Why do startups need hands-on assistance to make progress? Besides a lack of adequate funding, there are other issues holding promising social sector organizations from achieving their potential: lack of clear strategies and skilled staff, weak organizational structures, inadequate systems and processes. Hence, the incubation process is one of the most effective mechanisms to develop and launch new ventures. This Forbes article for example gives you 8 reasons to skip business school and go through the grind at an incubator instead. Incubators enable the exchange of ideas and technologies between entrepreneurs, who learn the importance of sharing the same space and form partnerships. It is a place specially designed to cater for business, offering a structure configured to stimulate, facilitate and accelerate the transfer of research results to production activities.
This environment provides emerging companies with mentoring, training, infrastructure, working space, neighbors committed to innovation, support services and more by lower cost than market factors. Another reason which increases the chances of success of companies operating in incubators: they capture the best practicable projects and select the fittest entrepreneurs.
According to the study “A Market Landscape of the Indian Social Enterprise Ecosystem”, published by the German Society for International Cooperation (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammen Arbeit), the incubator market in India is still in a nascent stage and there is a lack of representation in terms of social enterprise incubators headquartered in the country’s eastern region. Furthermore, results suggest that health, energy, water & sanitation and technology are the sectors focused on by the majority of incubators in the study. Housing waste management, financial services and agriculture receive less attention.
Considering the benefits brought by the incubation process to improving the social space, we bring 7 incubators investing in Indian social enterprises:
1) Who: CIIE – Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship
Apart from incubating and investing in over 50 Indian ventures, CIEE has taken up several initiatives to strengthen India’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. They operate within the clean technology and ICT sectors, providing mentoring, financial and knowledge inputs through the initiatives iAccelerator, Piramal Prize, MentorEdge and Infuse Ventures.
2) Who: Dasra
Their executive education program has helped visionary social change makers build the skills required to operate their organizations at scale. DSI provides social businesses with training, networking, mentoring, assistance and raising funds in order to accelerate their impact. With over 14 years experience, they have invested $35 million in more than 80 organizations.
3) Who: Deshpande Foundation
Through the Hubli Sandbox Ecosystem, Deshpande Foundation creates an environment to encourage innovative approaches addressing social challenges. The Sandbox provides a place to test ideas and allows sharing, networking, collaborating and sharing with other catalysts. They also provide financial resources and strategic support to their partners.
4) Who: Khosla Labs
Khosla Labs focus on building profitable technology products that solve large scale problems in financial inclusion and unorganized retail. They brainstorm, test and experiment ideas, prototype projects through in-house design and technology teams, test the pilots on the ground. There are plans to get follow-on funding through Khosla Ventures when there is traction. Their current focus areas are: mobile payments and banking, retail efficiency, big data analytics and healthcare.
5) Who: RTBI – Rural Technology and Business Incubator
Supports entrepreneurs in building ventures to promote livelihoods, education, healthcare, agriculture, connectivity and financial inclusion in India’s rural areas. Conceived by the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT-M), it provides an incubation system suitable to entrepreneurs at any phase in their venture, including: advice & mentorship, infrastructure, preliminary funding and access to networks, building around prior domain knowledge and matching business ideas.
6) Who: UnLtd India
UnLtd India offers entrepreneurs a complete ecosystem of seed funding, advisory services, incubation support and co-working space to launch their ventures. UnLtd India has the following sister brands: Bootcamp – an intensive accelerator for early-stage social entrepreneurs, Bombay Connect – a laboratory and co-working space and Social Mashup – a national conference for early-stage social entrepreneurs.
7) Who: Villgro
Villgro provides mentoring, networking, marketing, office space, funding and facilities for prototyping and market research and a 12-month in-residence program for very early-stage entrepreneurs. For the past 11 years, they mentored 64 startups in the energy, health, education and agri-business sectors and invested $740,000.