6 top tips to grow as a new entrepreneur

Dominic Campbell - Founder, FutureGov

As Global Entrepreneurship Week 2014 kicks off, there’s going to be a flurry of events, articles and announcements from a whole range of established entrepreneurs, keen to give the next wave of entrepreneurs tips and advice on how they too can make a success of themselves.

I’ve been running FutureGov, a product company that designs and builds modern public services, for over 6 years now and I’ve received as much advice as anyone. But even I still remember what it was like just starting out and know that it can be difficult to know what advice to listen to listen to that will really help both you and your business.

I’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way, but here are my top tips to help you grow if you’re just starting out – and a healthy reminder for those entrepreneurs who are more established and already on their way of the important things to keep in mind (and yes I know some of the advice conflicts – that’s life).

1. Say yes to everything
You never know when great contacts will be made, great opportunities will come up or when a great idea will strike you in the middle of a conversation about something else entirely. Say yes to as many interesting meetings as you can, talk to as diverse a range of people as you can, attend as many events as you can. Even those random emails out of the blue may have value, even if it’s not immediately obvious. Be generous with your time and brain, and the rewards will open up for you.

2. Know when to say no
Conversely, be clear about what you’re interested in and what you get from a reciprocal relationship – with clients, team members, partners and even strangers. Set the right rules for the relationship, so you’re clear that your relationship is not just a one way street. If you’re being generous, people need to be generous in return. It’s okay to say no to things that are distracting or are only beneficial for the people who want your time.

3. Go deep
Deeply understanding the problem you’re trying to solve or business you’re in is key. Be focused about solving that problem or delivering the best possible products or service that you possibly can. It took me a while to work this one out.

4. Culture is King
Create the right kind of culture to ensure that you can attract the best talent to make your business a success. This also means that the best talent out there will share your values and vision of how the world should be. Create a culture that nurtures this.

5. Start small but think big
Focus on one thing that you really care about and try and solve that issue, ignoring everything else. Equally, don’t be afraid to experiment and try a few things to see which is the sweet spot of something you care about. Ask yourself: is it really a problem that people will pay you to solve and is it actually of interest to you?

6. Know when the right moment is to go for growth
Once you’ve built the foundations, know when you’re succeeding and be opportunistic. Take the chance in front of you when it opens up. Be bold when the time is right and throw everything you have behind it. Know when you’re winning, push forward and look for opportunities for investment, growth and support.

by Dominic Campbell – Founder, FutureGov


How can charities overcome the challenges of going digital?

When national charity Carers UK wanted to reach more people, in a simple, practical and affordable way, it created ‘Jointly’. Jointly is an app designed especially for carers and it combines group messaging with other useful features including to-do and medication lists, calendars and much more. Today, the app has been downloaded more than 2,000 times and 12 employers and service providers are now offering Jointly to their employees. One carer remarked: “We used it a lot when Mum felt unwell a few weeks back. We could report back to each other with no need for phone calls or texts. We really saw the difference it made that week.”

Carers UK are a great example of how charities can harness the power of digital technology to have a greater impact on the people they help. The increasing take-up and reducing cost of smartphones and other technology presents a great opportunity for charities to reach more people and deepen their services for existing users. Along with increasing reach, digital tools and services can be cheaper for people to access, personalised to specific groups, and delivered in ways that fit with people’s lives – so on their phones or online.

So, given all the benefits, why aren’t more charities developing innovations that digitise their products and services? A quick scan of the sector reveals that whilst some charities are leading the way in areas such as digital fundraising and social media (think #nomakeupselfie, the Ice Bucket Challenge, or the new #wakeupcall), relatively few are actually adapting their delivery models to digital.

Yet this isn’t because charities are simply not interested or behind the times.  Our new report, ‘Going Digital’ explores the unique set of challenges that charities face on their journey to digitising components of their work.  Key issues include how to develop or bring on board new skills, having a clear idea of the audience the tech is aimed at, keeping focused on strategy, getting input from partners, and knowing where to go for additional funding.

Some tips for charities considering developing digital innovations include:

  1. Get the support of your Board as early as possible – no Board likes surprises, not least when it takes them out of their comfort zone, so get peoples buy-in from the start. You might want to consider getting someone with specialist experience involved to guide the Board as things progress.
  2. Find a developer who shares your values – it’ll save you time, money, and patience in the future if you take time to find someone you really want to work with and who understands your ultimate goal. Don’t just pick the first techy you find!
  3. Keep your eyes on the prize – it’s easy to get distracted by developing the app itself, but don’t forget that technology is a means and not the end.  At the end of the day it’s more important that the technology really works for people than if it takes one click-through or two.
  4. Reach out for help when you need it – there’s support available in this space from advice through to incubators, so ask around and find out what’s out there that could help you.
  5. Plan the funding to avoid losing momentum – you’ll need funding for each stage of development from working up the idea, through to developing the prototype and beyond into mass scale-up. So work out how much you’ll need and where it might come from as part of the planning process.

The rewards for charities making the most of the digital opportunity are potentially great. But it’s not an easy journey to get there, so we need to pull together in sharing our knowledge, resources and experiences so that it’s not just a handful of charities leading the charge, but the norm for the sector.

By Isabel Newman, Nesta Impact Investment Analyst 

Exploring the application of Ai-Media’s technology in Education.

Tomorrow evening Nesta Impact Investments launch our investment in Ai-Media UK to explore supporting young people with autism and learning difficulties. We’ve been working with Ai-Media for some time exploring the many potential applications of their technology in Education.

For the last six months a partnership of the University of Melbourne, Ai-Media and innovation charity Nesta have been exploring the potential of real time captioning and transcription for the professional development of teachers and the learning of their students in schools across England. This work has been funded by the Education Endowment Foundation, a charity set up with a £125m grant from the UK government to fund and evaluate promising educational interventions to address the needs of disadvantaged children.

Real time captioning and transcription has been used for some time in education to provide access to learning for deaf students and those with hearing impairment. During a school trial in Australia, Ai-Media and The University of Melbourne noticed that as well as helping with access for these students, the teachers and other students in the class were also using the transcripts to review the lessons for revision and professional reflection on practice.

In ‘The Visible Classroom’ project we have been trialling Ai-Media’s technology coupled with the educational expertise of the University of Melbourne. Thirty five primary teachers have been running real time captions in their class, with children able to read their words as they speak and review explanations during the lessons by looking back at the transcripts. This gives the children a ‘second go’ at the learning, catching up on what they have missed or misunderstood. They also have the opportunity to rate the learning in each lesson through a feedback survey at the end of every lesson, giving their teacher data on how effective they think the lessons have been.

Once the lesson has finished, teachers can access the transcript of their entire lesson and reflect on the elements that went well. This makes visible to them how their planning and intentions actually translate into action in the complex environment of the classroom.

Throughout the project we have been developing the feedback teachers can get from these transcripts, with researchers at the University of Melbourne analysing the transcripts and providing a dashboard of data on aspects of their teaching such as the balance of teacher and pupil talk, the types of questions they are asking and how often they draw links between learning and the real world in their explanations.


In our initial training days some of the teachers were sceptical about how useful captions would be for the seven to eleven year olds in their classes unless they experienced difficulties with their hearing. Many of them have been pleasantly surprised to see that pupils been spontaneously looking back through the transcripts to check their understanding of tasks.This has been a collaborative pilot project and the teachers have been feeding back on their use of the technology throughout, helping us to develop it and maximise the impact of this technique for supporting both teachers and their pupils with their learning.

The teachers have also reported they have been able to see into their lesson with different eyes by looking back through the transcripts and analytics.

I have had my own teaching and training sessions transcribed throughout the project, and felt the immediate awareness that this can bring. I noticed that I tend to over explain the instructions to tasks, taking the focus away from the content I am teaching and instead focusing on the practical instructions. Since focusing on this I have managed to make my instructions much more succinct and precise, allowing the learners to focus more on the content of the learning rather than just understanding what I tell them to do.

The pilot has been independently evaluated by Natcen Social Research and their report will be published later in the year, informing the ‘EEF Toolkit’ of research evidence into educational interventions.

We await their results on the impact that this process has had on learning and professional development. However, it has been clear from my conversations with teachers and my own experience that this opportunity to take a second look into what happens in lessons and explore the key features of your teaching could be a powerful tool for developing learning in schools.

By Oliver Quinlan – Project Manager, Digital Education, Nesta

Nesta Impact Investments announces its new investment in Ai-Media UK!

As Nesta Impact Investments announces its new investment in Ai-Media UK, Beth Abbott and Eileen Hopkins reflect on the way they are using technology to break down barriers to learning………

skd256418sdcImagine sitting in a classroom. You can hear your teacher, but you can’t understand what they are saying. Maybe their voice sounds garbled. Or they are speaking in a foreign language. Perhaps another pupil’s pen clicking across the room is drowning out their words. For you this is a bad dream, but for children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or for those with English as an additional language (EAL), the spoken word in the classroom can be a significant barrier to their understanding. Children with EAL now form a majority in one in nine schools in England; the number has risen by 20% during the last five years to 1.1 million. There are around 100,000 children with ASD in the UK, with around half a million family members directly affected by the condition. With every word misheard and misunderstood, the anxiety levels of these pupils increases and their confidence drops. But at Ai-Media we’ve seen how technology can break down that barrier by giving children access to the spoken word in written form.

Now imagine that classroom again, but in front of you is a laptop or a tablet and the teacher’s words are appearing, in a simplified form, for you to read. You can scroll back and reread anything you’ve misunderstood. After the lesson you can ask the teacher to explain a term you don’t understand. And your teacher can use the transcript to help support your learning. Just like the subtitles for television, Ai-Media’s captioning technology, Ai-Live enables pupils to read the teacher’s words, as they are spoken, and so gives them an alternative method of accessing and understanding their lessons.

And it’s not just children that can benefit, we are also working with teachers to see how the same technology can help them review their lessons and give better feedback to students. Our first pilot, funded by the Education Endowment Foundation, saw us working with ten schools across the UK. Our ambition for education is vast, which is why the investment from the Nesta Impact Investment team is so important to us. Just like us, Nesta is all about opening doors. We help people to reach their potential in education and in the workplace. Nesta helps companies to reach their potential by encouraging creativity, experimentation and risk-taking; three things we know all about at Ai-Media. Our vision is to achieve a global impact and Nesta’s investment shows their belief in that vision. And with their support, we can achieve that impact at scale.

So where do we go from here?

We are now a few weeks into the new school term, and we have already established partnerships with five of the leading specialist ASD schools, including Queensmill, The Helen Allison School, Doucecroft, Phoenix, and Young Epilepsy’s School and College. With those first doors opened and with Nesta’s ongoing support, Ai-Media has the potential, the passion and the commitment to improve educational engagement and outcomes of young people across the UK.

By Beth Abbott General Manager, Ai-Media UK and
Eileen Hopkins Executive Director, Ai-Media UK

The highs and lows of building a tech for good startup

As the Bethnal Green Ventures (BGV) accelerator programme gets underway with a new team of ventures, Sinead MacManus, CEO and co-founder of Fluency, reflects on what they’ve learnt since being part of the BGV programme last year.

A year ago my co-founder Ian and I stood nervously in the shiny new offices of Bethnal Green Ventures – we had won a place on their ‘tech for good’ incubator. The 12-week incubation programme would enable us to develop Fluency – our digital education company that helps get young people into work. Along with the founders from the other nine teams, we were about to embark upon a journey into the unknown.

As we celebrate our first company anniversary, I wanted to reflect on the many highs and lows of our first year trying to change the world through technology.

Learning from being on an accelerator
Being accepted onto the BGV incubator was one of the best things that has ever happened to me. Having someone believe in you and your idea enough to put their money where their mouth is very motivating. An accelerator allows you to test your hypothesis about your business cheaply and quickly, get to Minimum Viable Product (MVP), and then validate the market by selling it/getting users.

We were well versed in the lean startup methodology but still ploughed ahead spending months designing and coding a platform from scratch and writing and recording original learning content. All this so we had a ‘product’ to use in our pilot in the summer. In hindsight this was a terrible mistake. All we needed to do was to test some key hypotheses – can young people pick up digital skills online and apply them in a work situation? We could have used an on the shelf LMS and existing learning resources from the web to validate this hypothesis.

BGV pic

Finding our business model the hard way
When we started at BGV we were convinced that our business model would be that small business owners would pay on a subscription basis for access to our learning platform and that we would then use this money to give access for free to young people. By trying stuff out and making a mess of things, and by listening to what our customers and our users want we have finally found what we think will be our product.

Raising investment and running out of cash
When we started at BGV I thought this investment was just to get us to demo day where investors would be clamouring to give us more cash. Nine months later we’ve run out of cash twice, and making payroll for our two staff – let alone paying ourselves – was a real issue.

We’ve just closed our seed investment round (yeah!) but dealing with investors for the past nine months has been one of the most painful processes of my life. Nine long months of pitching and coffees – it’s exhausting and demoralizing. And if you’re in the tech for good space like we are, then it’s tough – a lot of investors don’t get the concept that you can make money and social impact at the same time.

Hiring staff
Some of our most costly mistakes have been to do with staff – thinking we needed to hire when we didn’t. Staff, whether freelance or permanent, are a startups’ biggest asset but also their biggest drain on resources. Our hiring plans have changed. My aim is to stay as lean as possible until our next funding round and rather than throw people into roles that we think we need, we will let the business tell us where we need to put the resource.

Finally, the long road to finding product-market fit
Talking to lots of startups recently has made me realise that, even though the tech press like to champion the seemingly overnight success startups, in reality most companies take a few years to find their way. And I think for “tech for good” startups it can take even longer. If you are trying to solve some of society’s biggest problems, it’s not going to happen overnight.

But no matter what the challenges this year has brought, I’m literally having the time of my life. Getting up every morning and knowing what you are doing can make a real impact on people’s lives is worth the odd sleepless night. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

By Sinead MacManus, CEO and co-founder of Fluency

This blog was originally published on Bethnal Green Ventures.
Read the original blog.

Why social entrepreneurs should be celebrating today


Every year budget day reminds me of my early career in one of the big accounting firms.  Clients were invited, food and drink arranged, it was a major event. We stood around big screens and watched all of the Chancellor’s speech – the tax guys actually got animated! It’s a bit different now, most of the news is trailed in advance and we are rarely surprised.

But this year I am excited again because today’s budget is really important to the world of social investment and the social entrepreneurs it backs. That’s because we’ll find out the rate of the Social Investment Tax Relief – that might not sound exciting but is has the potential to be a major landmark for investment in social impact organisations.

In the last 20 years over £8.7 billion has been invested in more than 20,000 businesses through similar schemes such as the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS), with tax incentives catalyzing a flow of private capital. So, imagine if the same capital flowed into charities or social enterprises.

So who exactly will this tax relief benefit?

The specific measures will focus on registered social sector organisations; CICs, community benefit societies and charities and although the schemes are starting small they will grow. It’s been glaringly obvious for some years that we needed to bridge the gap between tax reliefs on charitable donations and small company and venture capital reliefs. If taxation can be used to incentivise socially useful behavior, isn’t starting a social enterprise at least as good as starting a small private company?

It’s vital that early stage investors who want to drive impact can invest in any sort of organisation without their investment allocation or investment decisions being swayed by tax advantages. This new tax relief will start to level the playing field and make investing in charities and social enterprises as attractive as investing in small private companies.

When an entrepreneur builds a business focused on social impact they don’t wake up every day thinking about the corporate form of their organisation or about tax incentives for investors. They think about the difference their product or service can make to people’s lives. When Ben Allen the CEO of Oomph! formed his company to provide exercise classes in care homes, his primary motivation was to improve the lives of elderly residents. He is committed to making a real social impact.

Ben set up his organisation as a limited company and his early investors benefitted from the EIS scheme before we then invested £200,000 from the Nesta Impact Investments fund. If Ben had set up as a CIC two years ago, raising money might have been more difficult. Importantly, the tax changes in this budget should make raising capital for the Bens of the future easier if they decide to take a different route.

Although some may disagree, it really shouldn’t matter what corporate form is used to drive social impact – a private company where management is motivated by social impact, a board that supports that mission and investors that want to maximise impact and grow scale can be a really powerful force for change.

But while we welcome today’s announcement on tax relief, we’d still like to see the government do more.

Initially the new measures only apply to small investments of around £150,000 and the range of types of qualifying investments will be restricted. It will be fascinating to see how these limits affect the early take up of the scheme. Although our impact fund can provide debt and other instruments like revenue share arrangements, most of the early stage impact investments of around £150,000 haven’t been in charities or other registered social sector organisations. We really hope that the new incentives, even with their restrictions, will encourage a flow of capital to help scale some great social innovations and ideas.

Finally, we hope the government follows through on their intention to broaden the scheme as announced in their Social Investment Roadmap. Although this may take 18 months to work through European legislative bodies, this should increase the amounts of relief and scope of investments, which will build on the first steps being taken this week. Further work on indirect investment into funds by individuals, social impact bonds and increasing the qualifying amounts could also make a real difference to the sector.

So, while I think the days of partying to budget announcements are long gone, today the sector should be celebrating what could prove to be a real landmark moment for social impact investing.

Matt Mead – Chief Investment Officer, Nesta

Fuel Poverty: are we just ‘rearranging the deckchairs’?

There has been a lot of news recently about the rising price of energy and how best to drive a better deal for the beleaguered consumer. Expectations are that the government will give more detail in the autumn statement tomorrow about their plans to remove the ‘tax burden’ of certain energy levies from people’s bills and instead include them in general taxation measures (namely, the Winter Fuel discounts and Green energy levies). And of course, Labour promised at their party conference that they would enforce a price freeze upon the big energy companies.

Yet neither approach really addresses the fundamental issue of the long term affordability of energy in the UK, and how it disproportionately affects the poorest in society; 50% of all those experiencing fuel poverty come from the lowest income bracket.

Over the last 10 years domestic energy prices have doubled and the outlook for future years points to more of the same, with the National Audit Office recently predicting that energy prices are set to rise for the next 17 years to 2030.

So can the quick fixes coming out of Westminster really work?

Even with the 3-4% saving from removing the energy levies (about £50 off the average annual bill), bills will still go up by around 5% this year because of the price rises announced by the big six energy companies.  Indeed, many highlight that the government’s plans will end up delaying the target date for insulating the homes of the elderly and vulnerable by two years.

But enforcing a price freeze will do little to incentivise the investment needed to build new supply, which will be critical in meeting long term demand. With energy heading towards the proverbial icebergs (the formation of which were probably caused by carbon burning in the first place), the political captains are busy arranging the deck chairs into a voter-appealing formation.

We take a keen interest in this subject, as one of the aims of our impact investment fund, is to help individuals and communities achieve greater efficiency in their use of energy.  So what do we think needs to happen?

Although this is a highly politicised field where there’s no silver bullet, there are some actions and areas for innovation that could help people in fuel poverty:

  • NII_Logo_COLOUR_CMYKGetting people off pre-payment tariffs and onto monthly direct debits will instantly save them 5-6%.
  • Using smart meters, and sensors in the home like those from Alertme could save between 5% and 15% on electricity use.
  • Engaging consumers in collective buying (sharing price benefits by aggregating demand) has had mixed results, due partly to consumer apathy and a lack of choice, but in certain instances 10-15% savings have been achieved.
  • Localised energy companies (often renewable energy) are starting to get a foothold and provide financial participation for local residents, for example Abundance’s crowdfunding platform.
  • Encouraging and funding new technologies will enable domestic renewables to take hold without needing such huge subsidies.

We are starting to see specialised energy supply companies that are not run for profit maximisation, but rather for long financial sustainability. By targeting a particular demographic they subsequently have smaller back office and marketing costs than the large energy companies.

These are just a few of interesting innovations we starting to see. We believe the sector is ripe for innovation and disruption, and particularly around how we as individuals and communities source, use, engage (and even ‘own’) our energy supplies. There is still time to avoid the icebergs!

Alex Hook – Nesta Impact Investments

Rats and social investment? Let me explain…..

NII_icons_RGB-01It’s not every day that you get inspired by a story about rats, but that’s exactly what happened to me at the Good Deals 2013 conference last week.  The social enterprise Apopo trains rats to sniff out landmines and tuberculosis in developing countries – saving the lives and limbs of tens of thousands of people and bringing many hectares of land back into productive use.  I heard many stories last week but it was hearing Bart Weetjens, the founder of Apopo speak passionately about what they do that reminded me of why I got into social investment. At Nesta Impact Investments we hear from (and invest in) social entrepreneurs that are coming up with innovative solutions to some of the most difficult problems across the UK. Some of these solutions will make it and will have a real and lasting difference on people’s lives.

However what the Good deals 13 conference also reminded me is that we still have some way to go when it comes to getting the message out about social investment.

So what are the areas where we could be doing better?

  • The language and vocabulary of social investment is still unclear.  Even the inspiring Apopo project used the term ‘investment’ when it later became clear – when asked- that they specifically meant grants. We need to call a spade a spade and be more precise – instead of grouping all kinds of financing under the umbrella of ‘investment’, let’s call a grant a grant; an equity investment an equity investment; and the same for all that’s in-between.apopo_mine_action
  • The challenge of social impact versus scale from the social investor perspective was also debated in more than one session.  Can organisations with a strong social impact really be scaled up? For me, the answer to this question is a resounding yes and Apopo (along with many others) is a perfect example of there not being a trade-off between scale and impact – in fact, in Apopo’s case they go hand in hand.  And for those interventions that aren’t designed to scale, it’s just a matter of picking the right type of investment instrument to meet their needs and suit their model.
  • Evidence of impact is still a lively issue; from evidencing social impact through to the effectiveness of social impact bonds. Whilst many organisations, including ourselves, are committed to the issue, it seems there is a need for more independent, rigorous research at the sector level to create evidence that we can build on for the future.

These challenges are no bad thing. They’re a sign of an evolving market and things we need to improve on collectively to make the social investment sector stronger and more effective. Being tighter on our language; having confidence in the ability for social organisations to scale; and growing the evidence base on specific aspects are three challenges we are all trying to tackle. Every now and again it is worth reminding ourselves why getting these issues right is so important, and certainly an inspiring story about rats did it for me.

By Isabel Newman – Nesta Impact Investments

Moonshot thinking

A couple of hundred people, including me, gathered this week in Hertfordshire for the Google big tent event 2013. An interesting range of people including Eric Schmidt, Michael Flowers, Ed Miliband and the Bionic Man, to name just a few, were discussing the digital innovation revolution. How it has shaped our lives so drastically through advancements in health, communications, and information.

A running theme throughout the day (other than tax!) was: how far is too far when it comes to technology?

Are things advancing at such a pace that we are losing control? Do we really understand the internet and how it works? Do we know what happens to our data? Have we lost control of our digital identities, and of our ability to govern digital businesses operating in borderless cyber space? Will we soon be walking around wearing Google glasses telling us where to go and what to do, being transported in self-driving cars and interacting with robots?

This may all seem daunting and, as with many things in life, digital innovation has the propensity to be used for evil. However, I’m in a privileged position working for Nesta Impact Investments where I get to meet businesses doing amazing positive things with digital technology. I meet entrepreneurs and ventures every week that are using tech in new ways to create innovations in health, education and sustainability. I get to see the potential for such innovations to create real and lasting change in society – from how we care for our elderly population to how we educate our children.

One of my favourite speakers of the day was Astro Teller, Captain of Moonshots – not least because of his amazing title! – but for his enthusiastic talk, inspiring people to think big and aim for ‘moonshots’. Moonshots, according to Google[x] are “seemingly impossible and yet impossibly-important ideas that through science and technology can be brought to reality.”

Astro says that to create moonshots we have to do three things:

  1. point to a huge problem in the world and say ‘I’m going to solve that’;
  2. come up with a science fiction sounding product or service that will solve the problem;  and
  3. have a glimmer of hope that you can do it.

These reflect the questions that we always ask ventures that come through our door: what is the need you are trying to meet?;  how are you going to meet it?; and why do you think you can deliver?

It’s important to start with identifying the need, know the problem you are trying to address.  It’s the lean start-up approach of “don’t sell what you can make; make what you can sell”.  Develop the product or service to solve this problem and generate evidence that it works.

We invest with the aim to scale up impact ventures with solutions to some of the UK’s biggest social and environmental challenges.  Often the most game-changing innovations don’t come from government or big corporates but from small ventures.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed it is the only thing that ever has” (Margaret Mead)

We want to hear from ambitious ventures trying to solve big problems.  To find out more about how we invest see our investment criteria, or contact us on impactinvesting@nesta.org.uk

Katie Mountain – Investment Associate

Accelerating Tech for Good

Laura Bunt, Lead Public & Social Innovation Advisor, Nesta

Last night at Nesta’s Tech for Good event we heard from a brilliant and inspiring group of entrepreneurs using technology to change the world. Patients Know Best gives patients much more control of their health information by redesigning systems around them. Patchwork helps frontline staff work together in child protection to spend more time with clients and less on paper work. Young Rewired State finds kids keen on coding and gets them making things with Government data.

But as many people illustrated last night, getting an impactful venture off the ground is about far more than great software. It can be an uphill struggle accessing the right markets and customers, cross sector partnerships are powerful but tricky to navigate, and there are genuine cultural and structural barriers to change. How can we identify more of these promising ideas and connect them to the right markets and customers? What helps teams grow from early stage idea to sustainable venture? Where do investors go to find the ideas with the most potential?

One of the models we’re interested in is accelerators, which support early stage ventures to quickly become investment ready and start demonstrating their potential. As Nesta charted in the Start-Up Factories, this way of boosting the development of ventures by proving time-bound, intensive support to a cohort of teams has caught the attention of entrepreneurs and investors all over the world, with programmes such as Y-Combinator and Techstars generating now famous alumni.

So we’re really excited that one of the winners of the Cabinet Office Social Incubator Fund announced last night is Bethnal Green Ventures – an accelerator programme that applies this model to help people use technology for social good. Bethnal Green Ventures has already supported 12 start-ups since it launched in 2011, including Good Gym, DrDoctor, Flip and Mastodon C.  Now, in partnership with Nesta and Nominet Trust, and with support from Google and Keystone Law, Bethnal Green Ventures will work with over 80 start-ups in eight cohorts over the next four years to help early-stage social technology ventures achieve their impact fast. We’re looking for ventures seeking to tackle problems in health and ageing, education and employment, and sustainability.

Over the next few months, we will transform the first floor of Nesta’s offices in Chancery Lane into a vibrant co-working space for start-ups, which during BGV will be home for the 10 teams selected.Google Campus are also providing access to their space in Tech City in East London where we will host events, socials and co-working space for the teams during the programme.

Being part of an accelerator programme can be a shot in the arm for aspiring teams with an ambition to change the world with technology: the access to mentorship from those who have been there before and to peers facing similar hurdles provide challenge and support; alumni and other networks create links to new fields and potential customers; office hours and events throughout the programme keep teams focused and practice makes perfect when it comes to honing your pitch. For investors and funders in the tech for good market, accelerators can boost the pipeline of promising innovations and help to identify key trends and opportunities for funders to collaborate to achieve more systematic change.

Bethnal Green Ventures will launch its call for applications in March. But tech is really just a tool, this is ultimately about people with a passion to change things. So if there’s a problem you’re itching to solve or a solution you think should exist then get in touch: hello@bethnalgreenventures.com