Report for Wellington.Scoop by Jamie Neikrie
In Silicon Valley, accelerator programs are the best thing going. In a town built on ingenuity and multi-million dollar ideas, they may be the most fool proof business idea yet.
Basically, young tech experts and start-ups apply to an accelerator program. If accepted, they will spend weeks with experts at the program, perfecting their technology and honing their message. It all comes down to Demonstration Day, Silicon Valley’s version of the NBA Draft. Investors and entrepreneurs, the biggest names in the tech industry, turn up to see the best talent coming out of the accelerator programs, looking for the next Facebook or Twitter.
While the start-ups can find high profile investors, and the investors stand to make a fortune off the Next Big Thing, the biggest winner of the day is the accelerator program, who, as a fee for their advice and expertise, now owns stock in every one of the start-ups. If just one of the companies from Demonstration Day makes it big, the accelerator program has more than recouped their expenses.
Accelerator programs are a great business idea, but what if they could also be a great social idea? This is the thought that Guy Ryan, Charlotte Hayes, and Ants Cabraal had when they created Live the Dream, an accelerator program for social enterprises looking to create a better New Zealand.
Last Wednesday in Wellington was the big day. After months of planning, Live the Dream sponsored seven teams, billed as the next generation of social entrepreneurs. This was the cream of the crop, the seven best ideas from a rigorous application process. The companies ranged from Social Lab, which seeks to build a community around reusable wood waste, to Rate My Flat, which uses an online database of ratings, comments, and insider knowledge from previous tenants to improve flat hunting and the housing system in New Zealand.
Each company gave a short presentation on their program in the hopes of attracting investors, partners, and volunteers. Many of the programs focused their attention on youth, using social media and community events to promote a cause. While none of these companies were expressly non-profit, every presentation made it clear that their goal was to better society and New Zealand, not to make money.
While every company impressed with its energy, enthusiasm, and social consciousness, the best idea of the night was Live the Dream’s. By taking a well-tested investor platform and turning it into a marketplace for social betterment, Live the Dream has a winning formula on its hand. “I think it went great,” remarked Cabraal. “This is the first time we’ve ever done this so we hope to expand the size and opportunities.”
The next step for Live the Dream is another Demonstration Day in Auckland. But Wellington, riding a wave on ingenuity and social awareness right now, would do well to make Live the Dream a city mainstay. As the program grows, competition to enter the accelerator with intensify, making the companies to emerge on Demonstration Day that much better.
Cabraal, Hayes, and Ryan have long known they had a great idea on their hands. After attending on Wednesday night, I’m sold too.