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Hub Ventures - Accelerating Social Enterprises

Hub Ventures Spring 2011 Cohort

What happens when you put 16 up & coming social entrepreneurs together for 12 weeks to work out which 3 should split a $225,000 pot?

A whole lot of collaboration and stronger social enterprises.

Hub Ventures is a 12-week evening program in the SF Bay Area that provides funding and mentorship to a community of 16 entrepreneurs building solutions for a better world. My company, the Hoop Fund, was one of the 16 ventures accepted to the program, which is being built as a kind of Y-Combinator for social ventures.

The overarching goal of Hub Ventures is to make each of our ventures ready for our next stage of growth, and to match us with investors that will get us there.

At the heart of the program is a peer-review "Village Capital" process that leverages collective intelligence for success and empowers participating entrepreneurs to think like investors. In addition to the $225k in funding from Hub Ventures itself, the 16 of us have been meeting each week to get our ventures ready for Investor Day on June 16, where we'll all pitch to room full of investors looking to invest in social enterprises.

Some of the other ventures include:

  • Smart Markets: pioneering a system enabling households to "Save & Trade" unused energy & water.
  • NextDrop: winner of this year's Global Social Venture Challenge, is building a "lite" smart grid in South Asia that enables families to know when they're water is being turned on, saving thousands of lost hours waiting for water.
  • enabling families in South Asia know when they're water's coming,
  • LoudSauce - the world’s first crowdfunded media buying platform, where users promote ideas that matter through mainstream advertising channels like TV, billboards, and more.
  • Zamzee - an online rewards program for teens powered by their physical activity and a pocketsize Zamzee device that tracks their daily movement.

The Pioneer Launch of the Hoop Fund

The Pioneer Launch of the Hoop Fund

We had a phenomenal launch event for the Hoop Fund here in San Francisco this month, with more than a hundred of our close friends and colleagues coming together for the unveiling our website and to see what we're doing with two of our founding partners: Indigenous Designs and Alter Eco.

With Alter Eco chocolate, quinoa, and rice for people to enjoy, and designer apparel from Indigenous Design to try on, we presented five loan projects for the communities behind all the fantastic products on display: from a seed bank for the grower’s of Alter Eco’s red jasmine rice in Thailand, to a hand knitting loom for the weavers of Indigenous sweaters in Peru. All in all we raised $1200 in 0% loans that night for those projects and three others, and we’re working hard to get those projects fully funded.

The Hoop Fund

We were excited about how enthusiastically people responded to our vision of “invested consumption”: how we each can invest in the makers of great products in the developing world, and create our own personal stories about how we turned our consumption into something more meaningful. “I want to invest in chocolate!” one attendee told me after sampling several pieces of Alter Eco’s organic Dark Velvet chocolate.

To read more, head on over to the Hoop!

Investing in a better world, great chocolate too...


If you're in San Francisco this week, please join my colleagues and me for our friends & family unveiling of The Hoop Fund!

It will be a really fun evening of tasty treats and an opportunity to engage a great start-up project working to connect you to the makers of products you'll love, while also helping us get our first batch of projects started with our partners, Alter Eco and Indigenous Designs!

Please RSVP

All the best,

  • When: Thursday, August 12, 6:30-8:30
  • Where: The Hub in SoMa, 901 Mission St, San Francisco
  • RSVP: Here or on Facebook
  • Share on Twitter: #theHoop and find us @Jointhehoop

Like riding a bike - 5 tips to breakthrough to business

Kid riding a bike
Kick off the training wheels

When I was a kid learning to ride a bike, I was convinced that I first needed to figure out how to balance. You know... without moving. Fortunately, my mom saw my predicament and one day just pushed me and my bike off the driveway. To my surprise I didn't fall, and pretty quickly I was cruising around the neighborhood on my own. The lesson?

It's hard to get stability without forward momentum.

Similarly, I often notice a key balancing moment when the enterprises I work with go from being just promising ideas to something tangible. In India - for a new venture that promoted soy protein and nutrition - that moment came when our local team went from just talking about soy protein to actually cooking with it in their neighbors' kitchens… hundreds of them. Those experiences, and what it took to make them happen, changed everything: building an initial set of capabilities, credibility, and consumer relationships that actually pulled the business forward.

It's understandable that with so many details to manage in launching a business, you might instead get stuck in my poverbial driveway. But the key is to concentrate less on what your business will look like once it gets moving, and just figure out what you need to do to get it moving. Focus your efforts on an attainable breakthrough that will change everything.

Looking for Exponential Value - Lessons in Leadership

It should be obvious that there really is a limit to how much one person can do or to how much one person can earn; we should be looking for ways to create exponential value. Remind budding leaders about that every time they think about going it alone. For a developing leader, every "individual" success can be viewed as just reinforcing a bad habit; it blinds you from seeing how much greater your success could have been if you had looked beyond yourself.

Poor People's Knowledge - Handmade in India

A review of the 2nd Chapter of World Bank's "Poor People's Knowledge", about the challenges and opportunities in promoting the knowledge and innovations of the world's poor.

Poor Peoples Knowledge"How can we help poor people to earn more from their knowledge—rather than from their sweat and their muscle? This book is about promoting the innovation, knowledge, and creative skills of poor people in poor countries, and particularly about improving the earnings of poor people from such knowledge and skills."

The World Bank's "Poor People's Knowledge: Promoting Intellectual Property in Developing Countries" is a collection of essays by researchers and practitioners covering the subject of knowledge development and intellectual property in the Base of the Pyramid. The book (available in PDF) is an informative and thought-provoking read. Today we touch on Chapter 2 "Handmade in India" by Maureen Liebl and Tirthankar Roy.

Going Beyond Networking - Launching a Venture in the Base of the Pyramid

"How do I get the resources I need to start my BOP business?"

This question came up in a recent discussion with a colleague from the Univeristy of North Carolina. Dozens of students graduate each year from UNC's Kenan-Flagler Business School with a top-rated MBA degree and a passion to pursue Base of the Pyramid (BOP) opportunities, but few companies are hiring for these types of positions. You can always start your own business, but how does an aspiring entrepreneur from the top of the pyramid attract the resources needed to launch a new business in the BOP?

Just like any other entrepreneurial endeavor, it's all about building credibility.

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