Where they are now: 2014’s PITCH Winner – State of Ambition

Thinking of applying for this year’s London+Acumen PITCH event, but need some inspiration? We recently checked in with some of last year’s social enterprise participants, and here’s what State of Ambition, 2014 winners of the London+Acumen PITCH event, had to say about where they are now.
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A year after winning London+Acumen’s PITCH 2014
2014 was a big exciting blur – we were really trying hard to get State of Ambition off the ground, testing, iterating, selling and most of all helping young people with their ambitions and then in between our busiest period, I decided to apply to London+Acumen’s PITCH2014 – I’m so glad I did. I remember turning up to the final and seeing a friendly crowd, a bench of judges seriously experienced in the social impact space and most of all, I remember looking at the other finalists in the booklet and thinking “Wow, they’re all so amazing – I haven’t got a chance against these lot and you know what, I’m just glad to be here meeting all these interesting people”. I mean, I’d just about got my slides together after a week of long nights wrapping up a pilot we had just finished for State of Ambition. Before I knew it, it was my turn to pitch and the 5 minutes flew by. What a relief, it went well, I could feel my phone buzzing with encouraging Tweets. It was about half an hour later that I heard my name called up again – I’d won. I really hope there are no photos of me looking somewhere between a state of shock and a Chuckle brother. I was chuffed, I’d just got feedback from some outstanding judges, met brilliant people (one of whom is now on our advisory board), and started some awesome professional relationships. I can’t recommend PITCH enough.
So, what is State of Ambition?
Created by my social innovation studio Super Being Labs, we are a not-for-profit digital social enterprise that creates social mobility by supporting young people’s ambitions and soft-skills development in an entirely fresh way by focusing on enabling relationship building and continual learning. This is something I am extremely passionate about and believe is the biggest way we can solve the long-term causes of youth unemployment and the huge issue of wasted potential. Ultimately, we want to create the State of Ambition –  an exciting online space between formal education and the real world that prepares young people for their potential. It’s a space where 16-30 year olds make connections, demonstrate grit, grow their skills and start making their dreams come true.
In doing this, our mission is to nurture future generations of leaders to be collaborative, compassionate and determined and all our net profits will be used to provide scholarships and grants to young people who complete our programme and need that extra break.
 
How do we do it?
We run online programmes through our digital relationship building and learning platform. These programmes enable brilliant but underserved 16-30 year olds to connect online with multiple role models (employees) at ambitious companies that we are partnering with (companies like Twitter, Telefonica UK, Jobsite and many more). The role models collectively help each young person grow through micro-advice and feedback on leadership tasks set online over a 21 day period and at the same time, the young people build relationships around their ambitions. In helping, the role models also benefit, as they engage further with their employer’s culture and reinforce their knowledge of required skillsets. We believe in perpetual evolution because continuous learning and development benefits everyone involved and it only takes minutes.
At the end of the 21 days everyone has benefitted from the online programme:
1. The young person has developed greater skills, confidence and a professional network (they’ll also get an accredited qualification – due to be launched end of this year).
2. The employer has an identifiable and diverse talent pool of prospective employees.
3. The Role Models have refined their feedback skills and promoted the company’s values and expertise through the feedback they have given.
During our trial period of 6 months, our young people engaged with over 166,000 people, had over 2700 conversations and over 456 opportunities as a result. Our aim is to help 5,000 young people this year and be nationwide by the end of our third year. We’ve also had discussions in Chile, Ecuador, Saudi Arabia and many other countries about using our platform by the end of our third year.
What’s happened since winning London+Acumen PITCH 2014?
A lot but in summary, we’ve launched our brand spanking new platform, we won a place at Telefonica’s acceleration programme -WayraUnLtd, we’ve even hugged (yes hugged) Will.i.am, we’ve met CEOs of big companies, we’ve got some amazing new board advisors and we’re now in the middle of solidly growing all 3 of our revenue streams. A lot of the relationships that have enabled this, actually began that night at PITCH2014 and that just reinforces how small this world is, and how taking the opportunity to build strong relationships gets you closer to your goals. People matter so much…never try to do anything alone. It’s a tough game – be kind to each other and collaborate.
What can I recommend to other social enterprises?
In addition to building strong relationships and collaborating, I’d also say focus on creating a product-market fit that creates both impact and business value at the same time. One of my favourite people in the social impact space is all round good guy – Dan Sutch (formerly of Nominet Trust and now a Director of CAST – the Centre for the Acceleration of Social Technology) puts it so well:
“You address inefficiency, you can create a business. If you can address an inequality and an inefficiency, you can create a social business”. 
 
He’s spot on. In my own experiences with SoA and through meeting other social enterprises via my social innovation studio Super Being Labs, I have come across many examples of complicating social impact growth. It’s easy to do. However, always remember that a social enterprise is just a much better way of doing what normal businesses do. Your aim is to create value through business but do it with heart and solve an inequality at the same time. Stay true to creating meaningful impact and keep persisting. Believe me, it’s tough but if you can find a way to get your revenue streams running in tandem with creating impact and do it quickly by testing constantly, then do it! You’ll have a business that changes this world and you’ll be in control of your growth. Only once you’ve done that, should you know how much investment you need to scale (and who knows, you may be growing so quick, you may not even need investment).
I’d be more than happy to meet up with anyone who wants to talk through challenges or ideas. My email is darshan@superbeinglabs.org. I’ll help in any way I can.
For now though, I’ll sign off by saying one more thing “Go apply for London+Acumen PITCH 2015!”