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A week of networking, inspiration and progress for the GCA community

In April we met up with our GCA community for a virtual Alumni Week to connect and collaborate, and to infuse inspiration, energy and confidence into the GCA winners important quest of making the fashion industry more sustainable.

Erik Bang and Sara Eriksson celebrating a great week.

Since 2016 we have built and developed the GCA Accelerator Program and put much focus on connecting our winners to all players in the fashion value chain – from investors and brands, to suppliers and business coaches. It is a unique setup and has created exceptional value for our winners and the entire GCA community. Usually we take our winners for immersion weeks in Stockholm, Milan, Hong Kong, Shanghai and New York, where ideas are generated, new connections made, and growth accelerated.

This time we had to move the entire week online. “It was a real challenge to find the perfect time slot considering we had participants joining from 19 different time zones. Although some had to stay up at night and some had to get up before sunrise, everyone joined in showing that the ventures are as committed to the GCA community as we are,” says Sara Eriksson at H&M Foundation.

Focus of the week

  • Monday – connecting and tapping into the incredible progress of the GCA community
  • Tuesday – looking in the mirror, self assessment using KTH innovation readiness level model
  • Wednesday – disruption and leadership with David Roberts
  • Thursday – design thinking sprints with brands at the forefront
  • Friday – Q&A with industry and retail leaders

During the daily two-hour sessions we had workshops, case challenges, inspirational talks, engaged in conversations and received coaching. “Some of our alumni are collaborating and they shared their learnings with the rest of the group, which was super inspiring. The collaborative mindset was definitely a theme throughout the week,” says Sara Eriksson.

“The week will have very positive effect on us personally as well as our business, and will keep inspiring us for a long time ahead.”

Ina Budde at (GCA winner in 2019)

Our partner Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm (KTH) held tailor-made workshops based on the KTH Innovation Readiness Level toolbox, and our partner Accenture and Fjord facilitated a design-thinking case challenge workshop with industry pioneers such as Fjällräven, Ganni, Adidas, Pangaia and H&M.

No one is too small to make a difference

David Roberts at the SingularityU The Netherlands Summit 2016.

David Roberts, member of the GCA Expert Panel in 2016 and considered one of the world’s leading experts on disruption, exponential technology and leadership, was our keynote speaker. David talked about disruption and success as well as failure factors, and the need of focusing on timing and the team. “It’s not the business that need to change first, it’s you,” he said, and: “Everybody wants to change the world but no one wants to change.”

Advice to start-ups: focus on scaling

Helena Helmersson interviewed by Erik Bang

Helena Helmersson, CEO at H&M Group talked about the plans ahead for the H&M Group which was followed by a Q&A. Helena stressed the importance for start-ups to focus on how to scale their business. Her advice to the GCA community was to leverage their position and be picky about who to work with as large companies are becoming more dependent on small, fast-moving entrepreneurs to succeed with their goals and missions, as well as to meet customer demands.

Jill Standish and Josefin Olsson at Accenture

Jill Standish, Head of Retail at Accenture discussed the future of customer-centric retail. She received many questions on how entrepreneurs should think and act post the pandemic. She urged the teams to view this unique situation as an opportunity, as retail is being reset and the competition has changed. Now smaller brands, direct-to-consumer brands and start-ups can play the same game, as you don’t need the same infrastructure or capital as was needed prior to the pandemic.

“Accelerating growth at any meaningful scale requires generosity, courage and openness from everyone involved. We are so grateful to all speakers, brands and the GCA Alumni for making this week a success,” says Erik Bang, Innovation Lead at H&M Foundation.

“We’ve been with the GCA community for three years and it has really helped us to accelerate our impact.”

Walden Lam, founder at unspun (GCA winner 2017)

Learn more about (psst.. next round opens August 25).