Interactive resources for incubators and accelerators
Interactive resources for incubators and accelerators
Interactive resources for incubators and accelerators

Selecting a Cohort

Selecting the cohort to take part in your incubator or accelerator can be a complex and challenging process. With so many entrepreneurs and social enterprises to choose from, it is difficult to know what to look for. Are they the right fit for your program? Is your program the right fit for them?


This section identifies what to look for in your applicants to ensure a diverse and balanced cohort for your program. It provides examples of different selection processes and timelines, as well as helpful tools for scoring applications in a balanced and methodological way.

  • Selecting a stellar cohort is a constant learning process. Lean in and be curious.

    Pamela Roussos, The Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship

Selection Criteria

Before selecting your cohort, first think about the different qualities that you want to see in your portfolio of entrepreneurs.

Do you want businesses from a range of sectors, or are you sector-focused? Do you want a balance of early-stage and late-stage businesses, or do you want businesses who are at the same stage of their development journey? Is it important that your cohort is innovative? Is it important that your cohort is delivering measurable impact in their communities?

These qualities will help to shape your selection criteria, which will inform how you score and rank the applicants to your program.


Spring’s Qualitative Criteria

  • 1.

    In addition to the standard selection criteria surrounding business models and finances, Spring also like to include a number of qualitative criteria for their cohorts.


    Impact Alignment

    How impact aligned is this entrepreneur?

    Are they contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals?

    How do they describe the positive change that they want to have in the world?



    Do the people on this team work well together?

    Do they have an open mind?

    Are they open to feedback?

    Are they willing to share information and experiences with others?



    Are they funding-ready now or will they be in 6-12 months?

    What support do they need before we can put them in front of investors?


    Global Mindset

    Are they thinking about their solution from a global perspective?

    Have their considered exporting their product or service?

    Are they able to think beyond their current context?


    These qualitative criteria help Spring to understand what each entrepreneur can offer the cohort in their program, as well as what the program can provide for them.


    Source: Spring

Sourcing Applicants

In order to source the largest amount of high-quality applicants to your program, it is recommended to utilise a variety of outreach approaches.

These can include:

  • References from existing alumni

    Entrepreneurs who have participated in previous programs with your incubator or accelerator are often a great source for new applicants. These entrepreneurs may have a diverse network that they can tap into, and will be able to provide prospective applicants with a unique perspective on what makes your program worthwhile.

  • Discovery partners

    Organisations that provide valuable deal sourcing from communities that they cultivate.

    e.g. Ashoka, Echoing Green

  • Events

    Networking and introductions made at conferences, meetups and other industry events.

The Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship usually sees an even split of sources for their cohorts.

  • 0

    references from existing alumni

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    references from discovery partners

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    references from events


    Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship is the largest and most successful university-based social enterprise accelerator in the world. Founded in 1997, Miller Center is one of three Centers of Distinction at Santa Clara University and is located in the heart of the world’s most entrepreneurial ecosystem, Silicon Valley. Miller Center’s Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI) helps social entrepreneurs to help more people. Since 2003 GSBI programs have accelerated 900+ social entrepreneurs, who have raised over $940M+, and positively impacted the lives of 300M+ people.





    Villgro Innovations Foundation is India’s oldest and one of the world’s largest social enterprise incubators. Established in 2001, Villgro supports innovative, impactful and successful for-profit enterprises who are tackling some of the most pressing challenges in the developing world – access to healthcare, education and modernising agricultural practices. So far, Villgro has supported over 150 social enterprises with $4.5 million in investments. These enterprises have created over 40,000 jobs, secured $17 million in follow-on funding, and impacted 19 million lives. Presently, Villgro’s unique incubation model is being replicated in Kenya, Philippines and Vietnam.




    Fledge is a network of conscious company accelerators and seed funds, searching the world of great mission-driven for-profit startups. By inviting 6-8 at a time to an intense 10-week accelerator, and investing in each using a unique revenue-based equity structure, Fledge creates a long-term relationship to continue guiding them from idea to success. (So far) Fledge runs programs in Seattle, Vancouver, Lima, Barcelona, and Padua, and are expanding in 1-2 cities per year.





    Village Capital builds bridges for entrepreneurs who are creating an inclusive and sustainable world. Their programs connect high potential, early-stage entrepreneurs with the people, institutions, and capital they need to succeed. Since 2009, Village Capital has supported more than 1,000 entrepreneurs through their programs, and partnered with affiliated investment funds, including VilCap Investments, that have invested seed capital in more than 90 program graduates. Through their VilCap Communities program, Village Capital provides an all-inclusive solution for program design, management, and implementation of a venture development program.





    Spring exists to change the world through entrepreneurship. A certified B Corporation, Spring supports entrepreneurs who are using business as a force for good through incubation, acceleration, leaders roundtables, funding training, workshops, and ecosystem development advisory services. Headquartered in Vancouver, Canada, Spring supports entrepreneurs via City Partners in over 10 countries around the world. Spring has supported more than 700 entrepreneurs to launch more than 300 businesses in less than five years.



Dealing With Failure

How to work with people who aren’t the right fit for your cohort or program