What Silicon Valley Entrepreneurs Are Learning from the “Base of the Pyramid”
SANTA CLARA, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Santa Clara University’s Center for Science, Technology, and Society will soon kick off a two-week program as part of its Global Social Benefit Incubator, in which venture capitalists and technology executives trade ideas with social entrepreneurs from around the world.
These innovators and entrepreneurs will descend on Silicon Valley August 16-28 for an intensive, two-week residential “boot camp” intended to boost their socially conscious business ventures into the realm of sustainability.
The goal: Create a plan to assist nonprofits and social entrepreneurs to expand their work using Silicon Valley business models.
But what does a Silicon Valley venture capitalist like Jeff Miller from Redpoint Ventures or Brad Mattson, founder of Mattson Technology, have in common with a Guatemalan company helping slum dwellers raise worms for fertilizer?
More than you’d think, said longtime entrepreneur Bob Dench, the lead mentor for the program. “We share a common interest in overcoming obstacles and achieving goals, whether it’s a drip irrigation project in India or a software business in Silicon Valley,” he said.
“Even the most experienced Silicon Valley executives are not necessarily prepared for the unique challenges of being an entrepreneur in developing countries,” added Mattson. “These entrepreneurs usually have promising social businesses, but they need help finding a business model that is sustainable, scaling their business, and presenting a fundable business plan. That’s where we might help.”
Attendees hail from all over the globe, and typically serve their home country’s poorest residents, known as the “Base of the Pyramid.”
- Byoearth of Guatemala, which helps slum dwellers get into the business of selling worm byproducts as fertilizer.
- Husk Power Systems from India, an award-winning company that turns discarded rice husks into affordable power for millions.
- Grass Roots Action for Social Participation of India, which utilizes “carbon credits” (fees from “polluting” companies in developed countries) to manufacture affordable, ecologically friendly wood stoves for the rural poor.
This is the seventh year of SCU’s program, which received more than 350 applications through SocialEdge.org — triple last year’s total.
Since the beginning of the year, the 16 selected entrepreneurs have also been getting coaching from afar from their Silicon Valley mentors. Now, they are coming to SCU’s campus for a two-week “boot camp” of back-to-back classes, lectures, business-plan honing, and cross-pollination with other entrepreneurs.
The program culminates in a business plan presentation August 27, which is open to the public by RSVP.
“Our class and our curriculum for GSBI 2009 really address the new realities of social entrepreneurship,” said Director Jim Koch, Bill and Jan Terry Professor of Management at SCU. “We have a course on how to manage distribution in countries lacking basic infrastructure, two speakers who fund social entrepreneurs describing investment criteria, and a significant new emphasis on issues related to operational excellence and execution.”
Members of this year’s class are focused in four general areas: livelihoods and economic development; the environment and affordable energy; health and education; and information and communications technology.
Businesses that have graduated from the GSBI program have gone on to collectively serve or benefit millions of people.
Alumni include the micro-lending website Kiva.org, African solar-radio maker Freeplay Foundation, and reading-glasses provider Vision Spring. GSBI leaders estimate that they have a 40 percent success rate among alumni.
About the Global Social Benefit Incubator GSBI™
The signature program of Santa Clara University’s Center for Science, Technology, and Society and cosponsored by the Leavey School of Business, GSBI was founded in 2003 by SCU Management Professors Jim Koch and Al Bruno, and entrepreneur Patrick Guerra. The trio saw a need to “incubate” promising businesses that were trying to address vital social needs of their home countries. The program now attracts hundreds of applicants from more than 25 countries every year.
GSBI™ is funded in part by grants from the Skoll Foundation, the Palo Alto-based supporter of global social entrepreneurs created by eBay’s founding president Jeff Skoll; 1999 RNN Foundation; and the Palo Alto-based Peery Foundation, a family foundation established to empower youth, reduce poverty and encourage social entrepreneurship in the Bay Area and around the world. For more information, see www.scu.edu/sts/gsbi/.
About Santa Clara University
Santa Clara University, a comprehensive Jesuit, Catholic university located 40 miles south of San Francisco in California’s Silicon Valley, offers its 8,758 students rigorous undergraduate curricula in arts and sciences, business, and engineering, plus master’s and law degrees and engineering Ph.D.s. Distinguished nationally by one of the highest graduation rates among all U.S. master’s universities, California’s oldest operating higher-education institution demonstrates faith-inspired values of ethics and social justice. For more information, see www.scu.edu