A large and growing number of consumers today are increasingly:environmentally conscious, energy conscious, health conscious, conscious of sustainability, of community, and even conscious of consumption itself.
Entrepreneurs who aim to address these unmet needs find little help to do so, as the entrepreneurial infrastructure is primarily aimed at fostering “tech” (be it software, “clean” or “biotech”) startups. Startup Weekend, TechStars, Foundry Group, The Founder Institute and other business accelerators specifically filter out non-tech companies. Similarly, the largest venture capital firms have a similar tech filter for their investments
There is no shortage of entrepreneurs to mentor. Consider, for example, newly minted MBAs from Bainbridge Graduate Institute (BGI). BGI is a decade-old, accredited business school, first in the world to teach a “Sustainable” MBA. The school’s programs were created specifically to teach entrepreneurs how to address the needs of conscious consumers. This curriculum has been copied by numerous other business schools, and sustainability is become more common throughout the curriculum of the traditional business schools as well.
Then there are the participants of the multitude of business plan competitions, some of which are specifically targeted at environmentally-conscious consumers. And finally, there are masses of other individuals who yearn to be entrepreneurs, but who pursue that dream outside of academia. At least half of the #SocEnt Weekend participants followed that career path.
Fledge is here to help all of these people. Specifically, Fledge is a business incubator, taking the best practices from the tech incubators and accelerators and applying those learnings to help entrepreneurs create “conscious companies”. It does this using a variation of the TechStars recipe:
- Participants fill out a standard application
- Fledge chooses 7-10 applicants per “cohort”
- Each chosen team receives a small amount of funding (yes, you read that right, we pay you)
- Teams will be co-located, where they will receive entrepreneurial education and advice from mentors
- At the end of 8-12 weeks (programs will vary), teams will show off their companies at a “Demo Day”
For all this, the company will share a small percentage of equity, and repay the initial investment out of future revenues.
This model has been used over 1,000 times since 2005 in the “tech” market, creating such well-known companies as Airbnb and Dropbox. More importantly, this model has a track record of greatly improving the success rate of new ventures. Of the 114 companies launched by TechStars between 2006 and 2011, (as of April 2012) only 8 have terminated operations, plus 8 have been acquired. The other 98 continue to operate. That is an unheard of level of success, and a benchmark goal to be matched by Fledge.
The market need and potential impact of Fledge has been proven at #SocEnt Weekend, a 50-hour, hands-on, entrepreneurial event which brought together over 60 participants with 22 mentors to create and launch 13 startups in a single weekend.
How can you help?