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Making the good great – entrepreneurs debate how to upscale social ventures

How to take social ventures to the next level was the subject under discussion when entrepreneurs and thinkers from Cambridge and Silicon Valley met at Cambridge Judge Business School.

The Scaling Social Ventures event brought together four Silicon Valley entrepreneurs with a group of entrepreneurs from Cambridge, to debate the challenges of growing ventures that aim to make a difference in the world into healthy businesses.

Hosted by CJBS, the debate was part of the Silicon Valley comes to Cambridge series of events and was led by Paul Tracey, Professor of Innovation & Organisation. Professor Tracey researches entrepreneurship, regional innovation and social innovation, and will lead a new Social Innovation specialism on the Cambridge MBA next year, reflecting the growing interest in the field amongst MBA students coming to Cambridge.

Over half the projects coming through Cambridge Judge’s Accelerate programme for start-ups are now social ventures. MBA students at CJBS are also increasingly opting to do their MBA project with social enterprises. A team of MBA students recently worked with Kopernik, a social venture that aims to bring technology to some of the poorest people in the world.

Debating the issues with Professor Tracey were:

  • Ben Nelson, Minerva
    Ben is Founder and CEO of Minerva University, a for-profit online university set to open in 2015. He joined the online photo-sharing company Snapfish in 1999 and in 2000 he brought the company to profitability and guided Snapfish’s 2001 sale to District Photo. Prior to Snapfish, Nelson was President and CEO of Community Ventures.
  • Heather Hiles, Pathbrite
    Heather is the Founder and CEO of Pathbrite, a platform showcasing learning and career portfolios. Heather has served as the Commissioner for San Francisco Unified School District and held C-level positions with Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund EARN, SFWorks, and Break the Cycle.
  • Michael Keller, Stanford
    Michael is Partner at Rembrandt and Chairman & Chief Executive Officer of FOUNDER.org and Splunk. Michael also co-founded Collation, dotBank, and Reality. Previously, Michael has served as VP e-Commerce Services at Yahoo! and VP eCommerce at InfoSeek/Disney.
  • Julie Hanna, Kiva
    Julie is an entrepreneur, technologist & CEO turned board director, advisor and investor to numerous companies, including Kiva, Lending Club, Bonobos, SYPartners and Idealab. As Chair of the Board at Kiva, the world’s largest crowdfunding marketplace for entrepreneurs, she’s helping lead the growing movement of tech-enabled, mission-driven companies that are changing the world at scale.

Professor Tracey commented:

It’s only through growth that social ventures can achieve transformational social change. But most social ventures remain small and the challenges facing those looking to scale up are considerable. Access to finance has perhaps received the most attention, although the organisational challenges are significant as well.

This event offered a wonderful opportunity to debate these issues and discuss possible solutions with a panel of leading entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley and an exciting group of entrepreneurs from Cambridge, with a lot of experience of leading and advising social ventures.”