Bridge for Billions; democratizing access to entrepreneurship and innovation education to create the jobs of the future.

We support entrepreneurs globally with innovation-based entrepreneurship training and mentoring via our online/hybrid incubation programs.

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Eligibility

  • Yes, I fulfill all of the eligibility criteria.

Initiative's representative name

Pablo Santaeufemia

Initiative's representative date of birth

June 17th, 1989

Initiative’s representative gender

  • Man

Which eligible market are you based in?

  • Spain

Where are you making a difference?

Spain, France, UK, US, Mexico, Argentina, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, India

Website or social media url(s)

Website: bridgeforbillions.org Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bridgeforbillions/ Instagram: @bridgeforbillions Twitter: @Bridge4Billions LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/bridge-for-billions/

When was your organisation founded?

Global HQ: August 2015 in New York, USA Europe HQ: December 2017 in Madrid, Spain

Focus areas

  • Helping people adapt to technologies of the future
  • Financial skills and capability
  • Reskilling and upskilling the workforce
  • Creating digital tools

Project Stage

  • Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways) 

Yearly Budget: How much capital do you need to accomplish your proposed project?

  • $500k - $1m

Organisation Type

  • For-profit

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed

In 2013, after being an engineer focused on international development, I realized that a key to economic development was access to innovation and entrepreneurship support, which today is a luxury for most entrepreneurs. Learning about Paul Polak, Bill Drayton and Jacqueline Novogratz’s stories gave me hope that changing complex systems was possible. Hence, at Carnegie Mellon University, I used my systems thinking approach together with my co-founder’s design skills to create a solution to empower entrepreneurs solving problems for customers ignored by the ecosystems of today. Our goal was to solve the many bottlenecks that these support programs face daily, which many times makes them inefficient, not inclusive, nor meritocratic.

2. The problem: What problem surrounding employability or financial capability are you helping to solve?

Due to the digital era, many jobs created by SMEs (responsible for 60% of jobs) were going to disappear. This is why innovation-based entrepreneurship is the most systemic way to push for the structural transformation of our economies. We need SMEs that generate jobs of the future, however, neither our educational or entrepreneurship systems are prepared for this. With COVID-19, job creation by resilient companies has never been more important.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Today, a small minority of entrepreneurs (typically white, wealthy, well-educated males) have access to quality support programs with structured training and personalized mentoring. Bridge for Billions acts as a global ecosystem offering entrepreneurship programs (online/hybrid) with corporations, foundations, universities and governments for early-stage entrepreneurs everywhere. Our goal is to democratize access to innovation-based training, a personal mentor in their sector and to a community of founders with resources and connections to other mentors and investors. 5 years ago, we developed our proprietary platform equipped with a learn-by-doing interactive methodology that reproduces the traditional in-person incubation journey step-by-step for 3-6 months more efficiently. We focus on the “entrepreneur’s learning” and not on “teaching”. Our system reduces the administrative burden of managing a program removing most of its bottlenecks. It also simplifies the entrepreneurs and mentors rollercoaster ride of building a business by guiding them through a disciplined path while removing location, availability and economic barriers of traditional incubation programs.

4. How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solving the problem?

When Maria Andreina (29), migrated to Spain due to the Venezuelan crisis, she wanted to start a company. With little business knowledge and new to the ecosystem in Spain, she joined one of our fully online programs because of the accessibility (perfect for her remote team in Venezuela), the opportunity for a personal mentor and structured innovation-based business training at an accessible price. Maria completed the program in 3 months, launched her beauty salons platform and won the Bridge for Billions’ Online Pitch Challenge. Now, Maria is self-employed and 3 full-time employees accompany her in solving this market problem. Due to her background and the nature of her business, Maria would have been rejected by most programs in Spain.

(Instructions for questions 5 and 6, no answer required) Please only answer the question (5 - “employability” or 6 - “financial capability”) that applies to your organization’s topic of work (see below for definitions)

5

5. Employability: how is your organization or project teaching people to develop the skills that they need to survive in the future job market?

Bridge for Billions is upskilling people with knowledge and tools necessary for self-employment and job creation. Our programs’ “learn-by-doing” approach, does not teach via videos, masterclasses or webinars like most programs, rather guides entrepreneurs gradually through the necessary thought-process to building a robust and investor-ready business plan. Our online platform relies on interactive step-by-step questions that push the founders to seek information inside and outside, instead of the traditional lecture model or videos where students only receive information. This true learning is reinforced by mentors from our network that challenges them weekly and empowers them to develop the business skills and confidence needed to succeed. Even if entrepreneurs decide to not launch, the learning still is critical for any future job in the market where entrepreneurial skills are a must.

5a. Please describe which future-oriented skills your organization is focused on fostering and how you have measured / plan to measure progress

Bridge teaches (not only our entrepreneurs but also mentors) hard-skills regarding business development and self-employment like how to market a product, create financial projections, assess a business’ viability or develop a social impact measurement system. Crucial soft skills gained throughout the program include proactivity, professional communication, accountability, critical thinking, and agility. We measure this by tracking program completion rate, entrepreneur and mentor satisfaction, business survival rate, job creation as well as post-program successes (investment, awards, etc).

7. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

There are many entities addressing the lack of access to the right tools and know-how for entrepreneurs all over the world. There are plenty of in-person programs including incubators, accelerators, and co-working spaces that address specific underrepresented entrepreneurs but unfortunately are not as scalable as any of our programs, hence limiting who gets accepted. On the other hand, online resources such as MicroMentor, VC4A, Coursera and others serve different purposes or phases of the entrepreneur’s journey. However, our key advantage is our learning-centric pedagogical model.

8. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

In 4 years of operations, Bridge for Billions has incubated more than 1,170 entrepreneurs from 67 countries with the support of nearly 750 volunteer mentors. In 2019 alone, we were able to support 22 times more entrepreneurs than the average support programs for 1/5th of the costs of competitive solutions. 70% of our graduates still run their businesses today, 94% claim B4B was helpful for their success. 46% are female founders, despite the global average in support programs being around 10%.. In these 4 years, in addition to our success with our own fully-online incubation program “The Leap”, we have built 74 entrepreneurship programs with partners such as Coca-Cola, Santander Bank, BMW, Accenture, Heineken, BBVA Bank, Ashoka, Impact Hub, the European Commission, and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization.

9. Financial Sustainability Plan. Can you tell us about you plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

We are a for-profit social enterprise, with one mission and two business models: B2C) founders directly pay a portion of our online program, The Leap, the rest if subsidized by our B2B model. B2B) corporates, foundations and universities pay us an annual fee to design and implement their own open innovation and entrepreneurship programs using our technology and methodology. This model is 100% viable in Spain but our goal in 2020 is to scale it internationally. In order to reach our goal of supporting 10,000 entrepreneurs via The Leap and B2B partners by 2025, we are looking for more strategic partners such as HSBC as well as external funding via grants and a $1.5M Series A round of funding for long-term, exponential growth.

10. Team

We are 17 FTE dedicated to Marketing, Tech/Product, Operations, and Business, 9 nationalities with diverse professional backgrounds (from corporations, NGOs, to previous founders) with diverse educational degrees (from Engineers to MBAs). As Ashoka fellow, we also work closely with our advisors from Ashoka’s Support Network. As we grow internationally, we will hire local sales, marketing & partnerships professionals in each region and will continue expanding the operations and product team in HQ

Help Us Support Diversity! Are you a member of an under-served , under-represented, or marginalized group in your country of residence? (yes/no) (this question is optional – if you choose to fill it out, the response will not be shared with your fellow contestants)

  • Socioeconomic class

If you selected “yes” to any of the categories above, please explain how being a member of this group has impacted you and your work?

I strongly believe there are brilliant ideas from people that do not have access to the necessary tools to structure, expand, or launch them. I come from a low-income, widowed-mother family, and for the last 10 years, only through awards for multiple full scholarships that funded all my education, I was able to gain access to great educational institutions and strong mentors. I know that resourceful entrepreneurs, or “fighters” as I call them, can achieve great things when given a chance.

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Ashoka page or contact

11. Bring it to life: Please walk us through a concrete example of how your solution will solve the problem you’re trying to address

Emmanuel Mzembe (31) Malawi is the founder of ​Bikema, a school that provides education to students from less than $2/day families. In addition to the academic curriculum, they teach leadership, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy. He did not have any business background, but that did not stop him from launching Bikema. He faced many roadblocks and looked online for support. He applied to The Leap, got accepted and received an 80% scholarship. He was matched with 3 mentors from the USA, Spain, and Malawi. He worked diligently online tool after tool buying an expensive data plan and his mentors would validate the work on the platform while speaking with him via WhatsApp. When he completed the program and claimed “this was like an MBA!”. Now one year later, Bikema is near breakeven and got a contract from the Ministry of Education of $100K to expand his programming. bit.ly/e_bikema

12. Skills Matching: HSBC Employees will have the opportunity to offer skilled-volunteering. If matched, which of the following skills would you be most interested in receiving?

  • Accounting & Finance
  • Planning & Strategy
  • Legal Services
  • HR Management
  • Board Development
  • Staff Development
  • Marketing Strategy, Design

13. Financial Sustainability – funding breakdown: please list a quick breakdown of your funding, indicating an estimated percentage that comes from each source.

Earned Income:
a) The Leap (B2C): 15% of revenue. Entrepreneurs pay 450Euros (150/month) but our costs are around 1,400 per entrepreneur, hence we subsidize 950 from the 60% margin we make in B2B programs.

b) B2B Programs (building the innovation/entrepreneurship programs of our clients): 85% of the revenue.

14. Financial Sustainability – please tell us more about how you plan to fund and scale your project over the next 12 months.

With our current model we are nearly break even but to scale internationally, we need to invest in sales, marketing, and partnership professionals. 82% of our costs are personnel (22% B2B sales, 38% product/tech, 25% marketing, 15% ops & program management). With COVID-19, our Series A projections might get delayed till Nov/Dec 2020, but we are fundraising to invest in new country expansion mostly in Europe and Latin America. In the meantime and especially because of COVID we are maintaining our 2 business models but we are flexible and agile listening to market needs and adapting our B2B offer accordingly. Currently, what we need the most is corporate clients and visibility to keep us growing and new clients in other sectors such as government programs and universities.

15. Growth Strategy: What are your main strategies for scaling your impact?

We will grow by regional satellite offices while replicating the model that was successful in Spain, but keeping operations and product teams in Madrid. Client acquisition will be local but trained by HQ. We developed a “scaling footprint" that country managers will use to scale. Key strategic partners (Ashoka, universities and corporates) help us expand our offerings while digital marketing acts as another growth channel. We’re also finally benefiting from “network effects” by having mentors, alumni, corporates, investors, universities and United Nations as members of our community. 

16. Activating changemakers: How are you giving people the power to control their own destiny and support other people to become changemakers in their communities?

As Ashoka fellows, we believe that indirect impact is more important than direct service. Bridge acts as a catalyst for the impact of all our entrepreneurs and we also empower partners (B2B clients) that act within their entrepreneurial ecosystems, hence empower more changemakers.  We also see mentors turning into changemakers themselves. All this, generates a ripple effect that will result in a more efficient, meritocratic and inclusive ecosystems. This year we are starting to influence public discourse in Spain by working within ecosystems stakeholders and bridging the gaps in between them.

17. Awards & Recognitions: What awards or recognitions, if any, has the project received so far?

Ashoka Fellow 2017

Forbes 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneur 2017

CHOISEUL100-Economic Leaders for Tomorrow, 2017, 2018, 2019

Youth Entrepreneurship Award by International Youth Foundation, 2017

GoSDG#10 from United Nations Global Compact, 2018  

BBVA Momentum Fellow 2017

Impact Hub Scaling Program 2016

18. Tell us about how collaborations and partnerships would enhance the scalability and impact of your project

We build bridges across individuals and act as architects of bridges of other organizations. Collaboration is core to our scaling model. This is why we need HSBC and Ashoka to impact many more entrepreneurs globally, invite HSBC employees to join our ecosystem and collectively generate a greater impact. After years working with Ashoka Spain, we are currently framing a partnership with Global and Partnership teams to work together and scale the impact of Ashoka’s and Ashoka partners’. 

Finally - Your Selfie Elevator Pitch: Share a 1-minute video that shares a quick summary of the problem you would like to solve, how you’ve chosen to solve it, and the impact you hope to see.

Evaluation results

4 evaluations so far

1. OVERALL Evaluation:

Yes, absolutely! - 75%

Yes/maybe - 25%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

2. Is this entry INNOVATIVE?

Yes, absolutely! - 50%

Yes/maybe - 25%

Maybe - 25%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

3. Does this entry have SOCIAL IMPACT?

Yes, absolutely! - 50%

Yes/maybe - 50%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

4. Is this entry VIABLE financially and operationally?

Yes, absolutely! - 50%

Yes/maybe - 50%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

5. Is this entry ACTIVATING CHANGEMAKING?

Yes, absolutely! - 75%

Yes/maybe - 25%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

6. FEEDBACK: Highlights

IMPACT POTENTIAL: You use specific numbers and evidence to describe what your project has achieved so far (or plan to achieve in the future) – and you have a concrete plan for future impact. You have specific tools for measuring impact. - 66.7%

QUALITY OF INNOVATION: You have a great understanding of the problem, have researched existing solutions, and have developed unique, thoughtful solutions - 33.3%

FINANCIAL AND OPERATIONAL SUSTAINABILITY: You have given a great deal of thought to not just the idea itself but how to make it work operationally and financially in the present and future; your plan is specific and you value sustainability. - 66.7%

CHANGEMAKING ACTIVATION: You have a good plan on how to activate changemakers and empower them to innovate through your product or programming - 100%

Other option - 0%

7. FEEDBACK: Areas for Improvement

IMPACT POTENTIAL: make sure to provide specific instances of your social impact (or how you plan to measure impact) – it may be helpful to describe the beneficiaries, the main activities/products, and provide evidence of (or plan for) impact evaluation - 0%

QUALITY OF INNOVATION: make sure to describe how your solution is unique and innovative – it is helpful to include the research you have done on past solutions and how your solution is different from (and/or builds upon) these. - 100%

FINANCIAL AND OPERATIONAL SUSTAINABILITY: make sure you have provided descriptive information about your financial sustainability plan. Where do the funds come from now and do you have a concrete plan for future sustainability? - 0%

CHANGEMAKING ACTIVATION: make sure you describe your plan for how to empower others to become changemakers through your programming, service, or product - 50%

WRITING STYLE. Try to be concise, descriptive, and specific. Avoid jargon. - 50%

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 100%

Other option - 0%

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