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  • Writer's pictureMaia Monell

It Takes 10 Years to Build a Village

People look at our name and immediately make the comparison. “It takes a Village…” ha ha, yeah. We’ve definitely heard that one before. But it’s also not wrong. 

Entrepreneurs need capital, perspective, connections, and so much more in order to be able to grow and scale their innovations. They need curated, customized support – and that support has to be delivered in specific ways in order to be effective. 

And that’s what we do.

Village Capital started in 2009, developing new ways to support entrepreneurs solving systemic issues strategically through an accelerator program and financially through a new way to invest in venture capital: peer selection. We did not know what was going to be successful (though we had some thoughts and assumptions) so we tested what worked and what didn’t in a range of geographies. From the US to India to Africa to Latin America, we refined our accelerator over time, developing program design principles and a curriculum that has helped over 1,100 entrepreneurs raise over $1.5 billion. 

In the process of testing what worked and what didn’t, we changed the structure of our programs dramatically, changing our sector- agnostic, place-based approach to a national (and international), problem-based structure. We moved away from pitch days toward structured, small-group investor meetings. We reduced class time and increased curated network access. All of these adjustments were made in service of driving long-term entrepreneurial success, and the data shows that graduates from our programs raise over 3x more investment, generate over 2x more revenue, and grow their teams 50% faster than a control group. More than looking at just ourselves, though, we helped launch the Global Accelerator Learning Initiative, which now helps over 120 other accelerators globally ask and answer the questions about what works and doesn’t in helping entrepreneurs succeed.

In 2016, we launched VilCap Communities, helping other accelerators and incubators adopt those proven program design principles to deliver localized, contextualized support to the startups they care about. As we continue to test approaches in our own programs and learn from the experiences of our accelerator partners, we share those lessons with our VilCap Communities network. Right now, we’re working with over 60 other accelerators we work with around the world – spreading the knowledge of what works and what doesn’t and increasing access for entrepreneurs to start and scale their businesses.

In 2018, we created the VIRAL pathway – an objective, milestone-based approach to evaluating both company development and investment thesis. This framework served as the backend to Virginia is for Entrepreneurs – the first community effort to organize investment according to these milestone-based criteria. This paved the way to launch Abaca, an online platform now helping over 1,000 investors and entrepreneurs match with peers, prospective partners, and each other through this milestone-based framework.

In 2019, we reflected on 10 years of peer evaluation in investment to find that our approach effectively mitigates bias in the investment process. Further, we showed that this model could be an effective method of investment, finalizing our last initial investment to create an inclusive global portfolio through our partner fund VilCap Investments. 46% women-led companies. 88% outside of major venture hubs. 30% of our US-based companies are led by black and Latinx founders. What’s more – the fund is outperforming its vintage year with 16 early and profitable exits and an 88% survival rate.

We have spent the last decade focused specifically on supporting entrepreneurs solving systemic challenges. Now, as we look toward the next ten years, we’re embracing our role in supporting all stakeholders in the entrepreneur support system – from entrepreneurs to accelerators to investors and capital providers. We’re building the foundation and infrastructure to connect tens of thousands of innovative entrepreneurs with the resources they need to succeed in the next decade.

Support from visionary partners like the Monell Foundation provides the critical funding necessary to continue testing bold new ways of supporting entrepreneurship. The unique perspective of a partner like Monell helps us further apply the scientific method to develop and test new ways to support entrepreneurs solving systemic issues in society.

Together, we are unlocking the power of entrepreneurship to solve some of the biggest challenges of our time – and there’s only more to explore from here. Check the Village Capital website for more.

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