“We work with a lot of young companies in the developing world. More and more of these companies are run by young entrepreneurs, and they need support from individuals with skills that FMS training provides.”
We spoke with Luni Libes, the Founder and Managing Director of Fledge, the conscious company accelerator out of Seattle, Washington. Fledge is a new partner of the Frontier Market Scouts and will be looking for fellows from our current and future cohorts to work with the enterprises that Fledge accelerates, also known as fledglings. Luni tells us more about Fledge and the new partnership with FMS:
Tell us about Fledge
Fledge is a for-profit business accelerator focusing on impactful companies. Nearly all other accelerators working with socially conscious startups are non-profits, and this sets us apart in various ways. We are a mission-driven for-profit working with for-profit startups that have a strong environmental/social mission. We don’t discriminate based on sector or location and anyone who fits the description can apply. Although we receive hundreds of applications- more than 250 in this last season- we pick only seven. Each of the seven receives $20,000 and come to the Impact Hub in Seattle to work side-by-side for eight weeks.
How does the accelerator work?
We call our participants fledglings, and while they are in our accelerator, we enlist a lot of help from mentors. This was a model invented nine years ago from TechStars, one of the inventors of the modern business accelerator, and we’ve adapted their program for the impact space. Because we have so many companies together at the same time and in the same place, it becomes a draw for experienced professionals to share their time and to learn more about the companies. We currently have over 330 volunteer mentors and while they don’t all come at once, over the two months the teams are in Seattle, they collectively provide serious support to our entrepreneurs. The fledglings benefit from the wide range of expertise from mentors in various sectors. It’s very inspiring; we will often see mentors attach themselves to a specific team and continue to advise them regularly past the accelerator stage. For the mentors, it is a way to connect to early stage ventures and provides them with investment opportunities or otherwise, based on their interests.
How many companies have graduated from Fledge to date?
Fledge began four years ago and to date we have completed 6 sessions with a total of 52 graduates. All but six of those graduating companies are still in business and growing. Of those 52 companies, about half are from the U.S. half from other countries around the world, with over a dozen based in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Why did Fledge choose to partner with FMS?
We work with a lot of young companies in the developing world. More and more of these companies are run by young entrepreneurs, and they need support from individuals with skills that FMS training provides. We have mentors who work with the companies and who dedicate hours and hours of help, and this is fundamental to our accelerator process. We know our companies will benefit a great deal from fellows who can dedicate months once the companies have finished the accelerator. We’re excited for the partnership and to see the fellows in action.
What does impact mean to Fledge?
For us, our impact lies in helping these companies succeed because we truly believe that the world is a better place if these companies exist. We take great care in choosing the company and assessing their missions. They are all working to solve very important issues in their city and country. We support them to help make that work possible and sustainable, and that is our impact.
What is on the horizon for Fledge?
FMS Fellows in country with our fledglings, for one!
Our next accelerator starts Monday, April 25th and runs through Friday, June 17th. We have seven teams coming from five countries: two from Uganda, two from Malawi, one from Tanzania, and one from the Philippines, plus one already based in Seattle. Moving forward, we plan to replicate the success of Fledge Seattle in other major world cities, one new city per year, as far and wide around the world as possible. With that goal in mind, if anyone is interested in bringing Fledge to their city, we welcome them to contact us.
The Frontier Market Scouts (FMS) program seeks purpose-driven professionals to join its award-winning social enterprise management and impact investing certificate trainings in Monterey, California (June 6-17, 2016), and Washington, DC (Winter 2017). Founded in 2011, FMS has trained more than 300 professionals since its inception. FMS received a 2013 Cordes Innovation Award from AshokaU and has now become the flagship program of the newly launched Center for Social Impact Learning at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. The early application deadline is April 29, 2016. Learn more and submit your application here.