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 The mission of the "Your Mark on the World Center" is to solve the world's biggest problems before 2045 by identifying and championing the work of experts who have created credible plans and programs to end them once and for all.
Crowdfunding for Social Good
Devin D. Thorpe
Devin Thorpe

Monthly Archives: October 2017

How To Start Impact Investing With Just $50 And Five Minutes

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

Fifty bucks and five minutes will make you an impact investor. I did it. So can you.

Swell Investing is a new impact investing platform created by social intrapreneur Dave Fanger, 40, of Pacific Life. The idea came, Fanger says, five years ago, thinking about how consumers were increasingly making buying decisions based on social impact and thought there ought to be a way for investors to do the same.

What he came up with incorporated the latest fintech tools for investing, commonly known as robo-advisors paired with impact data to make informed decisions about impact. The technology allows for accounts as small as $50 with annual fees of just 75 basis points or 37.5 cents on a $50 account.

The average account size is just $4,000, suggesting that most investors on the platform are small, some of who are starting with the minimum required investment.

Impact Investing:

Fanger says, “We define impact investing as identifying and investing in companies that are actively deriving revenue from the way that they are solving global and environmental challenges.”

That is distinct from traditional public securities investment strategies known as socially responsible investing, ESG or environmentally, socially and corporate governance investing strategies, that focus on a broader range of companies that are governed well and seek to mitigate their impact on the planet.

Swell Investing presenting puts its customers in their choice of six impact portfolios: green tech, renewable energy, clean water, zero waste, healthy living and disease eradication. The combined funds have about 300 companies, a small subset of the 4,000+ publicly traded companies in the U.S. markets.

The portfolios are intended to line up with one or more of the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals focused on eradicating extreme poverty by 2030.

One key fact about impact investing is that it has traditionally been available only to wealthy investors. Swell Investing is part of a movement to make impact investing available to ordinary investors.

Mike Wynholds, CEO of Carbon Five, helped build out the product. “I think Swell Investing meets in the middle of two separate trends that are important people: low-cost investment advice (robo-advisors, etc) and being responsible stewards of our planet. Swell gives people a way to do something they have to do–saving money–while also doing something they want to do – saving the planet.”

Bryan Walker, partner and managing director at IDEO San Francisco, concurs. “Swell offers a solution for investors who want double impact: financial and social investing. Swell provides a new way for socially conscious consumers to invest without sacrificing the value of their investment.”

Fanger’s focus on impact investing grew out of his superpower: empathy. He says, “I had [type 1 diabetes] since age eight and just living through that and managing this disease has shown me that there’s more going on in life besides what you see on the surface with folks.”

Walker saw that in Fanger early on. “From our very first conversation, I was excited by his true personal passion around the idea.”

Still, Swell Investing is not a philanthropy or merely a corporate social responsibility initiative. Fanger is building this business to make money.

Fanger sees the companies the firm invests in growing and the interest in impact investing among ordinary investors along with it, allowing the firm to scale up assets under management.

IDEO’s Walker says human-centered design will contribute to the firm’s growth. “IDEO brought a human-centered design approach to Swell’s development, which means that design choices were informed by consumer feedback. The team today continues with this approach, engaging with investors to get their feedback on a weekly basis as Swell continues to grow and develop new features.”

Walker boasts that when IDEO’s engagement with Swell ended, he decided to personally invest in Swell because he believes in the company.

The technology is key. It allows for individual investors to hold in separate accounts tiny, fractional interests in companies like Tesla. Fanger also insists the company uses the latest in security to protect those assets.

The company is not yet profitable after launching late in the spring of 2017 and has twenty employees.

Carbon Five’s Wyhholds sees good things in Swell’s future.

“From what I can tell Swell is off to a great start. The key for both the viability of the business and the impact it will have on the world is scale, and while it’s still early on, Swell is growing faster than its competitors did at this stage.”

Over 1 million people have read my books; have you? Check out my free webinar exposing the three myths that impair and two keys for crowdfunding success.


Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

‘A Life Has Meaning And Purpose, No Matter The Age’

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

Meghan Waldron is 15 years old, runs track for her high school, plays in the school orchestra and is working on a novel. She is remarkable in many ways. One way is that she has progeria, a condition so rare only about 300 kids in the world have it; few are expected to live past their 20th birthday–unless promising new treatments are found.

Waldron recently completed her first book, a children’s book called Running on the Wind about a bird born under a rock that doesn’t learn to fly but instead to run.

The book was published by The Red Fred Project, a nonprofit publishing company that helps “children who live in extraordinary circumstances” like Waldron’s to create a children’s book that will both serve as an adult-like achievement to bring a sense of fulfillment to their lives and as a lasting legacy, evidence that their short lives mattered. The company has now published ten books, is working on an 11th and on a plan to publish many more in the future.

Dallas Graham

“A life has meaning and purpose, no matter the age,” says Red Fred Project founder Dallas Graham, 41.

The nonprofit is funded almost entirely by donations. The books are professional quality and they are sold to help fund the costs, but producing books at that quality costs about $20,000, a cost that isn’t covered by book sales.

Some of the funding comes from the Doctorow Family Foundation. Executive Director Suzanne Larson says of the experience of seeing the young authors work published, “I see the look of astonishment, wonder and joy on the kid’s faces holding, touching, grasping palpable, tangible evidence of their accomplishment. I know their loved ones are experiencing all the same emotions from initial contact to book in hand. in addition, the effect ripples out to everyone who has contact with durable legacy produced. this is a gift of enormous magnitude.”

She also sees Graham as something of a kindred spirit, whom she describes as a “magician orchestrating the masterpiece.”

Graham finds a deep sense of purpose working with the creative kids. “I see them as wonderful creators only lacking certain skill-sets their adult counterparts have.”

Because many of the young people he works to help are limited in their physical ability, energy and capability, he enjoys finding a way to help them use their creativity, something that is unconstrained by their circumstances.

“I’m interested in creating something stemming from their imagination and collected and lived life experiences. A book is a wonderful model for this kind of expression and it’s been around for centuries,” Graham explains.

His goal is to help young people who may never reach adulthood–something he is reluctant to even acknowledge out of respect for their hopes and dreams–to leave their mark on the world. “Their lives have just as much value as yours or mine, but because of age or experience, perhaps those are not as equally measured as their adult counterparts.”

“As humans, much of our validation of who we are comes through what we produce or how we show up in the world with relation to others. The ripples caused by the creative act help us understand our placement among people and ideas,” he explains further.

The vehicle for helping the authors to leave a permanent legacy holds appeal to Graham as well. “Children’s books also seem to retain a certain understandability by their readers, that of trying to distill the essence of life into a simple, relatable story.”

Waldron’s book about the bird, Cassidy, that learned to run rather than fly ends with her learning to fly in her own unique way, running and flapping her wings at once. A perfect metaphor confirming Graham’s vision that each and every life has meaning and purpose.

Over 1 million people have read my books; have you? Check out my free webinar exposing the three myths that impair and two keys for crowdfunding success.


Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

 

How I Will Stop Being a Jackass and Start Being Nice Instead

I have repeatedly confessed my guilt at being a jackass. I also think of myself as a humanitarian.

Yes, those two things are deeply at odds but they are not completely incompatible. You see, my career is entirely focused on helping to solve the world’s biggest problems: poverty, disease and climate change. I continue to work actively in several ways on each of these areas. I take them seriously.

Despite that, I think I inherited from my humanitarian father, either by close association or perhaps genetically, a tendency to dislike associating with people. Of course, I spend lots of time with people and love the time I spend with Gail, my wife. But there is little I hate worse than a reception where I am expected to chat up people I don’t know. This is true even though I have enjoyed meeting virtually everyone I’ve ever met at a reception.

What’s worse, is that I have long had a problem with all forms of customer service people, whether we are talking about “Peter” with the heavy Indian accent on the phone representing my airline or the order takers at McDonalds. Something in my mind always whispers, “They’re out to get you.”

(Yes, I am aware of the irony of treating badly people who earn minimum wage while advocating on behalf of low-income people and for social justice.)

Of course, this is absurd. For years, I have tried to address this by pledging not to be a jackass to customer service people. It remains my greatest personal challenge.

Today, I had an epiphany. Instead of trying not to be a jackass, I will instead try to be nice. Really nice.

I figure, that if I try to be in the top ten percent of customers as measured by niceness, then I’m not being a jackass. It also has the benefit of not requiring that I remind myself before every interaction that I have been a jackass in the past, which seems to have had the effect of reinforcing the idea that I am a jackass.

So, here’s my three-point plan to be nice to people, especially customer service people.

  1. Learn and remember names. It should be much easier to be kind to Peter than it is to the airline he represents. Peter didn’t lose my bag or foul up my reservation. The airline did.
  2. The older I get the more naturally a scowl seems to settle on my face. On the other hand, studies show that when people speak with a smile, the hearer can tell. This sounds like voodoo to me, but it seems worth a shot. People who can see me must certainly prefer to be greeted with a smile rather than a frown.
  3. Greet people. Wouldn’t it be better to start a conversation with, “Hi, how are you?” or at least, “Hello!” rather than, “I want…” This small sacrifice of efficiency for kindness seems like it would be of value to someone who faces an unending line of customers always asking for something.

My old list was pretty much limited to, “Don’t scream at people unless they really deserve it.”

Is it possible that learning to be nice to people can make it easier for me to enjoy a reception or even a sales call? I hate making sales calls so much I basically refuse to make them. Could it be possible to become a truly nice person with practice? This jackass hopes so.

(Maybe this will even be the last time I call myself a jackass.) Wish me luck. The customer service people I meet will thank you. Here’s hoping we connect at a reception!

CEO Comes Full Circle Beginning And Ending In Poverty

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

The fleeting memories of her childhood didn’t make sense until her mother told her the story of the poverty they’d experienced when Sheryle Gillihan was just a toddler. Now a CEO serving people experiencing poverty, she says she’s “come full circle.”

As the head of Causelabs, a public benefit corporation that provides strategy, design, prototyping and software development services, she is focusing the social enterprise on reaching profitability while staying true to the mission and values of the business.

The company finished 2016 with $1.7 million in revenue, an office in Denver and 16 employees. She says the company has pared expenses, including the office in Denver to give the firm a fighting chance at 2017 profitability.

At the same time, she says the firm has doubled down on preserving its values. “Our mission is to create positive social impact. We do so through our partnerships and with our expertise in technology.”

Recently, the firm completed a project that demonstrates the vision of using technology as a force for good. The tool the team created supports municipal governments with a visually appealing, easy-to-use budgeting tool that members of the community can use to get a better feel for fiscal issues. It helps people see the tradeoffs that small governments face in choosing between lowering taxes and providing essential services.

Money is a key issue for Causelabs, too. The firm works with lots of nonprofit customers. The funds for their projects often come from grants that the company has become adept at winning. Gillihan likes the relationship that creates with nonprofit customers, making it more of a partnership.

Sheryle Gillihan in India

She joined Causelabs in 2010 as a project manager. One of her first assignments took her to India where she saw poverty that was unlike she’d ever recalled.

She discovered a passion for addressing poverty that she’d not fully recognized before. She quickly became fully committed to the success of Causelabs as a result.

“Technology is changing the world. and I want to be a part of using that technology for good.” She says.

Gillihan didn’t always appreciate her own connection to poverty. She has flashes of memory from her childhood, including being bathed in a tub in the front yard, eating only fish and rice and her mother selling bananas just to make ends meet.

She didn’t learn until her 30s that she was sponsored by the Pearl S. Buck Foundation when she was 18 months old and received life-saving medical care.

“It’s it’s through the philanthropy of others that I’m even here today. And so I’m glad to be to be a part of that for somebody else,” she says.

That experience helps Gillihan put the clients’ social impact objectives first in priority.

One of those clients is Civicus; Cecily Rawlinson, a change lead says she was looking for a firm to help develop a secure online space where activists and organizations could seek support.

“CauseLabs’ development approach put our community at the center of the design process, beginning with interviewing our regional teams to understand what they needed and how our platform could best serve them.”

“We ended up with a solution that our community owns, uses and one that responds to their needs,” she concludes.

That focus on the key issues and outcomes has Gillihan thinking about a new hire. She’d like to add a scientist to the team to help explain the fundamental issues that underly the problems the firm helps to solve. She points out that poverty is complex; she’d like to have a scientist help the firm better understand the neuroscience behind it.

However she does it, she is excited to be a part of the solution to poverty. “This just deeply rooted in me that I’ve come full circle and I’m finally where I belong and I’m giving back in the way that I need to be giving back.”

Over 1 million people have read my books; have you? Check out my free webinar exposing the three myths that impair and two keys for crowdfunding success.


Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

Founded By A 4-Year-Old, This Nonprofit Is Her Incomparable Legacy

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

Alex Scott, the second child and only daughter among four children, must have been born with the genes of a social entrepreneur. Her resilience and her perseverance are the hallmarks of almost all successful entrepreneurs.

Born prematurely in 1996, she manifested her fighting spirit immediately, defying the odds and quickly earning the right to leave the hospital. Her mother, Liz Scott, now 47, says it was a glimpse of what was to come.

Before her first birthday, Alex was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a pediatric cancer. She would battle the cancer for the rest of her short life, about seven and a half more years.

Liz Scott says, “Everything they had they threw at her.” Ms. Scott says, Alex demonstrated extraordinary strength through it all. No matter what, she could “find the joy in the day.” When she had a bad day, she would find a way to get through it with grace.

Watch the full interview with Ms. Scott in the video player at the top of this article.

The doctors tried all the conventional therapies, chemo, radiation and surgery. Nothing worked.

They started experimental treatments. They tried Metaiodobenzylguanidine or MIBG therapy that allowed them to perform a stem cell transplant, which works much like a bone marrow transplant to boost the immune system after being obliterated except that they use the patient’s own stem cells.

Even before it was confirmed by the CAT scans, Alex told her parents the therapy was working. In January of 2000, she told her mom she wanted to do a lemonade stand. Given the weather in Connecticut at that time of year—not to mention everything else going on in the complicated lives of a young family with a cancer patient—her mom put her off.

In June, Alex, now four and half years old, says, “I still haven’t had my stand.”

Annoyed, her mother asked, “Alex, what do you want to buy so badly that you need to have this lemonade stand?”

“I’m not keeping the money; I’m giving it to my doctors so they can help kids the way they helped me.”

And so, Alex’s Lemonade Stand was born.

Volunteers working at an Alex’s Lemonade Stand

By the time she was six, she’d raised about $30,000. Her parents were giving the money to fund neuroblastoma research to find a cure for Alex’s cancer.

When Alex found out, she said, “That is so selfish.”

“I wanted to say, ‘I don’t care!’ because I wanted a cure for my daughter,” Ms. Scott says.

Before she could get the words out, Alex said, “All kids want their cancer to go away. We should be giving money to all hospitals for all kinds of cancer.” That statement has defined the nonprofit’s vision ever since.

Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation has now funded research on 25 different pediatric cancers. Researchers apply for grants that are reviewed and scored by scientists. The projects with the best scores get funded, Ms. Scott says.

Alex Scott

Toward the end of her life, Alex knew the treatments had stopped working. She was going to have one last stand and thought if everybody helps, if everybody has lemonade stands on the same day as hers, we could raise $1 million. “She held on to see that goal met,” her mother says.

“She died knowing that she had done this and had accomplished this seemingly insurmountable goal and number,” she adds.

After Alex passed away, the Scotts weren’t sure they would continue the fundraising effort. Alex really was the driving force.

But other people kept supporting the cause. “That put wind in our sails,” she says. Other families were reaching out for help and companies were signaling a willingness to help.

“How could you walk away from the opportunity to help other children?” With that thought, the work of the foundation did continue. Ms. Scott and her husband Jay Scott are the co-executive directors.

Ms. Scott confesses, “When Alex said she was going to cure cancer with the lemonade stand, honestly, I thought it was cute and I was proud. I didn’t think it would make a big difference in the world of fighting cancer.”

That isn’t what happened. Big progress has been made, especially over the past ten years. She says she regularly hears from parents now who say, my child is in remission for one year, two years, three years. It is “indescribable” to think that Alex’s life has had that effect.

Ms. Scott remains personally connected to the families of children with cancer even as the organization grows in scale and impact. “It’s both inspiring and really hard because a lot of them do really well. And some of them don’t.”

Applebee’s partnered with the Foundation beginning in 2005. This year, the restaurant chain raised $1.3 million for Alex’s Lemonade Stand.

“Each year, more and more of our franchise partners and restaurants join our campaign with Alex’s, allowing us to make even more of an impact in many of our Applebee’s neighborhoods across the country, uniting team members and guests with a common goal of curing childhood cancers,” said John Cywinski, president, Applebee’s.

Franchisee Diann Banaszek shared her story:

While this cause has always been important to me, it was brought home in 2012 when my grandson, C.J., was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia at the age of 11. As our family went through our own battle, we came to learn first-hand the enormous difference that ALSF has made in families’ lives. My grandson finally defeated his leukemia, but ultimately lost his life in 2014 from an infection that resulted from his treatment. Throughout his illness, he, like Alex, was passionate about doing anything he could to help kids like himself in the future. We continue their fight to see the end of childhood cancer in C.J.’s honor and are proud to have the Applebee’s family fighting alongside us.

Miriam Matz, the mother of eight-year-old cancer survivor Ellie Matz, shared a similar story:

When my daughter, Ellie was diagnosed with cancer, there were many long nights in the hospital those first few weeks. I was beyond exhausted but too anxious to sleep. I remember googling “Philadelphia” and “Childhood Cancer,” hoping to get a sense of whether there was a community or resources that I could be reaching out to. Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation immediately popped up, and I sent them an email. I was immediately contacted and offered both emotional and practical support, such as connections with other parents, a binder for organizing treatment and related information, and information about navigating the childhood cancer world. Early in our cancer life, our family decided that one way to survive and to hopefully make some meaning out of what we were going through, would be to get involved in helping raise money that could possibly help others. We’ve been lucky enough to be involved in ASLF ever since… being a part of that community has made us feel so much less lonely, and given us a tangible way to feel that we are contributing to help others.

Ellie’s cancer is the most common, meaning that there are several treatment options should the cancer return. Her mother points out that for families facing a rare cancer, there may be only one standard treatment—for some rare cancers, there are none.

It is for these families that Ms. Scott is most optimistic. She thinks curing cancer is realistic. Today’s progress is smart progress, she says. We’re looking at immunotherapies, targeted therapies and precision therapies or personalized medicine. “That’s how it’s going to become possible for every child to have the possibility of a cure.” For the cancers with no treatment and no cure today she predicts the greatest progress in the years to come.

As Alex’s mom reflects on her daughter’s life, she says, “She had to be one of the strongest people I have ever known.” She adds, punctuated by the sorrow only mothers who’ve buried their children know, “You have to remember to be grateful for what you have in your life every single day.”

Alex’s legacy is incomparable. Not only has the four-year-old founder’s organization gone on to raise over $150 million since she started selling lemonade in the front yard, the tally of lives saved and extended is just beginning. By the end of what should have been her natural lifespan in another 60 or 70 years, childhood cancer may be no more threatening than a cold—because she was a social entrepreneur.

Over 1 million people have read my books; have you? Check out my free webinar exposing the three myths that impair and two keys for crowdfunding success.


Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

3 Players That Exemplify The Complexity Of The Impact Investing Ecosystem

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

Three impact investment players provide an interesting view of the broader impact investing ecosystem and how all the parts work together. Their approach helps to make capital more available to social entrepreneurs and investment opportunities open to more investors, including some ordinary investors.

The three include Impact Assets, New Media Ventures and Better Ventures. Impact Assets, a nonprofit asset manager holding exclusively philanthropic capital, serves as a hub in this part of the impact investing world. New Media Ventures and Better Ventures use Impact Assets in strategic but almost opposite ways.

Impact Assets and Donor Advised Funds

Impact Assets provides a place for donors to place philanthropic capital in what is known as a donor advised fund or DAF. As the name implies, funds contributed to a DAF are donations where the donor gets to advise on the final disposition of the funds. DAFs work like small foundations with fewer restrictions and generally more flexibility. Most DAFs don’t give the donor much influence over the investments, only the final charitable distribution.

Impact Assets is different. Built from the ground up to facilitate impact investments, donors also have significant flexibility in advising Impact Assets on the investment strategy. The only investment options available through Impact Assets are impact investments.

Rick Moss, Better Ventures

Rick Moss, founder and managing director of Better Ventures, approached Impact Assets to access some of the capital. Individual donor advisors or clients were given the opportunity to put as little as $25,000 to work in the fund through Impact Assets. Apart from Impact Assets, the minimum investment was $500,000. This works because only Impact Assets is legally an investor in the fund. The individual donors get their information from Impact Assets and are not recorded as investors in the Better Ventures fund. Moss doesn’t have to worry about the number of individual investors participating because he doesn’t have to deal with them.

Tim Freundlich, president of Impact Assets, says you don’t have to be Bill Gates to have sophisticated impact investment options like big foundations see. The nonprofit has about 850 DAFs with an aggregate value of $350 million under management. Hundreds of the accounts are in “the $5,000 range.”

New Media Ventures, led by Julie Menter, its principal, also operates as a 501(c)(3) charity. To create a vehicle for making impact investments and grants, it opened a DAF at Impact Assets. The investors in New Media Ventures get a tax deduction when they make the contribution to the fund and will not have the capital returned to them. New Media Ventures uses the money both to make grants to nonprofits it supports and impact investments in for-profit ventures it decides to back. They can do both via the Impact Assets DAF.

How Impact Assets Supports Both Better Ventures and New Media Ventures

Freundlich explains that Impact Assets does professional due diligence so that its donor advisors don’t have to worry about doing it themselves. For the clients, the risk is mitigated somewhat by the fact that the money is legally a charitable contribution and can’t be withdrawn by the donor for noncharitable purposes.

Impact Assets has a broad range of investments across all asset classes and across all geographies. The company can’t hope to manage all those investments directly. Instead, the firm has brought in 55 funds like Better Ventures to make direct impact investments. The donor advisors can choose whether they want their DAFs to invest and if so how much, subject to the constraints of minimum investment sizes.

Impact Assets also has relationships with about ten firms like New Media Ventures, where they have assets in donor advised funds from which they make impact investments, grants or both.

Tim Freundlich, Impact Assets

Freundlich says not only that Impact Assets was built from the ground up to facilitate impact investing but also that the democratization of impact investing is important. You don’t need to be an accredited investor to establish a DAF and to begin making investments. That said, he acknowledges that to participate in the most sophisticated investment options you may need an account with $200,000 to $2 million. Still, at that level, donors get access to investments that otherwise may be open only to institutions and individual investors with greater than $25 million in net worth.

In addition to the relationships with asset managers like Better Ventures, Freundlich says Impact Assets does make direct investments in social ventures but only on behalf of clients. Last month, he says, the firm made six such investments at the request of donor advisors.

Investment Strategy

Certainly, among the readers of this article will be some who are interested in the investment strategy for both New Media Ventures and Better Ventures.

Menter’s New Media Ventures developed her vision for investing after realizing that business as usual could solve some but not all the world’s problems. She recognized that our beliefs are influenced by the media we consume and so she wanted to invest in and support media companies and nonprofits that support her progressive view of the world. She’s raised $2.6 million to do so and has invested in “nine or ten” media companies.

She describes three buckets into which the firm invests or makes grants. The first is media, companies like Upworthy, Daily Kos and Blavity. The second bucket is what she describes as movements and the technology to support movements. Examples of investments in this arena include Indivisible, Swing Left and Sister District. The third and final bucket she describes as non-partisan civic engagement platforms like Vote.org and Turbo Vote.

“We’re interested in how we essentially bring the levers of power into the hands of more people and we believe that over time that will create a more just, environmentally friendly world,” she says.

She acknowledges that the media space is challenging. “It’s still not clear how you make money in media.” She hastens to add, however, that Young Turks just raised $20 million, suggesting hope for the media industry.

Moss’s Better Ventures begins with this: “Our basic investment thesis is that mission-driven entrepreneurs outperform.” He believes that passionate entrepreneurs will work harder.

He focuses on firms that have impact with every sale so “the bigger they get the more good they do.”

Moss indicates that they look to invest in companies that have at least two founders that are solving an important problem. He notes that the companies don’t need to have a lot of revenue or historical growth. Typically, they have an MVP or minimum viable product in the market before Better Ventures invests.

Message to Those Passed Over

Most people don’t get investments. Moss acknowledges that when he started the fund he expected to be writing checks all day and instead ended up saying “no” all day.

To the companies he likes but doesn’t invest in, he usually says, keep making progress. He finds they come to him too early, before they are ready for his investment. He encourages them to raise money from family and friends and from angel investors first.

Menter reflects on the difficult “power dynamics.” She says, “I have all the power yet the entrepreneur is actually the one who’s actually making the world a better place.” Motivated by this philosophy, she says she’s developed the ability to deliver bad news well.

She tries to give specific feedback, identifies gaps in the team, business model or marketing strategy that need to be closed. She also encourages social entrepreneurs to get creative with funding, recognizing that not everyone has a network that will support them financially. Some, she points out, finance a startup by winning lots of business plan competitions, others keep their day job to support the work until outside financing comes in.

Evolution of Impact Investing

Freundlich has been working in impact investing for 20 years. A lot has changed in that time with a great deal more attention and capital devoted to the space today. Of the momentum in the impact space he says, “I remember 20 years ago thinking that it was like watching icebergs melt.” He reminds himself—and the audience—that others in the sector had been there for 20 years before he got there.

He sees the entrepreneurs as the real heroes, echoing Menter’s remarks. “Every single one of these tenacious, crazy people who are living a dream, eating ramen soup with the extra job while they crowdfund their way into some amazing venture… deserve the most support and admiration.”

He also admires the successful entrepreneurs like Seth Goldman of Honestea who sold his business to Coca-Cola and now gives back by investing much of his capital in startups and by serving actively on boards.

Business Models

The three firms profiled in this piece participate synergistically and differently within the impact investing space. Impact Assets, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, earns fees from the clients that contribute to donor advised funds, much of which is tied to the size of the portfolio.

Julie Menter, New Media Ventures

New Media Ventures gets donations, earns some revenue from events and service contracts, plus takes a percentage of the donations to the NMV Innovation Fund. The nonprofit operates with just three full-time employees with the help of some contractors and volunteers. Menter describes the firm as an impact first investor.

Better Ventures relies on venture capital returns for its operating revenue. The seed fund has $21 million under management. He notes that the operates are profitable today. Moss says the firm seeks to back those who can achieve impact on a massive scale using technology. He says, he like to give founders a safe place to admit they care more about doing good in the world than they do about making money.

These three impact investing players don’t encompass and represent the entire spectrum of activity within the impact investing arena but they do help to demonstrate the breadth of approaches, business models and the necessary collaboration that make it work.

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For This Family, The Bigger The Problem, The Bigger The Opportunity

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN estimates that “roughly one-third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year gets lost or wasted.”

Recognizing the journalistic injunction to avoid hyperbole, that truly is an enormous problem.

Justin Kamine, his brother Matthew and his father Hal determined that was just what they were looking for: an enormous opportunity. The Kamines have been developing infrastructure scale-projects since the senior Hal got into the cogeneration business in the mid-80s.

Justin Kamine joined me for a discussion about the company the family founded, KDC Ag, to tackle the problem.

The food waste problem also gives them an opportunity to address social and environmental problems they feel a desire to fix.

Food waste contributes to climate change as all the food that ends up in landfills required substantial energy to get there. Furthermore, the soil we use to grow crops is being consistently depleted; chemical fertilizers fail to restore all of the nutrients lost.

Justin Kamine, KDC Ag

Those chemical fertilizers, Kamine says, are overused. The first 50% of the nitrogen added does 80% of the good; the second 50% largely is lost to runoff, resulting in huge dead zones, especially in areas where runoff is concentrated in the Gulf of Mexico near the mouth of the Mississippi River.

Matthew Weatherley-White, Managing Director at CAPROCK, asked for comment, said, “Petroleum-based fertilizers mean, as Michael Pollan is fond of saying, that we are all eating oil.”

KDC Ag’s board of directors is comprised of luminaries, including former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Ann Veneman and philanthropist Howard Buffett.

Kamine cites Buffett as suggesting that conventional farmers need to be “much more environmentally sensitive and progressive.”

Six years ago, the Kamines invested in California Safe Soil, which has been working with the University of California at Davis to develop a process for converting waste food into fertilizer and animal feed. With that technology now commercialized, the Kamines formed KDC Ag to bring the technology to infrastructure scale with a goal of eliminating food waste over the next five years.

The new process mimics human digestion; they sometimes refer to it as compost 2.0. Waste food can be converted to fertilizer or animal food in three hours and is available for use the next day.

The KDC Ag process starts with virtually any supermarket waste food, including fruits and vegetables, meats and baked goods. The food pellets that result taste “like raisin bran,” according to Kamine. The pellets are fed to chicken and pigs. The Food and Drug Administration prohibits feeding the products to cows.

The liquid fertilizer can be added to a farmer’s drip irrigation system providing for precision agriculture that returns a broad range of nutrition to the soil. Food contains relatively little nitrogen so conventional farmers have KDC Ag add nitrogen to the liquid fertilizer. Organic farmers use it as it comes out of the system.

Craig Wichner, Managing Partner of Farmland LP, which invests in conventional farms and converts them to organic production, notes, “Using supermarket food waste to create fertilizer is completely philosophically aligned with organic production. They are taking a known good product (food at supermarkets), and closing the loop on the waste, converting it quickly and efficiently back into food for plants.”

The production process is sufficiently benign to be conducted in urban areas near the supermarkets supplying the food, allowing for an efficient backhaul distribution model employing trucks that deliver food to the stores to return to the farms carrying feed and/or fertilizer.

Because post-consumer food typically contains too much salt for a healthy soil amendment, those food wastes are not good candidates for the KDC Ag process.

Kamine was recently invited to participate in a clean tech competition hosted by the Prince of Monaco. Against 30 invited competitors, KDC Ag won the Clean Tech Equity Award.

What initially appealed to the Kamines, who report having $3.5 billion of infrastructure in their other businesses, is the scale of the opportunity. They hope to be operating in all 50 states within five years.

They earn approximately the same margin on both the feed and the fertilizer, allowing them to adjust according to demand without an impact on the bottom line. The margins are good enough, according to Kamine, to allow the company to invest quickly to scale up the business.

The KDC Ag process will reduce chemical fertilizer use, reduce carbon emissions, increase crop yields 10 to 40% and reduce water consumption all while reducing food waste at a potentially massive scale.

Weatherley-White’s reaction:

As an impact investor, I’m intrigued. Clear benefits to healthy soils. Equally clear benefits to landfill management and organic waste therein (including landfill-released GHG reduction). Using organic, composted fertilizer on crops is a fantastic benign-by-design chemical replacement. And the potential for scale is certainly compelling: the combination of food waste reduction and ag chemical substitution could be a massive opportunity.

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Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

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