Earlier this month Brussels welcomed 90 social innovators, entrepreneurs, impact investors, incubators and policy makers who gathered all together for 2 days of networking, training, matchmaking and pitching.
Organised by EBN with the support of META Group and Impact Hub, it was again #SOCHANGE TIME!
On February 5th, 65 entrepreneurs met at the European BIC Network networking centre. The day was organised around structured and informal networking moments, a training on impact investment and impact management, and a pitching training.
Divided in thematic groups they exchanged about the overall SocialChallenges.eu experience, commenting upon main opportunities and challenges faced. From this activity partners could draw some initial lessons learned:
1. People make the difference
The relationship with the challenge owner is key for solution providers, as this heavily influences the development and implementation of the projects in the territories.
A strong and solid team is key in the implementation phase, complementary skills can make a difference in critical situations.
Personal motivation is a fundamental driver to turn challenges into new opportunities, to deal with short deadlines (6 months implementation period), and new stakeholders.
2. Setting and managing expectations
It is fundamental to understand all stakeholders’ expectations and set clear roles so to ensure a smooth deployment of the project activities. This is true at overall SocialChallenges.eu level and individual projects level.
Intermediaries, like local nodes, play a key role in connecting different players.
3. Local vs international scaling
Local projects resulted easier to be implemented, due to an easier understanding of the local context (economic, cultural, social) and connections with relevant stakeholders.
Those solution providers that scaled their solutions to new regions/countries faced bigger challenges in understanding the new context, knowing the local stakeholders and deploying their activities in such a short period. Still it was a great opportunity to test their products and services in new potential markets.
4. Turning challenges into opportunities
The SocialChallenges.eu approach was a real catalyst for solution providers: the short implementation period forced them to adopt a lean approach.
Stakeholders involvement was a critical aspect for many solution providers. Re-thinking relationships and channels was an important dimension solution providers had to go through, forcing them to reconsider their business model and in some cases to identify new opportunities.
All the above was reported and shared in plenary before starting the training session on Impact Investment and Impact Measurement.
Preceded by an introduction by Simonetta Cavalieri of Social Innovation Society, the training was organised by EVPA, the European Venture Philanthropist Association: Lena Vasilopoulou introduced to the entrepreneurs a mix of concrete examples and practical exercises on how to measure and demonstrate the impact their solutions could generate. Then Luis Fonseca from MAZE Impact (Portugal) presented the topic from the perspective of an impact investor. He also presented MAZE-X, a new acceleration programme based in Lisbon that each year will work with 10 impact start-ups from all over Europe.
Another training closed the day, this time SocialChallenges.eu team prepared the audience for the perfect pitching.
The two trainings aimed at preparing participants for the matchmaking and pitching session of February 6th morning.
The SocialChallenges.eu matchmaking and pitching sessions took place in the framework of the EU Industry Days, main European policy event organised by DG Grow and gathering industrial leaders from across the EU. The event could also count on the presence of Mrs. Natalia Martinez Paramo, COSME Head of Unit and Mark Nicklas, Innovation Policy and Investment for Growth Head of Unit.
In this context the project organised 225 bilateral meetings between 42 solution providers and 15 impact investors representing 14 impact funds and investors’ networks. A speed dating allowing each entrepreneur to convince 5 impact investors to consider their project for further talks and discussion.
The morning closed with a pitching session which saw on stage 11 solution providers that interacted with the audience: