Your Mark On The World http://yourmarkontheworld.com Tue, 14 Nov 2017 13:36:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Is It Ethical To Lend To Working People At A 200% Interest Rate? http://yourmarkontheworld.com/ethical-lend-working-people-200-interest-rate/ http://yourmarkontheworld.com/ethical-lend-working-people-200-interest-rate/#respond Tue, 14 Nov 2017 13:36:56 +0000 http://yourmarkontheworld.com/?p=8537 This post was originally produced for Forbes. You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes. We’re all familiar with payday lenders who are providing loans to people who can least afford it at interest rates that shock the greediest of corporate bankers. Can a fintech company that lends at rates up to […]

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This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

We’re all familiar with payday lenders who are providing loans to people who can least afford it at interest rates that shock the greediest of corporate bankers. Can a fintech company that lends at rates up to 200% annual percentage rates ever be considered ethical? In this piece, I’m going to share my conclusion.

To help me make this evaluation, I turned to Morgan Simon, a vocal advocate for using a social justice lens for impact investing. She is the author of Real Impact: The New Economics of Social Change and Managing Director of Candide Group. She framed the question for me:

In general, when we think about fintech, from microfinance in the global south to financial services for working class populations in the US, we think a lot about the question of fairness. It’s common for a social enterprise to focus on providing better rates to a customer compared to what they had access to. But better does not always mean fair. So, we always look at a company and try to assess–is the financing non-extractive, meaning the customer receives more value than the company?  Is the operating margin reasonable compared to the consumer value created? Does the product help build assets as opposed to focusing predominately on consumption? Each company and case is different, and hence it’s impossible to say that a certain range of APRs enables fairness. It’s important to take each company case-by-case and try to assess its particular impact.

She framed the question well but didn’t answer it for me.

Lendup is a fintech company based in San Francisco with offices in Richmond, Virginia that provides four tiers of consumer lending, with the stated objective of providing customers with a path to better financial health. At the bottom rung of their credit ladder, they provide loans of about $250 at an APR of 200%. The company, backed by Kleiner Perkins, among other well-regarded venture investors, now has 220 employees, has made 4 million loans totaling more than $1 billion. By their estimate, they’ve saved their customers $130 million. They have also provided 1.6 million free online courses about money management.

For this article, I visited with Sasha Orloff, CEO and Vijesh Iyer, COO, to learn what they do and how they justify lending at such rates. You can—and should—watch the entire interview in the video player at the top of the article.

Vijesh Iyer, Lendup COO

Iyer explained the Lendup vision, saying, “We believe there are two types of financial products: chutes and ladders. Ladders help people up; chutes push people down. One of our core values is that every product we offer at LendUp is a ladder, and our success is measured by the long-term financial well-being of our customers.”

That lending at 200% interest rates could be a ladder to greater financial health begs scrutiny.

Orloff, 40, was quick to put Lendup’s practices in greater context. “When you’re thinking about the payday lending industry you’re typically talking about 400 to 1,000% APR annualized rates. You’re paying the same rate day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.”

Obviously, lending at half the rate or better than the competition is better for the customer, but it could still be a debt trap from which the customer might never escape.

The scale of the problem or opportunity, depending on your view of the situation, is staggering. Orloff points out that 56% of Americans don’t have access to traditional financial services. Payday loans are typically not reported to credit bureaus, which serves customers just fine when they default but is no help when they repay the loans according to the terms, leaving them stuck in financial purgatory.

No reader of this piece would want to borrow at 200% unless it were the best available option. Even then, we’d want to be sure that we wouldn’t be better off not borrowing the money.

Lendup takes the ladder concept seriously. Rather than go to a store-front with the employees working behind bullet-proof glass, customers borrow on their phones. They are encouraged to take financial literacy courses. As they make payments in a timely way, they move up Lendup’s ladder, earning the right to borrow more money at lower interest rates. At the top two tiers of service, the company reports credit results to all three major credit bureaus, potentially helping customers establish a credit score that would give them access to traditional credit products, Orloff explains.

Still, I worried what happens to customers that can’t repay their loans on time. Some payday lenders have been reputed to compound interest and fees monthly or even weekly, allowing an unpaid loan of a few hundred dollars to balloon out of control within a year. Does Lendup take the same approach to its slow-paying customers?

No. They assure me that the company never charges another fee. For their single payment loan customers, no late fees or interest accrue. Instead, the company works with the clients to ensure that customers are not stuck in a debt trap when they can’t pay.

Orloff says, “At the end of the day, we try to structure our products so that we make money when they pay us back not when they get further into trouble because we’re trying to lend people up.”

The problem has persisted despite the continued economic recovery, in part because so many people have been moving from salaried positions to hourly or even to the gig economy where people are paid only for the brief moments when they are working on a paid task. Uber and Lyft drivers, Upwork freelancers, Task Rabbit contractors and so many others now experience unprecedented volatility in their incomes.

Understanding how their model is designed to work, I set out to understand whether or not it does work. Orloff and Iyer were unwilling to provide data on the proportion of their customers who are able to climb to the top of their ladder and graduate. One can reasonably conclude the data isn’t encouraging.

They did share that a comparison of cohorts of their customers and non-customers showed that their customers improved their credit scores faster and farther than non-customers.

Credit scores matter. Iyer notes that a graduate of their program can save hundreds of thousands of dollars over a lifetime by earning a higher credit score.

A graduate of their program gains access to traditional credit cards with a grace period that allows them to borrow money for longer than just one payroll cycle at zero cost. Orloff says, “They’re going from paying 400 to 1,000% APR to a zero-dollar borrowing cost. To me, that’s one of the proudest most incredible things that we’ve accomplished here at Lendup.”

They don’t see Lendup as the solution to the problem. Iyer points out, “We’re talking about over 50 percent of the US population not having $400 to take care of themselves in an emergency.”

They see Lendup as part of a growing movement to give people better access to the financial services they need. The company collaborates with nonprofits to help address the systemic challenges that make being poor so expensive.

Orloff says, “If our system is working really well for 44% of the country and it’s not working really well for 56% of the country then something has to change.”

He adds, “The reason why I’m excited about this interview and other interviews is creating a broader awareness of this movement has started and that we need the support of a lot of different players from the press from the regulators from the financial markets.”

One of the nonprofits with which Lendup collaborates is The Aspen Institute. Joanna Smith Ramani, the associate director for the Institute’s financial security program, helps answer my fundamental question:

One of our goals at the Aspen Financial Security Program is to build and spotlight leadership that is committed to solving the financial challenges of working Americans. Sasha is a real innovator in the financial service and fintech industry around his commitment to solving not just the credit needs of low-wage earners, but also the overall financial health needs of families as well. We have been encouraged by LendUp’s eagerness to directly learn from their consumers, to iterate their products, and to engage in cross-sector discussions, even with critics and advocates, about how to not just make their product better, but also the industry better.

So, is it ethical to lend to people who are struggling financially at an APR of 200%? Yes. When the customer’s interests are put before corporate interests, lending at such high rates is ethical. But I’ll be watching.

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.


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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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Impact Investor: You Don’t Have To Give Up Returns To Do Good http://yourmarkontheworld.com/impact-investor-dont-give-returns-good/ http://yourmarkontheworld.com/impact-investor-dont-give-returns-good/#respond Mon, 13 Nov 2017 04:36:15 +0000 http://yourmarkontheworld.com/?p=8533 This post was originally produced for Forbes. You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes. One of the most controversial topics in impact investing is whether it is possible or fair to expect market returns on investments that do good. Gloria Nelund, chairman and CEO of TriLinc Global, says yes. Nelund says […]

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This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

One of the most controversial topics in impact investing is whether it is possible or fair to expect market returns on investments that do good. Gloria Nelund, chairman and CEO of TriLinc Global, says yes.

Nelund says her firm, which manages about $320 million, is designed to prove it. “The whole firm is really dedicated to creating and sponsoring funds that will prove to investors that they don’t have to give up investment returns to do good.”

TriLinc is a private investment fund that lends money to small businesses, including businesses in the developing world. To do business effectively in frontier and emerging markets, the firm partners with local experts.

Nelund explains, “We created a partner model where we went out and found the best private debt fund managers in the world in the countries where we wanted to invest and we developed a partnership with them where they would originate loans for us. We actually co-underwrite and co-structure all of the loans.”

Gloria Nelund, TriLinc Global

TriLinc typically funds the loans directly to the businesses; local partners do not act as intermediaries. Some of the loans are sufficiently large that TriLinc reaches out to other funds to complete the financing.

Nelund highlights a loan to Corporacion Prodesa, S.R.L., a manufacturer of affordable disposable diapers in Peru, as an example of the firm’s impact. The company’s founder, a Peruvian American who worked at Kimberly Clark identified hygiene problems associated with cloth diapers being used in Peru and utilized abandoned technology to produce diapers low and moderate-income families there could afford.

The company not only solves a social problem in the developing world but also provides jobs that raise the standard of living for the community.

Nelund says, “When they were really struggling at one point and we were working with them to try to restructure everything, his biggest concern was the people in the community losing their jobs because it was so important to them and their families.”

The loan of about $3 million represented about 2.1% of the funds’ assets, according to the 2015 10K filed with the SEC and has an interest rate of 15.5-15.6%. The firm’s loans have interest rates ranging from more than 8% to just less than 18%. The loans are made in Central and South America and in Africa.

Nelund explains the investment strategy. “We have a private debt strategy that makes loans to growth stage companies that meet certain environmental social and governance standards and who are committed to creating impact and then we provide loans to those companies so that they can grow and they can create more jobs and they can pay higher wages.”

While Nelund admits that some projects require non-investment capital—philanthropic or aid forms of capital—she sees market rate impact investing as the key to attracting sufficient capital to solve big problems. She says, “You should hold companies to the same [return] standard regardless of the impact they create.”

Matthew Weatherley-White, co-founder and managing director of The Caprock Group, who has invested in the funds, highlights two features of the TriLinc funds. First, he notes that retail investors have been invited to participate in the funds via public offerings—most impact investments are limited to accredited or institutional investors. The other point he highlights is the firm’s focus on doing things better. “This isn’t about perfect. It is about steadily raising the bar.”

Jeff Shafer, co-founder of CommonGood Capital, praises Tirlinc’s team and procedures for sourcing deals outside the US with an emphasis on impact. He adds, “Since investing today in the US is dominated by the left brain, market rate returns and proof of positive impact are critical to mobilizing large amounts of capital.”

Dr. Patricia Dinneen, senior advisor, EMPEA and chair of Impact Investing Council, agrees with Shafer’s analysis. Like Weatherley-White, Shafer and Nelund, she concludes that impact investing at market rates is possible. “TriLinc Global provides credible and convincing evidence that you can achieve both financial returns and social benefits.”

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.


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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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How to Promote Your Cause Without Provoking Your Friends http://yourmarkontheworld.com/promote-cause-without-provoking-friends/ http://yourmarkontheworld.com/promote-cause-without-provoking-friends/#respond Thu, 09 Nov 2017 23:04:34 +0000 http://yourmarkontheworld.com/?p=8524 Recently the Pew Research Center published a report showing that Americans are more politically divided than any time since they started tracking such data in 1994. Our country has survived greater divisions than we now see: abortion, civil rights, slavery, and federalism. Increasingly, at least anecdotally, it appears that people are fed up with divisions […]

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Recently the Pew Research Center published a report showing that Americans are more politically divided than any time since they started tracking such data in 1994. Our country has survived greater divisions than we now see: abortion, civil rights, slavery, and federalism.

Increasingly, at least anecdotally, it appears that people are fed up with divisions and conflict. At some level both liberals and conservatives find themselves wanting to check out. My readers challenged me to write this article to find a path forward.

Tempting as it may be to check out, the things that divide Americans are important issues. Gun safety is a critical issue with 35,000 people dying from gun deaths every year. Those on the left would like to reduce the availability of guns. Those on the right see more guns as the key to safety. That’s a pretty big disagreement on a topic that matters.

Climate change threatens to destabilize the planet while some continue to argue that it isn’t anthropogenic or even that it isn’t happening at all. And this issue doesn’t just impact America; what we do here impacts the entire planet. We need a process by which we can talk about this without completely talking past one another.

The social safety net helps millions of Americans avoid death, despair or homelessness each year but millions of others slip through the cracks. One sure way to avoid finding solutions is to not talk about the problems.

To figure out how we can have a productive discussion that respects people more than policies I had to ask experts because I’m not good at this. I’m as prone to getting emotional as anyone else but like my readers, I want to find a way to have these conversations constructively.

Cheryl Snapp Conner, courtesy of Snapp Conner PR

Cheryl Snapp Conner, courtesy of Snapp Conner PR

Cheryl Snapp Conner, CEO of Snapp Conner PR and a regular Forbes contributor approaches communications professionally. She helps businesses formulate messaging in these fraught times with an eye toward building audiences and customers.

She suggests you start by highlighting your common ground and acknowledge them for the things you may admire about them: awareness, passion, civic engagement. Only then does she suggest delving into the areas of disagreement.

Dr. Paul Jenkins, courtesy of Live on Purpose

Dr. Paul Jenkins, courtesy of Live on Purpose

Dr. Paul Jenkins, a professional psychologist and author of Pathological Positivity offers this advice:  “I remind myself to put people before problems and values before valuables.”

He points out that we are all prone to confusing facts and opinions.

In the animated film Inside Out the characters are riding along on the train of thoughts and a stack of boxes containing facts and opinions get jostled and spills out on the floor. One of the characters is concerned about getting them all back into the right boxes, and another character comments that it doesn’t really matter because they all look alike anyway. Your position is an opinion.

Ouch.

Jenkins goes on to say that once we form an opinion, we are subject to confirmation bias, where we look for or even create evidence to support our opinion. I’ve seen this happen in my own life. Having no opinion about the color of the new carpet, asked for one I weakly offered one. Suddenly, I find myself offended by every other color option. Three minutes earlier, I couldn’t have cared less.

It is probably more important to be open than to be right,” he says.

Conner similarly suggests acknowledging the inherent biases we all have.

Even when you’re on your best behavior, others may push your buttons, perhaps making a personal attack. What to do then?

Nancy Hoole Taylor, licensed mental health counselor, says, “Do not internalize what others say. It is usually more of a reflection of who they are and not yourself.”

Or, as Jenkins puts it, “A sure fire way to escalate a situation is to take things personally.”

He spent over a dozen years doing child custody evaluations for the court. “In these nasty divorce situations where people really needed to discuss issues in the interest of the children, their engagement in the personal conflicts commonly derailed the discussions and they spent an enormous amount of time and energy fighting and being offended.”

Jenkins offers four ideas for de-escalation:

  1. Understand that person’s opinion is not about you, even if they say it is. It is about their own position and may include their perception of you. The troubling aspect here is that it sounds like they are describing you because the character in their story has your name, face, and social security number. But think about it, how well does that person really know you at your core? They really don’t, right? That means that the person they are railing against, hating, or disparaging is not you – it is a fictional character they have fabricated in their own mind. Don’t defend that person – you would hate them too.
  2. Use the social gifts of appreciation, connection, enlightenment, and elevation instead of defensiveness or retaliation.
  3. Remember that the person who has offended you is merely supporting their opinion. It is not their job to support your opinion, take care of you emotionally, or make you feel good about yourself – those things are your job.
  4. Use the strategic non-response.

Jenkins’ number four seems especially appropriate when the only response you can conceive involves language your mother wouldn’t approve.

Conner has her own approach. She notes that if someone else was personally attacked she’d come to their defense. “If it were about me, I’d maybe address it with humor–‘I may somewhat have resembled that’–and then move the focus to the issue at hand.”

She suggests making a kind or empathetic remark and then closing the discussion with a note of mutual agreement more positive than simply agreeing to disagree. She also agrees that in some cases, the best strategy is to disengage.

Therapist Judith S. Moore shares her strategy: “I express my love for the one disagreeing with me, letting them know we can still be friends.”

Jenkins offers this important reminder, “People are not wrong about how they feel or their opinions, their position is completely consistent with their current set of beliefs and perceptions. Let them be right about that. It’s also okay to not have an end to a discussion, to remain in the question and remember that opinions (including, and perhaps especially, your own) change.

The best advice of all, I think, was Jenkins’ parting wisdom: “Give up your need to be right.”

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Key Job Skill for This Position: No Complaining About Rats and Roaches http://yourmarkontheworld.com/key-job-skill-position-no-complaining-rats-roaches/ http://yourmarkontheworld.com/key-job-skill-position-no-complaining-rats-roaches/#respond Wed, 01 Nov 2017 21:00:34 +0000 http://yourmarkontheworld.com/?p=8466 “I look for a great communicator who can tell some of the most important stories in the world. Also, someone who won’t complain about staying in a $2-a-night room with rats and roaches,” New York Times columnist Nick Kristof summarized by email what he looks for in his annual “Win-a-Trip” contest. Each year, Kristof of […]

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“I look for a great communicator who can tell some of the most important stories in the world. Also, someone who won’t complain about staying in a $2-a-night room with rats and roaches,” New York Times columnist Nick Kristof summarized by email what he looks for in his annual “Win-a-Trip” contest.

Each year, Kristof of the New York Times holds a “Win-a-Trip” contest to find a student journalist to travel with him on a reporting trip. For 2017, he selected Aneri Pattani to accompany him to Liberia.

Pattani, 22, described her experience as a “one of the best” she’s had.

“Because I had the privilege of traveling with Nick, interviewing people and writing about my experiences for a global community of readers, I was able to chip away at my own ignorance and hopefully spread new knowledge to a few others, too.”

Nick Kristof and Aneri Pattani, courtesy of the New York Times

“Aneri was fabulous!” Kristof said.

“She’s a natural journalist who wrote compellingly about leprosy, African journalism and so much more–and her work is blessed with empathy and intelligence, even though she’s pecking away at full speed,” he explained.

Pattani, for her part, admits that the key lesson she learned in Liberia was “how little I know.”

She admitted feeling “guilty” when visiting a hospital that serves 75,000 people, knowing all the while that she had more medicine in her luggage–including some basic antibiotics and ibuprofen–than the entire hospital had.

She was inspired by Mae Azango, a Liberian journalist who wrote about female genital mutilation and was then forced into hiding.

That experience is exactly what Kristof hopes to accomplish with the “Win-a-Trip” program each year. “I want to help nurture the next generation of journalists who care about the issues that I consider important, and more broadly, I want to encourage young people to engage with issues of global health and poverty.”

For the sake of future applicants, I coaxed some advice out of Pattani. She noted that Kristof chooses all sorts of students, not just journalism students. Her primary advice, “Just be really authentic and explain why this is important to you in a personal way.”

See my past interviews with 2015 winner Austin Meyer and 2016 winner Cassidy McDonald.

As for this year’s winner, Kristof shared his final thoughts on Pattani’s performance: “She didn’t protest a room with rats!”

Aneri Pattani

Aneri Pattani

Pattani’s bio:

Twitter: @aneripattani

Aneri Pattani is a recent graduate of Northeastern University, where she studied journalism and Spanish. She spent part of the summer traveling with Nicholas Kristof to Liberia as the winner of his annual international reporting trip contest. After that, she spent 10 weeks working as a James Reston reporting fellow on the health/science desk of The New York Times. Her work has previously appeared in The Boston Globe, The Texas Tribune, CNBC and The Hartford Courant. When she’s not working, she enjoys learning new dance forms and cooking new types of food.

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!

 

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How To Start Impact Investing With Just $50 And Five Minutes http://yourmarkontheworld.com/start-impact-investing-just-50-five-minutes/ http://yourmarkontheworld.com/start-impact-investing-just-50-five-minutes/#respond Tue, 31 Oct 2017 11:02:55 +0000 http://yourmarkontheworld.com/?p=8413 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 […]

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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!

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‘A Life Has Meaning And Purpose, No Matter The Age’ http://yourmarkontheworld.com/life-meaning-purpose-no-matter-age/ http://yourmarkontheworld.com/life-meaning-purpose-no-matter-age/#respond Mon, 30 Oct 2017 16:23:31 +0000 http://yourmarkontheworld.com/?p=8407 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 […]

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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.

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How I Will Stop Being a Jackass and Start Being Nice Instead http://yourmarkontheworld.com/will-stop-jackass-start-nice-instead/ http://yourmarkontheworld.com/will-stop-jackass-start-nice-instead/#comments Mon, 23 Oct 2017 20:29:14 +0000 http://yourmarkontheworld.com/?p=8403 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 […]

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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!

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CEO Comes Full Circle Beginning And Ending In Poverty http://yourmarkontheworld.com/ceo-comes-full-circle-beginning-ending-poverty/ http://yourmarkontheworld.com/ceo-comes-full-circle-beginning-ending-poverty/#respond Mon, 23 Oct 2017 15:57:59 +0000 http://yourmarkontheworld.com/?p=8393 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 […]

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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.


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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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Founded By A 4-Year-Old, This Nonprofit Is Her Incomparable Legacy http://yourmarkontheworld.com/founded-4-year-old-nonprofit-incomparable-legacy/ Tue, 17 Oct 2017 16:46:37 +0000 http://yourmarkontheworld.com/?p=8389 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 […]

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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.


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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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3 Players That Exemplify The Complexity Of The Impact Investing Ecosystem http://yourmarkontheworld.com/3-players-exemplify-complexity-impact-investing-ecosystem/ Mon, 16 Oct 2017 12:24:53 +0000 http://yourmarkontheworld.com/?p=8383 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 […]

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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.

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!

 

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