After FMS

Social enterprise and impact investing, as a modern flavor of entrepreneurship, builds on a long tradition in DC of solving problems and pursuing new ideas.  As the warm and sunny weeks of summer speed by, I’m beginning to ponder how to stay involve with the concepts learned in the Frontier Market Scout program when I return to the regular working routine.

Like an electromagnetic pulse, abbreviated as EMP, this summer has been a short burst of energy which I hope will propel me into a new direction.  My version of EMPs is based on the four areas I hope to explore as options to stay connected to entrepreneurship after this program ends: education, mentoring, pro bono work, or social networking activities.

Education – Clearly enormous resources are dedicated at educational institutions to teach, promote, and research entrepreneurship.  As a graduate of a joint program between a Canadian and U.S. business school, automatically alumni options are available to stay connected.  Current students are more interested in business concepts because of the ability to have a positive social impact.  Therefore, Cornell is promoting an across campus perspective of entrepreneurship at the undergraduate level.  Even my high school now offers entrepreneurial courses.  Opportunities abound in the student (of all ages) entrepreneurial space!

Mentoring – Dollars help grow a business idea but a huge amount of knowledge sharing may be more beneficial in the early stages.  Mentoring is a key part of the incubators, hubs, accelerators, and every other program that supports entrepreneurs.  Board members or advisory members may eventually get compensation but, shockingly, a lot of opportunities exist for free knowledge sharing resources.  Just looking in the DC area I see a variety of organizations which may be worth volunteering with, examples: Empowered Women International, Score, and Global Alliance.

Pro Bono Taproot Foundation has a well-known pro bono movement but surprisingly a lot of job classifies list “volunteer jobs” that require specific skills for startups (particularly in microfinance and the social enterprise space).  DC traditionally has an army of low cost summer interns but who knew that so much other work gets done for free (or minimal compensation).  Whether it is doing due diligence for Beyond Capital Management or scouting future teams for the next Civic Accelerator, all sorts of pro bono options exist for helping entrepreneurs and nonprofits while using your specific expertise.

Social Networking – Beyond Village Capital Mondays, DC has meetups galore around social enterprise and entrepreneurship.  For years, I’ve highly recommended Net Impact events.  This summer I’ve learned there are A LOT of events to be found here. Conferences, conventions, and special events, including Entrepreneurship Week in October, are just the tip of the iceberg.  The opportunities mushroom if you include international development events within the scope of social enterprise.  So check out Facebook, Twitter, Google groups, Meetup, and all the other internet sources to find an event near you!

As I ponder how to allocate my time across the EMPS options, it is crystal clear that I should be able to stay connected to the social enterprise space and entrepreneurship long after FMS is a distant memory.

Civic Accelerator

As a Frontier Market Scout, this summer I’m exploring social entrepreneurship with the capital city as my home base.  Luckily, DC has a lot of activity in the impact investing space, not to mention tons of nonprofits that are looking for innovate ways to solve world problems, and government agencies of all types.

After one week of training at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, I returned to DC to spread the word about upcoming Village Capital events and to actually meet entrepreneurs whose innovative ideas may change tomorrow’s marketplace.

As a Finance Associate, I spent the first week helping out at the Points of Lights/Village Capital Civic Accelerator.   In the middle of three months of training and support, the teams were here in DC for workshops on topics like hiring great employees and creating effective organizational charts to financial models and authentic voice.  It was fantastic to see all the enthusiasm of the teams and how much their pitches improved over just a couple of days. The final pitch session for the week was four minutes of presentation and four minutes of questions in front of an audience of conference attendees.  The questions came from:

Cliff Burrows, Group President, Starbucks
Joe Sibilia, CEO, CSR Wire
Chris Simmons, President, PwC Charitable Foundation and Managing Partner, PwC
Sonal Shah, Senior Fellow, Case Foundation

At the end of the pitches, the audience voted for the Best Pitch, Most Impact, and Most Fearless.  Public Lab, Jubilee Project, and Village Defense won, respectively.   Below are the teams – please check out their websites as they all had great stories and interesting problems to solve.  Great job to all the Points of Light/Village Capital staff that run the Civic Accelerator!

Cornell University graduates have had a strong presence in the Civic Accelerator with UBelong, winning Cohort 1, and Practice Makes Perfect, in Cohort 2.  Go Big Red!  So as round three opens up for entrepreneur applications in mid-July 2013, hopefully the tradition will live on.

With Village Capital having an office here in DC, I’ve been able to catch up with staff particularly at their Village Capital Mondays happy hours.  While the venues and people are different each week, the conversations are always interesting with former Frontier Market Scouts, entrepreneurs from previous programs, and other guests.  Informative presentations are anticipated to be added in the future.  Conversations topics have covered a wide spectrum of global activity.  Examples include updates on Development Marketplace (World Bank) programs in Egypt and India, how Social Impact Bonds are being used in New York City, and a 2013 Presidential Innovation Fellow talking about her work in open data initiatives.   Hope to see you at the next Village Capital Monday!

Civic Accelerator Cohort 2 Ventures

  • EPIC empowers creative professionals to make social change happen.
  • GenX & Associates helps communities dashboard their social, economic, and environmental data online for local decision-making.  (Now rebranded as SnapSense)
  • GraphAlchemist offers Graph as a Service (GaaS) to provide data driven solutions to complex problems.
  • Jubilee Project makes videos for a good cause that empower, enable, and inspire the next generation of change-makers.
  • is the funding platform for civic projects.
  • OpenCurriculum is an online platform to create, access and share K-12 learning material
  • Practice Makes Perfect works to narrow the achievement gap in low income U.S. neighborhoods through summer enrichment programs.
  • Public Lab is a community that develops and applies affordable, open-source environmental monitoring tools to empower citizen scientists.
  • Village Defense provides neighborhoods with a real-time communications system to keep neighbors safe and connected.

About the Civic Accelerator

Points of Light and Village Capital have partnered to launch the Civic Accelerator with founding support from the PwC Charitable Foundation and Starbucks Foundation.  The Civic Accelerator supports and invests in for-profit and nonprofit startups from across the country that put people at the center of social, environmental and economic change.