Posts tagged hub
A nice little sample of people who were at SOCAP, a conference on impact investing I went to a few weeks ago. Watch long enough and you might see someone you recognize
I’m in Prague today, the gorgeous capital of the Czech Republic. I’ve spent the afternoon at the Hub here, which opened only a month ago. I sat down with Petr Base, the founder of the space, and he gave me a succinct run-down of the Czech social enterprise space, which I’ve summarized below.
Since this is a former Soviet block country, the culture and politics are still strongly socialist, and the government delivers many of the social services, and also provides the bulk of funding to local NGO’s that do more niche social services that the government isn’t capable of doing itself.
As part of its transition into the European Union, the Czech national government will receive roughly €24 billion in the next six-year EU budget. Most of this funding is slated for infrastructure improvements, so that the country will be better able to keep up with the economic pace required in joining the €uro. (This is equivalent to about half of the annual government budget here, so even spread over six years its still a significant surge in government funding.) However, in anticipation of European Union funding, the Czech government actually cut much of the funding to local NGO’s. This led many to scramble to find a new approach, and many turned to the social enterprise model. Although a handful successfully pitched business plans to the EU’s social enterprise startup fund, most lacked the entrepreneurial education to put together a feasible and well-designed business model.
Petr’s educated guess is that there are about 100 social enterprises in all of the Czech Republic, and unlike in the UK, there is no legal structure for social-mission businesses here to receive tax incentives for the social value they create. (A legal status that is lacking in almost all of the United States as well!)
Although there is also a need for more education to support the growth of the social enterprise movement in central and eastern Europe, there are some pioneering investments coming into the space. Inspired by Nobel Laureate Mohammad Yunus’ Social Business Tour, the Austrian Erste Bank has created a US $10 million venture fund for social businesses in the region. Erste bank is the major player around here, and was started in the late nineteenth century as a bank for local small businesses, so this move honors its roots. This is great news for the Hubs in both Prague and Vienna, as recipients would be ideal Hub members. Although this is just a drop in the bucket in terms of overall access to capital for social startups in central Europe, its the first major and clearly visible investment into the scene here.
I look forward to visiting the Hub in Vienna tomorrow to get the Austrian perspective on the social enterprise movement in this part of Europe.
I spent the past week in the capital city of Germany, which also happens to be one of the coolest places to live in Europe. The buildings are covered with art and graffiti, the parties last until mid-day, and everything is wicked cheap.
One of the first things I did after arriving in Berlin was brunch with Frauke and Martina who are Hub Berlin folks. We talked for a few hours, preparing for a workshop planned for later that week. There was a Hub in Berlin that went out of business about 5 months ago, and there is a group interested in starting a new, but different Hub in Berlin. I was really glad to get more experience with the Hub start-up process, and be of service in the process.
So a few days later, we held the workshop, gathering people interested in starting a new Hub in Berlin. Seventeen people came, and we mainly focused on the question, “Why do we need a Hub in Berlin?” The German culture is fond of clearly-defined concepts, so it is a bit of a challenge to have an open-ended conversation about possibilities and collaborative idea-sharing! Since the past Hub failed in Berlin, the new model must be, well, something new. So there was a real creative tension between the German need for clarity, and the need for creativity, openness, and innovation to find the core identity of a new Hub Berlin.
One comment really stood out to me at this meeting, spoken by Trent Zum Mallen. He described the healing that Germany has undergone since the war, but reminded us that it is still ongoing. Perhaps, he mentioned, the Hub holds an opportunity to bring in help, support, ideas, and partnership from people from around the world to aid in this healing, to help put Germany’s power to the best possible use. It was a really heartfelt comment that shifted the whole mood of the circle. After he said this, I made a clear connection in my mind to the US. This was the most vivid description of the valuable potential of the global Hub network that I had yet heard.
I learned a lot by watching this group wading through the unknown. Its a subtle art to inject just enough clarification to keep things from spiraling into confusion, while not framing things to the point where you’re steering ideas in the conversation.
Earlier in the week, I had breakfast with Mushin, and we dove right into the juicy stuff. We mainly talked about collaboration and the role of spirit. Some headlines from that conversation: “The world doesn’t need to be saved.” ” Culture is the intersection of subjective experiences. The deeper we find shared cultural context, the more likely we are to collaborate.” “The universe may not have a final purpose, but perhaps Purpose is the creattion of the human race.”
Later that same day I had a call with a lawyer named Brian from Seattle who focuses on social enterprises. He’s interested in further supporting the social innovation scene through stuff like a peer network, an annual conference, a venture incubator, a coworking space and investor forums. We share a lot of similar dreams, so we had a rich conversation. Definitely looking forward to connecting with him when I get back to Seattle.
I spent a nice dinner with some ladies I had met at the Sense Festival some weeks before in Sweden. But I got super lost on a sweltering day in east Berlin, searching for a street with a recognizable name. (There’s nothing like getting lost to get a good feel for a city. I think I’ve gotten lost for at least twenty minutes a day in every city on this trip. ) A few days later, I spent an afternoon with one of them, Claire, who gave me a great tour of the Kreuzberg neighborhood, ending with a walk along some remains of the Berlin Wall, now an epic series of murals.
Had to do the requisite Berlin techno party, (which they call “electro”) which lasted until 5am (and then two hours of walking, metro and falling asleep missing my stop on the way back!). The clubs were so hot and smoke filled that they still reek three days later. I would describe the music at the show I went to as minimal hipster house.
I did a bunch of other stuff, like getting a cavity filled (didn’t work: tooth still hurts) checking out an open-source market at a local maker/coworking/cafe space called BetaHaus.