Tag Archives: social impact

Looking back to my first Startup Weekend

Recently, I went to my first ever Startup Weekend event. Focusing on social impact, the whole 54 hours was devoted to finding real scale able solutions that have a positive impact on society. While I went to check out what the event was all about and stretch out my business savvy muscles, I learned so much more about myself as well as the field that I so desperately wanted to join.

But how does a startup weekend work exactly? Imagine a mini conference with the requisite check in table, swag giving and name tag collection. Then, at least in my case, sheepishly scan the room for a friendly face and a place to sit through the impending talk that gets participants in the right mind set. After about an hour of that, participants are invited to pitch their ideas and the top 10 or so become the businesses that will be developed over the weekend. Once the 100 or so participants are released they search for a group that will hopefully win the competition for best business idea. That’s when the gloves come off and the race to build a validated business is on.

While our team did not win the competition, the experience itself allowed me to learn some very valuable lessons. The top three are below.

1. Just because you have an idea, doesn’t mean you’ve got a business.
There were a ton of inspiring and seemingly solid ideas that were pitched during the weekend. But the businesses that rose to the top of the heap, were the ones who were able to clearly articulate who their customers were and had proven that they would be willing to pay for whatever they were offering.

2. Shiny object syndrome is a real thing.
When you are trying to develop a project from an idea, having an unwavering commitment to your mission is crucial. Without that focus, your idea quickly becomes a Frankenstein of features that don’t have anything to do with the original intent. This doesn’t mean that your idea can’t change and evolve, but the original problem you are trying to solve needs to be the center of your work until you can prove that it’s not a problem people are willing to pay to solve.

3. Building and keeping your team engaged is half the battle
Getting a group of very passionate people together can be energizing and motivating. You are exploring ideas with each other and all of a sudden anything seems possible. While idea development is a ridiculous amount of fun, getting your team to go from the idea to actually testing your idea is the only way to know if you’ve got a business or a fun idea.

So if you are looking to take your idea and test it out in the real world, find a Startup Weekend event in your area.

5 Ways to Get Support for Your Social Business

Courage and a healthy disregard for the word “impossible” are the fuel of dreamers and idea creators. But once you’ve conjured up that 100 million dollar idea, how do you get to the crucial part… resources? While getting funding and building a clientele list that can support your idea,┬áthat investment capital will be instrumental in whether you toss that idea onto the pile of experience or take that idea all the way to the bank.

Naturally, seeking out┬áventure capital firms, crowdsourcing and dipping into your savings to keep your business or organization afloat are all ways to finance that next business venture. However, investment capital often extends beyond how much cash you’ve got behind you. Listed below are just a handful of places to get the resources you need to grow beyond your favorite dreaming chair.

1. The TED Fellows Program

Known for the quickest way to learn something new, interesting, or enlightening, the masterminds behind TED offer a fellowship program that grants selectees exclusive access to the visionaries that keep TED relevant and rich.

Photo courtesy: TED
Photo courtesy: TED

2. Ashoka Fellows

Leading the development of social entrepreneurship, Ashoka provides the social impact community with a variety of resources. Among them is the Ashoka Fellowship program that, after a rigorous selection process, provides a stipend to truly innovative changemakers to help them focus entirely on bringing their idea to fruition.

Photo: Ashoka Foundation
Photo: Ashoka Foundation


3. SOCAP Conference

Hosted on an annual basis in San Francisco, California, the purpose driven conference brings together the greatest minds in social business. With an impressive list of attendees and speakers, SOCAP will expand your network and maybe feed that insatiable dream machine that’s leading the development of your company.

Photo: SOCAP 2015
Photo: SOCAP 2015

4. The Grameen Creative Lab

Known by it’s initial mission of eradicating poverty through microfinance, the Grameen Creative Lab is leading the way to formalize the social business sector by building awareness, investing resources in social businesses, and providing guidance for those who are looking to make their business social.

Photo: Grameen Creative Lab
Photo: Grameen Creative Lab

5. USAID Global Development Lab

Responding to the rapidly changing needs of the developing world, USAID recently launched the Global Development Lab to harness the creativity of social innovators to address the needs their field teams are facing. Pick a focus area on their needs list and submit your idea on how to solve their global problem.

Photo: USAID Global Development Lab
Photo: USAID Global Development Lab


This is by no mean an exhaustive list. If your favorite resource is not listed above, leave a note in the comments below so we can incorporate them into the next resource list. Disagree with any of the listed resources? Tell us why in the comments below.