Social Ventures Incubator

  • 2017

  • Social Impact

Commissioned By:

City of Adelaide

Designed In:


The Social Ventures Incubator Program (SVIP), one of the first of its kind in Australia.

It is designed around Business Models Inc’s systematic, evidence-based methodology to help startups and their teams to successfully develop and implement new business models that combine planet+people+profits.

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  • The Business Models Inc team over the years developed their own social enterprises, worked with one of the best social entrepreneurs in the country and supported or worked in social innovation organisations like TACSI, FYA, SSE and others. Globally worked with the Kauffman Foundation & NASA in the US, YesDelft and Impact Hub in Europe around socially focussed startups. To this, we co-designed with social entrepreneurs, City of Adelaide, NESTA, Impact Investing Australia, Philanthropy Australia, Startsomegood and others in the space.

  • Understanding the landscape in Adelaide is important for the challenge we faced. Unlike other cities we lacked organisations (excepting TACSI) supporting the local entrepreneurs and pushing the policy landscape. The focus of the selection process was tailored towards one, to attract the right kind of individuals and teams to this program and two, the increase the wider understanding of social ventures across South Australia. In tune with this, we developed collateral that was supported with an online social media campaign. On the streets flyers were distributed. We were interviewed on ABC Adelaide with Ali Clarke, a very well listened to program in Adelaide. It was the highest visited program for the council.

  • We received an overwhelming 55+ applications ranging from 18 year olds to 65 yr olds. There were one person startups to one of the largest NFPs in Adelaide. We designed the selection process around selecting the right teams and seeing them in action. 25 teams were shortlisted and a one day a selection workshop was run by Business Models Inc. A facilitated session of 3 hours consisted of enabling the startups to understand their core purpose, the mission they are on and their business model. They were then given some tips on pitching and time to prepare. Each them then presented to a panel of 3 why they should be selected in the program.

  • The program consists of full day workshops and 4 half day workshops. We conducted 1 full day workshop and 1 half day workshop each month, with additional work to be completed outside of the program. The full day workshops consisted of key concepts, facilitated support and developing each step of the journey. The half a day sessions (slingshot sessions) were designed for feedback, peer to peer learning and expert connections from the likes of Brenton Caffin from NESTA, Paul Madden from Wyatt Trust and others to provide specific input to the startups. Each workshop built on the previous one and the teams will need to “get out of the building” (the rallying cry of the lean startup movement).

    The SVI program is built around a set of assumptions with a focus on the right mindset. - The founders & teams come from a predominantly NFP space - The key challenge is not values or vision or how to change to world but what should we do now for your customers? (design thinking & customer discovery) - A venture is a venture, whether social or not. (lean startup + Steve Blank) - The main ingredient of success is clarifying why business can be a force for good - There is a need to have more practical support than mentors (tools & skills > inspiration). - Push, push, push towards action (design thinking is great for this)

    The value proposition of the program was focussed on “Team focussed start-ups that positively impact society for the purpose of building a strong community & sustainable businesses”. To enable this we targeted startups with a social impact. Meaningful purpose for the community: - Improves the lives of others - Positive impact on social needs - Value created benefits community life and/or society as a whole - Builds a strong and connected community and Economic Development and Innovation - A start-up with a purpose that addresses a social need - Growth mindset - Building sustainable business By virtue of focussing on this subset the SVI program has a strong social impact focus.

    The key innovation of the program was a structured approach to social venture creation available to tech based startups around Australia and the world. It combined design thinking, lean startup and innovation principles to provide teams and not just individuals the ability to develop the toolset, skillset and mindset of creating a social venture. The goal was two fold. One, to enable the current venture and two, to build capability for the teams to create new social ventures in the future. Even if one failed, they would have the capability to use the same process to go onto new ventures. Some of the them are doing exactly that. The biggest innovation is running a rigorous program for teams & not individuals.