Bethnal Green Ventures – a social enterprise Seed Camp

Bethnal Green Ventures [BGV] is an accelerator programme for technology startups that has grown from the team behind Social Innovation Camp, a not-for-profit organisation started in 2008 that now runs a variety of competitions to find uses of technology that solve social and environmental problems  around the world.

BGV has just opened up applications for the second round of their three month accelerator programme for technology-based social ventures in the UK. The first round, run last year, was a test run of the programme. It attracted 60 applications, out of which six were selected, however at the time no investment was offered. None have gone on to attract substantial investment; but two have developed significant revenue and continue to thrive.

This year, 6-8 teams will be chosen for the programme and given up to £15,000 of equity investment in return for a 6% stake for Bethnal Green Ventures. This investment should cover a small team of 2-4 people for the 3-month period of the camp – enough to cover board and lodging.

The programme consists of an afternoon and evening meeting one day per week, with talks from experienced startup founders and discussions between the teams. Each team also has a weekly discussion with the programme director, who is effectively a Learning manager – of one hour a week – about their work and based on the concept of action, at which participants discuss what they will do in the ensuing week that might take their project forward and commit to bringing back the results for discussion the following week. 

Mentors are available for the teams when they need them – but they’re encouraged to work directly with potential customers rather than take expert advice as gospel. 

Applications are taken in April for a programme which will run from July to September. At the end of this period, BGV arranges a pitching session with its contacts, for raising further funds to take on projects to a future life

Participants are selected for their passion in relation to their objectives, with much less emphasis placed on the idea itself. Indeed the accelerator process is designed to enable them to experiment by exploring for what will work in social and commercial terms so their idea may change significantly during the programme.

The cost of supporting this second cohort of ventures are expected to total £150k, or which £110k goes directly to the participants as investment, and the remaining £40 is to cover the costs of running the scheme. BGV will take a 6% stake in each business (putting a nominal value on each business of £250k).

This project is seen by Social Innovation Camp as part of the development of special purpose accelerators – as pre early-stage ventures that might turn into investable propositions which will be available to social capital funds.  It is hoped that these projects might grow exponentially, ie 16 next year, 32 the following etc; and that one in eight might go to Series A and perhaps be valued at £1mn or more.




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