Morocco’s Eiréné4Impact in the push for social entrepreneurs

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Impact Camp's participants
Future Moroccan entrepreneurs learning about social entrepreneurship at Impact Camp. (Images via Sara Kaddaoui)

This fall, school is back in session at Eiréné4Impact for two new classes of incubated and pre-incubated entrepreneurs.

The organization, which has been quietly running in Morocco since December 2014, describes its work as “venture philanthropy.” Their goal is to assist social enterprises via their incubator and investment fund.

Twelve startups in eduacation, environment, employment, nutrition sectors - and more - are currently going through “Impact Lab,” Eiréné4Impact’s intensive pre-incubation and incubation program. The goal is to validate their ideas on the ground, either through proof-of-concept for those that are pre-incubation, or proof-of-market for those in the incubation phase.

The Eiréné4Impact team helps the startups taking part in the free pre-incubation program analyze the needs they’re looking to cater to, define their concepts, study and segment their markets, build a solid business model, and put together a launch strategy.

To get there, the would-be entrepreneurs are asked to shut their computers and test their solutions on the ground with their target clients.

“It’s by iterating that startups hone their solutions and adjust them to the reality of the work,” said Leyth Zniber, founder and CEO of Eiréné4Impact.

Startups in the incubation program focus on implementing their strategies and solutions. Their goal is to validate or invalidate their hypothesis and adjust their value proposition to the market’s needs.

Except for a weekly team meeting, most of the program takes place outside the office.

“Team work and mutual feedback is essential, especially in a society where people too often think that an idea must be preciously kept secret. In the end, it’s the execution which really determine success,” Zniber said.

The incubation program is three months long, renewable twice. There is a month-long preparation period for those who haven’t participated in the pre-incubation program. Eiréné4Impact takes five percent equity in companies that go through its programs.

 54 aspiring entrepreneurs took part in the Impact Camp
54 aspiring entrepreneurs took part in the Impact Camp.

Impact Camp reveals entrepreneurs who want to change the world

Success of the programs depends on the quality and number of application received. To increase the odds of success, Znyber is working to increase social and environmental impact entrepreneurship. For instance, Eiréné4Impact organized a camp for young and aspiring entrepreneurs with the famous French business school ESSEC last summer.

When most Moroccans went on holiday to celebrate the end of Ramadan, over 50 people age 21 to 35 lived an intense week of training and workshop at the Akhawayn University in Ifrane.

And from July 19 to 25, participants co-created sustainable solutions for societal problems. Through various workshops, participants were pushed to identify societal needs and to come up with solutions in the form of sustainable companies.

Problems that participants tried to fix include poverty, academic failure, social alienation, economic precariousness of subsistence farmers, and environmental deterioration.

CasaBlaZbel (“Casablanca without trash” in English) won the competition with a project that aims to help citizens launch initiatives aimed at preserving the city of Casablanca (creating a chain of value, selecting players to engage with, budgeting, funding, etc). The four ambitious project-holders won a 50,000 dirhams check ($5,094 USD).

 The CasaBlaZbel team celebrating its first prize
The CasaBlaZbel team celebrates first place.

he second 25,000 dirhams ($2,550 USD) prize went to Echec & Mat to help students in public primary school learn about civic engagement, and to develop their critical thinking through educative games and workshops.

Consistent with Eiréné4Impact’s mission, CasaBlaZbel and Echec & Mat have been invited to join Impact Lab’s pre-incubation program in 2015 and 2016.

“Aside from the two winners, four teams said they’d like to continue working on their projects,” says Leyth.

Eiréné4Impact, a new high-impact investor  

On top of those programs, Eiréné4Impact invests in seed startups who have taken part in its incubation programs.

“We invest at the very beginning of a company’s life but only once the team has proven its execution skills on the ground and the solution’s hypothesis has been proven correct,” explains Znyber.

Eirené4Impact’s investments range between 500,000 dirhams ($51,000 USD) and 1.5 million dirhams ($155,419 USD) and leave the founders with a majority stake.

Funded companies get two days of mentoring per week, free access to training, and a network of local and international partners and experts.

Les cofondateurs de Lik à Las Vegas
Yassine Faddani, Ismail Bargach and Omar Kadiri of Lik at the Collision Conference in Las Vegas. (Image via Lik) 

A broad definition of social impact

Eiréné4Impact invested 1.6 million dirhams ($165,928 USD) in Lik, an app that lets users get free smartphone data recharges in exchange for displaying an ad.

“High impact entrepreneurship is not philanthropy, Zniber said. “It’s bringing a market economy solution to a social challenges rather than the opposite.”

It’s a good news indeed for socially responsible companies whose goas are to also be profitable and successful. 

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