Seven tech startups on a mission have emerged from Facebook’s first in-house incubator programme, stronger for the mentorship and tech expertise received. The LDN_LAB, run jointly with Bethnal Green Ventures, kicked off its first 12-week chapter in February.
Facebook’s first-ever in-house incubator – based out of its central London HQ – has wrapped its opening 12-week programme, after seven community-driven startups received mentoring and tech support from the US tech giant and BGV.
All the startups on the first LDN_LAB programme – selected from a long list of 100 – are creating, building or empowering communities. Five of the seven startups are led by female founders.
LDN-LAB’s community startup seven
GoodGym – non-profit connecting runners with volunteering tasks in their communities
Mush – app connecting new mums in the UK through a local social network
OLIO – connecting neighbours with each other and with local shops so surplus food can be shared
OnHand – mobilising a community of volunteers to provide elderly people with help for everyday tasks
Rabble – getting more people into fitness by disguising exercise as games
Tabl – independent food community and marketplace, allowing direct purchase from craft producers
Teacherly – collaborative platform for teachers to create and share lesson plans.
Facebook said the incubator expands on Community Boost, an initiative announced by Sheryl Sandberg in January offering digital skills training for 50,000 UK small businesses and individuals.
During the 12 weeks, the ventures received training and mentorship from Facebook engineers and executives, including European chief Nicola Mendelsohn (pictured), who also sat on the LDN_LAB advisory panel.
“This is the first time we’ve done anything like this anywhere in the world. It is a new investment for us,” Mendelsohn said at the end-of-programme showcase.
“We wanted to work with these amazing entrepreneurs, these people of change, because we think they are the people who can help to solve the biggest and challenging questions that are out there today.
“Last year Mark [Zuckerberg] changed the mission of the company to be about giving people the tools to build communities in order that we can bring the world closer together. We know that we can’t do that alone. We know that that means we need to work closely with entrepreneurs, as well as governments and NGOs.”
LDN_LAB support sessions during the 12 weeks have covered product, marketing and technology. In the showcase session, founders reported an increase in user uptake, reduced churn and lower user acquisition costs.
A second chapter will help content creators from Facebook and Instagram to produce videos and engage with their communities, while a third, starting in August, welcomes community leaders and builders like Facebook Group and Page admins, to help them grow their communities.
UK startups have welcomed Facebook’s support for the UK ecosystem, which has until now seen backing primarily from Google and Microsoft, among big US tech.
During a fireside chat with Mendelsohn, lastminute.com founder Brent Hoberman urged corporates to work more closely with startups. He pointed to his Founders Intelligence project, connecting startups to bigger corporations.
The Facebook connection is quite a coup for Bethnal Green Ventures, which has until now run its own programmes or worked with charities.
BGV partner Vicky-Marie Gibbons said: “We’ve worked with Facebook to design a programme that will accelerate the growth of startups that are having a positive impact on society. LDN_LAB gives these startups unique access to Facebook’s business and engineering knowledge, alongside the mentoring and support needed to make their business a success.”