By Kal Joffres
In early November, we launched a social business at the Global Social Business Summit called Yunus & Youth. It was launched with Nobel Laureate Mohammad Yunus and it all happened in less than 24 hours.
This is the story of how it happened and much of it, I think, serves as a reminder of how launching a startup is more about doing and seizing the moment rather than planning to do.
It all started as a passing comment. “We keep hearing about how youth are the future of social business but what are we doing to make that happen?” said Logan, one of the conference-goers, as we walked out of the lunch hall. “I wish there was a better way to use our time at this conference… Like to create something.” So I egged him on, “Sounds like a great idea! Let’s do it now.”
Along with Sara, another conference-goer, the three of us mulled a few ideas before settling on the concept of creating a platform that allows budding social entrepreneurs to access the expertise and experience of people at the conference and beyond. Someone who might be trying to figure out how to do rural logistics should be able to reach out to someone at Danone who has already solved this problem to get some specific advice. This idea was later refined with the help of many others.
We skipped our next workshop, found a comfortable spot in the hall, and got down to work. While Logan and Sara thought through the mechanics of the platform, I put together a working web site at Simply.Gd. We got three experts to agree to do coaching sessions on different topics and listed them on the site. Done!
Over the course of the conversation, Logan threw out the idea that we should have a youth version of the set of principles for social business. I suggested we get Prof. Yunus to sign them. Later that evening, a group of thirty youth from the Young Challengers Programme got together to write the six principles for next-generation social business with the help of Cecilia, one of the conference organisers. The group hijacked their own presentation slot the next day to launch the social venture.
Around 3 am that night, Logan sent me an image with the six principles. I brought foam core boards back from the office and, the next morning, hours before Prof. Yunus was to sign the principles, Cecilia and I went to a print shop to get the principles printed and mounted to the board. It looked pretty slick! (The team made a handwritten version with another foam core board just in case we couldn’t get the printed version done in time.)
The Young Challengers delivered a great pitch for Yunus & Youth (then SimplyGood). Prof. Yunus and Hans Reitz, the head of Grameen Creative came up to the stage to sign the six principles — but what happened next was possibly one of the most important aspects of the launch.
At the end of the presentation, the team challenged the audience of 500 executives, social workers, and other people involved in the social business space to pledge their expertise to Yunus & Youth by giving their business cards. Members of the Young Challengers group got off the stage and fanned the crowd, collecting well over a hundred cards from senior managers, experts, and heads of organisations all interested in supporting.
Since then, the team has been actively working on designing the structure of the mentorship programme and reaching out to the mentors. The journey ahead will no doubt be much longer but the beginning is a reminder to all that launching a social venture isn’t necessarily the hard part and that being fast isn’t necessarily a particular skill — it’s a mindset. It’s how you seize an opportunity or decide to answer an email now, rather than let it linger. As long as we are agile and let go of the urge to plan everything, we can accomplish so much more.