This story was originally published in July 2015 before organizers rescheduled the Startup Weekend to February 2016. It has been updated to reflect the change.
Startup Weekends are known for inspiring people over the 54 hours that they take place.
But tuning into social impact is something that has come to fruition recently in Startup Weekends in places like Pakistan, South Africa, India and Argentina.
And now—the Triangle.
Between 50 and 100 innovators will gather at RTP’s The Frontier February 5-7 for the first local Startup Weekend Social Impact. Business ideas dreamt up over the weekend will have one thing in common— mindfulness of a business model’s impact on people and the environment. It’s the latest in a number of themed Startup Weekends to happen in the Triangle in recent years.
“We hope to spur sustainable models for making a positive impact,” says Adam Compton, assistant director of development at North Carolina State University and one of the lead organizers of the weekend.
There’s a growing entrepreneurial focus locally on how to make business decisions that are sustainable and good for our society. Besides the growing B Corp movement, which will bring the national B Corp Champions Retreat to the Triangle in October, NC State-affiliated Audacity Factory—an incubator for social ventures—accepts its first class of companies this fall. Duke University’s Center for Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship, or CASE, is a nationally-recognized research and education hub out of Duke’s Fuqua School of Business with a mission to prepare leaders and organizations with the business skills needed to achieve lasting social change.
The trend extends to Chapel Hill with Campus Y, a 150-year-old organization in the heart of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Its goal is to pursue social justice through a variety of views, approaches and activities. Its The CUBE social innovation program helps to accelerate social ventures and nonprofit ideas.
Investor demand is growing for companies aiming to make a social difference too. Durham’s own Investors’ Circle regularly brings startups with social mission before its national network of more than 300 angel investors. SFJ Ventures and Acorn Investments of Durham and Seventh Generation Ventures of Raleigh also have such investment goals.
Startup Weekend Social Impact is no different, supporting development of startups and small businesses that collide with social priorities.
The two-day event will follow the traditional Startup Weekend structure. However, to support the social impact emphasis, Startup Weekend coaches will be paired with local social entrepreneurs.
Coaches for the event include Pioneer Group President Frank Pollock, Southern Energy Management CEO Maria Kingery, Little Bird Games founder Lucas Blair, The Startup Factory’s Lizzy Hazeltine and management consultant Dragana Mendel.
The coaches’ job is to help ensure that participants are educated in a way that balances their impactful ideas with the typical entrepreneurial considerations—customer validation, revenue model, profitability, competition and financial sustainability.
Compton says that the weekend is made possible by an organizing team of diverse proportions, ranging from entrepreneurs and lawyers to educators and even hipsters, all dedicated community leaders.
The team includes Cisco’s Anuja Acharya, Center for Teaching Quality’s digital strategy director Jason Parker, The Redwoods Group’s Christina Smith, Travis Starkey of Teach for America of Eastern North Carolina, Carter Ellis of Loading Dock Raleigh and Thinking Maps, Inc’s Yasmeen Kashef.
What unites the team is a passion for inspiring others. This time, it is through dialing in social impact.
Smith, a consultant at Redwoods Group—a company that insures YMCA’s summer camps and Jewish community centers across the nation to make them safer—is a member of Startup Weekend Social Impact’s organizing team.
She says that business has the ability to be a force for the good locally or abroad, and the Triangle has a growing number of social enterprises that set an example of that. Channeling those social powerhouses to inspire other potential entrepreneurs is the goal of Startup Weekend Social Impact, according to Compton.
“Startup Weekend Social Impact is a challenge in mobilizing businesses to make a positive community impact,” he says.
He adds that the only prerequisite is an open mind and the motivation to be the change.
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