According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 50% of all start-ups will not make it to the five year mark. Bloomberg paints an even bleaker picture claiming that eight out of every ten new ventures will fail in the first 18 months. Kind of a depressing holiday message: in a world where everybody’s starting something, most people are also shutting down something.
But not us. Next year, DC Social Innovation Project marks our fifth year, and in doing so will reach a milestone that so frequently eludes start-ups of all kinds—for-profit and non-profit alike. Of course, the real story is not that we’re around to tell this story. The celebration worth shouting from the rooftops is that our true success is in helping our grantees shake the start-up failure curse. Since we’ve opened shop, we’ve helped launch ten innovative programs and organizations. Of those, only two have disbanded or made the hard but smart decision, with our urging, not to go forward. That’s a success rate of 80%. Ask anyone in the start-up or non-profit space, and they will tell you that this is simply amazing.
If you asked me why we are so successful in such a high-failure field, I would tell you that it is because we don’t believe in competition, we believe in collaboration. We believe that through deep partnership, we can help innovative community programs and organizations be better by connecting them to resources, visibility, and the innovation ecosystem. We believe we are better together.
During the past week, we’ve welcomed three new grantees to our family: The Paper Project, DC’s Street Sense, and Wise Young Builders. Each one of these is an exciting young venture, struggling with challenges and constraints that would flummox the most seasoned entrepreneur: a high school program whose leadership changes hands every two years; a micro-work initiative aimed at transitioning homeless populations into knowledge workers in our digital-dominated economy; and a mentor program applying high-level math to plot a pathway out of poverty for kids most at risk of dropping out.
We think their journeys have a lot to teach all of us in the sector. We think their successes have a lot to do with making DC a poverty-free city, one block at a time. Their creativity and their courage can inspire us all. So thank you for helping us create success stories worth shouting from the rooftops. With your help, we will continue to light up DC through the power of innovation.
– Darius Graham, DCSIP Founder and Board Member
Darius Graham is the Founder of the DC Social Innovation Project and currently serves as a Board Member. He recently joined Johns Hopkins University as the inaugural Director of the Social Innovation Lab, an incubator for mission-driven ventures tackling local and global challenges.