Deadline to apply:
31 January 2024
Up to 12 months of structured support
Online with opportunities for face-to-face delivery
Through expert business advice, training and networking, we help social ventures to secure finance, embed their social mission, measure their impact, develop strong governance and grow to the next level. Since 2014, we’ve helped hundreds of social ventures to grow, find customers, make a social impact and raise finance.
Our offer includes:
- six months of live virtual monthly training days supplemented by online content
- bespoke support from a dedicated business advisor for up to 12 months, negotiated with each entrepreneur
- additional optional trainings, webinars and networking events
- support and introductions to become investment-ready and access finance, including loans and angel investment
- support to embed and protect your social mission through appropriate legal structures
- connections to business networks and the social sector
- shared working space in central Cambridge (subject to availability)
- bursaries for entrepreneurs experiencing personal, long-term, financial hardship to enable them to engage with our programme.
We expect our entrepreneurs to:
- be working full-time on their venture, or making steps towards that goal
- embed their social mission in their organisation
- measure and communicate their social impact
- be an active member of our community at the Cambridge Centre for Social Innovation.
Entrepreneurs who aren’t quite ready for this sort of support should come along to one of our Social Venture Weekends to develop their idea further.
The core of your relationship with us is your business advisor.
Each of our advisors is an experienced social entrepreneur. They’ll be a shoulder to cry on when things get tough, and they’ll hold your feet to the fire when you need motivating!
At your first meeting you will set some goals together and establish what your support needs are. You’ll meet with them at least monthly and perhaps more often. They will drill down into your business plans with you and help you set strong foundations to grow your impact.
You’ll join monthly trainings – partly an opportunity to learn from world experts in entrepreneurship and partly a chance to connect virtually with each other.
These sessions are facilitated by teachers from the University of Cambridge, inspiring social entrepreneurs and professionals like accountants or lawyers with relevant social sector experience. You’ll also meet investors and social sector leaders who can help your business get started and grow. The sessions cover topics such as finance, governance, marketing and sales, human resources, personal resilience and more.
We also organise occasional social gatherings in Cambridge and London for networking and connecting face-to-face.
We don’t offer any funding to social ventures and we don’t take any equity in your ventures.
We do support ventures to identify customers and make sales, and we can support ventures to access other sources of finance, whether through loans, grants or equity investment (angel and venture capital). We do this by helping with the financial modelling necessary for raising finance, and by introducing you to the right people.
There’s a wide range of finance options available to social entrepreneurs. We’ll help you figure out whether external finance is something you need and can connect you to potential investors, grant-making bodies, lenders, and others.
Cambridge Enterprise and Cambridge Social Ventures have partnered to offer up to £20,000 seed funding to social ventures emerging from the University of Cambridge.
This particular investment is only available to students, staff, or alumni of the University of Cambridge.
Who we support
We celebrate social entrepreneurs of all kinds – big or small, local or international.
We understand ‘social venture’ pretty broadly – we work with businesses, charities, co-ops, tech start-ups, community groups, public sector spinouts and more. The common thread is a strong social mission at the core of a sustainable business.
We believe the social sector needs all types of ventures. Some of the ventures we support are making an impact in their local community; others have ambitious plans to work all over the world. We support ventures at all stages, whether you’ve just got an idea or whether you’re already growing and looking to make a change in your work. The common factors among our ventures are:
- Set up to be financially self-sustaining, not to rely on donations and grants (some ventures are a mix of funding sources)
- Strong social mission at the core of the ventures
- Any legal structure, so long as there is an embedded social purpose (or willingness to embed one)
- UK-based or UK-linked ventures
Have a look at our venture profiles to get a sense of the range of entrepreneurs we support.
How to apply
The next opportunity to join us will be Spring 2024 and the deadline to apply for this intake is 31 January 2024.
Who we are looking for
When we review your applications, we’re looking for:
- Great people. We look for credible, knowledgeable entrepreneurs, no matter what your background, your education or your postcode. Many of our entrepreneurs have personal experience of the problems they are working to solve.
- A viable business idea. Some applicants have great ideas for charities, awareness campaigns or small consultancies, but we look for ventures that can show a potentially sustainable revenue model and identify a potential market.
- A clear social mission. The ventures we work with all have a strong social mission at the core of their business and can show how their venture idea will help them to achieve their social aim.
- Vision and ambition. We look for entrepreneurs with a clear vision rather than ventures exploring many ideas, and our support is best suited to ventures that aim to grow and scale up their impact.
- The right time and place. Ventures must be ready and able to take up the support we offer. This means committing to the venture as your priority – even if you have to do other work in the short term.
Inclusivity and access
Our support is for everyone, not just Cambridge people, so please don’t be afraid to apply! If you would like to chat about your ideas or how our support could help you, please contact us at [email protected] – we are very friendly!
We welcome people from all backgrounds and levels of education, whether you left school young or have a PhD. Some of the best social entrepreneurs are those with personal experience of the issues they are trying to solve.
We don’t want anyone to miss out on our support because of money. If you are experiencing long term financial hardship, we have a limited number of bursaries, particularly people from disadvantaged communities.
We also don’t want anyone to miss out because of disability or any other accessibility needs. We work hard to meet the widest variety of accessibility needs, including physical or mental health, learning support and family caring requirements. If there’s anything we can do to adapt our support to be more accessible for you, please let us know.
Social impact seed funding
Cambridge Enterprise and Cambridge Social Ventures have partnered to offer seed funding to social ventures emerging from the University of Cambridge. The programme will invest up to £20,000 in social ventures on our incubator programme that are making a positive social or environmental impact. Any returns will be reinvested in future social ventures.