When we started our first barcamps in Berlin, we weren’t sure what to expect from our pilot incubation cycle. We heard and helped develop many great ideas with design thinking methods and the help of the crowd, and 10 of them joined us at the Project Design Sprint Weekend. At the end of the weekend, 4 teams were selected to get the chance to join a co-working space for techies and spend 10 intensive weeks working on their projects. These 10 weeks were spent on strategic planning, working on the most important aspects of a social business (check out the teams’ blogs here), learning about open source technology and co-creating prototypes at the Random Hacks of Kindness hackathon.
To wrap up the incubation period, the teams asked for a session where they could get feedback on their social business plans. We were of course also curious to see how far they’ve gotten, and thus, we organised the Social Business Plan Presentation & Feedback Day. We also invited Ryan Grant Little (Principal at RGL Strategic, who formerly worked at Impact Hub, BMW Foundation, and some other cool social entrepreneurial initiatives), to give feedback. Each team had 2 hours to present and take part in a Q&A where Ryan, the other teams and I asked them questions and gave recommendations.
We started in the early morning with Tom, who has recently decided that he needs to revisit the idea he originally pitched. He presented key milestones from the history of the internet and free and open source software, how we got to the current situation of the battle between proprietary and open source software. We learned that there are many projects and individuals working on the issue of the (de)centralisation of data and what is being done about big companies monetising our data, an asset, just like oil had been. Many are trying to do something against this, but the biggest problem is that most of these projects work in silos or fragmented ways. So what next for Free the Data? More free software development and more research, and some brainstorming around how one could create links between these fragmented projects, how an individual or an organisation could start a movement to ensure our personal data in the digital future is not exploited merely for profit.
We then continued with Aparna, who gave us a very detailed and comprehensive presentation about LensShift’s Theory of Change, Impact Chain and a deeply thought through analysis of potential risks. It showed an excellent understanding of the field, the historical causes of the current situation and how the program will be able to reach its end users. The team also set up a board of trusted individuals to help them with their strategic next steps: a move we can only recommend. LensShift proved that they went through major development in the past weeks, that its team knows everything about what it takes to be social entrepreneurs and is definitely ready and this will soon attract funding.
After a short lunch break, WeiHsi presented Fintech for the Unbanked in a quite succinct, focused way. Although the idea itself is only 3-4 months old, the research has been done, a strong basis is there and a good product can be built upon it, as soon as the relevant technological solution is developed. Maybe the outcome of the hackathon weekend, a prototype of the ROSCA system will come in handy here as a starting point. The only thing Fintech for the Unbanked needs is some seed funding to carry out further user research, but because the business plan is so detailed and has such high quality, after some more minor polishing there will be no problem in pitching it to different funders: be it fintech investors, banks, foundations working to help the fight to end poverty.
The last one to present was Danielle from Menstrual Health Hub, also a project that has a longer history, a strong female team and has been officially launched in June. Since then, so much work has gone into developing the business plan and the platform, bringing hundreds of projects and organisations on board and distilling the ‘nectar’ for their knowledge products, that there was no time left for fundraising efforts. I believe it was worth focusing on the product: the team now has a much better understanding of how they can turn their platform into a social enterprise, with a good revenue mix from different sources of income, promising a stable future for the organisation. Support is still needed with some some minor things, which will easily be covered with pro-bono help, but what they are urgently looking for is a CTO, so if you know somebody, don’t hesitate to get in touch! 🙂
This is obviously a very distilled version of the 8 hours of presentations, sometimes heated discussions and feedback rounds we had, I’m sure the teams will have a lot more to say in their respective blog posts. We ended the day by sharing some food and drinks with the mentors and experts who were helping us on the way in these intensive, exhausting, emotional 3 months. I know that I’ll be missing the teams when SDI embarks on its next adventure, but I also know that we will stay in touch, we will continue to help each other and that the alumni of this incubation round will be there to mentor the next batch.