Bethnal Green Ventures’ 5 top tips for social start-ups

At Bethnal Green Ventures we invest in early stage tech ventures working on stuff that matters: from how we provide health and social care to designing new forms of education, energy creation and employment. We have just begun our UK-wide search for the best startup ideas looking to tackle some of today's toughest social challenges.   
We support new ventures through investing £15,000 in your startup in exchange for 6% equity. We also provide a three month programme of support and a network of mentors and investors as well as six months free office space in central London. 
We know there are many great ideas out there that need that extra bit of support. If you’re thinking of applying, here are our 5 top tips for potential startup founders:
1. Come talk to us! We have found in the past that most successful applicants are those who have spoken to us before submitting their application. We are available for coffee practically anytime in the next 8 weeks and would love to hear from you: drop by our office or schedule a skype call. 
2. We really do want to know about you. We are far more likely to select applicants on the quality of their team than of their idea. A good idea is nothing without the people developing and driving it forward. We also stipulate that all teams must have at least one technical co-founder.
3. A passion to solve the problem. How much do you know about the problem you are trying to solve? And why is it important to you? Make sure the problem you’re solving is actually the problem, not the symptom of something else. Sometimes it’s easy to mistake what’s actually the symptom of a problem as the problem itself, and in doing so, end up developing an idea to create a sticking plaster for the symptom, rather than a way to address a root cause.
4. You should be able to explain your idea in fewer than 30 words. To kick things off, you need a simple, clear explanation of your idea. To do this really well, it’s a good discipline to write as little as you can. In 30 words or so, it’s possible to fit in what the tools are (mobile app, SMS service, website), who your users are (older people, younger people, anyone who wants to do X) and the problem you’re solving for them or the benefit they’ll get from using your service.
5. Competition is good – make sure you tell us about it. We ask ‘what’s really new about your idea’ and we’re really keen to hear about similar services that exist (whether those are technology-based or not) and how you’re different. Even if there’s nothing addressing exactly the same need as your idea, we like hearing about related products and services because it really helps us understand what your idea is and where you’re coming from. Also, if you leave a competitor out, we’re likely to assume you’ve not done your homework and that you might just replicate something that’s already out there because you don’t know about it.
Lily Ash Sakula is a partner at Bethnal Green Ventures
Bethnal Green Ventures is backed by £1.8m from the Cabinet Office’s Social Incubator Fund, Nesta and Nominet.