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YSYS sits down with new Community Partner, Venture Studio from Crisis

Here at YSYS, we were extremely excited to have partnered with the Venture Studio from Crisis in December 2020 for an exclusive office hours. We worked with the Venture Studio to connect and provide guidance to founding teams who are looking to positively impact the future of homelessness in the UK through tech. Venture Studio from Crisis exists to invest in, support, and create ventures to end homelessness.

We loved working with the team at VS from Crisis so much, we caught up with them to share why they’re doing what they’re doing and how.

YSYS: We’d love to hear about Venture Studio from Crisis…

VS from Crisis: We are bringing together our expertise with the talent, technology, and agility of startups to end homelessness for good. Crisis wrote the roadmap to end homelessness, we understand the major challenges involved, and that’s why we’re looking for new solutions.

We already run businesses within Crisis and are exploring more commercial opportunities that we can take forward in-house. We also support our members, who access our services, to sustainably end their homelessness using entrepreneurship through a programme of events, business advice, coaching, mentorship, and access to funding.

We are industry agnostic, but are primarily seeking to invest in new housing, financial services, employment or healthcare solutions that will help us prevent and thereby accelerate the end of homelessness. In return for commitment to our mission, we will provide startups with the funding, regular access to our members for co-creation opportunities, 51 years’ worth of data and market insights, connections to partners who can distribute their products in market, and investors who can scale their business for the long term.

YSYS: Wow, and what impact are you looking to make?

VS from Crisis: We want to end homelessness for good.

In 21st century Britain, everybody should have a home of their own. We know that to end homelessness we need housing and forward-thinking policies, but we must also find innovative new solutions to prevent homelessness from happening in the first place and to tackle its consequences.

We want to end the development of inappropriate and inhumane solutions, instead offering a foundation of support for ventures that, with our insight and expertise, can shape innovative technology solutions with dignity for those experiencing homelessness.

Our ambition is to pioneer a transparent and open-sourced environment where everything we learn; both in terms of success and failure, is shared across the sector.

By collaborating with the wider homelessness sector, we will increase the value of our work, creating a community open for all — united in a mission to end homelessness.

YSYS: So, why partner with YSYS?

VS from Crisis: We know that diversity of all kinds is lacking in the tech ecosystem and that this is not due to a pipeline problem. We recognize our responsibility as a community to build an open and inclusive environment for founders from overlooked backgrounds to excel, whilst understanding the intersections in the tech industry beyond gender, such as race, class, ability, having lived experience of homelessness, and more.

We are partnering with YSYS because our values are aligned and incredibly important. We’re passionate about supporting their mission to help 100,000+ people to excel in tech by 2023, especially in our commitment to build and scale ambitious and diverse ventures in our mission to end homelessness. As we’re building our own community of ventures, investors, mentors, coaches, and talent, from scratch, there is no reason that we can’t build the foundations for people from diverse backgrounds to thrive.

Having signed up to the #KnowYourData campaign driven by YSYS, we are committed to taking an equity-oriented approach to gathering, tracking, and monitoring diversity data.

Beyond this, we’re excited to be working with YSYS to ensure that the ventures that we’ll be supporting in the studio have the tools and understanding of how to build structural and accessible change, moving past empty gestures to contribute towards a baseline understanding of the true state of diversity and inclusion in their teams.

YSYS: Thank you, and how can people get involved?

VS from Crisis: If you’re interested in supporting us as a mentor, coach, investor, or future employee, please reach out to ellie.broad@crisis.org.uk to find out how to get involved in our community.

YSYS: What start-ups are you looking for?

VS from Crisis: We’re looking to invest in startups at pre-seed or seed stage, working on innovative housing solutions, new pathways to employment, better provision of housing, healthcare, or financial services that we know can prevent homelessness for so many.

YSYS: Why now?

VS from Crisis: 200,000 UK households are currently homeless with thousands at risk of homelessness due to the current pandemic. We are committed to exploring new ways of tackling the issues underlying the causes and consequences of homelessness, ending it for good.

For the past 10 years, our Changing Lives grant programme has helped hundreds of our members develop their own ventures. The Venture Studio will offer a community and expertise to support the scale and growth of more member founded businesses.

With the pandemic shining a light on the true scale of the homelessness challenge, there is more appetite and understanding around the world to solve this challenge for good. In June 2020, 500 participants from 74 countries signed up to develop early-stage ideas to end homelessness through the Ending Homelessness Innovation Challenge we ran in partnership with the Collective Foundation.

We also know impact funding is more plentiful, with a significant increase in the number of impact investors; the market now estimated to be $715bn.

In living our values of adaptability and fearlessness through independence, Crisis itself has demonstrated itself to be a truly entrepreneurial charity in the wake of coronavirus. We quickly adapted our services to continue delivering support for those that need it most and through our, In this Together grants scheme and now the Home for All grants scheme that is funding innovative work of smaller charities across the UK. We are well positioned to provide a trusted source of connection and advice for the right startups.

YSYS: How does Diversity & Inclusion play a part in this new venture?

VS from Crisis: D&I is at the heart the Venture Studio. For us, D&I looks at the intersections of gender, race, class, ability, and more, but also empathizes the importance of having the voices of people with lived experience of homelessness woven into the fabric of our community. That’s why, Crisis Members, those with lived experience of homelessness, have been involved at every stage of the Venture Studio — they will continue to support its development, shape its offer, and will continue to benefit from its resources.

We are committed to employing D&I initiatives, along with collecting meaningful and comparable data within Crisis as an organization, of our investment committee, and of the startups we will work with, to contribute to building structural changes that will ensure a more equitable ecosystem.

Applications to join the first portfolio are now closed. However, you can keep in touch with updates on the Venture Studio and upcoming intakes by registering your interest: www.crisis.org.uk/get-involved/venture-studio

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YSYS is a thriving startup community for founders, developers, creatives and investors on a mission to make a difference.

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