From 16 to 19 January, Toru Institute of Inclusive Innovation conducted a 4-day long workshop as part of their Impactor Program - an 8-month long business incubation program that aims to help early-stage businesses with social impact to transform their ideas or products into a sustainable business enterprise. The workshop, named "Unlocking New Models for Impact", was the third stage of the year-long business incubation program which was launched in October.
The workshop covered three main themes: Problem - Opportunity Fit: Are You Solving the Right Problem, Problem - Solution Fit: Can you translate your opportunities into a viable solution, and Product- Market Fit: Can you take your product to the market. The final 15 Impactor teams consisting of 30 social entrepreneurs were introduced to new concepts and frameworks of building enterprises during the workshop. The sessions brought them closer to the objective of transforming their ideas and early-stage businesses into sustainable and scalable businesses.
On the first day, Impactors considered the problem to solve in various case studies from Bangladesh, ranging from postpartum depression to quality of rural primary school education. They approached the case studies in a holistic manner; who is the “impact group” - who suffers from the problem and what are the social and cultural factors that affect this problem. The ‘Who are You Solving the Problem for?’ session circled back to identifying the pains, gains, and jobs of each customer in each Impactor’s own venture. The day ended with a session on "Introduction to Impact Measurement and Frameworks" - by a guest speaker from UNDP, Ashfaqul Haq Chowdhury.
Day two begin with mapping each venture’s value proposition and paving the path to a minimum viable product (MVP). Impactors voiced their own experiences at building early versions of products. They cautioned each other to avoid the pitfall of wanting to share too many features in early versions of the product. In a session called ‘Monetizing Innovation’, the Impactors learned about various pricing models and reflected on which pricing model is best for their own customers.
Toru invited Syed Javed Noor, General Manager of IDLC Asset Management Ltd to speak from his experience about investment readiness for the Impactors. Investment is such an essential part of building a business; entrepreneurs valued his insights from the investor's perspective. He spoke about what investors looked for when they are approached and the factors that demonstrate that a venture is ready for investment.
On Day three, the facilitators focused on business operations, sales and distribution and the power of storytelling. To add on to their learning, Risalat Siddique from Analyzen spoke about ‘Minimum Viable Branding for Startups’ on the final day. Impactors learned how to evaluate their marketing and branding efforts using key metrics and the key elements of branding.
Throughout the workshops, the participants reflected and updated their mission and vision. They improved their pitches; Impactors were encouraged to account for the various ways information should be tailored for different audiences. This prepared them for the jury pitch that was held on the final day, which is a deciding factor in their selection to the next round.
Finally, the Impactors presented their pitches in front of external juries. Among the jury board members were, Nawed Wahed Asif, Head of Treasury from IPDC, Zareen Mahmud, Founder and ED of HerStory Foundation and Ludo Kockelkorn, Senior Expert, PUM Netherlands. Nirjhor Rahman, CEO of Bangladesh Angels, our fourth jury member, summarized, “I was really impressed with all the teams. I love their enthusiasm and their passion for the problem that they are trying to solve. Clearly, they have done a lot of work on their products and have thought a lot about their markets and the business model.”
One of Toru’s mentees in another program and Managing Director of ME SOLshare Ltd, Sebastian Groh was also a jury member. He shared, “Toru continues to be able to pick such fantastic representatives of the entrepreneurship landscape here in Bangladesh. We saw a wide variety of entrepreneurs at different stages of development, all very unique in their own sense. Great solutions!”
Shakeb Nabi, Bangladesh Country Manager for Christian Aid and also a jury at the event, added “It's been a huge learning opportunity to be part of this event. I am sure some of these ideas will make a mark in Bangladesh.”
From the evaluation assessment of both the internal mentors and the jury board, Toru will select the Top 10 Impactors for next stage of the program who will receive a series of rewards along with an eight-month business incubation program.
The program is supported by Standard Chartered Bank, Microsoft Bangladesh, The Daily Star, IPDC, Annisul Huq Foundation, Startup Bangladesh and North South University.
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About the authors: Tasbeeha Mirza is a Senior Associate, Knowledge Management, at Toru Institute of Inclusive Innovation and Salsabeel Khan is a Senior Associate, Communications at Toru Institute of Inclusive Innovation.