Over 40 Baltic Impact Entrepreneurs Empowered in 2023

Impact Valley Accelerator Alumni of Batch #1

The social enterprise landscape and its regulatory framework are in their early stages, yet rapidly gaining traction and expanding across Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The Baltics are presently home to more than 600 active social enterprises. These include for-profit companies and diverse non-profit organisations operating with an impact-oriented business model. Despite the growth of the social economy in recent years, there is still a pressing need to establish a robust support ecosystem for investable social enterprises in the region. 

This requires promoting tighter cooperation among local authorities, enterprises and investors, providing financial support for social enterprises and organising entrepreneurial programmes to cultivate their resilience. In this regard,  more than 40 impact startups, non-profit organisations, and social enterprises across the Baltic states have found support through the Impact hackathons and the Impact Valley Accelerator programme as part of the IBESI project throughout 2023.

The first edition of the Impact Hackathon, conducted in a two-week-long format during May 2023, nurtured 12 nascent social entrepreneurship ideas from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Through tailored workshops and 1-1 mentoring sessions, these teams honed business plans, dived into market research, and mastered the art of pitching. Reflecting on the experience gained during the hackathon, Kai-Melli Kapten from Transful shared, “Our mentor had her own entrepreneurial experiences that were extremely helpful to hear, starting from marketing, bringing experts in and so on. She gave really insightful, profound feedback on our plan and gave us the courage to expand our idea to a new level.” As an EdTech learning platform based on memory and association techniques for better knowledge retention, Transful’s focus during the hackathon was on refining the business model and improving the product features. The Impact Hackathon illuminated pathways for these early-stage teams, propelling them towards developing viable products and services for market entry.

Based on the experience of the first programme, the improved second edition of the hackathon, called Impact Crash Course, engaged 17 new ambitious teams in November 2023. Seeing that impact-oriented companies often struggle with integrating profit-generating business models, the second hackathon batch focused on enhancing the financial sustainability of social enterprises and non-governmental organisations. One of the notable participants of the Impact Crash Course and the founder of Saule, Cezars Torres-Rueda, pointed out that the hackathon helped him “understand the social aspect of creating and developing the business, which is not always possible to find in other courses or incubators.”

Recognising the importance of well-rounded support for social enterprises of different growth stages, 15 more mature ventures have been able to foster their innovative solutions and sustainable social impact through the Impact Valley Accelerator of the IBESI project. The 5-month equity-free programme from August to December 2023 provided a launchpad for 15 Baltic ventures to validate ideas, clarify KPIs for managing social and environmental impact, increase revenue and tap into financing sources for financial sustainability. The accelerator concluded with a Showcase Day on 5 December in Vilnius at Danske Bank, featuring pitches from the graduate Impact Valley startups addressing crucial societal issues. One of the first graduates of the Impact Valley programme is ALPA Kids, which offers age-appropriate, culture-based e-learning games for kids in local languages. Maarja Männik from ALPA Kids remarked: “During the accelerator workshops, we were able to map our main key impact areas and link them with SDGs and metrics. After winning the pitching competition, we gained a lot of traction and interest from different funds and investors.” 

Emphasising the programme’s commitment to fostering impactful business solutions in the Baltic region like ALPA Kids, Arvydas Plėta from Katalista Ventures expressed: “Our goal is to empower social enterprises to become financially resilient with a sustainable business model so they can continue bringing a positive impact in the long term and become as investable as traditional startups. To that extent, we strive to facilitate their integration in the startup ecosystem so they can meet possible investors, clients, partners, etc.” The Impact Valley Accelerator currently supports the second batch of social enterprises from January to May 2024. Together, these programmes encourage innovation in the social entrepreneurship ecosystem and empower changemakers to tackle societal challenges head-on. 

You can learn more about social enterprises, impact funding, and an overview of key funding and financing instruments accessible to social enterprises in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in the Alternative Finance Roadmap. Please contact Mart Veliste, IBESI project coordinator, at mart@bia.ee for further information or inquiries, and read more about the IBESI project: https://bia.ee/ibesi/.

Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency (EISMEA). Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.

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