Breaking Barriers: DNNL x Social Enterprise NL Launchpad empowering migrant background social innovators

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Are you an impact-driven entrepreneur working on a scalable social enterprise? Click here to apply for DNNL x Social Enterprise NL Launchpad Track 2024.

Last year, DNNL introduced Launchpad as a pre-accelerator programme to develop entrepreneurial skills as founders first. Now, the Dutch New Narrative Lab is taking its Launchpad a step further with direct focus on social entrepreneurs focusing on social innovation.

Called DNNL x Social Enterprise NL Launchpad Track 2024, the new programme brings a deeper, more structured integration with the broader activities of the initiative. For the uninitiated, the DNNL initiative was born out of a need to fix the gap in diversity and inclusion in the Dutch startup ecosystem.

From its days as a project being developed from a Diversity Exploration commissioned by the Ministry of Economic Affairs & Climate as a response to a 2020 article discussing boardroom racism to strengthening seed capital regulation, legislation for inclusive procurement, and a national action plan for inclusive entrepreneurship, DNNL has pushed for major changes to give visibility to underrepresented groups.

DNNL x Social Enterprise NL Launchpad Track 2024: what you need to know

Ruben Brave DNNL
Ruben Brave is a serial entrepreneur, multi-board member and founder of DNNL | Image Credit: DNNL

Now, the Dutch New Narrative Lab is aiming to nurture social innovation and turn the Dutch tech ecosystem into a hub for socially scalable enterprises that align with at least one Sustainable Development Goal (SDG).

“The core motivation behind the DNNL x Social Enterprise NL Launchpad Track 2024 stems from a commitment to nurture social innovation through entrepreneurship,” says Ruben Brave, serial tech entrepreneur, investor and founder of DNNL.

He adds, “The programme will shine light on social innovation and underrepresented founders especially those who are ambitious, accomplished, innovative and yet often overlooked.”

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For many founders, it has been a real challenge to break the glass ceiling and with DNNL x Social Enterprise NL Launchpad Track 2024, there is now a programme that wants to help these founders not only claim their space in the Dutch tech ecosystem but also makes them visible in a big way.

Brave, who became the first Entrepreneur in Residence of the VU University of Amsterdam, this week, adds “This initiative targets social entrepreneurs who often face greater obstacles in accessing resources, networks, and capital due to systemic biases.”

The new launchpad is a collaboration with Social Enterprise NL All-in project, a project designed to specifically support organisations that back social entrepreneurs with a migrant background. Brave says this aligned with DNNL’s goal to foster inclusivity and it also helped that the financial and strategic backing is from as part of their Social Innovation Ecosystem Fund.

The programme also places a significant emphasis on leveraging the tacit knowledge and experiences of successful founders who come from similarly diverse backgrounds. “This mentorship is enhanced through structured “Ask Me Anything” sessions and direct interactions, providing invaluable insights and real-life success stories,” Brave tells me.

The programme has already received many high quality applications that reflect the ambition of these founders to address pressing social, environmental, and global challenges. Despite awards and grants from prestigious organisations, it is shocking that some of these founders have been unable to raise sufficient funding.

If you are a social enterprise with a clear and innovative proposition then you can apply for DNNL x Social Enterprise NL Launchpad at this link. Brave explains that they are looking for 10 founders of social enterprise startups that meet at least one SDG and can demonstrate some level of traction, whether it is in terms of sales, revenue, or pilot projects.

“The program is particularly interested in founders who not only bring a unique and diverse background but also embody an abundance mindset and an open approach to challenges and opportunities,” adds Brave, while explaining the criteria.

The last date to apply is April 20th and the winners will be selected through an anonymised selection process, carried out by an independent jury. The names of the selected participants will be announced on Earth Day 2024, i.e., April 22nd.

Inclusive gateway to growth: €1M in deals

DNNL unConference
A file photo of DNNL unConference | Image Credit: DNNL

Through DNNL x Social Enterprise NL Launchpad, DNNL is offering the selected participants synergy with other DNNL initiatives such as a DNNL unConference and media partnerships for holistic growth opportunity. Last year’s unConference unlocked nearly €1M in deals in just three months and Brave says this underscores the “potential and efficacy of our approach in fostering an environment where capable, motivated individuals can thrive spectacularly.”

“We aim to replicate and scale this success across more social enterprises, enabling them to contribute meaningfully to the economy and society,” he adds.

For social entrepreneurs, the DNNL x Social Enterprise NL Launchpad is a gateway to a space where inclusivity and growth thrive, where peer learning is second nature, and the opportunity to unlock funding or connect with corporate entities becomes the new normal.

DNNL is also integrating AI to streamline and enhance the productivity of founders selected for this programme. With AI, the idea is to equip entrepreneurs with cutting-edge tools necessary for scaling their ventures in today’s competitive market. “The new programme is also directly linked to providing actionable insights to policymakers through our collaboration with the OECD,” quips Brave.

The synergy also extends to the entrepreneurs with the programme offering clear, measurable objectives that resonate closely with the personal and business growth ambitions of the entrepreneurs selected for this programme. While 10 founders will join the physical track, Brave confirmed to Silicon Canals that an additional 20 entrepreneurs will be selected for online slots allocated on a first-come, first-serve basis.

“This expansion reflects our commitment to inclusivity and our desire to support a greater number of promising social enterprises beyond the constraints of the physical program,” Brave notes.

Are you an impact-driven entrepreneur working on a scalable social enterprise? Click here to apply for DNNL x Social Enterprise NL Launchpad Track 2024.

Arosha Brouwer: Meet your lead mentor and role model

Arosha Brouwer Quan DNNL
Arosha Brouwer is the co-founder and CEO of Quan | Image Credit: DNNL

Helping Brave in his mission to elevate the work of social entrepreneurs with a migrant background is Arosha Brouwer, co-founder & CEO at Quan. “It’s not business, it’s personal,” she wrote on LinkedIn.

From Sri Lanka to Australia and now settled in the Netherlands, Brouwer’s diverse background has shaped her global perspective. Her experience working with renowned businesses such as PwC, DSM, and TNT has given her invaluable insights into the corporate world. Her entrepreneurial journey shines even brighter with Quan being the first female-led Dutch company to secure a spot in the prestigious Y Combinator and has raised over $3M in funding.

As the lead mentor of the Launchpad programme, Brouwer will support founders in refining their pitch and support them in connecting with the relevant people throughout the three-month programme. She adds that one of her motivations for joining DNNL x Social Enterprise NL Launchpad was not only to increase awareness and become more inclusive but to level up the playing field.

“It’s about levelling up the playing field and helping entrepreneurs get access to capital that they wouldn’t otherwise have access to, be it in the form of funding or revenue,” she explains.

Brouwer is not only candid but also speaks the truth that most people would not admit about the Dutch tech ecosystem. She is quick to acknowledge that entrepreneurs with migrant backgrounds lack deep-rooted connections since they might not have studied at a university in the Netherlands or their families lack big connections.

“It’s hard for us to reach people in the high posts that can influence decisions,” she argues, adding this requires migrant tech founders to work that much harder for their stories to be heard.

She elaborates, “This initiative is focused on supporting social enterprise founders to get their stories out there so they can connect with people who can help them accelerate their ventures.”

While the real impact of DNNL Launchpad x Social Enterprise NL Track 2024 will only be known after the programme, Brouwer says with conviction that the programme will “shine the light on an important topic and it gives well-deserving entrepreneurs a chance to get their stories heard by the people who need to hear it.”

The mentors in the program are accomplished, ambitious, global founders from diverse backgrounds chosen for their invaluable experience and to shine light on often overlooked entrepreneurs.

Inclusive and sustainable economy

Brave, a multi-board member, agrees that the uncertainty surrounding migration and the general support landscape for social entrepreneurs can be daunting. Through the new Launchpad, he sees an opportunity for DNNL to offer a robust support system in collaboration with community mentors and alumni that addresses critical 21st-century challenges.

“Our program not only reassures but actively provides tools, networks, and resources, including access to investors, expert office hours, and peer learning opportunities, ensuring that these entrepreneurs are equipped to navigate and succeed in the Dutch ecosystem,” he says.

The vibrancy and dynamism that the Dutch tech ecosystem is known for is partly driven by founders with diverse backgrounds. Brave says social entrepreneurs, especially those with a migrant background, bring resilience and a diverse perspective that is invaluable.

The team behind DNNL x Social Enterprise NL Launchpad sees the programme as one where entrepreneurs will be able to leverage a collaborative environment to propel their businesses forward, contributing to a more inclusive and sustainable economy. Brave sees it as a powerful way to empower social entrepreneurs with migrant backgrounds not by “saving them” but by removing the systemic barriers that limit their growth in the first place.

Are you an impact-driven entrepreneur working on a scalable social enterprise? Click here to apply for DNNL x Social Enterprise NL Launchpad Track 2024.


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Karthek Iyer

Karthek Iyer is the Senior Editor and Content Marketing Lead at Silicon Canals, covering news and partner content. He leads our collaboration with clients like AWS, Remote, Flippa, Techleap, Startup Amsterdam, etc. Previously he was a personal technology writer reviewing consumer products at leading Indian newspaper and digital media outlets such as Indian Express, Digit, BGR India, and Pricebaba. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Engineering and lives in Mumbai.

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