New impact venture programme in January

This was emailed to me from Laura James at the Impact Union. Get in touch directly via the link below if you’re interested.


I’m part of a team working on a new Cambridge impact venture programme -

and wondered if you might know anyone I should be encouraging to apply?

Applicants will probably be based in/near UK, trying to scale some sort of
social justice/sustainability/social good
venture/nonprofit/co-op/charity/other, and would like some support in
January. Founders from non-traditional backgrounds esp welcome, as we are
intentionally trying to offer something more inclusive and less “how to be
a mini-Zuckerberg” than many venture programmes.

I’d especially like us to have some co-op/non-profit/charities/hybrid
organisations going through, to help demonstrate the need for support even
if you aren’t trying to raise traditional financing, especially with
scale-up and going past the first pilot or demonstrator. The January
programme will help demonstrate the need and potential and will support
securing resources for a full programme later on.

I’m put off by the use of the term entrepreneur.

Entrepreneur: a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit.

I also find it really difficult to work out exactly what the Impact Union does, even after reading their ‘pitch’. Does anyone here know anything about them?

Is it this company providing “Management consultancy activities other than financial management”: ?

Hi Matt, and everyone,

I’m one of the Impact Union team - and the person who reached out to Martin.

We aren’t formally incorporated yet, so we’re not that companies house link. We are at a very early stage - the January programme will be our first and is very much a prototype. We hope it will be genuinely useful to the participants, as well as providing some evidence that a new kind of support would be useful and that we can deliver it; we would then use evidence from this to raise funds for a full programme. (or there’s a chance we’ll find it doesn’t work, of course, in which case we’ll share what we’ve learned instead!).

I don’t really like the term ‘entrepreneur’ either; we’re walking a line between being comprehensible to potential mentors, funders and applicants by using existing language, and trying to craft something new which might need new words (we are fairly sure we are not an ‘accelerator’ as this is commonly conceived). Ideas for better terminology welcome :slight_smile:

We’re building out the railway in front of the train somewhat at the moment, as we are all volunteers doing this on the side of other activities, but as a team we do have quite a bit of experience in this sort of area, supporting new and growing organisations (and being part of them too). The team involved are listed at the bottom of our launch post / outline.

Hope that helps. My personal motivation is a frustration with the attention and support that for-profit startups, especially those with the kind of investment that seeks high growth, and the lack of support for different kinds of organisation who need support to grow their impact. The organisational form isn’t what matters most - these are organisations seeking to make a difference to social justice or sustainability goals - and yet it’s the first thing that you encounter when seeking that support. Finding a viable business model is hard, and I think exposure to different approaches and ideas is really helpful. Networks are also critical - we’re based in Cambridge, which as a city and scholarly community has good ties around the world, and we hope to put that to good use here.

As I said to Martin, I’d love to have at least one co-op in our January programme. Even if we fail to create something off the ground following this, I want to showcase the different organisational forms which so many people in the local tech and ‘entrepreneurship’ communities are unaware of, and to raise awareness that there are important challenges where more equitable organisational forms can be the best way forward.


Hey this looks interesting I think I’d like to apply. I’m currently trying to grow Space4 into something beyond a coworking community. I’m hoping that we can develop a model somewhat similar to Doc Servizi, Happy Dev, or SMart. This aim is to provide freelancers and cooperators (starting with the CoTech network) with protections like maternity/paternity pay, business development support, as well as the stuff we already do like affordable workspace, and a community.

Anyway, it’s early days at the moment and I’m looking forward to spending the next couple of days working on the project during the CoTech Hack.

There’s evidently a big need for support for those who don’t want to go down the traditional routes in terms of scaling or financing their business. I’m not a big fan of a lot of the terminology around entrepreneurialism, but it seems to be here to stay until we get an alternative culture that’s strong enough to take it on!

New word suggestion: ‘entredonneur’. Any takers?

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I have a vague memory of talking to someone based in Wales who was setting up co-working spaces for freelancers across the UK and providing shared services. Does that ring a bell?

Yes, Indycube! They’re great and I’m planning to get in touch to work out how we work together. I have a few ideas that would differ from their model a bit (but maybe there’s a reason they didn’t go down that route!).

Thanks for the heads up.