With a mission statement focusing on childhood cancer support, the Boston-based Richi Foundation has bold objectives via an initiative called Richi Social Entrepreneurs which supports new innovative businesses to generate positive impact in society. Their immersion programs, counselling and sharing of entrepreneurship best practices seek to help shape the future of social innovation. The Horyou blog interviewed Ernest Lara, Executive Director of Richi Social Entrepreneurs.
What is Richi Foundation’s mission?
Richi Social Entrepreneurs (RSE) is a Richi Foundation initiative whose mission is to boost startups from around the world that have the potential to generate a substantial positive impact on society, by connecting them with Boston’s innovation key players and helping them take full advantage of this unique innovation ecosystem.
How did The Richi Foundation get started?.
In 2011, the founder’s son, Richi, was diagnosed with an aggressive medulloblastoma. His family, who was living in Spain, brought Richi to Dana Farber, where they literally saved his life. It was then that Richi’s father, Ricardo Garcia, a serial entrepreneur, decided to found the Richi Childhood Cancer Foundation to provide other children with the same opportunity that Richi had. We have built a strategy to raise funds through business units (initiatives) that provide value to society in sectors such as education, innovation & entrepreneurship, and culture. Richi Social Entrepreneurs is one of those initiatives.
You have an immersion program for social entrepreneurs. How does it work?
Our main program at RSE is named Boston Immersion. It is a three-week eye-opening bootcamp in Boston. Startups have the opportunity to embrace best practices from Boston’s unique ecosystem, and to connect and interact with potential clients, investors, strategic partners, and local top notch industry experts who lead them to outstanding synergies.
You have a strong commitment to social entrepreneurship. Can you share some of your projects in this area?
We have worked with very interesting social entrepreneurship projects in our past program editions, which now are RSE Alumni, such as Literates, PIC, and H20 Now. We like to emphasize that, for us, a social entrepreneur is anyone who provides a positive impact to society or environment with his project, being a startup or a traditional for-profit organization. This means that any life sciences or cleantech startup is perfectly eligible to participate in our program.
As a social entrepreneurship supporter and accelerator, what would you say are the biggest challenges for a social entrepreneur?
Generally speaking, for any entrepreneur, some main challenges are: being able to obtain enough deep knowledge about the unmet need the startup wants to address, and finding the correct fit between this unmet need and the value proposition. Additionally, de-risking the project by generating evidences / results to justify that the project is moving towards the right direction is also challenging (partly because of the economic resources needed to prove the assumptions). It’s also essential to convince key stakeholders that they should care about their project (which requires excellent communication skills and strategic focus).
What are the main aspects of a social business you evaluate in order to give it support?
One important thing for us is to make sure that the startup has (or is testing) a business model able to support the organization’s operations and scale globally. Then, we tend to support projects with a high technological or scientific component. And of course, the team is key. It’s key that projects are carried out by complementary teams and supported by experienced sectoral experts.
How do you see the future of social entrepreneurship?
Every time we see more and more startups trying to provide a positive impact to society or environment with their projects, and this is great. So we think social entrepreneurs will have, every time, more resources and help to boost their businesses.
Horyou connects on its social platform thousands of social entrepreneurs, philanthropists and organizations around the world. In your opinion, what’s the importance of social networks for social entrepreneurship and, particularly, for your work?
Social networks are a great place to learn about new players, resources and influencers. So social networks focused on social entrepreneurs for us is a great tool to meet new projects and stakeholders to collaborate with.
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