Aspect Student Accelerator Program (ASAP) was the first joint university online accelerator of its kind in Europe – the pilot programme was tailored specifically towards driving social change through entrepreneurship. The first cohort featured 19 impact driven companies across 8 universities.
Development and Delivery
The ASAP program (Sep 2020 to Jan 2021) was a 4-month online accelerator which featured fortnightly online training bootcamps, Access to unique 1:1 mentoring opportunities, bi-weekly peer skill-sharing sessions and tailored online resources and culminated in a demo day. The program was funded by Research England. We worked with several partners to deliver the bootcamps including the Social Tech Trust and SeedLegals. One of the challenges was to ensure we had a fully integrated curriculum to support the unique consideration of social science and impact driven founders. We overcame this by adapting the core business curriculum with social enterprise modules, experienced social entrepreneurs as guest speakers and curated mentors.
The primary impact has been for the founders both personally and for their business: increased confidence, a supportive peer community and creating tangible market impact over the 4-month program. Examples include I Speak Mental Health which distributed 85 mental health kits to university students in the UK and an estimated 7760 kg of food waste prevented, per university hall per year from KnoWaste’s data-driven food waste reduction service. ASAP also helped to build an ecosystem between academia, business, investors and impact sector and highlighted the mission driven entrepreneurial talent from across universities. The program had 19 mentors supporting the cohort from the UK, US, UAE, Uganda, 12 bootcamps and workshops with world-class facilitators, 5 fireside chats with experienced social impact founders and culminated in a demo day attended by over 300 investors, academics, founders and supporters.
At the start of the program we measured key Diversity and Inclusion metrics of the applicant pool. Throughout the accelerator, founders completed feedback surveys on bootcamps and workshops. We surveyed the cohort with key questions on impact and are currently conducting post-mortem interviews with the founders and mentors on the program to understand strengths and improvement areas.
A significant learning experience for LSE to better support social science and impact driven entrepreneurs with a relevant curriculum featuring market leading best practices. Given it was the first inter-university online accelerator, the team leveraged creative ideas and technologies to build an inclusive and engaged community in virtual settings. As an organisation, we built a diverse and unique team with a knowledge sharing culture embedded in the program governance to encourage entrepreneurial thinking and challenge ideas throughout.
An impact report and learnings on social business model innovation was released at the end of February followed by a webinar in early March. Please see links below:
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