Our programming — from innovation challenges to accelerators — are designed to build inclusive support networks around entrepreneurs.
Community, as we see it, is fundamental to everything we do at SecondMuse and develops one relationship at a time. Our approach to relationship building varies from program to program but often includes features like innovation challenges, incubators, and accelerators designed to link promising entrepreneurs to key groups: experts to help them, funders to fund them, organizations to empower them and communities to guide them and ensure their solutions resonate locally. The objective is to build ecosystems of support around entrepreneurs to ramp up their chances of success — but also to help shape the economies we are building. We partner with people and organizations that share our values, which are centered on inclusion, environmental and social justice, and bake those values into all of programming.
“We love to partner with people whose capabilities are different than ours but who are spiritually aligned with us,” SecondMuse Co-CEO Todd Khozein says.
The Incubation Network (TIN)
The Incubation Network’s approach to relationships and community building involves partnering with a range of local, regional and global stakeholders connected to waste management, recycling and ocean plastic pollution in South and Southeast Asia. Jocelyn Matyas, SecondMuse’s Senior Manager for Venture Development in Singapore, points out that The Incubation Network (TIN), as its name suggests, was designed to be “network centered.”
“We don’t just incubate companies, we incubate networks of stakeholders too,” she says. In just the last year and a half, TIN’s programming has built a network of 150 key industry experts and 50 entrepreneur support organizations providing support to ventures working to reduce plastic pollution across five Asian countries.
“In our global challenges, we don’t just give companies one mentor, we build them an entire support team. That includes two technical mentors and a local advisor who can open up a little black book and introduce them to people in the community and make sure the local context is embedded into their solutions,” Matyas says.
“These community partnerships are the only way we can validate that the solution really does meet the needs of the community and to ensure that solutions in Asia are designed for Asia.”
Headstream, SecondMuse’s program aimed at fostering youth wellbeing in the ever-expanding digital world, takes a similar approach. Through a key partnership with Pivotal Ventures, the investment and incubation company created by Melinda French Gates, Headstream has sought to connect distinct communities whose combined expertise are fundamental to improving digital spaces for young people. As Khozen put it back in 2019: “There’s this whole bucket of people who are really good at studying and understanding teen wellbeing. There’s an entirely different community of people who are really good at building platforms that attract teenagers. What we’re looking to do is to attract entrepreneurial-minded individuals from both of these groups so they can learn from one another.”
Headstream has been bringing these communities and others together through accelerators, research initiatives and a youth innovation program that invites the intended end-users of digital technology for teens — teens themselves, especially those from LGBTQ+ and BIPOC communities who are underserved in this space — to actually shape it. The relationships it has been building through its programming has created its own growing community of people dedicated to a common cause.
SMALL VICTORIES MULTIPLIED
At a basic level, relationships help individual entrepreneurs with practical things like solving technical problems, considering new perspectives, sourcing raw materials and accessing funding. But these practical and sometimes seemingly simple solutions can also be powerful catalysts of change. Consider the case of Dr. Shadreka McIntosh, a Doctor of Pharmacy who has long dreamed of opening a pharmacy in her underserved hometown of Dunbar in the U.S. state of Florida. Despite her credentials and the glaring need for a pharmacy in her neglected community, for years she struggled to find the support she needed to make her dream a reality. Through intentional relationship building, we met Dr. McIntosh through Kinective, our community-sourced incubator that connects startups, small businesses and entrepreneurs with essential resources and support. Inspired by her vision, we brought her to the attention of our partner, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, which was searching for new ways to get funding to entrepreneurs from historically marginalized communities, like Dunbar. The result: Dr. McIntosh received $270,000 in funding, enabling her to open Sozo Wellness, a local pharmacy and wellness center serving a population that for generations, had to do without one.
Similar individual victories routinely happen at For ClimateTech, a suite of accelerator programs that SecondMuse runs in partnership with entrepreneurship company NextCorps, with support from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). Shelby Thompson, Senior Community Manager at For ClimateTech, credits the partnership between SecondMuse and NextCorps with an expanded world of practical solutions for entrepreneurs they support. Prior to joining forces in 2017, SecondMuse and NextCorps ran their own separate programming and cultivated their own areas of expertise: SecondMuse established itself in the New York City area as an important resource for entrepreneurs focused on climate solutions in the hardware space. NextCorps, meanwhile, had cultivated its own expertise as a catalyst for entrepreneurship in the Rochester region of New York state. “Prior to working with them, we had an understanding of who in the state belonged to the Manufacturing Extension Partnership network (a network that provides resources to U.S. entrepreneurs in the manufacturing space). But we didn’t know CEOs, sales teams or manufacturing capabilities outside of NYC,” Thompson says.”Once we started working with NextCorps, we benefited from all the relationships they had in Rochester, with the manufacturing community and academia.”
What that has meant for entrepreneurs and their companies is more information sharing and resources, which has accelerated their business development and increased their chances of success. Thompson explains that many companies SecondMuse was working with prior to joining forces with NextCorps, for example, were outsourcing manufacturing overseas. “They were really doing straight Google research. But through our relationship with NextCorps, they learned that there were onshore and local manufacturing options that could also meet their needs.”
Climate tech entrepreneurs in SecondMuse’s network have also tapped NextCorps expertise to find manufacturing space, mentoring and other resources they never would have had access to if the two communities hadn’t come together toward a common goal of accelerating businesses aimed at advancing climate solutions in New York state.
As Khozein puts it: “Our principle has always been that we don’t edge anybody out. We partner with them.”
Multiplied across programs, the “spiritually aligned” partnerships SecondMuse forges, and communities we build around entrepreneurs, are advancing our vision of a more inclusive, resilient future, one relationship at a time.
This is the second part of our series about the common threads that run through our various programs. Read part I, “Why Community Runs Through Everything We Do At SecondMuse,” here.