Program Developer, Village Capital (www.VilCap.com). What does that mean?
First, a brief VilCap overview: We democratize entrepreneurship. Village Capital uses the power of peer support to accelerate and invest in high-impact enterprises, and change the way investments are made.
Startups are cost-intensive to support and seed capital is rare, often making investment assessments of seed stage ventures economically inefficient. We’re looking to change that.
Inspired by microfinance “village banking”, participants learn to assess and evaluate each other over the course of a program focused on making companies investable, and do it in an astoundingly collegial and disciplined way. Village Capital has proven its peer-based, low-cost model through ten pilots worldwide: India (3), New Orleans (2) Bay Area (2), London, Boulder, and São Paolo. New programs for Spring 2012 include Atlanta, China & Nairobi, Kenya.
Sample program structure: 16 enterprises will participate in a 12-week accelerator program with program curriculum focusing on a variety of issues, including business model/financial literacy, customer validation, and preparation for investment. Sessions often take place in a shared workspace available to the entrepreneurs throughout the duration of the program (like Hub Atlanta).
Education: Village Capital curriculum will focus on preparing companies for investment; mentors and pro-bono advisors will supplement weekly sessions
A network: Weekly peer sessions create support, accountability, and a network among entrepreneurs. Program-related events build relationships between companies and investors.
Access to capital: Two peer-selected companies will receive $50,000 each; the program will focus on heavy investor outreach to expose companies to potential investors/capital partners.
Partnerships are critical to the expansion and success of the VilCap model. Among other things, in-country partners with local knowledge are better at sourcing (finding) high-caliber entrepreneurs and understanding the landscape or social entrepreneurship in their respective locales. Partners also share the cost of the program, which is relatively inexpensive.
I’m working to build a VilCap partnership with Agora Partnerships, a pretty-well-known accelerator for entrepreneurs in Central America. Their flagship program, though they have others, is actually called the Accelerator, and though only in its second year, it is already very successful (by the standards of attracting investment/entreprenuer), and poised to grow. I’m going to figure out how this growth can potentially incorporate a Village Capital program.
I’ve only been here a week, so without going into too much detail of the plans in my conniving mind, I’ll just say that the two appear to be mutually reinforcing structures for many reasons, including the following: both take an investment approach to the selection of their entrepreneurs, both exhibit manic amounts of quality control over the sourcing of these entrepreneurs (as they should), the superficial elements (like the application process) are pretty aligned already, and both are addressing the same inefficiency in the investment cycle (investors looking for deal flow, entrepreneurs looking help to navigate the investment process & to build a network of like-minded peers.) Voila.