Each time we have an intake of organisations we conduct a national search in each country we work in for local startups who have launched a venture that exists to change the lives of people living in poverty. We advertise the opportunity through social media, radio, TV, posters, newspapers, referrals from alumni and anything else our recruitment team can think of. We also have many great relationships with our many pipeline partners like Acumen, Ashoka, Echoing Green and the Unreasonable Institute who refer startup impact entrepreneurs to us.
Once Spark* has selected fifteen local organisations in a country for an intake, the founders go through an intensive live-in entrepreneurship accelerator.
During the five days and nights of the accelerator the founders go through our proven training course with support from both the International and local Spark* teams. They are equipped as impact entrepreneurs and learn how to pitch and market their idea, how to make and look after money, measure their impact, build teams, innovate new ideas, network and strategise. They receive focused support from our team to really refine and improve their strategy, so that they can impact more people, in more effective ways, more sustainably.
At the end of the accelerator on Demo Day, all of the organisations pitch their idea to a room full of investors, philanthropists and leaders who have the power to vote on the projects that will receive seed funding from Spark*.
Once an organisation goes through the Accelerator, they receive up to three years of support from Spark*. Our goal is to provide them with the assistance they need to grow their impact and improve their projects to become more sustainable.
Here are some of the ways that we support them:
Impact organisations are often so driven in achieving their mission that it really helps to chat with someone who can give some perspective and help them to refocus their efforts. The strategy advisors are all experienced entrepreneurs themselves who provide ongoing strategic advice to the Spark* organisations through face-to-face catchups, email and skype calls.
We all know that it costs money to build up a venture, be it a social business or a non-profit. Spark* does not provide major funding to our organisations as we are eager to see them build something that does not rely on charity to keep going. Instead we give them quick injections of $250 (or the equivalent in their local currency), to help them test ideas and overcome quick barriers.
Having an awesome logo and brand helps a venture really stand out from the competition and helps our organisations create a buzz around what they are doing. To help with this we have a network of awesome volunteer graphic designers around the world who provide world class graphic design support to our organisations.
We set our organisations up with a website, domain name, hosting and a handful of email addresses for their team. This is a massive help to them and helps them to present as a professional and high impact venture.
At Spark* we don’t think that it is enough to just be doing ‘nice’ work. What our organisations do needs to make a difference. Our experienced and qualified impact team work closely with them, checking in every three months to help them assess exactly the impacts that their projects are making for people living in poverty. This helps them to better understand and market what change is happening.
Doing market or sector research is vital to any growing social business or clever non-profit and as a result we provide injections of research support for our organisations. They send through a quick request for research such as ‘I am looking for the cheapest way to get shipping containers in South Africa for my township education project to use as classrooms.’ Our team then dedicates three hours to googling, making calls and finding out some answers for an organisation so they can keep focusing on making things happen.
We hook our organisations up with free legal support through our good friends at Thomson Reuters.
The goal of Spark* is to help move a startup impact organisation from impacting tens of people, to the point where they are impacting hundreds or thousands of people. We are very focused on working at this early stage of the pipeline, and then we connect our best organisations to the players further up the pipeline who can help them go to scale and impact many more people.
We are official pipeline partners with our amazing friends at Echoing Green, Acumen Fund, the Ashoka Foundation and The Unreasonable Institute and also supply deal flow for impact investors in the countries that we work in. If you are an impact investor or later stage supporting organisation for impact organisations and want to partner with us, please get in touch. To date we have had our organisations move through to Acumen, the Unreasonable Institute and Ashoka.