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Product, Service & Design Innovation
The Vatican:
Where Mission-Driven, For-Profit Startups Come to Grow?

Cutting-edge isn’t exactly the word that comes to mind when it comes to the capital of Catholicism — the Vatican — but Stephen Forte is gearing up to change that. The entrepreneur and Fresco Capital founder is launching a new startup accelerator in Rome this summer that aims to change social impact investors' perception of mission-driven, for-profit startups — companies that have social missions at their core.

The accelerator will largely focus on raising awareness about the importance of investing in companies that do good in the world and turn a profit. The inspiration for the accelerator? Pope Francis himself.

An outspoken advocate for combatting climate change, His Holiness has spoken out on numerous occasions about the importance of addressing the climate crisis and in a recent TED Talk challenged tech companies to do better.

“When the perfect opportunity presented itself, I knew we had to act,” Forte wrote in a Medium post late last week. “This accelerator is our response to the challenge laid out in His Holiness Pope Francis’ edict by focusing on for-profit mission-drive companies that focus on the challenge and values of the Laudato Si.”

Before heading to Rome, selected startups will have the opportunity to talk with the program director about what they need to grow and will be assigned a mentor. From July 13 to September 9, the accelerator program will operate in Rome, where it will focus on business development, growth and customer development. Continued mentor support will be available for following completion of the program’s in-person component and the accelerator will finish with a Demo Day at the Vatican in December.

The accelerator is open to startups working in the areas of energy, water, food security, water, urban communities, minimizing suffering from migration, health and climate change, conservation and finance and industry as it relates to the creation of a low-carbon economy. Startups should have already started to gain momentum but are pre-Series A. The program will provide a $100,000 equity investment (6 to 8 percent).

Interested startups can apply now until June 5 at