Inspired by the Pope: Vatican-blessed accelerator challenges startups to tackle global crises

May 20, 2017


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Inspired by Pope Francis and blessed in the Tomb of St. Peter, a new Vatican-approved accelerator is challenging startups to address humanity’s biggest challenges.

Inspired by the Pope’s challenge to unite as a human family in addressing the myriad ecological crises affecting our planet, the new Vatican-supported accelerator in Rome is taking applications for startups tackling these issues.

Whether it be for helping to solve the migration crisis, addressing the issue of climate change, or any other global concern for humanity, the Laudato Si’ Startup Challenge is taking applications for its accelerator in Rome until June 5.

This one-of-a-kind program is focused on businesses in the following seven areas: Energy, Food, Water, Urban Issues, Human Potential, Conservation, and Finance and Industry.

For eligibility in the accelerator, companies must be an established legal entity, have raised no more than $2 million in funding, and possess the ability to demonstrate a working product or fully functional prototype, among others.

Selected companies will receive a $100K seed investment for 6% – 8% equity, remote and in-person mentorship, two months in Rome, Italy, and a demo day scheduled at the Vatican. The investment comes from private sources, not the Vatican.

Read More: Strong mentorship, networking are key to industry focused accelerators’ success

The 6-month accelerator program consists of four months virtual and two months in-person in Rome from July 13 to September 9.

The initiative was announced May 5 at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences at the Vatican, and calls to action all startup companies — across all continents and faiths — who have solutions that can mitigate climate change.

Cardinal Turkson gave a private mass in the Tomb of St. Peter and officially blessed The Laudato Si’ Challenge on the day of its commencement.

Cardinal Turkson

“The Laudato Si’ Startup Challenge will unite humanity in common purpose and productive conversation, much like His Holiness Pope Francis’s ‘Revolution of Tenderness,'” reads its mission statement, which aims to be a beacon of new business, inspiring a new generation of entrepreneurs to build for-profit, for-purpose companies that address humanity’s biggest challenges in ways that are beneficial to all.

Paul Orlando

“I’ve worked with lots of startups. I’m a professor of entrepreneurship who also helps students get their first serious jobs and create companies. I have two young kids. These opportunities are in my mind every day,” says Paul Orlando, Program Director of the Laudato Si’ Challenge and professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Southern California (USC).

The accelerator program is looking for startups that engage in global conversation about breakthrough solutions that can solve some of the world’s most urgent and critical problems, while fostering a sense of compassion and fraternity with all people everywhere.

To give a sense of what type of startups the Vatican accelerator is looking for, you can check out the Laudato Si’ Challenge Facebook page.

These highlighted startups include PROTRASH — a social enterprise, dedicated to optimizing the recycling industry in Mexico and empowering women in low-income communities; and Scooterino — which aims to get rid of congestion one scooter at a time.

To be a fit for the Laudato Si’ Challenge, your business will ideally have some traction but will probably be pre Series-A stage. You don’t need to consider yourself a social entrepreneur or social impact organization as long as you are working in one of the seven areas above.

You’ll work with a team including the Program Director, international investors, and others who have worked with and invested in startups before. This accelerator is open to all business people, of all faiths and backgrounds.


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