Vatican-backed accelerator challenges startups to take on climate change

By Tim Hinchliffe May 20, 2017
startup accelerator

A new accelerator inspired by Pope Francis and blessed in the Vatican is challenging startups to think globally and tackle the most pressing issues of our time.

The Laudato Si’ Startup Challenge, inspired by Pope Francis’s call, is a global initiative that supports early to mid-stage startups in developing breakthrough enterprise solutions to the world’s most urgent challenges.

The program is focused on environmental and human potential businesses and is based on a recent encyclical from Pope Francis. Selected companies will receive a US$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.

This one-of-a-kind, six-month accelerator program consists of four months virtual and two months in-person in Rome from July 13 to September 9. It focuses on businesses in the following seven areas: Energy, Food, Water, Urban Issues, Human Potential, Conservation, and Finance and Industry.

For eligibility in the accelerator, startups must have 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 other criteria.

startup accelerator

Paul Orlando

Paul Orlando, Program Director of the Laudato Si’ Challenge and professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Southern California (USC), comments, “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.” Paul has run successful startup accelerators in two other locations as well.

The for-profit initiative was announced May 5th 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.

The Laudato Si’ Startup Challenge was even blessed in the Tomb of St. Peter by Cardinal Turkson.

Its mission is in response to the challenge set forth by Pope Francis in “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home,” which calls us to unite as a human family in addressing the myriad ecological crises affecting our planet.

By supporting the development of high-impact social businesses offering new ways to address issues of climate change and human migration, the accelerator is accepting startup applicants who meet the criteria, and the deadline to apply is June 5.

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. The investment comes from private sources, not the Vatican.