networks

social or technological, connecting people from all walks of life

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!

Linking Into the BoP

Image rendered from logos of Linked In and the BoP Learning Lab

A few years ago I was swept up in a wave six-degrees-of-separation invitations from the professional networking site Linked In, most of the invitations coming from old b-school classmates at UNC.  As a good little networking MBA, I sent out as many invitations as I could too, feeling a certain thrill in seeing the breadth of my professional and social network. However after that initial rush I pretty much forgot all about it.  “Who actually uses this thing?” I remember thinking.

Then a week ago I got another invitation from an old colleague of mine at Rockwell International who wanted to reconnect and to share the news that a patent application of ours had finally been accepted (I have two patents in my name, officially making me an “inventor”, albeit the kind that doesn’t make any money for his inventions).  This old colleague wrote, “I always wondered what happened to you after you went back to school, sounds like you’re doing some interesting things!”

Those words sent me back into the Linked In universe, searching for other old colleagues that I had missed.  And after the excitement of reaching out to old acquaintances had passed, I decided to go poking around my Linked In network. It didn’t take long before I started looking for other people who also worked in the Base of the Pyramid. About 65 connections came up, interestingly enough most of them at 2 least degrees away or more: meaning I have few direct connections working in my own field.  

I'm a CatComm Champion - Join my pledge!

Im a catcomm championHere's an opportunity to help me support an incredible organization that we're working with here in Rio, one that is helping local communities throughout the world solve their own problems. I have agreed to become a CatComm Champion, pledging $500 to support Catalytic Communities’ unique work with community leaders around the world, but only if I can inspire at least 50 of my friends and colleagues to each contribute $50 or more to match my pledge (for a total of at least $3000).

The Power of Peer Networks - CatComm and PledgeBank

“Everybody knows the proverb about how it’s better to teach a man to fish than just to give him a fish, but there’s a step beyond that: it’s better that a man’s neighbor is the one teaching him to fish, his peer.  If some expert swoops in from afar you miss half the value of the interaction because of the inequality in that relationship. But if it’s his peer teaching him? Then the man is much more likely to offer something in return.  You are much more likely to create a real sustainable relationship rather than just a new dependency.” Theresa Williamson, Founder, Catalytic Communities

Can individuals change the world? It's all a matter of leverage…

At BRINQ we've been exploring the creation of peer networks for local innovators in the Base of the Pyramid, particularly for innovation in toys and all things play! And although we've already written a number of recent articles about them, we thought it was a good moment to again bring up our friends in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, who exemplify the power of peer networks. Those friends of course are the folks at Catalytic Communities (CatComm) , who we recently entered into a partnership with to help fundraise and expand their local world-changing network globally.

Why our intense interest in Catalytic Communities? Raw admiration for their work aside, we're just heeding the advice of Njeri Muhia, an economics professor at Egerton University in Njoro, Kenya who mentored us on participatory methods for development. Njeri told us, "Instead of trying to build entirely new infrastructure in poor communities, first try doing something new with existing capacity and groups." In Brazil, Catalytic Communities has already built a powerful peer network of community leaders and innovators drawn from amongst Rio de Janeiro's 750 squatter communities (favelas) and such a resource provides huge opportunities to new ventures like ours. In fact, through Patrick's involvement with the Base of the Pyramid Protocol, we found that networks like CatComm's are invaluable in seeking out new opportunities for business and development.

BRINQ Update - New Additions and the BoP Protocol Workshop

We've added a few new sections and pages here at BRINQ.

Side Effects - A Day in the Community

"I'd love to hear your impressions," Theresa said to me as we boarded the bus outside of Rocinha, "about what you think of the communities here vs. where you lived in Kenya." Here was Rio de Janiero, Brazil and in Kenya was Kibera, a million-person shantytown in Nairobi, where I had just spent the previous three months living and working. Theresa and I were catching a bus to the outskirts of Rio for a visit with local community leaders and to spend a "Day in the Community", a regular event that brings together children and neighbors from six of Rio's favelas, Brazil's illegal communities. Theresa and I found a seat as the bus lurched forward and I sat there wondering about her request. What preconceptions had living in an African slum given me about a South American one?

Learning to Swim - Back in Brazil

I've been very happy with how far my Portuguese has come, especially after having been gone from Brazil for so long, yet my ability to communicate here is like being able to swim in a gentle sea, enquanto tudo tá tranquilo, tudo bom! ("While everything is calm, no problem!") But while sitting in on CatComm's open forum, a meeting for feedback from community partners and constituents, I experienced a very different world of linguistic aquatics; visualize the crashing waves at Ipanema, Brazil's most famous of beaches, where the people are beautiful but the weak stay out of the water.

Last night, a dozen of us met inside the Casa do Gestor Catalisador, CatComm's home and technology hub in Rio, located on the edge of the downtown, in a historic district by the bay and the center of the old slave trade. Around us on the Casa walls, on mounted wood or printed t-shirts, hung windows into the world of the favelas, the works of Brazilian photographer Maurício Hora, a man with an incredible capacity to capture the spirit of place on film. Maurício sat to my left, Theresa to my right, the rest were spread out in a circle around the room, community leaders and artists, passionate Brazilians all; not quite what my beach and bar Portuguese had prepared me for.

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