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Innovation & Startups

Idea Foundry launches InterSector, a new program for social enterprises


Working with promising startups like Optimus Technologies and eMetrics got MaryBeth Guzzetta of Idea Foundry to thinking. 

Pittsburgh is rich in opportunities for tech startups. Solid models exist to support them.  But what about the growing number of for-profit companies that have, at their core, a more social mission? 

“More and more of these companies were coming through our door,” says Guzzetta. “When Thread came to us with this BIG idea to turn waste into jobs in Haiti, we thought, well, this is about as big a risk as we'll be presented with.  Let's give it a go and learn as much as we can about how to build a social enterprise. If it works out, we'll pursue this formally.  And that's what happened.”

InterSector was born, an Idea Foundry initiative that supports the growth of the social enterprise sector in Pittsburgh. These are businesses that offer social, environmental and financial benefits to stakeholders that include customers, investors, employees and the communities in which they operate.

The program is a precursor to Idea Foundry’s Idea Transformation Fellowship Program (ITF), which has helped launch more than 90 technology companies in the last nine years through its proven model of hands-on business development, capital investment and business mentoring.

"We're seeing more and more start ups that view profit as good and necessary, but as just one leg of the stool,” explains Guzzetta who has taken the reins as director of the program. “They want to use business to create meaningful change in people's lives. 

“These companies are beginning to be embraced by investors, Impact Investors, who are willing to be patient and measure their return in not just financial terms but also in the impact the company makes socially and environmentally.”

The first startup officially accepted into the program is urban farming and composting company Steel City Soils.

Revenue makes a company self-sustaining, but a successful social enterprise will also provide sustained positive change in areas such as job creation and wealth building, natural resource use and reuse, environmental protection and improvement, education and health initiatives, and sustainable local food systems, Guzzetta adds.

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: MaryBeth Guzzetta, Idea Foundry
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