Yunus Social Business

The interview with Yunus Social Business (YSB) was one of the first I ever held. It was in January 2015 during the Big Social in London. I remember meeting Daniel – executive and program director at Yunus Social Business – for the first time and being positively surprised by his genuine honesty about the opportunities and shortcomings of social entrepreneurship and the support sector (check out his spotlight!). A few months later, I was lucky to also speak to Bastian Mueller, head of partnerships, and get a detailed understanding of their program and objectives.

Program Insights

Yunus Social Business operates in seven different countries (Albania, Brazil, Colombia, Haiti, India, Tunisia, Uganda) and is headquartered in Frankfurt, Germany. They support social entrepreneurs that have a prototype of  a startup and need help in growing their business, look for partners and financial support. Participants are selected based on their written applications and face-to-face interviews. “We are trialing a bootcamp-style assessment center that resembles a two-day version of our accelerator. As part of our selection process, this allows us to see participants interact in a group and perform under stress.” says Daniel. Successful candidates benefit from a program consisting of training in business skills and social impact by external experts, mentoring, infrastructure support, access to third party support (e.g. legal local assistance), to markets and networks. The local staff of YSB acts as a program facilitator and supports on a process level rather through content and expertise. On average, eight to twelve out of 150 applicants make it into the accelerator. While programs are run locally, the team around Daniel and Bastian works from the German headquarters in Frankfurt.

At @Yunus_SB #SocEnt receive training, mentoring, infrastructure & network access. Click To Tweet

The program is facilitated during evening courses and – where location allows – in-person. Participants from remote areas participate online and via skype. “In general, our social entrepreneurs receive two days of training, one day of coaching and one day of mentoring per week.” explains Daniel. “In total, they go through six intense program weeks followed by two months of working in the field and testing their products during which they are mainly support by mentors and coaches. After the end of that phase, they receive two weeks of additional training that leads up to pitch day at the end.” Yunus Social Business invests in four to eight accelerator enterprises. On a non-dividend basis they invest between EUR 50.000 and EUR 200.000 through equity and debt-financing.

Making Impacts Comparable

One of the central topics Daniel and I got to chat about was impact assessment. “Everybody has a different idea how to assess impact and talk about it. It creates a lot of effort and extra work. If we agreed on a more standardized method with common reference points, we could speak the same language with investors, public agencies and corporates. We are trying to re-define business, not to make profit but to re-think society. By making our impact measures comparable, there is so much we can do to evaluate business on a whole new level and re-define capitalism.”  


Yunus Social Business locations outside Germany

Being critical with yourself

During my conversation with Bastian, I ask what he thinks makes a good support program for social entrepreneurs. “First of all, it needs to be customer-oriented. When offering support, always ask yourself what participants  really need at the stage they are in at the time of joining, and along the life cycle. Beyond that, I think it takes a) good mentoring, b) access to an international network and markets, and c) local supporters in the local scene.”

And they take that part seriously. Yunus Social Business recently ran a survey with their participants to understand how their fledgling entrepreneurs rated their program. The outcome included issues that participants feel they need most support with:

  • Deal negotiation
  • Access to Alumni and other Social Entrepreneurs
  • Access to other investors
  • Financing

As well as skills needed as an aspiring social entrepreneur:

  • Branding & communication
  • Accounting
  • Legal services
  • Talent sourcing/recruiting
  • Web design
  • Co-working

While I think ANY support organization should have these assessments in place, YSB is in fact the first one I have come across to actually do it. As soon as the white paper is published, check back here to learn more! 

The charming aspect about YSB – I find – is their ability to invest in start-ups they have worked with very closely. It allows for more informed investment decisions that factor in the entrepreneurs’ personality and business context which can be crucial in volatile environments such as Tunisia or Haiti. In the pipeline of social enterprise support, YSB works with more mature entrepreneurs guiding them on their way to investment readiness. But how do you find these mature entrepreneurs in countries with historically weaker support systems such as Albania or Uganda? I see great potential in formalizing pipeline partnerships in recruiting participants especially when working in several countries.

Mark your calendars!

Yunus Social Business is organizing this years’ Global Social Business Summit on 5 & 6 November 2015 in Berlin:

The Global Social Business Summit is the worldwide leading forum for social business. This event globally accelerates the awareness of social business, fosters discussion and collaboration between practitioners and stakeholders, as well as presents and develops best practices.



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