When Echoing Green, a nonprofit focused on unleashing next-generation talent, was founded in 1987, the term "social entrepreneur" was not widely used. Emerging leaders who wanted to change the world had limited options to access capital and programmatic support aside from its Fellowship program. Forty million dollars in seed-stage funding and strategic assistance to nearly 700 entrepreneurs later, Echoing Green has witnessed social entrepreneurship become a global movement.
In recent years, Echoing Green has recognized two field-level trends within its Fellow community. First, for-profit business models to effect social and environmental change and impact investing (investments made to generate social and environmental impact alongside a financial return) have increased in popularity. At the same time, the business accelerator landscape has grown, and many entrepreneurs are participating in multiple programs. Globally, a plethora of accelerator programs are now employing a variety of services and funding models to launch start-ups.
Echoing Green also began accepting more entrepreneurs using for-profit business models into its Fellowship and deepening its engagement with its Fellow alumni community. In 2014, it piloted an impact investing "inflection cohort" of Fellow alumni running for-profit and hybrid social enterprises. Its goal was to fill gaps in support and funding through the Fellows' common critical inflection moment: transitioning from early-stage funding to raising more sophisticated institutional growth capital.
In this white paper, Echoing Green describes this impact investing inflection cohort pilot and shares the social entrepreneurs' data to shed light on how and if the inflection cohort model succeeded in enabling the early-stage social entrepreneurs to grow, attract investment, and deliver impact.