Accelerators for young businesses and The Young Foundation


Among the few Accelerators in the UK working with more mature businesses is The Young Foundation. Its Accelerators seek to turn social SMEs into burgeoning organisations that change people’s lives for the better. Universities and KTNs might follow suit – in their different fields.


The Young Foundation’s long-standing connections in the not-for-profit field help the businesses in their Accelerators to build lasting relationships and secure sizeable contracts, grants and investments in order to deliver social benefits. With a well-established model and considerable experience in its field, it has carved out its own special niche.

Michael Young, as the founder in his lifetime of a large number of outstanding businesses, was an extraordinary and perhaps unique social entrepreneur. The Young Foundation, which aims to carry on his work, has been developing its concept of the Accelerator probably longer than any organisation in the UK, with the objective of enabling the Foundation to continue its history of creating outstanding new enterprises that meet social needs.

Like other Accelerators, the Young Foundation’s provides:

*               a short period (four months) of intensive support (said to be

worth £50k)

*               for a small group of carefully selected teams working in its

particular field.

What is less common if not unique is that:

  • It is focused, in the tradition of the Young Foundation, on the establishment of enterprises of social value as much as on the processes of incubation;
  • the ventures that it supports must be predominantly about social enterprise;
  • it works with ventures that already have an established model, business and funding (rather than with those who simply have an embryonic idea for a business);
  • it provides no cash (except some expenses); and takes no equity;
  • while it has available a co-working space, it does not require incubatees to house themselves in it;
  • it has a firmly established business-learning regime (2 days every two weeks) and syllabus (round four core topic modules);
  • it has a firmly established mentoring philosophy (each team has one coach, whom they meet once a week – and will be matched to one guru, whom they will meet once a month); and there are a number of supporters with a wealth of experience to offer;
  • it has an investor panel (currently 13 VC organisations);
  • and it has steadily evolved and refined the processes of its Accelerator into its present well-established pattern.

Since 2005, when the Young Foundation was created in its present incarnation through the merger of the Institute of Community Studies with the Mutual Aid Centre, it has run a number of leading venture support and investment programmes including the Learning Launchpad (2007), the Health Launchpad (2008) and the Youth of Today Fund (2009). It is able to call in evidence a considerable number of new social enterprises that it has supported and developed successfully, and that it continues to support.

The Young Foundation is also at the forefront of industry research into the social enterprise field, having published influential papers such as ‘Social Silicon

Valleys’ on the importance of social ventures and why they should be accelerated, ‘Growing Social Ventures’, the first comprehensive study of institutions that support social ventures, and ‘Lighting the Touch Paper’ which outlines the growing market for social investment in the UK.

Anna Smee, Director of Ventures at the Young Foundation feels that incubator programmes for social ventures will focus increasingly on maturing ventures (as does The Young Foundation) because these are the ventures with the capacity to take on the large scale financial investment that will enable them to scale up and increase their impact within a realistic timeframe.

My focus and that of my workshops and seminars is on drawing from each other’s experience; and several other Accelerators have focused on helping more mature SMEs to grow eg by working with them on strategy (see Qi3 at, on new concepts (see Watershed, Bristol, new products (see Plato, Belgium at, and new customer segments and marketing (see Fintech Lab at, but few more comprehensively than The Young Foundation.


Copyright John Whatmore 2013



Copyright John Whatmore 2013  





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