Where do Impact Startups need support?

As many of us know, being in a startup means high stress and doing a little bit of everything. It’s impossible to have all of the knowledge, so it’s important to surround yourself with people who know what they’re doing. Our Impact Academy coaching program is here for just that. One of the many benefits of having a coach is to help with accountability, focus, and goal setting. In order to support impact startups with challenges in areas where they lack experience, we offer a program that matches each startup with a skilled professional specifically for their needs. 

According to the Harvard Business Review, having society-first principles are a foundational element that contributes to the success of many long-standing companies across various industries. Startups who apply to our Impact Academy are already on the right track because they have impact at their core.

Our coach’s inputs and insights were instrumental to help us prioritize tasks towards defining the suitable structure to achieve our goals, as well as to evaluate alternative go-to-market strategies and revise our financial projections. We are now reaching milestones that would not have been possible without our coaching exchanges and feel better prepared to address the ones ahead.” 

Ferran Galan, xMotion, Impact Academy Spring 2020 Alumni

Where do impact startups need the most support? 

We took a look back at the applications for our Impact Academy in 2020 and found that startups requested support in a wide variety of areas. Financing & InvestmentBusiness Development and Marketing & Sales were the most commonly requested areas of support. 

Let’s take a deeper look into each area specifically for impact entrepreneurs. 

Financing & Investment 

This can be a difficult topic because each startup has different needs. Typically, funding your startup with your own capital, or “bootstrapping”, is the most common approach with 45% of the 2020 applicants relying on this method. Although this may be a challenging phase, it helps to reassure potential investors that the idea is worthwhile. It can also be a strategic move to avoid pressure from investors and stay flexible in decision making.  

The first step in your investment journey is to identify where your startup lies in the impact investing universe. EVPA has a useful toolkit to help guide you through this. Once you know your place, you can then develop a clearer picture of which financing options best suit your company, whether you focus more on grants and donations, or loans and shares. For impact startups, keep in mind that you will attract organisations/people who are aligned with your values and mission; this is an added benefit.  

Having the right investors on board is sometimes even more important than the financing they bring to the business. Investors will conduct due diligence on you, and you should be doing the same for them. Topics such as their motivation, investment capacity, and their network are all important to consider. 

I was guided to create financial projections for the next 5 years of my company, which opened up many insights on what I would need to focus on now, what the intermediate priorities were, and how to use information revealed to better pitch investors and stakeholders. 

Regine P Zamor, WasteWorks, Impact Academy Spring 2020 Alumni

Business Development 

Impact entrepreneurs specifically have a competitive advantage because positive impact is becoming a higher priority for people and businesses. Several startups in our program have struggled with how to advertise or measure their impact, and the Impact Academy presents different resources and helpful tools for startups to first identify their impact objectives and develop a measurement framework that is easy to convey to potential customers. Understanding impact management is key to strategic decision making and should be built into your business model. This not only increases effectiveness, but ensures accountability, transparency and risk management. 

Thanks to Stephen, I was able to more than exceed our coaching goal – to have a solid business model and to be pitch-ready.

Doris Erne, WOOD & FIELD GmbH, Impact Academy Spring 2020 Alumni

Marketing & Sales

Some of our applicants come from technical or engineering backgrounds and have little experience in marketing or sales. Because they are likely bootstrapping and do not have funds to hire a marketing expert, finding a coach with a strong marketing background who can support them in developing a marketing strategy is a low cost and effective option. 

Although you might be aware of the impact your startup is making, it might not be obvious to your potential customers. A competitive advantage for impact startups is the story behind their impact and the fact that they are making a positive contribution to people and/or planet. 

Where we see a huge value for impact entrepreneurs is your passion and conviction around your social model. What is your history? Why did you choose this topic? Startups have stories to tell. Use this to differentiate yourself with your additional value narrative.

Luca Christen, Investment Manager, SEIF invest

Lastly, some of our startups have difficulty focusing in on a very specific customer segment. It’s possible that your solution could be helpful to multiple stakeholders, but as a startup it is important to remain focused and prove yourself in one area first. Make sure to really get to know your target customer, where to find them, what their pain point and pleasure points are and what value you can bring to them.    

Final thoughts

When you’re a startup, it feels like everything is important and focusing on one challenge can be difficult. Setting goals and having an accountability partner like a coach can make prioritising easier and provide neutral angles and opinions that may not have been considered. 

Do you want to apply for the Impact Academy?

Applications for our Impact Academy Spring Cycle 2021 will be open before you know it. Sign up to our newsletter to be the first to hear when to apply!