Nearly four years ago, when Marc Andreesen opined that “software is eating the world,” it was based on the observation that virtually all industries stood to be disrupted by software developed by Silicon Valley startups.
Fast-forward, and today that mantra for disruption has permeated cities and countries; in fact, nations of people are driving innovation and establishing entrepreneurial ecosystems globally challenging a range of business models. While Mr. Andreesen may not have intended for his posturing to become one of the most quoted observations of the startup community, it is truer today than ever before.
Keith Ippel, Co-founder and partner of Spring and Spring University asked himself this question, “When someone [anywhere in the world] with an idea wants to become an entrepreneur where do they go?” The answer: Spring University’s Kick Incubator. Earlier this week, Spring announced its acquisition of the Kick Incubator Program and the launch of Spring University.
“Spring University exists because while supporting entrepreneurs in hubs like Vancouver and San Francisco is great, we’ll change the world by making tools, training, and resources available in all communities. Our aim is to foster collaboration between global and local communities while providing a fast track path from idea, through to seed funding,” is how Keith explains why Spring acquired Kick as part of the Spring Univeristy launch. Already, they are now a combined 300+ alumni network and 30+ campus locations around the world.
Michelle Sklar caught up with Keith Ippel and chatted about the launch of Spring U and the Kick acquisition.
What makes the new Kick Incubator program a unique opportunity for entrepreneurs?
“Kick, which is now offered through Spring University, is designed to help aspiring entrepreneurs get clarity on their ideas and then help them decide if if they want to be an entrepreneur, and if so, Kick gives them the tools to launch a business. As a “pre-accelerator”, our objective is to connect with candidates at the earliest stages of their entrepreneurial journey. We offer a unique program for the front-end of of that quest.”
What criteria does an aspiring entrepreneur need in order to qualify for the Kick program?
“They need to come with an idea and then Kick is broken down into three parts: Inspire, Launch, Grow and Funding. Inspire, focuses on clarifying their idea and teaches them how to bring their idea from inception to execution. Launch really focuses on teaching how to bring that idea to market. While Grow and Funding, are based on how to respond to the commitment of building their business.”
The acquisition of the Kick Incubator was driven by the desire to build out an entrepreneurial ecosystem internationally that enables startups both in Vancouver and globally to build successful businesses. Can you expand on that?
The core value proposition of Kick is that is runs in 30 cities on 5 continents, so as a global program it creates access to tools, training, resources, network and capital for entrepreneurs anywhere in the world. One of the most important aspects is to be able to serve people who are in communities that are traditionally are underserved. Our objective is to create connections to a global community of aspiring entrepreneurs, as well as connecting to organizations that are supporting startups with such things as mentors, and helping to accelerate other connection points. And finally, the creation of a global brand, means as an entrepreneur, when you are reaching out to other communities you can use Spring University as a calling card. Spring University now becomes a way to connect and open doors that otherwise might not be opened.
Now with this global reach, how are you able to grow and manage that type of network from here in Vancouver?
“Connecting people through partnerships with Accelerators, Incubators, co-working spaces and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) who are funded with a mandate to support entrepreneurs, are just some of those ways. For example this allows us to give facilitators the tools to invite mentorship participation, both locally and internationally.”
What kind of platform will you be using to bring all of these pieces together? Is there an online component, or is it all face-to-face programming?
“We are using a range of tools, we have a Slack chat community. We use Google Drive to provide core content to facilitators in local centres, such as videos, speaker notes, presentation decks and workshops. We use conferencing platforms, such as Zoom, to help us connect with those who can’t attend in person, or who are in remote communities. So we have both in-person and virtual community support.”
What is the fee structure to participate in the Kick program?
“Kick is a tuition based program through Spring University with per course or monthly payment options. The program revenues are then shared with communities to continue to develop and build out the ecosystem.”
What emerging trends are you seeing in the area of social entrepreneurship and industry disruption?Can you share with us any stories that have you excited?
“Well some recent Kick graduates include Zero Waste Market, a grocery store without packaged products, opening their first store-front location in Vancouver this Fall. And My Greenspace, a mobile app and concierge service for urban gardening, is another. So, I would say, food scarcity, urban agriculture, global population food shortages, and the desire to lead a more conscious life around food, are really inspiring business ideas. As well as health tech, such as wearables, and new paradigms around e-commerce. And finally, social marketing, such as how people are engaging in social marketing to sell products, and we are seeing this through how different social platforms are relevant in different countries.”
What outcomes are you looking to achieve? What do you hope to accomplish in a year’s time?
“By next year, we are looking to grow from 30 to 50 cities, but our goal is to be in 100 cities in 3 years. We are looking to help establish Vancouver as a true global player in the entrepreneurial and startup ecosystem. Currently there is a lack of global programs that emanate from Vancouver, or serve Vancouver. Where other cities have a YComminator, General Assembly, 500 startups or WeWork, the launch of Kick has us established in 30 cities already. We feel this will accelerate the emergence of Vancouver on the global startup ecosystem stage. We know that others will do this, and of course we will track others who come into Vancouver. But we felt it critical for somebody to put that ‘flag in the ground’ and say “We are a global player in a global ecosystem”. And we look forward to seeing other organizations emanate from here, or global players establish a presence here.”