Many social enterprises I come across have figured out innovative solutions for deep-seated problems. Their business models show a pathway to helping marginal and neglected communities become part of the mainstream narrative. But corporates rarely engage with these startups and, even less so, in the impact investing sector.
Even if they did, these nascent firms struggle to match up to the work culture and speed of large partner companies. Conscious early engagement with a relevant corporate can be a great way to boost social impact and democratize innovation, and also makes for a sound sales strategy. A startup’s go-to market strategy must include active corporate engagement. Villgro Innovations Foundation—the incubator I work for—has gone out of the way to facilitate such engagements.
An IoT startup reduced the price of automating drip irrigation to one-tenth. And, expanded the market opportunity by eight times for a large irrigation equipment manufacturer. A telemedicine startup eliminated the need for skilled operators for MRI and radiology machines. This helped a leading medical equipment brand expand sales into tier-II cities.
It’s the job of the early-stage investor and incubator to support the entrepreneurs in such engagements. Beyond this, an option has been to run an accelerator programme that focuses on go-to market strategies rather than fundraising. Recently, Villgro and a private bank ran such an accelerator, which engaged 10 large firms and 14 matched startups. Within 12 weeks, these startups were able to convince these firms to collaborate. If you are a social entrepreneur seeking investments, be selective about your investors. Choose those who go beyond just funding and help in go-to market and corporate engagement.
Srinivas Ramanujam is COO and agribusiness practice lead at Villgro Innovations
Reverse Pitch is like a normal investors pitch, but with the roles reversed. That means the startup doesn’t present its business to investors, but investors and companies pitch their business concept, challenges and the like to startups.