Fledge sets out to incubate 'conscious' companies
By Christina Williams
Sustainable Business Oregon editor
Fledge LLC is looking for a class of socially conscious startups for its first incubator class.
A seasoned Seattle entrepreneur is aiming to copy the success of tech incubator programs such as TechStars and Y Combinator and apply it to socially conscious startups with the launch of Fledge.
Michael "Luni" Libes, a software industry veteran, is accepting applications for the first Fledge class, seven companies that will get $7,000 and eight weeks of intensive, mentor-driven training.
Libes last year became an entrepreneur-in-residence at Washington's Bainbridge Graduate Institute, a leading sustainable business school. He then tested the notion behind Fledge by hosting #SocEnt Weekend in February, inviting anyone interested in social entrepreneurship and social enterprise to spend a weekend working on startup ideas.
The event drew some 60 attendees, 35 business ideas were pitched and by Sunday 13 companies were ready for take-off. Libes said at least two of those companies will apply to be part of Fledge's inaugural class.
Fledge is aimed at "conscious" companies. Libes said he chose that terminology to avoid the morass of having to define sustainability.
"There are clearly consumers out there that are conscious of X," Libes said. "If we're aiming at that unmet need, we don't have to debate whether or not it's sustainable."
While Fledge will take place in Seattle, its attracting applicants from across the West and is not without Oregon ties.
Libes has been an adviser at the Wieden + Kennedy-led Portland Incubator Experiment, another incubator program that uses a similar model. PIE co-founder Nick Barham, a global director at Wieden and a board member of the Portland Sustainability Institute's board of directors, is one of Libes' advisers on Fledge.
Fledge, which shouldn't be confused with a Portland-led effort for socially conscious endeavors known as Hatch, is accepting applications from startups through June 30.
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