Bethnal Green Ventures is an accelerator programme, early-stage investor and support network for ambitious startups using technology to change the world.
Through our accelerator programme we invest in and support great teams with new ideas to help build solutions to social and environmental problems through an intensive three-month programme… read more about the programme here.
We think there’s huge potential for the online world to radically improve things that really matter in the offline world: from how we provide health and social care to designing new forms of education, energy creation and employment. These ideas don’t come from traditional companies, governments or charities. They start with smart, passionate, practical people.
Bethnal Green Ventures seeks out people with great ideas: they might be software developers, designers or people with personal experience of something they want to change – from teachers and doctors, to patients and carers. We look for early-stage ideas – not business plans – and we’re more interested in potential than experience.
We select teams of between two and four people to be part of the Bethnal Green Ventures programme. We invest £20,000 in each team in exchange for 6% equity. We provide three month programme of support and advice to help build, test and launch each startup.
Our aim is to not only to launch a set of new ventures, but to build an alumni community that will go on to create and run even more social startups in the future.Who’s behind BGV? Why Bethnal Green Ventures?
We started out in Bethnal Green, London. We’re now based at the Ministry of Startups in Shoreditch, just down the road from where we began.
What’s the deal?
The BGV accelerator programme offers:
- Investment: £20,000 cash in exchange for 6% equity
- Support: An intensive 3 month programme of workshops and 1:1 support to accelerate your startup
- Connections: Access to a network of over 100 mentors
- Office space: 6 months’ free office space in central London
After the programme all BGV ventures have access to:
- More investment: Potential further investment from BGV of up to £50,000
- More support: A programme of ongoing learning and development provided by BGV
- More connections: Become a part of the BGV alumni community with over 80 tech for good founders
Can I apply as an individual?
You can try but it’s more unlikely that we’ll fund you. We’ve found that a startup is much more likely to succeed when it’s started by a small team rather than just by one individual.
What other terms are attached to the investment?
As we mentioned we ask for 6% of the shares in the company with the same type of shares as founders (usually ordinary shares). We also ask to be kept up-to-date with important information once you’ve flown the BGV nest, but it won’t be anything too arduous. We don’t ask for a board seat or anything like that. You can spend the money we invest however you like.
Do we already have to be incorporated as a company before we apply?
No – we can help you do that if you’re selected. We’ll get you all set up and put the money in your bank account at the beginning of the programme. If you’ve already got a company set up, we’ll just get you to sign the paperwork and then transfer the money to you.
Do you select based more on the idea or the team?
Mainly on the team. It is a good idea to get in touch before you apply so you can get a slot to talk with us on the phone or meet face-to-face. We also want to know why the problem you’re trying to solve is an important one and that you are committed to solving it.
Do you provide office space?
Yes, if you’re selected your team will get a spot in our lovely coworking space at the Ministry of Startups, 14-22 Elder Street in Shoreditch.
Do you support not-for-profit companies, charities or community interest companies?
Afraid not. We only invest in companies limited by shares. Our advice to social ventures (in the UK) would always be to start out this way. Once you’re big and successful it’s much easier to decide what legal form you should take. If you do anything complicated from day-one you’ll find it’s more likely to hold you back.
My idea isn’t based on technology, can I apply?
No. We’re just focusing on ideas that use technology (hardware and software). That’s what we know about and we think it’s more likely that ideas based on technology can grow to help millions of people which is our ultimate goal for all the companies we fund.
Do we have to live in London?
Nope, but you will need to be able to travel to London to take part in most of the workshops during the three month programme.
Do we have to be British to apply?
No, you can be any nationality as long as you have the right to work in the UK. You cannot take part in the BGV programme on a tourist visa.
How are you funded?
To date the bulk of our funding comes from our founding partners Nesta, Nominet Trust and the Cabinet Office through the Social Incubator Fund. We are also supported by programme partners for specific verticals – we’re partnering with Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity on health, and Resolution Trust on WorkerTech.
Why Bethnal Green?
Mainly because it’s where the programme launched but also Bethnal Green has a pretty amazing heritage as a hub for social innovations. Michael Young was based here for much of his life.
Do we have to have a technical co-founder?
Almost certainly. We’ll be looking for your potential as a technology startup and we think that means having design and engineering skills in house.
What will interviews be like?
Very friendly and nothing to worry about. You actually get two interviews – one ‘general’ and one ‘technical’. They’ll last between 15-30 mins and we’ll send you details about who you’ll be meeting before your session.
I’ve already got funding and investment, can I apply?
Yes. We’ll want to know about that investment and see what you’ve been able to achieve with it. We work with teams at different stages, as long as we believe there’s a match between the support we offer and the help you need.
What’s the ultimate aim for BGV?
Funny you should ask. This is what we’re trying to achieve.
How will BGV make money?
If the companies we back do well then our stake in those companies will become valuable and we’ll get a return on our investment. We think there’s a lot of value in helping to create new companies that solve social or environmental problems.
What’s the food going to be like?
Tasty and pretty healthy to be honest. We like our food at BGV and we think it plays an important part in bringing people together. That’s why we put on a big team lunch for everyone at least once a week.
Are you just ripping off Y Combinator’s approach?
In his paper ‘Copying Y Combinator‘ Jed Christiansen writes that, “The first rule of copying Y Combinator is: Do Not copy Y Combinator”.
You can probably guess the second rule.
We did our homework in designing BGV and our accelerator is very different to Y Combinator or any of the other programmes that have sprung up. We visited a lot of accelerator programmes to learn how they worked and came to realise that accelerator programmes work for some very simple reasons and then some very complex ones too.
The format of investing in batches of startups helps massively because of the peer group that’s created and because it becomes an attractor for investors and people who want to help startups get going. But just copying the format is absolutely no guarantee of success. Our aim is different to Y Combinator’s and our network is very different too.