Sometimes it feels like feast or famine in the Louisville startup ecosystem.
Not too long ago, we were lamenting the dearth of incubator and accelerator opportunities in the region.
Today, a program with a national track record and a solid history joins the local accelerator roster.
Village Capital and the VentureWell program of the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) have announced the opening of applications for the first Village Capital program here in Louisville.
Village Capital/VentureWell is a business accelerator program looking for “change the world” projects: pre-revenue, post-idea teams with opportunities to scale. Applicants will be evaluated on both the financial viability of the company and the potential for social or environmental impact. The program is set to accept 15 teams.
According to Ross Baird, Executive Director of Village Capital, “We provide opportunity to entrepreneurs by putting the power over the ideas of the future in the hands of innovators directly. This is our 18th program we’ve launched worldwide to date – and teams from China to Brazil to Kenya to Atlanta universally engage in the process in an astoundingly collegial way.”
Each Village Capital program has a different focus dictated by the needs of the region. The one held recently in New Orleans, for example, focused on education technology. The Louisville program will be focused on agriculture and clean technologies.
Village Capital/VentureWell will begin June 26 with a four-day workshop and will continue throughout the summer. The Village Capital tagline is “Democratizing Entrepreneurship.”
The program is based on peer mentoring and peer selection; throughout the process, each team is evaluated by its fellow teams, with the highest-ranked team at the end receiving up to $50,000 in investments.
The final events of this round of the Village Capital program will culminate to coincide with IdeaFestival in September.
The program began in 2009 and has already fielded 17 classes with275 ventures. More than $2 million in investments have been deployed.
Ninety-six percent of all participants would recommend Village Capital to their peers.
Other metrics on businesses supported by the program:
- 4 million-plus customers served; 5,000-plus jobs created
- 60 percent providing affordable basic services to customers living in poverty (2.5 mm customers)
- 30 percent providing livelihood opportunities to individuals living in poverty (2,500 jobs created)
- 10 percent addressing energy/environmental sustainability
- 300 percent greater likelihood for women to receive investment through Village Capital model
According to the promotional material, the three-month program will focus on:
- Team-building: creating and managing a team to scale
- Customer development: Creating a core product and learning how to validate sales feedback
- Financials: Teams receive hands-on support building financial plans, preparing for scaling, investment, exit
According to Butler, who is helping to bring the program to Louisville, the program has purposely avoided using terms like “social entrepreneurship.”
Companies such as TOMS shoes have a “one for one” program, explains Butler, where a consumer buys a product and the company then uses that revenue top provide goods or services to a community. In the case of TOMS, when you buy a pair of shoes, the company donates a pair of shoes to a child in need.
Village Capital, on the other hand, is looking to support companies that engage in direct consumerism with goods provided directly to the consumers.
“People are already buying kerosene in India,” says Butler, “If you can, say, bring the coast of solar technology down for consumers, it’s benefiting both the business and the community.”
Butler expects that most applicants will not be from the region. He notes that the University of Louisville MBA program has no classes in social entrepreneurism, sustainability or microfinancing (although there is supposedly a plan to add a class on social entrepreneurism for Fall 2013).
But as we reported from #OpenCoffee 18, the NCIIA has already invested in the University of Louisville:
The National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) have issued a $50K grant to the Speed School. The goal is putting together the first step to creating a certification program for entrepreneurship. So like you can get an MBA in Entrepreneurship, you could get a graduate engineering degree with entrepreneurship certificate.
The local Louisville entrepreneur community will benefit from this program even if they aren’t directly involved. Butler explains that there are some “heavy-hitters” in the VC and entrepreneur communities nationwide who will be coming to town to work with the Village Capital program. Butler would like to leverage that talent and have those experts participate in education pieces for the Louisville startup ecosystem.
The program will be housed at the Jefferson Community and Technical College’s Entrepreneurship Center, 620 S. Third St., where the second Startup Weekend was held.