Spring has helped 700 entrepreneurs launch over 350 business globally. In this episode, we talk to Co-Founder and CEO Kieth Ippel to hear how Spring’s growth programs work.

Episode Summary

Keith Ippel is the Co-Founder and CEO of Spring. Spring helps social entrepreneurs make an impact with their Incubator, Accelerator, Peer to Peer learning network, and their Funding Roundtables. Here’s what we cover:

  • 2:20 How Spring started
  • 3:30 Spring has worked with a LOT of entrepreneurs… how?
  • 5:45 What does it take to start a social venture?
  • 15:30 What are the top lessons Keith has learned?
  • 26:45 Keith’s proudest company wins
  • 37:30 Impact investing tips and the Global Goals

Spring is taking on Global Goal #8, decent work and economic growth. Listen in to hear some of the top lessons learned while working with these social entrepreneurs, and the key things to know as you look to raise for your social venture.

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Keith shares what it takes to start a social venture, and what Spring looks for in entrepreneurs they want to work with.

“We’re looking for entrepreneurs who are highly inquisitive, sharp, have a trememndous amount of hustle, are coachable, are able to articulate their why, and understand that they’ll need to create some white space in their industry in order to create growth. Our heart is really for people who want to change the world… it requires a deeper resillience to get impact-driven products and services to the world.”

How Spring’s Programs Work

Spring’s programs are set up to work locally in the cities they have a presence in, and they are headquartered in Vancouver.

  • Incubation: Pre-launch, idea validation, setting the path to launch. 6-12 weeks. Guest speaker and teaching heavy, classic models.
  • Acceleration: Post-launch, helping people prepare for scale and capital raising. 3-6 months. Mentoring and capital raising education.
  • Funding Roundtables: Educating impact entrepreneurs to get the check.

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Finding Success in Fundraising Rounds

Kieth shares with us that the biggest gap they are trying to fill for social ventures is targeting the right impact investors.

“Our entrepreneurs are good at target marketing for their customers, but not so much for investors. Most investors have criteria for who they are looking for.”

The rest, he says, is helping them get the paperwork right. How to create a cap table, how to break down and manage a due diligence folder, how to do a negotiation and ultimately how to get 8-12 investors to sign the same deal.

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Should We Pre-Sell? Or Go for Funding?

“That is the million dollar question!” Kieth says,

When it comes to raising money for our business, there are several ways we can go.

  1. Our own back pocket
  2. Friends and family
  3. Pre-selling
  4. Selling shares of your company

Selling shares of your company is expensive, especially if you don’t have revenue or credibility data. Kieth advises to get all of that data together to prove that you can get users, understand your key metrics, grow a team and company, and prove your model. “That will make it easier to find the right investors for you, too,” he says.

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Top Lessons from Working with Social Entrepreneurs

  1. The paperwork is universal. These are the four main ways investors fund a business.
    1. Common shares
    2. Convertible notes
    3. Safe agreements
    4. Preferred share deals

The entrepreneur should be agnostic to what type the investor chooses. Each one can be great or terrible for a company, depending on how the terms are set up.

2. Be cross-border fearless about finding the right investor.

“You’ve said the most important thing: raising money is a business. It requires a sales process. Run it like a business. Run it like a funnel.”

He explains, “There’s a top of funnel, there’s stages that you go through with gates, you’ll need to ask for 10x what you need at the top of the funnel in order to get what you need at the bottom. And frankly, investors value being treated that way, because it increases the communication and efficiency of the deal.”

Better to Build an MVP or Fundraise Right Away?

“The more that you can prove, the more confidence you’ll have to go raise as an entrepreneur.”

At the end of the day, Kieth says, if you’re working under a million dollars of revenue then the investor can only invest in you. After the first meeting, all other follow up meetings will be all about

  1. Can I trust you and your team with my money?
  2. Are you asking smart questions?
  3. Are you adaptable?
  4. Are you showing progress?

So, the more that you can push to MVP, they more you’re showing that you and your team are capable, adaptable, and pushing toward the finish like. You have to display your resilience and perseverence towards that. Sometimes a landing page with an email signup to get a million interested buyers!!

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The No-Fail Investor Trust Plan

Kieth says 50% of the preparation is for the first meeting. The following 50% is planning for the 3-6 months after the first meeting to the next meeting, in order to show maximum progress and exceed your investors’ expectations.

So, plan for your first meeting with an appropriate deck and sales pitch training. Then, plan your growth stages between the first meeting and second to prove your progress.

And, how can you get to the MVP as cheaply and quickly as possible? It’s not about how to do it all, just get to MVP with less time and less money and you will succeed. The more money you have leftover, the more time and margin you have to adapt.

“Apple computer started in a garage with 2 guys. If they can do that, you can.”

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Which companies is Spring Super Proud of?

  1. Social Nature: transforming the way people get food. 

Anna was lazer focused on getting her ideal investor, and the 3-6 month plan to keep investors engaged and invested.

2. Nada: the zero-waste grocery store. 

This grocery store has an underlying platform that could enable all grocery stores to strip all consumer plastic waste. They were strategic and balanced their raise across multiple platforms. They took loans, won a contest, did a killer crowdfunding campaign, and raised several good investment rounds as well.

“The best rounds with the highest investment have all been female founders. They are incredible at preparing ahead. They know their stuff when they go in. And they’re more natural in sharing their impact WHY. For all the female founders listening to this, go for it. And here’s a challenge for the men: take some best practices from the women around you.”

Another example is Emily with LegWorks, who was fearless about being cross-border with her investors and being prepared for rounds. They are now able to sell their products globally.

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Growing Impact Investing

“Human nature is hard-wired to make the world a better place.”

Kieth says what works is to get rid of the term impact. Smart investing isn’t some exclusive thing to do with money, Kieth says, so to change the terminology will lower the entry and remove the cognitive bias to make impact investing mainstream.

Kieth emphasizes telling the success stories of impact companies and investment rounds to show the world of investors and partners that the “impact sector” is not only viable but worth being personally involved as a player. Telling the success stories captivates the market who still thinks traditional philanthropy is the only way to make impact.

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Impact Investing and the Global Goals

In order to really tackle the Global Goals, Kieth says, it will take more collaboration. Most of the companies Spring works with have no idea how many countries and markets they could impact, if they were fearless about going cross border for customers and partners and teams.

“My encouragement for investors is to know that cross-border deals are going on every day. Set aside a part of your portfolio for Cambodia, Belgrade, Canada… wherever you find values-aligned opportunities. That’s how we’re going to change the world.”

Takeaways

  1. Your investors are customers as well. They need to align with your values because they’re buying the future potential of your company.
  2. Build an ideal investor avatar, and be ready to turn down investors who are not aligned.

Thanks for reading and listening – please COMMENT with the biggest questions you’ve had about starting a social venture, and check out spring.is to see more of Spring’s awesome impact companies.

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