Incubators have long been in existence in the business world and with the explosion of tech startups, incubators have been even more omnipresent. For those unfamiliar with the idea, incubators in this context, incubate neonate ideas, companies, and/or founders. In the social sector, the concept is still gaining traction though there are several players, both old and new to the field, active in helping to launch ideas to better our world. The rise of the investor philanthropist has also driven the desire to invest in innovative structures, approaches, and programs in the social sector.
Incubators generally provide a ‘safe’ environment for the start up to grow and provide resources that might otherwise be difficult, too costly, or otherwise unattainable for a fledging company. This might include everything from funding to office space to technical skills (like app development) and process or structure development. Many incubators operate with some sort of reciprocity – with the investor taking equity from the company, but in the social sector, there are increasingly more academic institutions involved in incubators that don’t exact large costs from the founders.
Social sector incubators generally fall into one of the below categories:
- Accelerators typically provide time-limited support for businesses that need less handholding. This generally ranges from 90 days to 6 months.
- Incubators typically provide long-term support, generally for a minimum of one year, but often times with no time restriction and rather an end goal of helping to grow and profit from early stage ideas.
- Social innovation labs and boot camps typically prioritize education and collaboration, and are often housed at universities.
- Investment banks and social venture capitalists are traditional investors who are seeking impact driven investments that maintain above market returns.
- Private investor philanthropists are also individual investors who have the same role as social venture capitalists, except they are often willing to provide non financial resources to back the social mission of the investment, such as their time, expertise, name or access to their network.
Are you working on an idea to better our world and looking for resources? Let us know! Starfish Impact brings a business mindset to our work in the social sector. We can connect you to colleagues, help strategize around ideas, and suggest potential weaknesses that may be otherwise overlooked. We also love connecting resources to great ideas and people (all while driving missions)!
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