When you start a business you sometimes end up asking yourself, “Hasn’t someone already been through this?”
Keith Ippel knows this experience intimately.
“When I started my first business, raised my first funding, I felt that I was making rookie mistakes I could have avoided with the right tools, resources, and network,” says Ippel.
Ippel wanted to help clear that path for aspiring entrepreneurs. As the economy shifts and the traditional job market changes, more and more people are finding self-employment to be the most viable (and enjoyable) form of job security – but not just for themselves. Ippel’s company, SpringU, is a school for entrepreneurs that focuses on business people who want to change the world for the better.
“The world is changing and facing many challenges. Business has to respond and play its role. The entrepreneurs we work with – they want to leave the world better than they found it,” Ippel explained.
But how does that apply across the many paths a business can take? And more importantly, if entrepreneurs are facing a changing market, how can they avoid making costly mistakes that could threaten their business?
SpringU wants to help every student answer these questions. Since the school’s inception in 2014, SpringU has graduated more than 250 alumni with over 150 companies and 120+ jobs created as a result. As a result, those companies have raised almost over $5 million. With four courses calibrated to the different points of a business’s journey, SpringU connects students with resources and mentoring that helps build interesting businesses with strong communities.
“Each business, industry, and entrepreneur has a unique perspective on their market,” Ippel said. And he’s making it his business to refine that perspective into viable business opportunities.
Take Ben West, a recent graduate of the SpringU INSPIRE course and co-chair of The Great Climate Race. With a background in NGOs and fundraising, Ben knew how to connect with people on the ground, but struggled with defining a brand and leveraging online channels. During the INSPIRE cohort, West learned how to turn a family event into a global movement. The Great Climate Race, happening on October 30, is using this second annual run as a springboard to help communities everywhere make a positive change in their world.
“With SpringU, we conducted extensive customer interviews, and that taught us so much about our customers and supporters,” West said of his experience during the INSPIRE program. “We have been focused on the climate change and renewable energy aspects as the core motivators for our participants. But learning about their attitudes towards fundraising and their pain points regarding raising money helped us to make changes to improve that experience.”
After ten years in the army, Jennifer Li was looking to diversify her career experience. While she went to Emily Carr for design, she was especially interested in the world of social media, and saw a gaping hole in the market that she new how to fill. Enter Musefind: the first software to connect brands directly to social media influencers. With the help of SpringU, Li was able to refine her idea into a minimum-viable product. She and her team started making money off a landing page website until they knew exactly what to build, became the first non-US company accepted into the Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator in New York, and now boasts a team of 16 in just two years.
“For [Musefind], the best experience of Spring was meeting our network of mentors and alumni and being part of the spring community,” CEO Jennifer Li said of Spring’s INSPIRE cohort. “They helped catapult us beyond Vancouver and into the venture-backed company running out of NYC that we are today.”
INSPIRE helps teams refine their idea and then organize their priorities. A network of mentors means that every founder has the opportunity to meet with experienced business folks. Whether it’s advice, a connection, or simply a chat over coffee, the INSPIRE program strives to connect business people of all accolades in order to build a better future. For the community, the entrepreneur, and the world at large.
“There are almost as many definitions of impact as there are people,” Ippel said. “Ultimately SpringU wants to help entrepreneurs start and grow businesses that will leave the world better than the way they found it.”