5 European acceleration programs helping underfunded social startups get investable

The European investment climate is getting warmer for impact startups, with the region emerging as a global leader in impact investing in 2023. While climate startups have secured some of the biggest raises in the last year, the investment allocation remains uneven across the sectors, as Sifted reports.

However, a report by Dealroom reveals that startups addressing social-related UN Sustainable Development Goals are underfunded, which poses a prominent obstacle to positive social change. In contrast to the $435.5 billion invested in climate initiatives from 2018 to 2023, only $74.045 billion went towards social impact goals.

To support mission-driven tech companies, impact organizations around the EU have published The Impact Manifesto, calling on investors to seize their opportunities to support socially needed initiatives. While external support is undoubtedly essential for the startups’ scaling and development, impact founders must not concentrate their input on fundraising. The winning tactic is to focus on becoming investable, which includes accurate calculation of unit economics, achieving product market fit, earning the first paying customers.

Without professional expertise testing ideas and approaches may take much resource, which is a luxury for most early-stage startups. Specialised acceleration programmes for European impact founders will help move faster and more efficiently, maintaining focus on the essential spheres and making the business investable. Here are five programmes making a difference and accepting applications:

ULTRA.VC is an impact-focused early-stage investor with an acceleration programme that helps founders in the domains of healthcare, mental well-being, future of work, and edtech test as many hypotheses as possible, validate their solution, define a working business model, find the first signs of market fit, and start generating revenue via scalable sales channels. In addition to one-on-one coaching and mentorship, complemented by weekly focus sessions and a personalized progress plan, participants are offered $70,000 in initial investment and warm introductions to a curated list of early-stage angel investors and VCs.Applications for their September batch are open until August 11.

ULTRA.VC team

Techstars Impact Accelerator focuses on startups that aim to solve social and environmental challenges. The programme offers mentorship, access to a global network of investors, and a strong emphasis on founder wellbeing through mental health resources and support groups. Techstars ensures founders have the tools to succeed without compromising their health. Applications for their September cohort are now open. 

Bethnal Green Ventures: This London-based accelerator supports tech startups that address social and environmental issues. The programme includes tailored mentorship, access to impact investors, and a strong focus on the founder’s well-being. Weekly sessions and mental health resources are integral parts of its curriculum. Applications for their Autumn Programme open on 10th June. 

Norrsken Impact Accelerator, located in Stockholm, is dedicated to startups that drive positive change. The programme provides comprehensive support, including mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs, access to a vast network of investors, and well-being initiatives to help founders maintain a healthy balance. Norrsken ensures that impact-driven startups can thrive both financially and personally. Applications for the 2025 Programme are now open. 

Kickstart Innovation is a Zürich-based accelerator focusing on startups with high-impact potential. The programme offers a collaborative environment, mentorship, and access to corporate partners and investors. Kickstart also prioritizes founder well-being with dedicated support sessions and mental health resources, ensuring that founders can effectively navigate the challenges of startup life.

The European social-impact market has sufficiently matured in recent years, with Personio, Hopin, Doctolib, GoStudent, etc., successfully achieving the coveted unicorn status. However, as a large share of VCs sticks to the bias on profitability and potential political restraints, acceleration programmes become a necessary link between impact-makers and risk-averse investors.

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