A catalyst for good

By George Ryder on Wednesday, 5 April 2017

What do gruelling prison workouts and a virtual reality CPR training app have in common? They’re both services that currently come from Bethnal Green Ventures (BGV) – an accelerator programme for start-ups intent on solving an environmental or social issue.

Talking to Teamspirit, Partner Jessica Stacy outlined the evolution of BGV, from a social innovation camp hosting weekend hackathons in 2008 to a fully-fledged start-up incubator that has helped ideas such as the Good Gym (a service that combines running with helping people) become success stories. So far, BGV start-ups have raised a combined £23 million between them and over 6.5 million people have used a service by an incubated company.

BGV offers companies £20,000 cash in exchange for 6% equity, an intensive 3 month programme of workshops and 6 months’ free office space in central London. Then at the end of the 3 months, the programme culminates in Demo Day, where participants pitch their idea to investors and BGV alumni. However, in order to qualify for all of this, applicants must satisfy a series of principles which were inspired by techforgood.global. For example, is the product for the 99% and not just the 1%? Does it create wealth, agency and knowledge for everyone and not just the few? Does it give power and agency to people? And has it been designed responsibly?

BGV has gone on to provide spring boards for a range of innovative and socially beneficial tech companies. DrDoctor empowers patients to view, change and schedule outpatient appointments themselves and Fairphone aims to improve the longevity of mobile phones through modular design. But that’s not all, the number show that BGV is helping to improve gender equality in the tech industry. Of the 200 staff employed by incubated companies, 28% are women and 40% of the founders are female.

So what does the future hold? Jessica Stacy sees expanding BGV as a European movement with meetups across the continent in Amsterdam, Lisbon and Helsinki, podcasts and even a summer festival. In the meantime, I’m going to sign up to get my Prison Break physique.

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