28 Nov 2014

5 insights (& tips) from our latest application round

By Glen

We’ve had a pretty amazing and hectic few weeks here at BGV as we’ve been interviewing candidates for BGV’s Winter ’15 cohort, which will begin in January.

We had 107 applications this time round – there’s some data at the bottom for data junkies – but we wanted to start out by sharing some insights and talking about some of the things that made applications really stand out in a way that made us want to know more.

One: Shortlisting is getting harder. We have a scoring system and it shows that high marks on the applications are clustering: there are a lot of people that we just can’t interview. This means that the quality of the applications is going up: this is on the surface good news for us – we have a better pool to pick from, and we can really focus on teams for whom we know we can make a difference – but it also means we’re probably more likely to miss out on some great opportunities, particularly in areas with which we’re not as familiar.

Two: Deep understanding makes you stand out: We’re looking for big ideas that could really change something, either by having a very deep impact on a particular group of people or an impact which could reach out to millions of people. Most of the people who have passed through to shortlist phase have some specific experience of the social problem that they’re trying to solve, either as a user themselves or with deep experience in their work or voluntary life.

Three: Homework matters. Many of the applications that stood out had really deep and well-articulated understanding of their particular social problems as well as what they were missing. They’d read and tried to put themselves into other people’s shoes and had used their research and insights to make their idea better and their arguments stronger.

Four: Ideas that might seem crazy – but just might change the world: We have a soft spot for these. BGV itself is, we hope, a crazy idea that could make a massive difference in the long run. If you’re reading over a hundred applications these ideas stand out. Some of our past cohort investees seemed like this before we met them – like Fairphone, Open Utility, and Andiamo. But it’s a much tougher sell to get this right – Andiamo had specific experience from being parents of a disabled child, Open Utility had deep knowledge of energy distribution and regulation, and Fairphone had spent years laying the groundwork for developing a more ethical phone.

Five: It’s not (just) the usual suspects: We talk a lot about getting ‘beyond the usual suspects’ – while some of our past cohort members (and current interviewees) have impressive CVs with good universities and big, blue-chip names in their employment history, we’ve interviewed people ranging from 17 to late 50s, with very few qualifications right through to PhDs.

We’ll be announcing the next cohort on December 12. Until then, here are some stats on our applications this round.

In numbers: BGV Winter 2015 application data

In numbers: BGV Winter 2015 application data


Photo credit: Quinn Dombrowski licensed under CC BY 2.0