Category Archives: Social Enterprise

2019 Major Startup Events

2019 Major Startup Events

The Events Every Startup Should Know About in 2019

We’ve compiled a list of some of the best conferences in the coming year to keep an eye out for. Don’t have these on your calendar yet? We’d recommend you do !

Startup Grind Conference

The Startup Grind Global Conference provides an environment unlike anything else – where our community of startups, partners, investors, thought leaders, and worldwide directors come together for 2+ days of invaluable education, connection, and inspiration.

Where: Palo Alto, CA

When: February 12 – 13, 2019

SXSW Conference

Featuring a variety of tracks that allow attendees to explore what’s next in the worlds of film, culture, music, and technology, SXSW proves that the most unexpected discoveries happen when diverse topics and people come together.

Where: Austin, TX

When: March 8 – 16, 2019

Ceres Conference

The Ceres Conference 2019 will convene more than 600 influential investors, senior corporate executives, policy makers and capital market leaders to reaffirm the business case for sustainability and share best practices to empower leadership, build solutions, and drive change.

Where: San Francisco, CA

When: April 29 – May 1, 2019

Collision Conference

Collision is the fastest growing tech conference in North America. Now in its fifth year, Collision has grown to over 25,000 attendees and is in for a big change in 2019.

Where: Toronto, Canada

When: May 20 – 23, 2019

Launch Festival

LAUNCH Festival is the largest startup event in the world. For the past 10 years we’ve hosted Festival in San Francisco, featuring fireside chats with Silicon Valley technologists and pioneers, demonstrations of cutting-edge future technology, and exciting startup competitions with founders and teams from all around the world.

Where: Sydney, Australia

When: June 18 – 19, 2019

Industry: The Product Conference

Over 3 days, 1,200 attendees from over 30 countries will learn from renowned product leaders and share the latest methods, tools, and frameworks that they use to build, launch and scale world-class software products.

Where: Cleveland, OH

When: September 23 – 25, 2019

Disrupt SF

If you’re serious about startups, we’re still keeping it as real as ever. At Disrupt, everyone is a startupper – no matter if you’re a founder, investor, hacker or tech leader. So much more than just on-stage interviews, Disrupt is where you’ll find the renowned Startup Battlefield competition, a virtual Hackathon, hundreds of startups in Startup Alley, Workshops and legendary networking at our After Parties… and we’re in San Francisco, right where startup dreams began.

Where: San Francisco, CA

When: October 2 – 4, 2019

**This will be an ongoing post as new dates/conferences become available.

For more information on fundraising, our Founder/CEO, Tyler Jensen has created several eBooks on the topic.  We invite you to browse our website to request free downloads.

Are ICOs the Future of Startup Fundraising? Cryptocurrencies are Giving Founders a New Platform for Fundraising

Are ICOs the Future of Startup Fundraising? Cryptocurrencies are Giving Founders a New Platform for Fundraising

Cryptocurrencies are giving Founders a whole new platform for fundraising.

As a strategic business consultancy that offers Fractional CFO services to entrepreneurs and startups we get a lot of questions about raising capital.  While the general consensus among experts is to first raise traditional angel and seed rounds some founders are exploring the use of cryptocurrencies and/or ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings) vs. Series A or B rounds.  The rising popularity of cryptocurrency is allowing Founders and startups to get creative in their fundraising efforts.

What is Blockchain?

In a nutshell: “The basic concept of cryptocurrency is pretty simple… Rather than asking the public for investments of old-fashioned money, the inventor issues a new virtual currency tied to a specific product, each unit of which represents a defined share of future profits. Just like shares in an actual stock market, these coins or tokens can then be freely traded or collected, letting those who truly believe in a project build an actual financial stake in its success.”  (“How to Fund Your Startup with Cryptocurrency” — Catrinel Bartolomeu)

How does it work?

Some founders will attempt to raise capital through an initial coin offering which, in simple terms, is when a company wants to fund itself through cryptocurrency. People can “back” the ICO by contributing other cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or, more commonly, Ether (the name for Ethereum’s coins/tokens). It is basically a crowdfunding campaign that, instead of using platforms like Kickstarter, uses blockchain platforms.

Pros and Cons

While Blockchain technology and Social Enterprise are creating new options for Startup Fundraising, it’s important to look at the pros and cons of using ICOs vs. traditional fundraising methods.  Serhiy Kozlov (CEO and Founder of Romexsoft) does a great job highlighting some of the pros/cons of using ICOs to raise capital.  Below is a summary (full article can be found here):


Traditional Funding Comes with Strings/IOC’s with Far Less.

A clear advantage for the founder. Initiating an ICO with a unique currency that can later convert to Bitcoin or Ether, takes a lot of regulation out of the mix.  Banks and traditional VC funding can may have tight contracts and legal responsibilities.

ICO Funding is Cheaper.

When the middleman fees and interest are cut out of the mix, getting funding is cheaper. There is also more freedom for the founder to set terms.

Flexibility for the Investor.

Investment returns on ICOs can be more accelerated than returns with traditional funding. Investors like this.

Flexibility for Startup Founders.

One great thing about ICO is that funding can come from a variety of currencies, both fiat and crypto. This may attract more investors than traditional funding which usually occurs in a single currency.


Lack of understanding regarding governmental rules and regulations, regarding investing and receiving investment capital.

There are legal risks involved in an entrepreneur seeking funding via an unregistered token, even when it goes through registered blockchain platforms, like Bitcoin and Ether. In the case of the U.S. SEC, for example, just incorporating outside of the U.S. will not grant ‘immunity.” As well, the SEC has recently established rules regarding equity investments in crowdfunding activities.


Some of the amounts being raised through ICOs are staggering. Early investors in Bitcoin and Ether are eager to invest more and more in new ventures, and founders are “tempted” by the easy money to raise far more than they actually need or would get via traditional financing.

Lack of Control and Protection. 

This, of course, is an investor’s not a startup’s problem. But it is a weakness that, if not “fixed”, may sour investors over time. Unethical or fraudulent “startups” really have little-to-no fiduciary responsibility to their investors. Smart Contracts, such as those through Ethereum are a start, but the promoter has ways to alter those arrangements.

It’s Too New. 

As mentioned earlier in this article, the concepts of Blockchain, cryptocurrency, and ICOs are still foreign to many investors, and certainly to individuals who have money to invest but see this cryptocurrency “stuff” as somehow fake money. It will take time for the entire concept to become mainstream and for weaknesses to be eliminated.

For more information on fundraising, our Founder/CEO, Tyler Jensen has created several eBooks on the topic.  We invite you to browse our website to request free downloads.

The Triple Bottom Line Goal of Sustainable Business

The Triple Bottom Line Goal of Sustainable Business from The Startup Garage

The Triple Bottom Line Goal of Sustainable Business

Earlier, we wrote a blog post on California passing legislation creating new business structures for social enterprise. In this post, we’ll discuss what exactly the triple bottom line approach to sustainable business (social enterprise) really is.

Triple bottom line refers to the 3 “P’s” – Profit, People, Planet.  It is a term often connected to companies that are actively engaged in eco-friendly policies or community interests.  Like any business, a triply bottom line oriented business will focus on generating profits for its shareholders.  However, it will also focus on people, often by hiring immigrants or under-served members of the community.  Additionally, these companies will focus on providing the most ecologically friendly products and services and conducting business operations in a manner that is as friendly to the planet as possible.

Generally, the triple bottom line makes good business sense.  Though, the degree to which companies to proclaim a triple bottom line mission actually execute on the people and planet side of the equation is unique to each company.  While incorporating these key words to the company’s mission is a great way to gain support from certain market niches, its important to actually execute these practices so as to not alienate these same market segments.

More information about the triple bottom line principles can be found here.

Whether you have a question about the Triple Bottom Line of Sustainable Business, or you’d like to discuss our business plan writing services, feel free to contact us for a free consultation!

California Passes Legislation Creating New Structures for Social Enterprise

California Passes Legislation Creating New Structures for Social Enterprise from The Startup Garage

California Passes Legislation Creating New Structures for Social Enterprise

With limited legal designation for social enterprises, social entrepreneurs are forced to struggle with which legal form to choose for their ventures.  Traditional legal entities are not well-suited to blend the social and profit-making purposes of a social enterprise.  Management of for-profit companies are liable to shareholders for failure to maximize profit.  On the other hand, management of non-profit organizations are liable to the IRS when they reward investors.

Fortunately, California Governon Jerry Brown signed into law Benefit Corporation (!B 361) and Flexible Purpose Corporation (SB 201) legislation.  The passage of this law creates two options for socially responsible business models in California.

Generally, Benefit Corporations are corporate entities that are required to pursue social and environmental objectives in addition to seeking profits.  Flexible Purpose Corporations are corporations that seek profits and at least one broader social or environmental goal.  For more information about the two entities, visit this site.

While these structures are ideal for corporations that would like to be held to a higher standard of social and environmental responsibility, neither will provide tax advantages to the organization.  Nonetheless, board members and management can now be shielded from violating their fiduciary duties of maximizing shareholder profits.  Also, while both have been signed into law and they are not mutually exclusive, it is unclear which structure will produce the best results.


Whether you have a question about Social Enterprise, or you’d like to discuss our business plan writing services, feel free to contact us for a free consultation!

The Structures of Social Enterprise

The Structures of Social Enterprise from The Startup Garage

The Structures of Social Enterprise

We are beginning to see more and more companies begin to blend their traditional corporate structures with a more modern obligation to philanthropy and social awareness. Social Entrepreneurism is on the rise and suddenly profit isn’t the only driving force behind big business. Across the nation, various legislations have passed to establish new corporate structures that aid the social entrepreneur in improving environmental, educational, social, and economic conditions.


The Benefit Corporation

Legal state entities that mandate corporations focus on public benefits alongside their for-profit enterprise. Shifts mainstream thought away from maximizing shareholder value towards maximizing stakeholder value by placing an emphasis on social issues. Required annual reports provide transparency to the public and accountability toward the company. These reports are not required to be assessed by third-parties; however, this will change under California law in January 2012. (Read more about the difference between Benefit and B-Corporations in the blog below)

Available in: Maryland, Vermont, Virginia, New Jersey, Hawaii, California

The L3C

Formally known as a Low Profit Limited Liability Company, L3Cs are legal forms of business corporations that blend non-profit and for-profit investment efforts with a socially beneficial structure. With reduced regulations granted from the IRS, an L3C is classified organization that sets to attain social goals first, with profit second.

Available in: Vermont, Michigan, Wyoming, Utah, Illinois, North Carolina, Louisiana, Maine, Rhode Island

Flexible-Purpose Corporation

A Flexible-Purpose Corporation is a socially conscious enterprise that allows for extreme flexibility in their structure and processes. These corporations specify a “special purpose”, either with a social cause or charitable activity, in addition to their pursuit of seeking profit. While most business corporations focus mostly on maximizing shareholder value, the goal of Flexible-Purpose Corps is to have a structured legal organization where profit is pursued alongside social aims.

Available in: California

Main Differences:

  • Company profit is still an expressed purpose of a Flexible-Purpose and Benefit Corporation, with neither profit nor social issue outweighing the other. With an L3C, the public benefit comes first, profit second.
  • Flexible-Purpose and Benefit Corporations both produce annual reports on their purposes and objectives. Only in California, do Benefit Corporations require third-party assessment on the reports.
  • On a scale from a fully functioning Business Corporation to a Non-Profit, Flexible-Purpose Corps would tilt towards Business Corporations, while Benefit Corporations tilted towards Non-Profits. L3Cs would be the mark directly before a full Non-Profit.


Whether you have a question about Starting a Social Enterprise or you’d like to discuss our business plan writing services, feel free to contact us for a free consultation!

Driving Economic Development with Inclusive Business

Driving Economic Development with Inclusive Business from The Startup Garage

Driving Economic Development with Inclusive Business

An Inclusive Business is a business model that strives to benefit the community by directly including low-income populations into their business cycles, whether as producers or consumers of the good or service. It is a strategy that aids a large and often forgotten section of the community through social initiatives while still fostering business growth and for-profit policies. A main driving force behind Inclusive Business models is to create sustainable means of support for the society without the use of welfare.

Inclusive Business models vary slightly in the way they approach social issues then the Social Enterprise models discussed in our previous blog. Social Enterprises are organizations that blend their business between financial and social returns on investment in attempts to raise social awareness and aid to their cause, and to funnel monetary support to both the company’s growth and social issue as well. Though extremely similar concepts, Inclusive Businesses are created with the direct intent of benefiting one social issue – the poor. Going further, Inclusive Business models do not just raise awareness or financial aid for their cause; rather, they take frank and hands-on approaches towards achieving their goals. This is done by utilizing local suppliers for the company, creating products and services that are targeting towards the low-income community, or by making a point in employing a large majority of low-income persons.

The Inclusive Business model theorizes that if companies target the low-income community, who on a global economic pyramid are our base and largest sector, we can slowly integrate them towards more modern and formal economies. Through employment, a sector that primarily works in labor now will begin to gain human capital through formal training as well as an income that introduces them to new financial markets. As consumers, the community can be endowed with new products and services that specifically match their needs. With all of these segments of the business cycle fully turning, we would see a rise in local employment, skill, and income which in turn would drive economic development and growth.


Whether you have a question about Inclusive Businesses or you’d like to discuss our business plan writing services, feel free to contact us for a free consultation!

Keeping Up-To-Date On Social Enterprises

Social Enterprise Network from The Startup Garage

Keeping Up-To-Date On Social Enterprises

As mentioned in the previous blog post on scaling your social enterprise, part of building out your organization is through expanding your network.  Similarly, part of staying up to date on the latest information in the social enterprise world is to maintain those network connections and continue to seek out answers to your ongoing questions.  We have mentioned many resources for keeping up to date on social enterprises in previous blog posts, but below is a recap of the highlights:

Aside from your internet updates, you can stay involved in your local social enterprise network by seeking out events and conferences in your area through or  You can also look for the events being hosted by a local business school or MBA program.

You can also receive updates in social enterprise through your social media accounts, especially LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.  Take some time to search through the possible groups to join or companies to follow and add them to your profile.


Whether you have a question about Social Enterprises or you’d like to discuss our business plan writing services, feel free to contact us for a free consultation!

Social Enterprises Globally

Global Social Enterprise from The Startup Garage

Social Enterprises Globally

There is a rich social enterprise culture present in the United Kingdom.  With the 2010 election of Prime Minister David Cameron, a platform policy of the U.K. Conservative Party known as the “Big Society” has been launched and aims to empower local community entrepreneurs.  One of the five main objectives is to support co-ops, mutuals, charities and social enterprises by establishing a Big Society Bank, which will provide financing for social enterprises and other similar ventures.  In addition, the University of Oxford boasts that the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship is the leading global entity for the advancement of social entrepreneurship.

Back in the U.S., the University of Washington Foster School of Business hosts the annual Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition, which was won in 2012 by a student team from the Copenhagen Business School with a solution to the social stigma and environmental problem of menstruation in the developing world.  Read about their company and the other winners here.

Another U.S.-based organization that has a profound impact on the international social enterprise community is Ashoka, which has established programs in over 60 countries and supports the work of nearly 3000 Fellows.  The first Ashoka Fellows were elected in 1981 in India.  Read more about Ashoka’s approach to supporting global social entrepreneurship here.

The 2012 Social Enterprise World Forum, hosted by NESsT, is taking place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in October.  NESsT was co-founded by an American and a Chilean in 1997 and is currently a registered charity in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Hungary, Peru, Romania, the U.K. and the U.S.  Read more about the SEWF’s agenda and registration here.


Whether you have a question about Social Enterprises or you’d like to discuss our business plan writing services, feel free to contact us for a free consultation!

Common Mistakes Made By Social Entrepreneurs

Social Entrepreneur Mistakes from The Startup Garage

Common Mistakes Made By Social Entrepreneurs

As with any entrepreneurial venture, a social enterprise is bound to encounter some challenges in the process of starting up and becoming established.  Below are some examples of mistakes social entrepreneurs have made and how they have learned from these mistakes.

Product: Zack Rosenberg, founder of DoGoodBuyUs, a website that sells products made by charitable organizations, encountered some challenges in the early stages of his venture.  One of the first companies he attracted to sell their goods on his site had put together a package that was not of the quality or price point that customers were interested in, and the package sales were a flop.  Rosenberg learned that no matter what the cause is, if people do not want the product they will not buy it.  He was able to use the experience to demonstrate the potential of his site to other sellers, and has since partnered with over 70 organizations.  Read the whole article.

Asking for Help & Feedback:  A social entrepreneur, perhaps even more than a traditional entrepreneur, believes they have found a solution to a problem that no one has yet come up with.  This leads to a strong belief in the “correctness” of the solution which, as the social enterprise is being assembled, may lead to blindness on the entrepreneur’s part of the areas in which they are actually not correct.  You are not expected to have all the answers and there is no failure in admitting you were wrong about something.  Be open to criticism and seek help before you begin to hit major setbacks.  You may end up needing to alter your original plan significantly, so be flexible with the details and remember that your journey is ultimately about creating lasting social impact.

Marketing:  Your product will not sell itself.  You must be selling something that people want to buy, or else figure out how to convince them that they want to buy it.  Few social enterprises will have a product that reaches the marketing success of TOMS shoes.  TOMS has a great mission, but it’s worth mentioning that TOMS also managed to become a fashion statement once they were spotted on the feet of celebrities.  But for social enterprises without celebrity ambassadors, know your audience: what kind of action must you take to reach the audience that buys your product, and how is that audience the same (or different) from the audience that benefits from your social mission?  The further apart the two audiences are, the more likely you will need to engage in marketing tactics that compete with traditional commercial enterprises.

Hiring on Availability Rather than Talent:  When you are putting together your staff for the social enterprise, do not rush into hiring the first passionate individual who sits down to speak with you.  In the beginning stages of your business you will be fueled by the energy you have towards your mission, and it is crucial that you do not allow it to sidetrack you from the importance of hiring someone who is right for the job and not someone who is under experienced.  A non-profit is a better business entity for hiring volunteers and entry-level employees, but a social enterprise must bear in mind that there is a need to earn a profit.  A suggestion for avoiding the mistake of hiring the wrong person is to thoroughly articulate the job requirements and experience necessary, on paper, before you begin speaking with potential employees.  This way you already know what your ideal candidate looks like.

Believing that a Social Enterprise is the Only Way:  The popularity of the social enterprise model is fairly recent, and as more universities are offering courses in social entrepreneurship and the business media is beginning to cover more social enterprises, entrepreneurs may cling to the idea as though it is the only way to change the world.  It is not.  Your altruism is not wasted if you end up working in another field, don’t discount the benefit you offer to the world by having your head and heart dedicated to change.  Read Lara Galinsky’s thoughts on why not everyone should be a social entrepreneur.


Whether you have a question about Social Entrepreneurship or you’d like to discuss our business plan writing services, feel free to contact us for a free consultation!

Scaling Your Social Enterprise

Scaling a Social Enterprise from The Startup Garage

Scaling Your Social Enterprise

There are two ways to scale your social enterprise: through organizational growth or through other forms of increasing social impact beyond the organizational boundaries.

Organizational growth is the internal changes made aimed at maximizing social impact, such as diversifying into other services or activities, serving more people by increasing employment number and hours, starting a new site, and winning new contracts.  Scaling a social enterprise with organizational growth requires financial and management expertise, as well as incorporation of growth models such as M&A drawn from the private sector.  Two examples of mass-scale social enterprise are Mexico-based Gente Nueva and Bangladesh-based BRAC.  Watch an interview with Gente Nueva’s social entrepreneur, Jose Hernandez.  Watch an in-depth panel interview on scaling the BRAC social enterprise (beginning at 17:00).

Increasing social impact beyond organizational boundaries includes creating alliances to get resources and political support, creating “spin out” organizations, social franchising, establishing or supporting quality standards for best practices, and providing material or training to others.*  This includes the idea of networked social entrepreneurship, which aims to achieve greater impact by creating a network of collaborators and partners.  This method of scaling a social enterprise increases the possibility of innovation and experimentation as the members of the network complement the efforts of the other members.  The Impact Alliance is a Washington D.C.-based network that aims to improve the scale of impact of member organizations and is a great place to start looking for resources to expand a social enterprise.


*Lyon, Fergus and Heather Fernandez.  “Strategies for scaling up social enterprise: lessons from early years providers.”  Social Enterprise Journal 18.1 (2012): 63-77.  Print.


Whether you have a question about Social Enterprises or you’d like to discuss our business plan writing services, feel free to contact us for a free consultation!