MCN Update: 17 July 2017

Last week we announced our 2017 Sustainable Business Program. 
If you know any Social Entrepreneurs who would benefit from detailed feedback on their business plans, connections to mentors and investors, and a chance at cash and in-kind prizes, send them to: http://mentorcapitalnet.org/2017_application/
More detail on our program, and how we work with EntreprenuersMentors, and Investors is on our website at www.mentorcapitalnet.org.
We’ve spent the past six months doing a lot of strategic planning. Mostly we’ve figured out what we shouldn’t be doing. But a short overview of where we are now is at the bottom of this email. I’d appreciate your thoughts. As the quote on my arms says “All I have to offer you is each other.” Together, we are making a stronger world. And, of course, none of this would be possible without your support.
Thank you all for the work that you do.
Ian FiskMentor Capital Network@ Impact Hub DC 
419 7th Street, NW 3rd Floor Washington, DC 20004
What our friends are up to
Sarosh Kumana, with the Foundation for a Sustainable Future, is advising the Equilibrium Impact Challenge competition for startups with an environmental mission. Selected firms can receive $25-100K+ investment, meet many tech and environmental leaders and to participate in an exciting event for the winners at Squaw Valley CA Aug 25-27. Interested companies should apply by August 6th at https://gust.com/programs/visions-conference-impact-challeng.

Tyler Gage, co-founder of Runa, has a book coming out this August. It’s called “Fully Alive: Using the Lessons of the Amazon to Live Your Mission in Business and Life.” It’s a spiritual adventure story packed with practical business lessons. 100% of the profits from the sale of the book will go to Runa Foundation. 

Agora Partnerships runs a fantastic social enterprise accelerator with a focus on Latin America. Their program is complimentary to ours, and many companies have done both. Apply by September 1stLearn more about the program

Luni Libes, who manages Fledge, says that applications for Fledge11 Accelerator are due July 22nd. Fledge11 is in Barcelona, Spain but is open to companies anywhere in the world. Fledglings receive at least €15,000 in cash.

We still maintain a list of Convenings, and other useful programs for social entrepreneurs on our website, but we’ve decided that Avary Kent and her team at Convening the Conveners and Accelerating the Accelerators do a better job, so we recommend checking them out. 

Got an update you want us to share? Let us know.
Mentor Capital Network: The Big Picture
What follows is a short summary of our strategic plan document. As all strategic plans go, this is a living document. But I wanted to give you a sense of our current thinking.

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The Mentor Capital Network (MCN) is a leading collaborative network serving for-profit social enterprises, helping them take their breakthrough ideas to scale. Our mission is to support diverse, early-stage, frontier-market social entrepreneurs, in order to fuel the next wave of successful enterprises within under-capitalized markets and communities around the globe.

We’ve had success: 360 companies working in more than 80 countries are up and running, and more than 1,000 members of our network have been engaged as reviewers, advisers, mentors, in-kind prize donors, and investors for those companies. Extrapolating from self-reported surveys (and the occasional Google Alert), these companies employ more than 20,000 people, have raised more than $200 million in follow-on investment, and impact more than one million individuals around the world.

Through 17 cycles of our Sustainable Business Plan Collaboration Program, we’ve learned how to engage mentors to meet the entrepreneurs where they are, and support them to where they need to go. We’ve built a world-wide network that allows us to work directly in frontier markets in both the USA and around the world.

We have found our greatest value add to be that our programs allow us to work with people who can’t easily travel and don’t have the usual support networks, and we can still provide custom, curated support.

We’re addressing a critical problem. Frontier Markets within both developing and developed countries, aren’t being well served by either the free market (“Trade”) or charity (“Aid”). Trade, all too often, is so one-sided that extractive industries export valuable goods, leaving countries forced to import their basic needs. Aid, all too often, can be paternalistic – inhibiting a region’s ability to develop their own markets and resources. Frontier market social entrepreneurs combine the best of trade (local self-sufficiency) and aid (addressing necessary local challenges.).

The MCN maintains a sophisticated database that tracks what our mentors notice, and what they like to review. This gives a great sense of where they will add just the right perspective, and leading to many matches where the reviewer is excited about the entrepreneur.

We have an incredible asset in our mentor community. Each year, we engage hundreds of active mentors who have an average of 22 years of professional experience and solid skills in identifying promising companies, providing expert advice, and performing due diligence. More than 100 of them are located outside of the USA, and more than 600 have international expertise, covering more than 140 countries. Most mentors return year after year to work with our program – some have been with us for more than a decade.

Our research has shown that founders want to engage with other founders in peer-to-peer connections. This works for us, because successful alums have become our largest source of new mentors. 

For the past decade, we have slowly curated this network, reaching out to individuals one at a time, and bringing them into our community. We’ve provided some of the tools of community building – social media, conference calls, networking dinners. But we do not have the resources to do this in a strategic manner.

This is where we want to take it to the next level – to empower our community and engage our members to work together to support stronger social entrepreneurs and a stronger Mentor Capital Network.

By creating regional groups of our entrepreneurs, mentors, and accelerator partners, will we are connecting people around a shared interest, providing a deeper learning experience for both the entrepreneurs and mentors, and creating a highly-efficient due-diligence and pipeline network for our investor and accelerator partners.

Additionally, an actively engaged community of entrepreneurs, mentors, and investors creates the best possible pipeline for our programs – because success attracts success.

We’ve got more than 80 investors or investor staff in our program. They’ve expressed interest in engaging with our community of entrepreneurs and mentors, and some of them are willing to provide financial support to make this happen.

Creating this community will take, to use our favorite definition of entrepreneurship, resources not currently under our control.

We seek to structure the Mentor Capital Network as a non-profit with a fee-for-service consulting arm. By providing our particular value-add services to companies that are looking to identify and support new ideas, whether for commercial acquisition or simply to support a better world, we can take our expertise to the people who need it most.

But in order to provide that expertise, we need the funding to run a solid baseline program. The MCN is engaged because we are the people who see the interesting ideas. Last year, we had more than 1,000 applicants. 

We are seeking to raise the funds to hire two professionals (one for development, and one for communication and network building) so that I can focus on coordinating the program and consulting to our peers. 

Any thoughts or support would be gratefully appreciated. 

Ian Fisk
Executive Director
The Mentor Capital Network