Source: Washington Business Journal
D.C.’s Halcyon, known for its flagship social entrepreneurship incubator in Georgetown, is taking its programming abroad for the first time with help from Amazon Web Services.
The local nonprofit is teaming up with the Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) subsidiary, its longtime partner, to launch an incubator for early-stage ventures founded by female social entrepreneurs in Bahrain, one of the seven Arab states that border the Persian Gulf.
The 2021 Bahrain Women’s Intensive will mentor and train the program’s participants, and introduce them to the U.S. market and potential investors, Halcyon said. AWS will bring its technology to the table, providing cloud computing credits, technical help and other support, as it has for previous Halcyon initiatives. They’re also working with Startup Bahrain to support recruitment in that ecosystem, though none of the partners will take equity in the ventures.
AWS is fully funding the program, which has not received any funding from the Bahrain government, AWS and Halcyon both confirmed. Startup Bahrain is backed by its government, as well as incubators, universities and corporations.
The partners homed in on Bahrain, which has become an entrepreneurship hub, as they considered areas around the world with strong social entrepreneurship pipelines, Halcyon co-founder and CEO Kate Goodall said in an interview Tuesday. The program developed from AWS and Halcyon's involvement and interest in the Middle East, plus their “mutual interest in looking for global solutions, particularly global tech solutions, and in diversifying tech and entrepreneurship,” Goodall said.
It also builds upon AWS’s longstanding presence in the Middle East, specifically in Bahrain, where it last year launched its cloud technology for the entire Persian Gulf region, according to Teresa Carlson, vice president of AWS’s worldwide public sector business. “They were the first country that said, ‘We really get this, and we need to take a leadership role in cloud computing and innovation,’” she said.
The partners expect to select 10 ventures for this cohort in December, Goodall said, and to start monthly virtual programming in January 2021. Halcyon is also tentatively shooting to host the fellows in a weeklong residency in July, depending on where the coronavirus pandemic stands. Applications for the program are open through Nov. 23 to women founders with impact-driven tech startups in Bahrain. The partners will consider strength of business model, the potential for impact at scale and innovation in their decisions.
But there’s more to it, Goodall said. They’re looking for people who “deeply understand the problem they’re trying to solve, first and foremost,” as well as “innately curious” entrepreneurs who will be able to “grow and galvanize the support that they need while remaining coachable,” she said. They’re also looking for ideas and businesses “that support the growth of the Gulf,” Carlson said.
“I think one of the outcomes that we also like is … they get the attention here in the U.S. of venture capital money, but also take that back and make all of the venture capitalists and private equity groups aware of what they’re doing in the Gulf,” Carlson said, “so they also have an opportunity to get funding on an idea that might be more unique or an area of growth and development in the Gulf, particularly.”
The latest program follows the debut and continuation of Halcyon’s two-week intensive programs, which in recent years have hosted entrepreneurs from Korea and Saudi Arabia, as well as from the District’s opportunity zones.
“We do have an intention to continue to put feelers out around the world. There’s some really amazing places that are hot spots of innovation and have the right ingredients for a program like this,” Goodall said, adding that “it may well be done in partnership with AWS.”
But as to whether we’ll see Halcyon stand up an international outpost anytime soon? “It’s definitely something that we’ve talked about, but it would have to be hands-down the right opportunity,” Goodall said. “We’re very interested in quality, and I wouldn’t want to expand for expansion’s sake.”
It all comes a couple of months after Halcyon’s angel network made its first investments and as the Georgetown nonprofit advances new efforts to support social impact ventures, including raising a $6 million fund to invest in its own startups for the first time and working with CareFirst BlueCross BlueShieldto incubate more health care startups.
Since 2014, Halcyon’s incubator counts 111 alumni ventures — 59% of them woman-founded — that have raised a collective $150 million and created more than 1,700 jobs. In 2017, the nonprofit spun out of the D.C.-based S&R Foundation, the private foundation of Sucampo Pharmaceutical co-founders Sachiko Kuno and Ryuji Ueno.