published a first-of-its-kind study to find out what works and what doesn’t in acceleration: looking at 15 of Village Capital’s investment-readiness programs, they found that our model was helping entrepreneurs raise more capital — and that we might want to spend less time on certain things, like teaching financial modeling.

Last year, our team at Village Capital set out to take this question — “What works in entrepreneur support?” — one step further. We teamed up with the DOEN Foundation, the Kauffman Foundation, and the Sorenson Impact Foundation to conduct a real-life experiment called VilCap Communities. In the pilot year, we selected 26 community leaders who committed to using Village Capital’s peer-selected investment model to invest $50,000 into local entrepreneurs. While not every program succeeded, all the programs provided instructive insights into how to build effective communities.

Here’s what we learned.

1. Know the problem you’re solving: Helping entrepreneurs raise money isn’t a natural outcome: it’s a distinct skill set

Most companies are under-capitalized: 78% of startup investment in the US, and 50% of startup investment in the world, goes to just three states, while less than 5% goes to women and less than 1% goes to people of color. Ecosystem builders can help.

Yet if the problem you’re solving for is helping entrepreneurs raise money — getting companies ready to close a deal with an investor — make sure you’re building the right solution.

Too many entrepreneur support programs promise everything to everyone. There’s a distinct difference between ‘business model development’ and ‘leveling up for investment’, but most entrepreneur support programs spend their time teaching the former, with the goal being to help companies validate their business model (think: “Lean Startup”, or “Business Model Canvas”) and then let entrepreneurs loose on a Demo Day, introducing them to investors — often with poor results.

I started Village Capital in 2009 to help entrepreneurs specifically level up for investment. Our core innovation: a peer-review process through which entrepreneurs in each program actually play the role of investor. Does this make for a better program? Although most of our 26 Communities chose to customize the tools we provided (only 23% used the full curriculum), 100% of the communities used peer-selected investment.

The results were positive: 92% of businesses felt that the program made them more ready to raise investment for their next stage of growth. Beyond that, 92% of entrepreneurs connected with a meaningful mentor, 80% connected with a potential partner, and 64% connected with a potential investor.

The lesson: Know the problem you are solving. Not every accelerator or entrepreneur support program should focus on investment-readiness. Some specialize in offering product validation; others help founders develop strategic partnerships with big institutions. But if your promise and goal is helping entrepreneurs raise capital, make sure your pedagogy and learning outcomes are targeted to measurable increases in investment-readiness.

2. Be honest that building an ecosystem isn’t a profitable end in itself (and that’s ok!) Entrepreneur support organizations are infrastructure, not businesses. Get real about your goals beyond profitability, and track them.

There’s an old saying: “The cobbler’s son has no shoes.” The idea applies here: accelerators and incubators that are helping local businesses often have trouble with their own business models.

In our evaluation of the pilot, we found that 55% of every dollar taken in by the 26 programs was philanthropic. At the end of 12 months, 11 of the 26 communities were unable to reach their capital goals for launch — and none of them were “sustainable” without philanthropic subsidy.

As it turns out, entrepreneur support organizations may never be “revenue-sustainable” in a traditional sense. That’s actually OK! These organizations, when effective, are critical infrastructure for a city or a community, and should be treated as such.

The Lean Lab, an education-focused VilCap Community in Kansas City

There are two important takeaways here. For policymakers, foundations and elected officials who commit publicly to supporting entrepreneurs: remember that you’ll more than likely need to put your money where your mouth is, and support those who support entrepreneurs.

For entrepreneur support organizations: make sure you are accurately communicating what your goals are and sharing your progress with entrepreneurs, funders and any other stakeholders. Are you trying to make every company that goes through your program ten times more profitable? Are you trying to build a more resilient community? If you fail to set expectations, you risk alienating those who can support you financially.

3. Topophilia: Communities should focus on sectors with deep and local resonance

Last fall over breakfast, I asked John Hickenlooper, Governor of Colorado, why his state had four of the top 10 best-performing ecosystems in the country. “Topophilia,” he answered. The word, meaning “love of place,” highlighted a Colorado truth: Fort Collins is distinct from Boulder and Boulder is distinct from Colorado Springs, and they are all thriving because they are trying to be the best version of themselves.

Our VilCap Communities hypothesis from the beginning was that cities shouldn’t try and recreate Silicon Valley; they should be the best version of themselves. Many of our programs embraced a sector focus that resonated with the city. For example, Philadelphia launched a financial technology program, building on Philadelphia’s institutional history of financial services R&D since Benjamin Franklin designed the coins for the first U.S. Mint. Cincinnati’s program focused on water innovation, building on their history as a bre town and their private sector leadership in the water sector.

The results for these sector-specific programs were strongly positive. The cities that embraced a sector-meets-city thesis raised money more quickly, attracted better entrepreneurs, and were more likely to run and succeed. 

VilCap Communities 2.0: What’s Next?

Rather than revolving around one distinct program, VilCap Communities 2.0 will be organized around three key skill sets that everyone who wants to support entrepreneurs needs to excel at, and work with partners worldwide to build solutions around each:

FIND: A tool to recruit for entrepreneurs like we recruit for athletes

Jim Clifton, Gallup CEO, often comments that if you’re a world-class athlete, then wherever you live, you’ve got a path to success. Our society spends billions of dollars recruiting athletes each year — why can’t we do that for people who build businesses? The single most common resource that our Communities requested was a tool to better recruit and evaluate companies better.

In the coming months, we’ll be launching a “FIND” working group of investors and entrepreneur support organization who want to think differently about how to source and evaluating communities. If you’re interested in being a part of it, let us know.

TRAIN: Best practices in helping companies raise money

92% of the entrepreneurs in the pilot year reported that the peer review model helped them level up for their next stage of investment. Building on lessons learned from the past year, we are working to combine our successful curriculum with an investor/entrepreneur curation tool.

We’re going to build on our work over the last year and launch a more focused “TRAIN” working group of people who are creating, implementing, and sharing best practices in investment-readiness programs. If you’re interested in joining, please let us know.

INVEST: Innovation in new financing vehicles

One of the organizing questions of VilCap Communities: “How do we get more venture capital into more communities across the world?” Maybe that’s the wrong question. Fewer than 1% of companies worldwide raise venture capital, and in most industries and places, “one size fits all” tools, like tech accelerators or venture capital funds, might be the right tool — or might not fit.

We’ve seen many other models work better in some contexts. For example, many agricultural businesses actually prefer a revenue-share structure to traditional equity investment, including Fin Gourmet, which is creating living wage jobs in one of Kentucky’s poorest counties and was recently profiled in Bloomberg. And my co-founder Victoria has highlighted other ways that new and alternative investment models are delivering better results.

Last week, the Kauffman Foundation convened a design session of 45 investors and entrepreneurs discuss a trillion-dollar “Moonshot” — how could we get a trillion dollars of new capital into entrepreneurs in the next decade? We’re not going to solve the problems we have by only using the investment structures we’re most familiar with. A third bucket of VilCap Communities 2.0 will be to explore blended investment options that look past the one-size-fits-all equity model, and instead deliver capital based on company needs: let me know if you’re interested in getting involved.

This post was written by Ross Baird, CEO of Village Capital, and originally appeared on Medium; it is republished here with permission. Learn more about Village Capital on their website and read their insights on Medium.

UNITE FOR SIGHT: Global Health and Innovation Conference

The Global Health & Innovation Conference (#GHIC) is the world's leading and largest global health conference as well as the largest social entrepreneurship conference, with 2,200 professionals and students from all 50 states and more than 55 countries. This must-attend, thought-leading conference convenes leaders, changemakers, and participants from all sectors of global health, international development, and social entrepreneurship.


"Open" is an annual gathering of practitioners of technology entrepreneurship in higher education.

VentureWell is dedicated to fostering an emerging generation of young inventors and entrepreneurs driven to improve life for people and the planet. Our Open conferences gather together engaged faculty and university students from across multiple disciplines to share stories, start new collaborations and learn best practices in the rapidly growing field of technology entrepreneurship education.

INVESTOR'S CIRCLE: Beyond the Pitch: Denver

Investor's Circle (IC) hosts national Beyond the Pitch events three times per year in different cities around the country.

BTP events are full-day, impact-oriented pitch events that include 10-12 companies and an audience of angel investors, family offices, foundations, and early-stage funds. These events take place in different cities are and open to companies and investors from all over the country.

The itinerary for these events typically includes company pitches and Q&A, company showcases and demos, informative entrepreneur workshops, a due diligence kick-off, and a networking reception as well as breakfast and lunch.

IC seeks companies with products, services, or platforms that are addressing urban challenges, including but not limited to the following areas:

• Education
• Energy
• Environment
• Financial Assess and Inclusion
• Financial Security
• Food
• Jobs
• Healthcare
• Housing
• Infastructure
• Natural Resources
• Safety and Security
• Shelter
• Transportation
• Waste
• Water

If selected to join the IC Entrepreneur Community, you will receive the following benefits:

• Visibility on IC's secure online deal platform where members regularly search and locate investment opportunities
• One-on-one pre-event coaching from expert IC staff, including practice pitches with ongoing feedback on the content and delivery of your pitch deck
• Elevator pitch training session with Esther Campi, a leading expert and trusted adviser to America's top leaders (from Fortune 500 CEOs to U.S. senators)
• GIIRS (Global Impact Investing Rating System) rating and assessment from B Lab, the gold standard for impact measurement
• Engagement and participation in a live BTP event with our audience of angel investors, family offices, foundations, and early-stage funds including:
- Pitch: Present your company and investment opportunity followed by Q&A
- Demo: Dedicated time and table to showcase your product or service
- Network: Exclusive opportunities to engage with investors throughout the event
• Informative workshops from leading service providers on pressing needs facing entrepreneurs
• IC-facilitated due diligence if there is investor interest including:
- Schedule communication and logistics
- Facilitate conversations and follow up
- Assist with information and data requests from investors
• Collaborate and engage with like-minded social entrepreneurs

Food and Entrepreneurship Conference (La Cocina)

Every year, our conference brings together 250 of the nation’s food industry experts and experienced entrepreneurs to speak, workshop and debate the realities of building successful food businesses and to examine how food business owners can be activists for change in their communities.

This year’s conference kicks off on Sunday, November 13th with a full day of conversations, workshops and food at The Village on Market Street. Monday, November 14th we’ll be hosting guided walking tours (with plenty of eats!) to experience food entrepreneurship on the ground.

Our conference is designed with the fundamental belief that ideas, dialogue, and the type of market places they generate, are more powerful when considered from multiple viewpoints. In an effort to build a food economy that is reflective of the values of the San Francisco Bay Area—diverse, inclusive and innovative—we created this conference six years ago in the hopes that, if carefully considered, we can revolutionize the way we produce, eat and think about food.


is to cultivate low-income entrepreneurs as they formalize and grow their businesses by providing access to affordable commercial kitchen space, industry-specific technical assistance and access to market opportunities. We focus primarily on women from communities of color and immigrant communities.


is that entrepreneurs gain financial security by doing what they love to do creating and innovative, vibrant and inclusive economic landscape.


We host the Food & Entrepreneurship Conference to promote conversations about the work we have been doing every day for the last 10 years. Our hope is to bring together entrepreneurs and people interested in our food economy to discuss ways that we can continue to bring resources to an inclusive group of food business owners both in San Francisco and beyond.