WJF Update: 22 December 2013

You are a very important part of the WJF family.

It’s hard to imagine what our world would be like without the quality mentoring that WJF provides to social entrepreneurs globally.  WJF offers entrepreneurs in every corner of the world access to smart, experienced people who want them to succeed. WJF democratizes access to mentors and shifts the dialogue. That is why our model so powerful. 

“Your organization is critical for entrepreneurs to develop their ideas and get ready to raise capital. [The WJF is] helping to create a future pipeline for investors.” – Kesha Cash, Director of Investments, Jalia Ventures 

In 2013, WJF selected 71 social business ideas from over 500 applicants and introduced them to our extensive Mentor Capital network – seasoned, diverse, global social enterprise experts willing to commit their time and insights to emerging social enterprises. Each entrepreneur was introduced to at least a dozen mentors via their review, evaluation and critique of the presented business model. Once the relationship was formed, dozens of entrepreneurs and mentors initiated higher-level engagement, from ongoing mentoring and investments. 

“The feedback I received from WJF was far and away the most comprehensive, detailed and useful I’ve received…I’m still in touch with a few of my judges, who continue to provide advice, feedback, and support.” — Cynthia Koenig, founder of Wello, a company that sells the WaterWheel, an income-generating tool to empower individuals and lift families out of poverty.

Wello received an investment from one of her WJF Mentors. 

WJF also expanded its investor services through our Investor Fish Bowl and Green Grab events co-hosted with partners like LOHAS and Green America. These events are akin to Shark Tank if it were on Public TV. Investors get 30, 60, or even 90 minutes to drill down into the real operational questions and then debrief their real investor perspectives in public. This provides an educational experience giving all of our entrepreneurs a chance to see “behind the scenes” of what a real investor meeting looks like. “Impact investing in the climate change solutions space is not easy. The WJF separates the folks who (just) have a good heart and the folks that have the skills to create climate wealth” — Jigar Shah, founder of SunEdison, invested in Greenbean Recycle at a WJF Green Grab event.

 Please donate today to invest in WJF’s model for the future. Don’t just support WJF for what it accomplished in 2013, support us for what we will do together in 2014 and beyond.

The leadership team has been actively listening to our network of mentors, entrepreneurs and investors and in 2014 we will be even more of what you have all been waiting for. For years, we have been more than just a business plan competition.

In 2014 we are formalizing that, consolidating the competition and our additional services under the WJF Mentor Capital Institute. Why the WJF Mentor Capital Institute? Because the William James Foundation doesn’t give grants, we invest mentor capital. Social entrepreneurs don’t (just) apply to win an award for the best business plan, they invest their valuable time for the guaranteed return on their investment, mentor capital. WJF mentors don’t only judge an idea, they interact with entrepreneurs providing valuable mentor capital in their diverse perspectives, insights and questions. And, because WJF doesn’t solely aim to award the best business plans but seeks to identify and support social entrepreneurs that can make the best use of mentor capital to scale their business. In this way, WJF fulfills its mission of helping to change the way business is done, to create truly sustainable business models. 
“I invested my time into applying because I knew that it would offer me a guaranteed return on investment: feedback!…The most unexpected aspects of the experience that have helped me have been the softer ones that come from becoming part of the WJF community.” — Todd Schechter, Founder, New American Tavern, a movement to build restaurant/bar/cafés for people who care about politics, current events and community. 

Earlier this week, we announced our 11th annual cohort – 47 entrepreneurs who are invited to submit a business plan in January 2014. For each company, WJF will work its magic, culling through our network of hundreds of global mentors to create the ideal mentor teams of 10-15 diverse, seasoned, expert, business mentors tailor fit and specially capable to provide valued insights to each social business. Mentors will invest their time dissecting and evaluating the business model and operations and providing direct written feedback to the entrepreneur. Those with more to give will opt-in to provide additional mentorship. Entrepreneurs await this thoughtful, insightful, action-oriented critique of their business model and operations. Next, the mentor “speed dating” begins! Entrepreneurs reach out to mentors whose opinions and advice really resonated AND opted-in for further engagement. A mentor relationship (or three) is sparked. We all know that mentor-entrepreneur matches have the most impact when mentors and entrepreneurs choose each other before they engage.  
The finale, the WJF Annual Gathering, brings select entrepreneurs, mentors and investors from all over the world to DC to meet and greet and let more mentor and financial capital investment flow. Up to 15 entrepreneurs that have impressed their mentors with a business model ready for investment, customers or scale are invited to pitch. All this is planned to happen by July 2014. We plan to strengthen and replicate this new Mentor Capital Institute cohort approach to create a WJF as sustainable as the social businesses we support. So much of what we do depends on YOU! We must have your renewed support.


Ian Fisk
Executive Director
William James Foundation