Last year we launched our first-ever Impact Scholarship Programme, to provide support to purpose-driven businesses with access to our ecosystem of collaborative workspace, resources and network. Culminating in a live pitch event, finalists presented their businesses and projects to the Impact Hub Westminster community, who voted for their Class of 2014. We talk to Microgenius, the community shares platform who were awarded a full Impact Scholarship, to find out more about their impact and experience as our first Impact Scholars.

 

What are community shares?

Community shares are a way for communities to raise funds for social enterprises in an accountable and democratic way. Investors become members, with equal voting rights and chance to make a social and economic return on their investment. Community shares have empowered people all over the UK to help their local pub, community shop, renewable energy project and even save their local pier.

 

 

How does Microgenius fit into the picture?

Microgenius was originally founded as a platform to help communities raise finance to fund renewable energy schemes, however the Community Shares Unit (CSU) quickly realised the potential the site had for helping social enterprises from all sectors and relaunched the platform in June 2013. Microgenius helps enterprises to administer their share offer: providing a secure payment gateway, automating investor registration and providing a single platform through which to communicate to investors and supporters.

 

Why did you apply for the Impact Scholarship programme?

Before winning the scholarship the members of the CSU had worked with a number of organisations based at Impact Hub Westminster and knew of the positive working environment it provided. So when funding allowed the team to take on a project manager for Microgenius, and Impact Hub announced they were looking for alternative finance startups for the 2014 scholarship, the opportunity was too fortuitous to ignore!

Simon Borkin, Microgenius, presenting at the Impact Scholarship Live Pitch Event, July 2014.
Simon Borkin, Microgenius, presenting at the Impact Scholarship Live Pitch Event, July 2014.

 

How has your experience at Impact Hub Westminster been? What has benefited you most?

Being based at the Impact Hub Westminster has been incredibly beneficial to the development of Microgenius and the objectives of the CSU. As a team spread between London, Bristol, Manchester and Bradford the Hub has been provided us with our own space when we come together as a team, but also a social and friendly workplace for working independently.

We work a lot with Government, and our colleagues in these departments need to book meeting rooms months in advance. It might sound dry, but the ability to host meetings with them at the Hub has probably saved us weeks of waiting!

 

What does the future hold for Microgenius?

We’re working hard supporting enterprises looking to raise funds through Community Shares, and listening to stakeholder feedback to improve our service. In the summer the CSU will be launching the Community Shares Mark which will be awarded to enterprises that meet best practices standards. Only share offers which attain the Mark will be listed on Microgenius. This is part of our drive to grow and develop community shares practice; improving standards and investor confidence is key to the market’s sustainability and success.

 

This year the Impact Scholarship is back, and with a new focus: clean technology!

To find out more & to apply please see the Impact Scholarship 2015 page.

Top image: Construction of Hastings Pier, a project backed by a community shares offer using Microgenius.