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Paul Miller: running an impactful social innovation accelerator

PICNIC Mexico invited Paul Miller of Bethnal Green Ventures (BGV) to share his experiences of running an accelerator program for social entrepreneurs during the plenary program of the Latin American Forum on Impact Investing (FLII). BGV is based in London at NESTA.

BGV runs a three month accelerator program and helps launch 20 companies per year.

Paul shared the lessons BVG has learned in terms of taking a chance on ideas and impact and successfully launching early stage social ventures.

Some of the social ventures that Paul talked about:

FairPhone: Launched by Bas van Abel, a Dutch designer and social entrepreneur, FairPhone is the world’s first smartphone with fairly sourced minerals from the Congo and produced under fair working conditions in China. One of FairPhone’s social contributions is to help open supply chains in consumer electronics manufacturing. FairPhone received and investment of GBP 15,000 from BGV and has raise EUR 8 million through crowdfunding.

Good Gym: This London-based gym matches young people who go to the gym with older people who are isolated in their homes. Good Gym members fun to the houses of their clients and also participate in group runs to places where they then do strenuous community work such as shoveling manure (no joke). Good Gym leverage the power of technology: offline activities coordinated and scaled via the Internet.

OpenUtility: This service focuses on the network effect. OpenUtility, an algorithm which matches electricity supply and demand in real-time, is challenging the monopoly on electricity provision in the United Kingdom. This service gives users control over how they source and consume their electricity and is being piloted in Cornwall.

Brutally honest, Paul admitted that half of the companies that complete BGV’s accelerator program fail, mainly because they can’t find customers or the team collapses.

Paul’s advice to accelerator programs supporting early stage entrepreneurs: “”Be generous. Be honest. Take a risk on if start ups can an impact and if they can successfully launch a business. Learn through doing. Be a fan. Be ambitious. Look after people, especially when ventures fail. Celebrate the founders.”

Report by Deborah Carter, PICNIC’s Director of Sales and Strategic Partnerships

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