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July 19, 2023

Our Journey: Transitioning from an Accelerator to a Platform for Changemakers




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Camila Ugarte

Communications & Marketing Intern

On June 26th, WorldStartup turned 8 years old. To celebrate this occasion, we thought of sharing our journey with you! From our inception as an accelerator to our current version of becoming a global platform for changemakers. In these 8 years, we have navigated through challenges and risks. The path to the summit still lies ahead, but we are taking this moment to appreciate the significant progress we have made so far. Let’s look back!

The start of an adventure

We started in 2015, when the concept of Impact Cities was emerging, although it was not yet defined as such. At that time, it was becoming a trend for every city to have a startup ecosystem, but the city of peace and justice, The Hague, had only a few resources available for the startup community.

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We initially began as a project, a collaboration among three independent enterprises, to test the viability of running accelerators in The Hague. Our concept was straightforward: bring in entrepreneurs from different locations, help them relocate if needed, provide support and funding for three months, and then let them move forward with their ventures.

To our surprise, right from the start, we attracted a diverse and international community. However, the quality and impact of these early ventures were not as high as we had hoped for. It was a learning experience for us as well, as we realised we were operating in a rapidly changing and competitive space. This led us to question how we could increase our quality and make a more significant impact.

After three cohorts, we drew three conclusions. First, unlike the typical situation with American accelerators, in Europe there was limited funding available for startups immediately after finishing the accelerator programme. Second, startups continued reaching out to us with questions and challenges after the acceleration period ended. Third, the concept of relocating startups to The Hague started to lose its relevance.

Our initial goal was to contribute to the local economy of The Hague by attracting foreign and local startups. However, we discovered that The Hague lacked a well-established entrepreneurial community. It is then that our goal shifted. We realised that our true aim was to help entrepreneurs succeed in their own communities, rather than contribute to the brain drain in other parts of the world.

Stepping away from the norm

Over the years, we learned more about what it means to build an impact-driven and regenerative economy. This led us to reconfigure our approach. We decided to move away from the traditional accelerator concept and focus on creating hybrid communities that would be appealing to entrepreneurs, both in person and online and would contribute to the regenerative economy we envisioned.

As we had initially aligned ourselves with the American startup system, breaking free from the shadow of the dominant Silicon Valley startup system did not come lightly. We recognised the risks ahead and encountered various dualities that tested us as a team and as a newly emerging community. Balancing the familiar and comfortable with the desire for something more meaningful became an intriguing challenge.

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It became clear that to create a true systemic change in entrepreneurship and contribute to a regenerative economy, we had to build a new system. This new system would become the core of who we are now: a platform for changemakers. However, we needed to establish collaborations with organisations and stakeholders who shared our vision and could contribute to the platform’s success. Soon enough, we found them in different corners of the world. Unknowingly, we were becoming part of a larger global community pursuing entrepreneurship in a different way.

The platform in the making

Over the course of 2022, we reaffirmed our values after two years of searching and exploration. The time had come to push our ideas into the world and work with as many ventures as possible to help them succeed.

As a platform, our main goal is capacity building, where we learn from the expansion of ideas. We do this through storytelling, amplifying successful interventions and uniting people from all over the world to explore how impact-driven entrepreneurs can contribute to an inclusive and regenerative future.

We believe in leading by example, which is why we strive to be peers rather than consultants, as a horizontal method of interaction will foster a sense of belonging among those who associate with WorldStartup. In this way, we are better able to understand and guide those who come to us.

A moment to process

Looking back, we celebrate several successes. Firstly, the remarkable achievements of the startups we have supported. While our direct involvement was minimal, only planting the seed, it fills us with satisfaction to see our ideas taking root and flourishing in different parts of the world.

Secondly, we have observed a growing comfort among people in expressing their thoughts on the impact and alternative approaches to entrepreneurship. The community is widely growing.

Thirdly, validation from other startups demonstrates that the seeds we planted have borne fruit. The vibrant community we have fostered enhances awareness, comfort and collaboration among entrepreneurs.

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Future outlook

Throughout our startup journey, one valuable piece of advice resonates with us: Do not hold back! Our journey has been about embracing a new vision for the startup community. We have transitioned from the confines of transaction success to becoming stewards of knowledge and resources, nurturing entrepreneurs and empowering them to build successful ventures.

Looking ahead, we are excited about the possibilities that the platform model offers. Join us on this journey to redefine entrepreneurship and create a world where startups contribute to a sustainable and inclusive future!

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