Bikkurim Releases Pivotal Study That Identifies Unique Needs and Characteristics of Jewish Post-Start-Ups

New York, NY, March 14, 2012 – To celebrate its 10th anniversary, Bikkurim: An Incubator for New Jewish Ideas has released a pivotal study conducted by Wellspring Consulting that identifies characteristics of successful start-up organizations and highlights the unique needs and challenges that Jewish “post-start-up” organizations face. A cohort of post-start-up (also known as mezzanine or second-stage) organizations has grown over the past seven years, and has gained traction within the Jewish community as offering significant, new entry portals into Jewish life. They have secured initial funding, are growing rapidly, and are strong in transformational potential – but their success is far from assured.

From First Fruits to Abundant Harvest: Maximizing the Potential of Innovative Jewish Start-Ups suggests that some of the most successful high-growth-potential organizations are failing to grow at a healthy pace, not because they lack traction, demand for their services, or strong leadership, but rather because they lack financial and capacity building support that could help them to scale their impact – support that is often available to non-profits outside of the Jewish community.

“Post-start-ups are still at a vulnerable place,” says Nina Bruder, Executive Director of Bikkurim. “We have identified a number of key elements that these organizations need in order to continue to grow, such as strong operations, strong leadership, a solid growth plan and increased dollars over longer periods of time.”

Key findings include:

  • It takes a minimum of $100,000 per year to fully launch a start-up with high growth potential.
  • Start-up budgets grow very rapidly in their early years, but healthy budgetary growth is not always linear.
  • Start-ups and post-start-ups have different organizational development needs.
  • The absence of strong coordination among funders, among capacity builders, and between funders and capacity builders contributes to confusion, redundancy and gaps in the field.

Funded by the UJA-Federation of New York, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, the Lippman Kanfer Family Foundation, The Natan Fund, PELIE – The Partnership for Effective Learning and Innovative Education, and The Samuel Bronfman Foundation, the Abundant Harvest report calls attention to the drop-off in communal support that occurs as start-ups grow into the post-start-up stage, when both budgets and potential for impact are greater.

“Despite all of the hype in the Jewish community about start-ups and innovation, only a handful of incubators and support organizations are devoted to start-ups and social entrepreneurs, and most of them are as resource-constrained as the organizations they support,” says Felicia Herman, the Executive Director of The Natan Fund and Chair of the Study Advisory Committee. “If the Jewish community in aggregate is serious about fostering and sustaining new ideas, then serious new supports need to be built into the system to enable start-ups and post-start-ups to reach their full potential.”

Wellspring Consulting surveyed Bikkurim’s 28 past and present incubatees and conducted in-depth interviews with 65 people, including Bikkurim incubatees, staff and board members, directors of Jewish and secular start-ups, Jewish and secular capacity builders, Jewish communal field experts, and funders within the Jewish community.

Recommendations from the report call on the start-ups and post-start-up organizations to embrace best practices, such as investing in organizational infrastructure, diversifying funding sources, professionalizing their staff, and upgrading their systems. These organizations would also benefit from ratcheting up their use of impact measures to continually improve the organization and do a better job of demonstrating success to existing and potential funders.

The report also calls on funders – both individuals and institutions – to recognize the need of post-start-ups for gifts of larger amounts and of longer duration, and to fund accordingly.

The Innovative Jewish Start-Up Sector would also benefit from increased collaboration and coordination among the key players – the funders, capacity building support organizations, and the start-up and post-start-up groups.

“The challenge of supporting the next generation of great Jewish institutions through childhood and awkward adolescence is too great for any single agency, organization, community or funder,” says Martin Kaminer of the Kaminer Family Foundation, a key funder of Bikkurim. “Success will require extensive and enduring collaboration.”

The complete report is available for download.