EPIC Entrepreneurs: A Fresh Look at Incubators for Social Businesses

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អត្ថបទ​នេះមានជាភាសា៖ kmខ្មែរ


By Kate Heuisler

Chief of Party
Development Innovations

In 2016, we partnered with Impact Hub Phnom Penh to launch Cambodia’s first one-year social business incubation program, aimed at providing resources and training for aspiring social start-ups. We view this project as a test to see how a formal incubator program to support social entrepreneurs works for Cambodians. This project is one of our partnerships to support civil society actors that are focused on social businesses ventures, many of whom focus on revenue generation to support their socially-focused operations. You can find out more about the project on www.epiccambodia.com and www.facebook/EPIC and meet the 11 first round teams here.

How it Works

In August, EPIC received 48 applications. Teams were scored on human resources, business ideas, potential for social impact and ‘investibility’.  Eleven teams were selected to start the eight week incubation period of customized workshops and mentor support days focused on the real life problem they were trying to solve, and how to practically build and refine the solution. In January 2017, the teams will have to pitch their ideas at a Demo Day, and five teams will be chosen to move on to the acceleration phase of the program, which helps them produce a market-ready product. The final five teams will receive six months of business training and mentoring as well as access to free consulting services and prototyping budgets to fund the start-ups’ further development. And at the end of the year, teams will be connected to potential investors and donors to pitch to get additional funding after the program as their ventures take off.

There are numerous services for entrepreneurs and incubator-type programs across Phnom Penh, including SHE Investments program which focuses on Cambodian female entrepreneurs, Impact Hub’s accelerator Cellcard Labs, the National University of Management/National Business Plan Competition’s work, as well as the WeCreate Women’s Entrepreneurship program and Emerging Market Consulting’s business incubator. Angel investors, commercial investors and donors are all looking to support creative initiatives in Cambodia. We encourage new ‘investors’ of all types to help support the existing ecosystem here, and build up and support the organizations that are already serving entrepreneurs. Sign up for a session with one of our tech advisors if you want to know more.

Why EPIC Is Unique

Here are five reasons we worked with Impact Hub on EPIC, and why EPIC is filling a gap:

  • Designed to meet Cambodian needs. We are testing how this model helps, right now, in Cambodia based on needs identified by Cambodian entrepreneurs. Many told us that there were a lot of great activities supporting hackathons and tech challenges, but then there wasn’t much follow up support. Numerous aspiring entrepreneurs also wanted to be connected to a group of people going through some of the same challenges, and almost all wanted help on financial and business management side, especially when it comes to preparing and pitching realistic financial models for investors.
  • Budget support. One other unique element of this program is that Impact Hub and Development Innovations both heard from a lot of entrepreneurs that they wanted to be involved in these kinds of entrepreneurship programs, but had to support their family and living expenses in the meantime, and most of these projects wouldn’t start making money during the development stage. Therefore, this program is testing whether a stipend – so the entrepreneurs can focus on the project full time – will help improve results.
  • Time frame and sustainability. EPIC works with teams over a longer period of time than many other programs (one year program overall, with six months full-time work on the accelerator), and offers additional support through the Impact Hub social enterprise community after the program ends.
  • Address financing gap. If you are a new start-up in Cambodia, you can get a lot of advice and coaching from various programs, but access to funds can be more difficult in early stages. There are various funding opportunities at the $100,000 level and above, but many young entrepreneurs here aren’t ready for that yet.
  • Focus on businesses with social outputs. Many incubators look at this challenge through a purely commercial lens, and we wanted to test the concept of the incubator model targeting a financial and social benefit for the business and the surrounding community. Some teams have a tech component to their work, but it is only one part of the business solution.

After this year’s pilot, we are hopeful the social businesses will be set up for success and will secure investment. In addition, Impact Hub will have an incubator product that they can then promote to other private sector donors to expand entrepreneurship support and will have a “playbook”, or set of tested tools and resources developed from this activity, that they will market to others in Cambodia and across the region.

Here are a few photos of the EPIC teams at work:













[Photos Credit: Impact Hub Phnom Penh]