Hundreds of impact investors will converge on San Francisco’s Fort Mason Center starting Oct. 10 for the 10th annual Social Capital Markets conference, or SOCAP as it is better known. Like bees to honey, the pricey event also attracts social entrepreneurs seeking capital, including 140 entrepreneurs from around the globe who are attending thanks to SOCAP17 fellowships.
Even if they come away empty-handed, there’s some consolation: new tools and resources being launched at the event promise to make life a little easier for mission-driven entrepreneurs.
Find the Right Accelerator
Incubators, accelerators and other programs aimed at helping social entrepreneurs have multiplied in recent years. These programs can help early stage companies hone their business plans, make valuable connections and raise funding. But finding the right match is a critical time consuming exercise.
Entrepreneurs spend an average of 60 hours to researching accelerators and deciding which to apply to, according to Nayelli Gonzalez, Managing Director of Marketing & Partnerships at Conveners.org, a nonprofit that supports the ecosystem of impact-focused conveners, accelerators, and mappers.
Conveners, along with partners Sphaera and Impact Space, have created the Accelerator Selection Tool, an online database of roughly 750 impact accelerators, incubators, fellowship programs, and business plan competitions around the world. Entrepreneurs can search based on region, focus and other attributes—saving them valuable time. Best of all, its free.
Find the Rights Investors
One of the biggest challenges faced by any startup is funding. The task is even more daunting for social entrepreneurs, who wrestle with a confusing array of funding options, from grants and PRIs to loans and venture capital. They often end up with funding (or funders) that are not well suited to their needs.
To help social entrepreneurs navigate the fundraising process, Duke University’s Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE) has created an online curriculum that covers the needs and common pitfalls of raising capital. Called Smart Impact Capital, it is comprised of “bite-sized” lessons, videos and downloadable resources.
The material is organized into nine modules broken into three basic categories: Defining Your Funding Ask, Targeting the Right Investors & Capital, and Engaging With Investors. The complete package costs $900, or categories can be purchases separately.
The courses include insights from impact investors including Acumen, Investors’ Circle, USAID and others, as well as from social entrepreneurs who have successfully raised funding. CASE beta tested the offering for a year with 250 entrepreneurs from 13 countries, including SOCAP fellows.
The idea for the product grew out of experience at the Social Entrepreneurship Accelerator at Duke (SEAD). As Cathy Clark, faculty director at CASE and the lead author of the curriculum, told Forbes, she often saw entrepreneurs trying to be something they were not, and fit the mold that they thought investors wanted. Often, she said, they were steered towards venture capital, even when that wasn’t the right fit, and would paint themselves as higher growth than they were.
“It’s really a big decision, who you get your capital from and on what terms,” Clark said. “It will influence the next five years of your business no matter what.”
SOCAP17 takes place Oct. 10-13 at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco.