Today the applications open for the next round of Bethnal Green Ventures, where people with a a tech idea that can change the world can get investment and support to make their idea a reality. We had a quick chat with Jess Stacey in the team to find out a bit more about what they are looking for and also about some of their learning over the last few years.
What are the themes that you hope to invest in? Where do you feel that Tech For Good can have an impact?
There are four specific areas that we now talk about and that we want to create better outcomes for: health, education & learning, sustainability & environment and also civic innovation & democracy. You can read more about the themes here and some examples of alumni that have built ventures in those areas. Civic innovation & democracy is a newer theme for us but we are keen to support ventures that want to improve participation and engagement in democracy, and ventures that can strengthen communities too. VoxUp, What Leads To and CommonPlace are a few examples of ventures we have supported in this area, and on the current cohort we have Position Dial, which shows you where you stand on issues that matter so that you can make your beliefs count in other ways beyond political voting.
What about the demographic of the cohorts? A few years ago you did a big push to attract more women to apply and that really worked! I think you have a nearly 50/50 intake now of male and female Founders. Who are you hoping to reach this time around?
We are really keen to reach even more people with lived experience or who work on the frontline. We are pretty sure that if you've personal experience or seen something up close then you will have great insights in terms of a solution. We are also hoping to reach more people outside of London. We do like each team to have a techie as a Co-founder but we place even more importance on at least one team member having a real understanding of the issue that the start-up is trying to tackle.
We do have some people taking part from overseas and from other places in the UK but we'd like to increase that and have restructured the programme to make that more possible for people. We are now more flexible and have opened up the accelerator so that people can work remotely some of the time. The learning was dotted throughout the duration of the programme but now we have built in some intensive learning weeks so that people can block out chunks of time rather than needing to be here all of the time.
This is your 7th cohort! You've supported over 60 ventures now and invested in around 50, what have you learnt?
I think a big learning is just how important the alumni have become. We're now a 70 venture-strong community and it really is such a resource. The community are very active in supporting one another, through mentoring, through introductions and sometimes just by showing an already trodden path. We've even started to build some satellite alumni communities, with several of our ventures now based in Oxford for example, and who still actively support one another. We'd like to grow that kind of satellite model out in to other regions and countries. The power of Bethnal Green Ventures as a community is much stronger now and it's exciting to think about what that means in terms of collective impact too.
So what is coming up and what are you excited about?
In the longer term I'm excited about all the offers we are developing for the community outside of the accelerator programme. We've just done our first Founders Conference and we are also looking at setting up a post-accelerator fund. In the immediate future I am looking forward to Demo Day! This is coming up in mid-September and it is always brilliant to see how far people have travelled over the course of the programme as they pitch to a live audience.
Applications for Bethnal Green Ventures Cohort 7 close on Monday 19th October and we'd really recommend meeting one of their team for a coffee first.
" There are four specific areas that we now talk about and that we want to create better outcomes for: health, education + learning, sustainability + environment, and also civic innovation + democracy."