Funding a Social Innovation Startup, Part 2
This is Part 2 of a multi-part series of SoJo's journey of seeking the funding needed to scale its operations and bring it to a point of financial self-sustainability.
SoJo (http://theSoJo.net) is an interactive online resource that empowers individuals to turn their ideas for social good into action. Through supporting social innovators navigate the challenges of executing their ideas, SoJo enables its users to focus their creative energies on finding solutions to some of today's most pressing challenges and working with their target communities to affect social change.
Up until now funding has not been an issue for SoJo, as the focus has been on proving the value of our product and the need that SoJo is filling in the market. I believed and continue to believe that if you deliver a valuable service or product, then there will be the resources or market to support that product. Rather than focus our time on securing funds, we were busy building, serving our community of social innovators and validating the consumer-facing product.
I’m delighted to say that the value of SoJo's public-facing product has been affirmed many times over. With an endorsement from the Canadian Commission for UNESCO as a leading educational platform, an active community of over 2,000 individuals (without marketing or outreach efforts), and over 65,000 articles read online, not to mention incredible press coverage around the world, including a full feature in FORBES, it’s safe to say a resource like SoJo is needed.
However, a part-time unpaid team cannot fuel the growth that is needed to make SoJo the universal ubiquitous resource for early-stage social innovators. We have taken this as far as we could without external financial support, and have come very far may I add; however, we are quickly running out of steam. SoJo needs money so it can build http://theSoJo.net to the point where it can sustain itself (aka bridge funding).
I've read enough reports and heard enough people talking about the importance of supporting social innovation. Social innovation starts somewhere, and for those of us in the trenches, in our early stages and without all of the answers, the outlook does not look bright.
SoJo's vision is to be the starting point, to provide social innovators with the knowledge and emotional support needed to get started and stay motivated in the early days of their journey of creating positive social impact. With a world of ever-increasing social, environmental and political challenges, no one will deny the importance of getting more people and fresh minds involved in building and acting on creative solutions to these challenges.
For social innovation to thrive, all of us in the ecosystem need to provide more support to the early-stage innovators. SoJo is doing its part through education and emotional support; however, its time for the rest of the ecosystem to step up and invest in early-stage social innovation. Otherwise, this thriving ecosystem will continue to leave brilliant ideas and incredible potential to the curbside; a shame, especially when I know the resources exist.