Congratulations! You’re a Social Entrepreneur


Winners of the Village Capital/VentureWell startup accelerator (Louisville, KY), Spensa Technologies and Solar Site Design, hadn’t before defined themselves as social entrepreneurs. Yet their projects help the planet as much as they help people.


Village Capital, which partners with a host of other groups to run about 20 startup accelerators for social enterprises, recently announced the winners of $50,000 each at its Louisville-based location.

The thing is, at least one of the winners, as well as many other participants, didn’t start out thinking of themselves as social enterprises. Specifically, the Louisville accelerator, which is called Village Capital/VentureWell, is aimed at clean tech and agriculture companies that may not have started life with a social mission. (VentureWell is a program of the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance).

“We’re interested in social entrepreneurs who don’t self-define as social entrepreneurs,” says Ross Baird, executive director.

It was during the accelerator’s three-month session, which, like other Village Capital efforts, features an unusual peer-focused approach, (…) that many founders realized they’d hit on an idea with the potential for both profit and helping people and/or the planet.

Take Jason Loyet, co-founder of Solar Site Design, a 10-month-old Nashville-based startup which was one of the two out of 14 startups in Louisville that won a $50,000 Village Capital investment. It developed a mobile app for the various parties involved in designing solar systems that was officially introduced on the market starting last May.

(…) The app takes a process that used to require weeks and allows it to be done in “a matter of days”, according to Loyet, who also says the product helps reduce the cost of solar installations by as much as 50%.

(…) For Loyet, however, perhaps the biggest lesson he learned was that you could run a company that also “could do good for the planet,” he says. “I hadn’t realized how much social impact solar provides ».

It awakened me to how powerful social enterprise and impact investing is going to be.

With each project, he helps to create jobs and reduce CO2 emissions, he says.

The second startup to win $50,000, Spensa Technologies–which Loyet voted for–was founded by a researcher at the University of Purdue and is based at Purdue Research Park of West Lafayette in Indiana. It has a cloud-based system for monitoring insects in real-time that allows farmers to reduce and control the amount of pesticide they use. Farmers place devices in the field that determine what kind of insects and how many of them are there and communicate that information through the cloud to a computer. Then farmers can analyze the data and make appropriate pesticide adjustments.

Village Capital’s first accelerator was started in New Orleans four years ago, aimed at turning the ailing city into a hub for innovation. Now, it has accelerators around the world, from Mumbai to Boston. The group has two arms. A nonprofit operates programs with partners and an investment fund provides money to the founders. (…)

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