Our Approach


Inventor to Entrepreneur Framework

Perhaps the single most important factor determining the success and impact of a socially driven small and growing business is having the right team at the helm to guide and grow it. However, it is also probably one of the greatest challenges confronting our sector today. Social enterprises or social businesses are often started by leaders who are highly motivated by a social purpose and highly entrepreneurial in their approach. However, these same leaders often do not have all of the core competencies needed within themselves or their teams to take their enterprise to the next stage. The constant lack of resources often prevents them from attracting higher skilled talent. And the fact that they are used to working by themselves or with a very small team, prevents them from transitioning the day to day running of the business to their teams.

This chronic sector-wide challenge is especially keen in invention-based enterprises, where leaders, by default, typically have a background in science or technology rather than business. Inventors turned entrepreneurs often face the double challenge of having to gain business skills while growing their team. And often, those that are prolific inventors, would prefer to be in the laboratory developing the next technology rather than worrying about how they will bring these products to the market.

The Inventor to Entrepreneur Tool is designed to help Entrepreneurs and Inventor-Entrepreneurs assess the core competencies that they need to develop in themselves or within their team in order to build their businesses for greater impact. The Tool is designed to be a self-discovery process for the inventor-entrepreneur that leads him or her to want to make needed changes. It recognized that this journey is not easy for most leaders, and particularly for those that have founded their own business. The “letting go” of certain responsibilities process is never easy and is very personal. In most cases, they will strengthen themselves as leaders and will build the leadership team to bring in the needed skills for the next stage of growth. In other scenarios, however, they will find that disseminating the innovation through a technology transfer to another company may be a better path forward.

With this as a basis, the Tool is also designed so that the entrepreneur or inventor-entrepreneur is guided by a mentor in this process. The mentor is there to ask the questions and to help bring up points that are sometimes difficult to see or assess. It’s to be a good listener and to have an honest conversation on areas that need to be developed or transitioned. By having a mentor, the entrepreneur is more likely to step away from the numerous issues that he or she faces on a day to day basis, to dedicate a bit of time to larger questions regarding his or her future role in the business.


  1. The Tool will assess the entrepreneurial capacity of inventor-entrepreneurs relative to the stage of enterprise development in order to determine their talent profile and capacity needs.
  2. Once this profile has been established, the Tool will help inventor-entrepreneurs, and the intermediaries that support them, to design and implement a talent building plan that will allow them to best respond to the enterprise needs of their business.



1. Inventor-Entrepreneur/Entrepreneur

The Tool is designed to be applied by an inventor-entrepreneur or entrepreneur that recognizes that he or she wants to strengthen his or her core competencies in order to lead and grow their small and growing business or social enterprise.

2. Intermediary organizations

It is also designed for intermediary organizations--capacity developer such as an accelerator or incubator as well as an impact investor or donor that is supporting or investing -- that have an ongoing relationship with a small and growing business or social enterprise that has already launched, and could have just a few months of trajectory or could have a few years of trajectory and be looking at the talent skills needed to begin to scale. The intermediary organization assigns a mentor- either in its existing team or externally- to help guide and support the inventor-entrepreneur through this process.


The inventor-entrepreneur will be guided through a two-stage process to use the Tool: Self-discovery, followed by Implementation. The process can be repeated periodically, especially as the enterprise enters each new enterprise development stage of its lifecycle.

In the self-discovery stage, the inventor turned entrepreneur will use a survey to assess his or her existing talent and leadership skills by comparing them to the complete set of competencies that are critical for success, identify those areas that they are strong in while also recognizing the gaps in their skill set.

Once the inventor-entrepreneur and intermediary are aware of the gaps between the inventor-entrepreneur’s competencies and the needed competencies, they can work together on a talent development plan to address these issues.

Talent Tool Framework Diagram

Talent Tool Diagram

The Tool uses Global Social Benefit Institute´s social enterprise lifecycle described in four stages- Startup, Validate, Prepare to Scale and Scale - building on the work done by the Monitor Group in 2012 in their landmark report, From Blueprint to Scale: The Case for Philanthropy in Impact Investing. In particular, the Tool is concerned with helping inventor-entrepreneurs at the early stages of enterprise development- startup, validate and prepare-to-scale stages, since it’s at these stages where it’s critical that core competencies are in place to prove the business model and to build the team, systems and networks needed for growth. It is also at these stages where many social businesses are not able to consolidate and grow, leading to the “pioneer gap” or “missing middle” that currently exists in the sector.

The Self-Assessment Survey is currently designed to focus on the validate stage. However, the core competencies for startup and prepare to scale are also provided in case an inventor turned entrepreneur and his or her mentor would like to begin a process of reflection at either one of these stages.

Start Up Validate Prepare to Scale Scale
The enterprise will be focused on creating a blueprint for the business. At this stage, the enterprise will be testing and refining its business model. At this stage, the enterprise is preparing to scale a validated product/service and business model. At this stage, the enterprise is expanding to serve new beneficiaries with current geographies, serve existing beneficiaries with additional products/services, and/or expand to new geographies.
• Have a validated user/customer need solution.
• Have a reasonable proposed business model.
• Produce refined and impact document.
• Predictable delivery mechanism.
• Predictable sales mechanism.
• Business model validated.
• Achieve operational stability.
• Enhance the conditions needed for scaling.
• Key goal is to have the team, infrastructure, systems in place for high growth.

The Tool provides a selection of stories and other resources to help both with the self-discovery and implementation stages.

Core Competencies at Validate

The tool identifies a set of core competencies that inventor-entrepreneurs should ideally have at each stage of the enterprise development process. These competencies fall under four categories: strategic/planning; functional/operational; entrepreneurial; and social capital and market knowledge.

The competencies are made up of a combination of abilities, skills and knowledge - soft and hard- that a successful CEO needs in order to lead the enterprise to success at each stage. These include soft abilities such as the ability to analyze, make decisions, prioritize, strategize, motivate, co-create, communicate, to recognize and learn from his or her mistakes. As well as entrepreneurial and business management hard abilities such as financial management, strategic planning, talent development and supervision, business modelling, marketing, fundraising, attracting partners, and market/context research.

Validate Stage

CEO Roles • Lead and manage
• Set the vision and keep team and stakeholders aligned to it
• Recruit, hire and coach all team members
• Fill in wherever needed in the team
Core Competencies
Strategic/Planning Functional/Operational Entrepreneurial Social Capital and Market Knowledge
Ability to test the business model and refine until it works. Capacity to operationalize the business with a realistic cost revenue structure Ability to mitigate challenges and make judgement calls to prevent mission distractions and keep team focused and productive. Ability to build and leverage a network of relevant stakeholders- mentors, board members, employees, industry experts, investors, donors, partners.
Ability to chart a path forward for the enterprise. Committed to developing standard processes that will maintain quality and consistency as other team members take over operations. Can demonstrate and communicate credibility of business to potential donors, investors and other partners. Can identify partners/service providers that will contribute to the validation of the enterprise: cost structures, documented evidence of impact, operational efficiencies.
Committed to capturing customer and beneficiary feedback to validate the product/service for the segments. Country-specific knowledge related to market niche.
Capacity to recruit team members with more specialized skills to take over day to day operations.
Disciplined to lead the adoption of metrics to manage the business and track impact.

Core Competencies at Other Stages

To follow are core competencies at other stages of the enterprise development process. The key differences from validate stage, is that at startup, the leadership team is usually a small founder team that is very hands on and used to doing all of the tasks associated with the business. At prepare to scale, the business has already been validated and needs to position itself for rapid growth. This requires a senior management team with directors responsible for each unit or department of the company.

Start Up

CEO Roles • Lead 2-3 person founder team that covers all aspects of the business (sales, technology, finance)
• Drive product innovation through continuous feedback/improvement cycles (lean startup principles)
Core Competencies
Strategic/Planning Functional/Operational Entrepreneurial Social Capital and Market Knowledge
Understanding and developing venture’s positioning and value added in the industry and given its environment. Rigor to plan and deliver quality product. Able to balance flexibility needed for adapting the business with tenacity needed to keep the business focused. Knowledge of the customers and their needs.
Capacity to understand and manipulate the financials based on business decisions - projections, cash flow, and balance sheet. Ability to build and manage a small, dynamic, multi-faceted team. Creativity to vet and build partnerships that are appropriate for startups.
Ability to market and sell to customers and other stakeholders. Creativity to stretch available resources. Knowledge of competitors, industry players and trends.
Willing to take calculated risks (neither risk averse nor reckless). Country-specific industry knowledge, legal environment, infrastructure and cultural practices.

Prepare to Scale

CEO Roles • Build senior leadership team of experts who can manage their own teams.
• Become the outward champion of the organization to build partnerships and enhance visibility.
Core Competencies
Strategic/Planning Functional/Operational Entrepreneurial Social Capital and Market Knowledge
Develop and lead three year multi-faceted strategic plan that includes milestones for scaling. Recognizes and understands scalable operations and ensures that the COO is implementing and documenting systems and metrics needed for scaling. Ability to self-assess personal strengths and weaknesses and how they can best contribute to the enterprise at this stage. Capacity to recognize when it’s best to partner externally and to negotiate win win partnerships.
Hone in on key challenges that need to be resolved in shorter period of time and allocate and manage resources to make that happen. Capacity to understand a more sophisticated financial model needed for scaling and support the CFO in developing and documenting the model. Ability to sell the organization with the right messages for each stakeholder. In-depth understanding of industry and market in geographies targeted for expansion.
Capacity to build the right management team and to foster the culture needed for a larger and more complex organization. Appreciates new market segments and supports Marketing Team in implementing a marketing strategy that leverages market conditions for growth and is able to deliver whole product/service to identified market segments. Risk management skills (calculated risk taking and risk sharing).