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Excitement Builds for Hub Ventures

Wes Selke February 9, 2011

Hub Ventures – an innovative funding and support program for early-stage for-profit social ventures – officially launched on January 18th with an event at Hub SOMA that brought in over 200 attendees.  The standing-room-only crowd was a testament to the kind of demand that exists for early-stage funding in the social enterprise space.  I’ve been well aware of this gap in the funding food chain during my 4+ years with Good Capital, during which time I’ve received hundreds of inquiries from early stage social ventures looking for funding.  Unfortunately, we’ve had to turn away these requests because Good Capital invests only in expansion stage companies (i.e. those with proof-of-concept and at least $500k in revenue).  However, thanks to Hub Ventures, we now have a place to send promising early stage social enterprises.
Hub Ventures is part of Village Capital, a global network of programs that uses peer support to accelerate the growth of social ventures.   At the heart of the 12-week program is a peer-review process that leverages collective intelligence for success and empowers participating entrepreneurs to make investment decisions.  During this program, 16 entrepreneurs participate in weekly peer review sessions, workshops, mentoring, weekly office hours, legal advice, and pitch events – all of which are designed to improve their business models and ability to raise future rounds of capital.  The program culminates with SOCAP Investor Day, during which all of the entrepreneurs pitch to the SOCAP network of Bay Area impact investors.
At the end of the 12 weeks, three ventures will each receive $75,000 in convertible debt seed funding through a peer selection process that puts investment decisions directly into the hands of the entrepreneurs.  Last year’s pilot program, West Coast Village Capital, supported 24 entrepreneurs, and First Light Ventures invested directly in 4 peer-selected ventures.  The results were promising:  98% of participants would recommend the program, and over 50% of the participants received funding after the program from additional investors.  Ross Baird, who directs the Village Capital initiative, testifies: “In these cohorts, entrepreneurs go every day in front of their biggest fans and toughest critics – each other.  For anyone who knows how hard it is to get smacked in the face over and over again while trying to build a social venture – help is on the way!”
Hub Ventures and the other Village Capital programs were partially inspired by Y Combinator, the successful early-stage tech ventures program that attracts talented entrepreneurs and is the de facto source of hot deals for angels and VCs in Silicon Valley.  Similar to Y Combinator, we seek out the most promising social entrepreneurs, provide them with top-notch support and guidance to refine their business models and social impact approach, and then position them for success with their next round of funding.  We envision Hub Ventures becoming THE program in the Bay Area that attracts top talent across a variety of social impact sectors – education, healthcare, food systems, and mobile technology just to name a few – while also gaining a reputation as a source of high-quality deals for impact investors.  All while plugging that infamous gap that exists in the capital markets for early-stage social enterprises.
The first Hub Ventures cohort gets under way in late March with additional cohorts planned for later this year and next year.  The application process is now open and Hub Ventures is looking for high quality social entrepreneurs in a variety of sectors.  For more info on the program, the application process, or how to get involved as a mentor or investor, please visit Hub Ventures.  The application deadline for the coming cohort is February 13th and the program kicks off on March 26th.

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