From the CEO

It’s hard to believe that we’re at the end of the first quarter of FY21 already. As I’m sure a lot of you can sympathise, time seems to be both accelerating and slowing down at the same time. The quarter began with us here at ygap HQ entering a second lockdown in Melbourne, which felt longer and more challenging than the first for many of us due to a number of reasons. While it has certainly been a difficult time, it has also been uplifting and inspiring to see Melbourne as a community band together albeit remotely, support each other and try our hardest to overcome this hurdle as one. As a result, Melbourne and Victoria more broadly has achieved the collective outcomes that we were striving for and thankfully restrictions are starting to ease in response. 

This period has reminded us at ygap why we do what we do and the importance of work alongside our partners and early stage impact ventures towards a collective goal. It has shown that only with cooperation and community and togetherness can we get past the obstacles that face us in order to thrive, whether that be on a global scale, a national scale, in our local communities or even in our own lives. I am proud that even in the face of a global pandemic, collectively we have all been able to work together and continue to focus upon our shared goal – a world without poverty and disadvantage. A goal even more important in light of the impact of COVID-19.

In continuing our covid response and recovery efforts we launched successful Re-Accelerator programs across our six program locations to support impact ventures within ygap’s alumni network; seen some exciting progress in our work with the Australian Government’s Department of Foriegn Affairs and Trade, as well as the Sasakawa Peace Foundation to support and strengthen the ecosystem for early stage impact ventures across Asia Pacific; engaged with and presented to our global peer group through the ANDE (Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs) global annual conference; and welcomed some exciting new members to our ygap staff. This quarter also marks the launch of ygap’s largest campaign – Polished Man, which is focused on ending violence against children. The Polished Team have created an entirely digital experience this year which we are confident will do well given the critical issue it’s addressing. We also utilised the disruption caused by COVID-19 in this quarter to regroup and take the time and space to evolve and solidify our strategic priorities going forward in order to to embrace new and more effective ways for achieving our vision, which I look forward to sharing with you in the future.

Mark Harwood

From the Head of Global Programs

After surveying both our alumni ventures and our ecosystem partners, in June we launched a global suite of Re-Accelerator Programs in response to COVID-19. Developed to support our past program alumni through the challenges faced by startups and small businesses in light of a global pandemic, these programs represented a temporary transition in our programming from fostering business growth to ensuring business survival.

While we were confident that our core capabilities and skills as an organisation would equip us with the ability to support our program alumni in an impactful way, having never previously run a crisis-response program, we knew that this process would be full of valuable learnings and insights. Now over three months since launching 6 Re-Accelerator Programs which are currently supporting 58 impact ventures, we’ve taken away three key takeaways from our journey into the New Normal that will be our guiding principles as we approach our work into the post-COVID-19 world we emerge into.

Simon Lee

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We know the local communities in which we work around the world, have been and will continue to be ravaged, both economically and socially, by the pandemic and other future shocks. Now more than ever we need to be rallying to support these communities as it’s been shown what a critical role these Small and Growing Businesses (SGBs) play in their local economies in particular when it comes to rebounding from a shock. 

Further to that point, as international travel has essentially been grounded, the importance of having local experts on the ground delivering our programs has been highlighted. With local Kenyans, South Africans, Bangladeshis and Fijians delivering our programs in-country, we’ve been able to continue our work without missing a step. Indeed, we’re currently in discussions with other organisations in the ecosystems in which we work about the potential of delivering programming for them, leveraging boots on the ground as one of our competitive advantages as an organisation. 

As we look to redesign our programs for FY21, we’re providing the autonomy to our local teams of entrepreneurship and community development experts to design and adapt our programming to the specific needs of the local ecosystem. In some cases that might be playing a little more early-stage, in others it might be focusing specifically on SGBs contributing to gender equality and in others it might be providing deep 1:1 investment-readiness support for those ventures looking to access private capital. Ultimately, every country is going to emerge out of COVID-19 in a different place, with diverse challenges and pain points, and thus our programming is going to need to reflect these local nuances.

Having the ability to circle back to our alumni ventures through the delivery of our Re-Accelerator Programs has been a blessing in disguise. It has allowed us an opportunity to critically examine how these ventures had fared post our support in a world and in an economy that was unforgiving. And what did we see? It was the business basics that were the most important. You can have the finest pitch deck, the grooviest website and the slickest style guide, but if you don’t have a grasp of your fundamentals – you’re finished as a business. 

That is where it gets tough, because the fundamentals look different for every single venture. No business is the same, no business model is the same, no entrepreneur is the same, and so the support we need to provide the ventures in our programs can not be the same. In order to get the business fundamentals right for the ventures we support, we have to be willing to roll up our sleeves and get into the trenches. It might not be the sexiest work, but the deep 1:1 technical assistance and business development support is the most impactful. 

Last year we had already started transitioning our support from more cohort-based support to more tailored 1:1 support, and these insights served to only further highlight the importance of this transition.

This work is hard and it’s only gotten harder because of COVID-19. We understand that we can’t do this alone and nor should we. There are amazing organisations in the ecosystems in which we work, many of whom are ANDE members, that can help support the work we’re doing. For us, we’ve recognised that it’s important to find our niche in the ecosystem, figure out what we do really, really well and nail it. Then collaborate with those in the ecosystem to connect our ventures with the support they need. This work is hard and there’s no point in making it harder on ourselves by competing with others in the ecosystem who have the same goals. Ultimately, it is about collaboration.

It has been a challenging, but a very engaging and insightful few months for us. I think it has proven our adaptability and resilience as an organisation, and has stressed the importance of some strategic elements of our work moving forward. And as our Re-Accelerator Programs draw to a close at the end of 2020, our Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) team are beginning to assess the outputs and outcomes of these programs to evaluate their effectiveness against the program’s objectives and to glean further insights, learnings and recommendations to inform and improve future program implementations. While we’re waiting for the data to come in, our teams have been doing some qualitative reflection on the experience of running the Re-Accelerators. These reflections are an excellent insight to what COVID-19 looked like for small and medium enterprises on the ground in Kenya, South Africa, Bangladesh, the Pacific Islands and Australia.

Impact Update

These graphs represent some of the key data points collected by our Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) team each quarter.

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Program Update

In addition to running a ygap First Gens Re-Accelerator Program, the ygap First Gens’ team channeled the momentum from the pre-accelerator program run in collaboration with Catalysr earlier in 2020 and launched ygap’s first, entirely-remote, accelerator program. First Gens Program Manager, Adelide Mutinda, says:

“After more than 10 years of running over 40 in-person programs supporting more than 500 ventures, like many other programs, we had to rethink everything we knew about what, why and how we deliver our accelerator program. The process pushed us out of our comfort zone as we had to go back to the drawing board and redesign what became our first ever virtual accelerator program. With only half the time we usually have for the 5-day intensive that serves as the start of our accelerator program, we had to strip back the content to the essentials without compromising on our value proposition.”

Adelide Mutinda
First Gens Program Manager

Read great insights from our First Gens Team

One Million Lives

In 2020, after 12 years of operation, ygap has reached the incredible milestone of one million lives touched through our work, 1,295,411 to be exact; a target set by the organisation’s co-founders in 2014. What is meant by a million lives impacted through our work? It is a big target to set, but a difficult one to quantify. A million of anything is a lot, but to just count a million people who had come into contact with ygap’s work wasn’t enough — it had to mean something.

For ygap, this number represents over a million people who have a greater chance to improve their lives and the lives of their families through better access to things like health care, education and regular employment as a result of engaging with one of the 541 impact ventures that have come through ygap’s programs over the last 12 years. The vision is contributing to an overall reduction in poverty, led by local leaders with solutions to local problems.

We’re getting better, sharper and more sophisticated as we mature, and every passing year sees us grow our own ability for impact; in 2013, after five years of operation ygap had impacted 30,812 lives, in 2018, after ten years, that number reached 586,389. To be at well over one million in 2020 is a testament to how ygap has refined our impact model for greater change.

Our ability to support impact is significantly increasing with every year that passes – as our alumni ventures grow and thrive, and as we bring new and exciting entrepreneurs through the ygap and their program pipelines. Now that we’ve reached this milestone, we’re developing the next big goals to set for ourselves as an organisation to continue driving our impact.

Polished Man Launch

Polished Man launched on the 1st of September, to its strongest launch week in the last 7 years of the campaign. Despite how different 2020 was proving to be to years past, the team came up with some innovative new approaches to how to run a campaign without any of the event based or face to face strategies of years past. 

A new partnership with PETstock meant the introduction of a new way to get involved with the campaign, Polished Pet, where participants are able to sign up and fundraise for Polished Man alongside their furry friend. New ambassadors, popular K-Pop group ATEEZ, helped sign ups and fundraising soar during September as fans supported their favourite band member in painting a nail and speaking out in support of the campaign. 

In another Polished Man first, we partnered with global platform Cameo, an app that allows fans to book a personalised and authentic video from their favourite talent. Cameo often run campaigns for charities, but generously committed an exclusive 100% of revenue from talent supporting the cause to Polished Man for a couple of days during October.

Given the successful start, we look forward to reporting back on the fundraising total for 2020 which will be announced on our social media channels in November. Congratulations to the incredible Polished Man team for such a strong start to the campaign.

Kaitlin Harasym
Polished Man Campaign Manager

Team Update

Through the turmoil of COVID-19, ygap is proud to have been able to not only retain all of our staff, but also hire or promote a few more. Our people are the heart of our organisation and we’d like to make the following announcements:

Talei Goater and Katleho Tsoku move to full time

We’re thrilled to announce that the leads of our yher Africa and yher Pacific Islands programs joined ygap full time from July 1st. Talei Goater has a strong background in entrepreneurship and is based in Fiji. Katleho Tsoku has been involved with yher Africa since 2016, and is based in South Africa. Both Talei and Katleho have been incredible assets to the yher program and we are so happy to have their talent and experience with us in a full-time capacity.

Additions to the Polished Man team

In July we welcomed two new members of the Polished Man team, Priya Ray-Hook as Senior Campaign Advisor and Elisa Pizarro as Campaign Advisor. Priya and Elisa have been instrumental this quarter in giving Polished Man its best launch day in the campaign’s history. Starting in a new job, in a new industry is difficult at the best of times, but during COVID lockdown, they leapt into the deep end of the campaign and instantly became part of the team.

Tishya joins

Tishya Desai is filling a new role at ygap as the as Program Coordinator, supporting the team in their work with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and further developing our gender work with the Sasakawa Peace Foundation. Tishya started as a grant research intern in our Fundraising Team and we knew almost immediately that we needed to bring her on board formally.

In the Spotlight

In this quarter, ygap was proud to sign the pledge for #ShareThePlatform, a brilliant campaign by ygap alumni Jamal Elsheikh of One Love Australia.

Share the Platform aims to give Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) start-up founders a platform to share their stories, tackling racism while also creating awareness about BIPOC businesses in Australia. Head to to hear the stories of BIPOC founders in the Start-Up community.

Share the Platform is only one initiative of One Love Australia, whose goal is to transform the way in which society deals and engages with racism and racial bullying in schools, and in turn reduce racism in society for generations to come. Given the happenings of 2020, the message of One Love Australia has never been more poignant. ygap is proud to back this exciting initiative.

ygap, along with our partners at the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, co-hosted a solution salon at the 2020 Aspen Network for Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE) annual conference. Our salon was selected as one of only two solutions that were run under the topic of gender equality. It focussed on answering the question of ‘how might we build effective partnerships to support women-led Small and Growing Businesses to become investment ready?’ The session brought together intermediaries, investors, funders and other entrepreneurial ecosystem actors to ideate on solutions to the gender gaps that still exist, which limit the ability of women-led startups to grow and access investment. 

ANDE is widely regarded as a peak body for the industry. ygap has been an ANDE member since 2019, and is proud to be active within the network.

Thank you

The ygap team has been delighted to finish the first quarter of the new financial year in such a strong position, and with so many exciting things afoot. As we head into Q2, we look forward to finishing the calendar year in a strong position and launching into 2021 with renewed passion and vigour. Thanks to our wonderful partners and supporters who allow us to keep doing what we do.

Team ygap