Sustainable social start-ups and the ecosystem

  • SI Camp Asia was a crash course for building a sustainable start-up, but only first step in a longer journey
  • As the ecosystem of profit-driven start-ups mature, the ecosystem of social enterprises will follow closely behind

Sustainable social start-ups and the ecosystemI HAD the fortune of attending the Social Innovation Camp Asia (SI Camp Asia) in Kuala Lumpur a few weeks back. The 52-hour boot camp brought together developers, designers, entrepreneurs, and ‘do-gooders’ interested in addressing causes to do good.
 
‘Social Entrepreneurship’ is that mix of a business driven entrepreneur with a non-profit NGO (non-governmental organization) type mission.  The drive is to create a company that is driven by a cause (not just profits), but is also self-sustainable so as not to have to rely on donations and sponsorships to operate.
 
SI Camp Asia served as a crash course for building a sustainable start-up.  For most participants, this was their first dive into creating a company and building a movement. 
 
Naturally, this takes more than a weekend, but SI Camp Asia was an excellent platform to bring people together as the first step of a much longer journey.  The winning team, ‘That App’, will be spending a few weeks here in Singapore and I’m looking forward to spending some time coaching them out of our office, ‘The Hub,’ which is a hub of entrepreneurs and social enterprises in Singapore.
 
The spirit was impressive, but as with any weekend workshop, getting a bunch of new people together to focus is always a little tricky. Teams were able to leverage a wealth of templates and shared knowledge on product and customer development.
 
Andrew Tan did a fantastic job of bringing together people from across Asia to participate in the event.  I think start-ups have a better chance for success when the co-founding team has a range of different perspectives and come from various backgrounds.
 
The ecosystem for Internet start-ups and entrepreneurs in South-East is still quite young, but it’s growing quickly.  Silicon Valley has the benefit of generations of entrepreneurs giving back and supporting the ecosystem through investments and mentorship.  An economy of established start-ups can bring infectious success to other start-ups.
 
I’ve heard a start-up ecosystem explained as a forest of trees.  As the first-generation trees mature, they plant seeds for the next generation, and so on.
 
The start-up ecosystem in Silicon Valley has many generations of founders building successful companies.  The seeds they plant are their managers and vice presidents breaking off to start new companies, through angel investment from the co-founders, and through peer mentorship.
 
I think as the ecosystem of profit-driven start-ups mature, the ecosystem of social enterprises will follow closely behind. 
 
Additionally, it’s the serial entrepreneur who has gone through the cycles of failures and successes who can take a more tactical approach towards success with each new endeavor. 
 
I think mentorship is very important to accelerate each generation.  Cradle’s Coach and Grow Program is doing an excellent job at this. 
 
If you have lessons to share, take some time each month to meet with a budding entrepreneur and share your experiences. The best way to grow yourself, is to grow others.
 
Vinnie Lauria is a founding partner at Golden Gate Ventures, an early stage incubator and seed fund for start-ups in South-East Asia, and a member of the Founder’s Institute. Prior to setting up Golden Gate Ventures in Singapore, Vinnie built two startups in Silicon Valley: Meetro.com, a location-based chat service; and Lefora.com, a hosted forum service. He joined his first startup while still in high school.

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