Social start-up accelerator speeds to £1m funding mark

Firstport's Josiah Lockhart says the wider business world is beginning to understand the 'economic and societal benefits' of social enterprises. Picture: contributed.
Firstport's Josiah Lockhart says the wider business world is beginning to understand the 'economic and societal benefits' of social enterprises. Picture: contributed.
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Scotland’s only social enterprise accelerator is celebrating reaching a £1 million investment milestone and opening its fourth round of applications.

LaunchMe, delivered by development agency Firstport, supports social enterprise start-ups by helping them become “investment-ready” and directly connecting them with potential investors looking for both social and financial returns.

Selected participants have the opportunity to apply for initial seed funding, as well as grant funding to match any private investment secured during the programme.

More than £1m has now been invested into social enterprises north of the Border through the LaunchMe initiative. Since 2014, it has helped 22 social enterprises to scale up, including notable alumni such as Scotland’s first social enterprise supermarket Locavore, the social enterprise letting agency Homes for Good, and sandwich shop chain Social Bite.

Originally commissioned as a three-year programme through National Lottery Funding, LaunchMe has since secured the backing of the Scottish Government, the Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and Barclays to deliver a fourth round of support. Applications for this intake will close at noon on 5 November.

Josiah Lockhart, chief executive of Firstport, said: “Over the last four years we have worked hard at developing an accelerator model that allows driven social enterprises to achieve impact at scale, working with the Scottish investor community to deliver increased economic and social benefits.

“The fact that private investors have now directly invested more than £1m into the social enterprise community shows that the wider business world is beginning to understand its economic and societal benefits.

“We are grateful to the Big Lottery Fund for giving us the opportunity to test and adapt the model to thoroughly understand what it takes to deliver a social investment accelerator. Building on this learning we are launching the fourth round with increased ambitions and greater interest from the investor community.”

Aileen Campbell, cabinet secretary for communities, said: “I am delighted to confirm our continued support for LaunchMe as it opens for its fourth round of applications and celebrates its £1m investment milestone.

“Scotland is one of best places in the world to start and grow a social enterprise. LaunchMe is a proven accelerator programme that allows social enterprises to scale up their level of activity and deliver increased economic and social impact, building on commitments outlined in our Scottish Social Enterprise Strategy and Action Plan.”