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Crowdfunding for Social Good
Devin D. Thorpe
Devin Thorpe

Impact Investing

This category includes articles about people, firms and foundations that invest in social good by investing in social entrepreneurs, social impact or pay-for-success bonds, etc.

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New Village Capital CEO Shares Her Insights And Vision


Village Capital was founded to invest in social entrepreneurs using a novel, peer-selected methodology. A decade later, under new leadership, it remains committed to those principles.

Allie Burns recently succeeded Ross Baird (who left to start Blueprint Local) as the CEO of Village Capital. She joined Village Capital nearly three years ago after leaving the Case Foundation, working closely with Jean Case on communications surrounding impact investing initiatives.

Allie joined me to talk about three key ideas. First, she noted that investors need to look beyond equity as the primary structure for startup finance. Second, she noted the success of the peer-selection model at Village Capital. Finally, she noted that the peer-selection model not only yields good investments it eliminates gender bias.

Be sure to tune in to the full interview in the players above.

Interview with Allie Burns, the CEO of Village Capital.

The following is the pre-interview with Allie Burns. Be sure to watch the recorded interview above.

Expert Tips:

Tip #1: Investors Need to “Look Beyond Equity”

Many impact investors support entrepreneurs with equity investments by default because that’s how it’s always been done. Over-reliance on equity can be a mistake. A lot of businesses working in sectors like healthcare, education, financial health, and sustainable food – sectors that have the potential to positively impact livelihoods – don’t have a typical software-as-a-service business model with a clear path to exit in five to seven years. Many are working in highly regulated and complex sectors, and high growth may take 10 years of market-building, a time period that far exceeds the patience of an investor operating a 10-year fund.

Tip #2: Peer Selection Works As A Framework To Evaluate Future Commercial Success

Using peer selection, peer groups of entrepreneurs are able to discern the potential commercial performance of early-stage ventures accurately – and quickly. When looking at the performance of alumni in both the first and second years following a sector-specific program, the final peer-selected rank accurately reflected the subsequent ability of ventures to raise capital and, to a lesser extent, generate revenue. In short, the higher- ranked ventures were able to raise more capital than lower-ranked ventures. Equally notable, entrepreneurs were able to identify potential factors for success relatively quickly – in as short a period as four days.

Tip #3: Peer Selection Mitigates Gender Bias

Despite the fact that women face significant bias in the venture capital process, outcomes appear to suggest that peer selection is less exclusionary. What we found suggested that during the peer-selected investment process, female-founded or co-founded ventures see representation in the ranking process in line with their commercial performance. In other words, the gender bias that commonly occurs within traditional venture capital is mitigated during the peer review process – rather than women getting “crowded out” they are evaluated by their peers based on the merits of their company.

Learn more:  https://vilcap.com/peer/ or https://vilcap.com/capitalevolving/

More about Village Capital:

Twitter: @villagecapital

Facebook: facebook.com/villagecapital/

Linkedin: linkedin.com/company/village-capital/

Website: www.vilcap.com

Village Capital is a global firm that helps entrepreneurs bring big ideas from vision to scale. We are reinventing the system to back the entrepreneurs of the future; a future where business creates equity and long- term prosperity. Since 2009, we have supported more than 1000 early-stage entrepreneurs through our investment readiness programs. Our affiliated fund, VilCap Investments, has provided seed funding to more than 100 program graduates.

Allie Burns. Photo Credit: Village Capital

Allie Burns’s bio:

Twitter: @AllieB

Allie serves as the CEO of Village Capital, bringing more than 16 years of experience working with entrepreneurs and innovators at the intersection of tech and social change. She previously served as a senior executive at Revolution and the Case Foundation, the venture capital firm and private family foundation created by former AOL executives Jean and Steve Case, where she led the organization’s communications and marketing teams. She also held positions at Discovery, AOL and Atlas Venture among others.  Allie is a graduate of Boston University and holds an MBA from Thunderbird School of Global Management.


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Oscars Are A Celebration Of Social Entrepreneurship And Impact Investing

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

The Academy Awards are and always have been awarded to social entrepreneurs and impact investors. We haven’t always had those terms available to us and even last night as I watched the award show on ABC, I didn’t hear those terms used.

Still, those who make movies with a social message and those who fund them are social entrepreneurs and impact investors.

Films with social messages will always create controversy, but it is in that controversy that the social mission is achieved. It is in that discussion, that issues are elucidated, and social change occurs—even when it is to the chagrin of others.

Let’s look at the roster of films nominated for best picture this year:

  • Black Panther
  • BlackKlansman
  • The Favourite
  • Green Book
  • Bohemian Rhapsody
  • Roma
  • A Star is Born
  • Vice

Not having seen The Favourite, I can’t identify a specific social issue in the film but for all the others, social issues are clear.

Winner, Green Book, took on racism and homophobia in a single film. Criticized by some for perpetuating the narrative of a white savior, the film profiles a racist hired by a gay, African American musician who needed a driver and bodyguard for a tour through the south. The winning producers were Jim Burke, Charles B. Wessler, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly—who also directed the film—and Nick Vallelonga.

Black Panther, a classic Marvel superhero film, casts Africa and Africans as the heroes in what many felt was for the first time. With an almost all-black cast, director Ryan Coogler had a dramatic effect in Hollywood. Setting box office records, the film proved international and not just American audiences had been craving such an empowering film. Nominated for a total of six awards, it notched three wins for Best Original Music Score (Ludwig Goransson), Best Costume Design (Ruth E. Carter) and Best Product Design (Hannah Beachler and Jay R. Hart).

Spike Lee poses backstage with the Oscar® for adapted screenplay during the live ABC Telecast of The 91st Oscars® at the Dolby® Theatre in Hollywood, CA on Sunday, February 24, 2019. CREDIT: MIKE BAKER / ©A.M.P.A.S.

BlackKlansman, Spike Lee’s film, tells the unlikely story of a black police officer who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan, dealing with a range of racial issues social issues. Spike Lee won the award for writing (adapted screenplay) along with Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott. Lee’s impassioned acceptance speech focused on the 2020 election and garnered an angry tweet from President Trump.

Bohemian Rhapsody, winner of four awards, including best actor, Rami Malek; best sound mixing, John Casali, Tim Cavagin and Paul Massey; best film editing, John Ottman and best sound editing, Nina Hartstone and John Warhurst. The film celebrated the band Queen and dealt with the lead singer Freddie Mercury’s sexuality and immigrant heritage. Controversy swirls around director Bryan Singer, whom Malek failed to mention in his acceptance speech.

Roma, which won the award for best foreign language film, is set in 1971 Mexico City and focuses on the life of a maid. Putting the lens on universal class issues, the film has found a wide international audience. The film was directed by Alfonso Cuarón.

A Star is Born, (spoiler alert) the third and many would argue best incarnation of the story as a film, deals with a variety of personal issues and the difficulties of rising and falling fortunes and romance. Starring Lady Gaga and director Bradley Cooper, the film also highlights the impact of alcoholism and suicide. The film fails to confront those issues, however, relegating them to the role of context, like set and props.

Vice is an unconventional biopic about former Vice President Dick Cheney and his ascension to unusual power in the George W. Bush White House. Directed by Adam McKay, the film was nominated for eight awards, but took home only one statue for best makeup (Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe and Patricia Dehaney-Le May). Overtly political, the film includes discussion of a variety of social issues, including LGBTQIA rights.

Both Hollywood and independent filmmakers continue to shape the way we view the world, the discussions we have and the decisions we make. Those who make the films truly are social entrepreneurs and those who fund them have earned the moniker impact investor.

Learn my insider secrets for getting media attention for your social enterprise or nonprofit. Click here.


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Financial Services Nonprofit Innovation Brings New Opportunity To Impact Investors


Impact Shares is an innovative nonprofit financial firm that has created several exchange traded funds or ETFs that ordinary investors to easily purchase in their existing stock portfolios.

I am so excited about this opportunity I intend to add these to my personal investment portfolio. While my purchases will be small, I’ll wait a few days before I make my investments to avoid any suggestion of front-running–a serious Wall Street “no-no.”

The funds are designed to align with specific development goals. The mission of each fund is developed in partnership with a nonprofit working on that issue area.

Impact Shares has issued exchanged traded funds in collaboration with The NAACP Minority Empowerment ETF (Ticker: NACP), the YWCA Women’s Empowerment (Ticker: WOMN) and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (Ticker: SDGA).

Interview with Ethan Powell, the Founder of Impact Shares.

The following is the pre-interview with Ethan Powell. Be sure to watch the recorded interview above.

For-profit/Nonprofit: 501(c)3 Nonprofit

Revenue model: We are a nonprofit. Our funds are self-sustaining and represent another revenue stream for our collaborating social advocacy firms.

Scale: We have roughly $10mn under management and have received 1.5mn in grant assistance from the Rockefeller Foundation’s innovative finance group.

What is the problem you solve and how do you solve it?

Alignment of capital allocation with credible social investment strategies which elevate our collaborating social advocacy group’s brands as the ambassador’s of their issues to the private sector.

More about Impact Shares:

Twitter: @ImpactETFS

Facebook: facebook.com/impactshares/

Website: www.impactetfs.org

Impact Shares which is a 501(c)(3) SEC registered investment advisor and fund sponsor. We work with leading social advocacy organizations to launch investment products that encourage the private sector to align their investment practices with specific social outcomes:

  • YWCA Women’s Empowerment
  • NAACP Minority Empowerment
  • United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

This new approach aligns capital to cause while striving to track the broad equity market.

Ethan Powell.

Ethan Powell’s bio:

Linkedin: linkedin.com/in/ethan-powell-cfa-cpa-66852a25/

Mr. Powell has spent over two decades in financial services, primarily in Hedge Fund and Private Equity. Most recently Ethan founded Impact Shares. Impact Shares is a collaboration of leading financial service and non-profit organizations providing single social issue ESG solutions. Impact Shares has issued exchanged traded funds in collaboration with The NAACP Minority Empowerment ETF (Ticker: NACP), the YWCA Women’s Empowerment (Ticker: WOMN) and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (Ticker: SDGA).

Additionally, Ethan serves as the Chairman of the board for a $4 billion mutual fund complex and is a finalist for 2016 mutual fund director of the year. Previously, Mr. Powell was the Chief of Product and Strategy at Highland Capital Management Fund Advisors, L.P. In this role he was responsible for evaluating and optimizing the registered product lineup offered by Highland Mr. Powell also served as the portfolio manager of the Highland ETFs and worked with other portfolio managers and wholesalers on the appropriate positioning of strategies in the market place.

Prior to joining Highland in April 2007, Mr. Powell spent most of his career with Ernst and Young providing audit and merger and acquisition services. Mr. Powell received an MS in Management Information Systems and a BS in Accounting from Texas A&M University. Mr. Powell has earned the right to use the Chartered Financial Analyst designation and is a licensed Certified Public Accountant.


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Salesforce Builds $50 Million Impact Investing Portfolio

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

Suzanne DiBianca, chief philanthropy officer and executive vice president of corporate relations at Salesforce, was among the first employees at the company and has championed social impact from the beginning. Building a $50 million impact investing portfolio is her latest initiative.

She led the creation of Pledge 1%, an effort to get corporations, with Salesforce in the lead, to commit 1% of their equity, time, product or profit. More than 8,500 companies in 100 countries have joined the pledge, she says. Those companies have donated more than $250 million and even more in the value of product donations.

In that spirit, DiBianca has led the effort to build an impact investment portfolio within the larger Salesforce venture fund of more than $1 billion. She notes that Salesforce is typically a series A or B round investor and won’t lead deals.

Suzanne DiBianca, Salesforce EVP CREDIT: SALESFORCE

The impact fund features 18 portfolio companies, 70% of which are women or minority-led. While she acknowledges that the percentage may creep down over time, she says, “We’re really committed to that as a core principle of the fund.”

Matt Ellis, CEO and founder of Measurabl, a startup that provides real-time monitoring of energy consumption, allowing enterprise-scale companies to address problems and reduce consumption more quickly, commented on the investment the company received from Salesforce.

He was connected to Salesforce through a referral from Impact Engine. After a standard diligence process, it closed on a $7 million series A round that included Salesforce. Camber Creek led the round, which included Concrete, Divco West, Sway Ventures and follow-on investments from seed round investors Borealis Ventures and Impact Engine.

“Measurabl’s goal is to make ESG data easy and accessible for all. Anyone who owns, occupies, leases, invests, or insures buildings gains value from our software platform,” Ellis said. “Sustainability is a core tenant of Salesforce as a company and a focus area for impact funds via Salesforce Ventures, so we are a perfect pair.”

“Actually, we’re looking for more founders is in the sustainability and climate space,” DiBianca says. “I feel like we need to move faster there.”

Speaking of the need to arrest climate change, she noted, “We have a deadline.”

At Salesforce, DiBianca’s scope of responsibility includes the company’s climate change mitigation efforts. She’s proud that the company now reports all its energy usage in its 10Ks filed annually with the SEC.

“I hope it will be a mandate for companies to do disclosures in that area,” DiBianca adds. “But I actually think business can move significantly faster than government in some of these areas.”

Impact investing is a strategic part of a broader effort for Salesforce to be good corporate citizens, donating 3 million volunteer hours, pledging 1% of the company’s equity to nonprofits, giving 300,000 nonprofits use of its products and donating cash, too.

Learn my insider secrets for getting media attention for your social enterprise or nonprofit. Click here.


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Impact Investor Funds Filmmaking for Good


Paula Froehle, co-founder and CEO of Chicago Media Project, joined me to discuss the organization’s work. The group starts as an angel investor group for documentary film but it doesn’t stop there. The group also helps to drive innovation in the field and hosts both public and member-only events.

Interview with Paula Froehle, the Co-founder and CEO of Chicago Media Project.

The following is the pre-interview with Paula Froehle. Be sure to watch the recorded interview above.

For-profit/Nonprofit: Both- our ecosystem includes CMP the nonprofit & CMP Invest/Impact, our for-profit equity fund.

Revenue model: We are funded by member donations. We have revenue-generating events like Doc10 that supplement.

Scale: We have 55+ members. 4 staff. We have provided $4.5 million in funding support for documentary films.

What is the problem you solve and how do you solve it?

We support media to power social change.

More about Chicago Media Project:

Twitter: @ChiMediaProject

Facebook: Facebook.com/chicagomediaproject

Website: https://www.chicagomediaproject.org

CMP acts as a Community Model of Philanthropy, where our generous membership contributions combine to support films and media organizations making a real difference. The CMP model directs our donations into four areas of programming:

FILM FUNDING

CMP’s IMPACT GRANT FUND provides direct support to filmmakers in three major areas: EARLY STAGE FUNDING, FILMMAKER SUSTAINABILITY, and INNOVATION IN OUTREACH.

MEDIA INNOVATION

CMP supports all forms of media and looks to promote artists working in a variety of forms to bring about social change.

Our love of innovation in media will be on display at our IMPACT MASHUP, April 5th, 2018, as the opening night of our DOC10 Film Festival.

COMMUNITY EVENTS

CMP curates the best in nonfiction media and brings it to Chicago – and beyond – through our Partners in Advocacy screenings, our DOC10 Film Festival, and our Dinner & Docs @ the Davis quarterly screening series.

MEMBER EVENTS

Through CMP’s signature Big Table Dinners, we provide exclusive high-quality content from the impact media landscape to members in a social setting.

In addition, we bring members to Sundance, DocNYC, HotDocs and other festivals, providing in-depth, behind-the-scenes access to films, filmmakers, and programmers.

Paula Froehle

Paula Froehle ’s bio:

Instagram: @opal.pics

A film director, visual artist, educator and entrepreneur, Paula has had a long and notable career in the arts, education and entrepreneurship. As Co-founder & CEO of Chicago Media Project she guides 50+ members in the philanthropic support of social impact documentary films. In addition to CMP, she oversees the CMP Invest/Impact & CMPAC equity funds, which provide equity investments in documentary films with commercial appeal. Paula is a member of the Gamechanger film fund, whose mission is to finance and produce feature films directed by women.

In the field of education Paula has developed and implemented unique curricula in media, the arts and impact at the graduate and undergraduate level, most recently for Saybrook University where she launched a Social Impact Media Specialization within their Transformative Social Change MA degree program. Prior to co-founding CMP, Paula was the Founding Academic Dean of Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy (TFA), where she developed and implemented an intensive, immersive BA degree program in filmmaking, recording arts, graphic design, animation, and game design.

As a filmmaker she has directed 12 films and over 20 media projects. Her directing credits include her feature-length documentary, THE SHOW MUST GO ON, AN INTIMATE PORTRAIT OF THE FLYING WALLENDAS, which screened at numerous festivals and is distributed by MVD Entertainment Group. She is currently in development on several documentary projects.

As an entrepreneur, in addition to CMP & TFA, she has been involved in the founding of several startups including Opal Pictures design & film production company (2004-pres) and Atavistic Chicago (1988-2006).


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Opportunity Zones Investors Receive Needed Guidance For Measurable Impact

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 created a new investment incentive for low-income communities called Opportunity Zones. Under the new rules, capital gains can be sheltered from tax when invested in Qualified Opportunity Funds.

According to the IRS, low-income community must be nominated by the state and approved by the U.S. Treasury to become an Opportunity Zone. Thousands of communities have already been approved. See the list here.

The IRS simply defines Qualified Opportunity Funds as “an investment vehicle that is set up as either a partnership or corporation for investing in eligible property that is located in a Qualified Opportunity Zone.”

Fran Seegull, CREDIT: IMPACT ASSETS

The law does not specifically require that the investment have a measurable social impact—or any social impact—for that matter, apparently presuming that all investment in Opportunity Zones is a good investment.

The U.S. Impact Investing Alliance and Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation at Georgetown University, fearing that not all investments have a positive impact on the communities have developed a framework for Opportunity Zone investing and impact measurement.

“Opportunity Zones represent a once-in-a-generation opportunity to spur private investment into America’s distressed communities. However, in order for us to achieve the transformational impact we hope for, such as equitable growth and economic opportunity, it is important that those entering this market remain committed to transparency and community engagement,” said Fran Seegull, executive director of the U.S. Impact Investing Alliance.

The Framework has three principal parts: guiding principles, reporting framework and guidelines for measuring impact and outcomes.

The framework document offers five guiding principles:

  1. Community Engagement: Opportunity Fund investors should request that fund managers integrate the needs of local communities into the formation and implementation of the funds, reaching low‐income and underinvested communities with attention to diversity.
  2. Equity: Opportunity Fund investments should seek to generate equitable community benefits, leverage other incentives and aim for responsible exits.
  3. Transparency: Opportunity Fund investors should be transparent and hold themselves accountable, with processes and practices that remain fair and clear.
  4. Measurement: Opportunity Fund investors should voluntarily monitor, measure and track progress against specific impact objectives, identifying key outcome measures and allowing for continuous improvement.
  5. Outcomes: Opportunity Fund metrics should track real change, with an understanding that both quantitative and qualitative measures are valuable indicators of progress.

The reporting framework is intended to apply across a wide range of investors and audiences. The document says, “The Opportunity Zones Reporting Framework contains criteria that represent the shared, common and collective metrics that should be utilized by all stakeholders across the Opportunity Zones landscape.”

The impact and outcomes measurement is defined as a shared objective and suggests that funds define their intended impact up front and measure the corresponding outcomes. For instance, a fund that seeks to invest in entrepreneurs based in the Opportunity Zone should, of course, measure and report on the number of new ventures within it over time.

“The only way we will know if the Opportunity Zones policy is effective is by continuously measuring and proactively evaluating the long-term outcomes,” said Lisa Hall, Fellow in Residence at the Beeck Center. “To truly be successful, we should see measurable evidence of social and economic benefits that accrue to the people who live and work in the Opportunity Zones. This framework is meant to guide investors, fund managers and community stakeholders to make sure that they are contributing to that shared goal.”

Learn my insider secrets for getting media attention for your social enterprise or nonprofit. Click here.


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Omidyar Network Publishes Report on Early Childhood Education, Sees Big Opportunity

Isabelle Hau, a former investment banker at Morgan Stanley (where I originally met her more than a decade ago), now serves as the investment partner for US Education at Omidyar Network. She joined me to discuss a recent report showing the importance of educational intervention at a remarkably early age.

Beginning at 18 months, researchers can identify vocabulary differences in children raised by parents with a college education compared with those who are not. By age five, when children start kindergarten, the difference can be almost too great to overcome.

Children who are not reading and speaking on grade level by the third grade are shown to face greater challenges throughout their lives.

Hau sees an opportunity to invest in children before they start school to level the playing field and give every child an equal opportunity at success in life.

Interview with Isabelle Hau, the Investment Partner, US Education Lead of Omidyar Network.

The following is the pre-interview with Isabelle Hau. Be sure to watch the recorded interview above.

How are you personally affected by Early childhood education?

Twenty years ago, I immigrated to the United States from France.  My access to a quality, public education from a very young age has been transformational. In addition to being raised by a loving family, I was enrolled when three months old into a childcare setting subsided by the hospital where my dad worked. Following, I attended a free, full-time public preschool starting at age 2 ½.  Through these affordable and high-quality programs, I learned not early literacy and early maths, but more importantly all the social-emotional learning skills that have helped navigate my personal and professional journey through guided or unstructured play – creativity, collaboration and conflict resolution, communication, self-control, etc. As a result, I am passionate about early education being one of the most powerful means of creating opportunities for each and every child regardless of gender, race or zip code- “an equalizer from the start of life.”  

What is your take on Early childhood education?

  • The problem. In the US, more than 50% of children of low-income backgrounds are not fully prepared when they enter school. Based on various evidence, a child who starts behind is, unfortunately, more likely to stay behind.  
    • For example, a child who enters kindergarten not fully prepared is 25% more likely not to finish high school and 60% more likely to skip college.
    • Investing in early childhood delivers one of the greatest societal returns, estimated to be 13% ROI by Nobel Prize Jim Heckman.  
    • However, the US spends 0.4% GDP on early childhood vs. 0.8% in average for OECD nations.  On the innovation side, there is an 8x gap between start-ups funded in K-12 vs. early childhood.
  • The time is now. Early childhood education is ripe for a meaningful paradigm shift from scarcity to possibility.
    • On the demand side, we are at a tipping point with more proof, public awareness, and research about the critical years of early childhood which is propelling demand for more solutions for our youngest learners.
      • There has been an 18% increase in public spending over the past two years in early childhood.  And more is coming. We now have 18 new elected Governors who have early childhood on their agenda. In California alone, Governor Newsom recently proposed a $1.8Bn budget focused on early childhood.
      • Parents are now 90% GenY (millennials) and GenZ. They are hyperconnected, informed and social and increasingly expect on-demand parenting information and services, as well as social media interactions. Parents, at least those who have the means, are investing increasing resources in early childhood.
      • Employers are also increasingly paying attention. Seventy percent of working parents are reported to say that access to quality and affordable childcare would have a positive effect on jobs and the economy.  As an example, Starbucks announced in late 2018 a subsidized back-up childcare offering for all of its employees.
      • On the supply side, we need better, and sometimes new approaches to reach each and every child with quality affordable solutions for all.
      • Encouragingly, new talent is entering the early childhood field, and support for entrepreneurial and leadership talent continues to grow.
      • Omidyar Network is proud to have supported over 20 innovators in the field of early childhood – new platforms in home-based childcare, new ways to reach out to parents, models that reach to the most underserved children, new accelerator and incubator, etc.

We have also supported convenings and field-building activities in measurement and assessment, and bridge between academia/research and entrepreneurial activity. Yet we need more.

Get the Report:  medium.com/positive-returns/big-ideas-little-learners-89ab1de95120

More about Omidyar Network:

Twitter: @omidyarnetwork

Facebook: facebook.com/OmidyarNetwork

Website: www.omidyar.com

Omidyar Network is a philanthropic investment firm that invests in and helps scale innovative organizations to catalyze economic and social change. Established in 2004 by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam, the organization has committed more than $1.3 billion to for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations across multiple initiatives, including: Digital Identity, Education, Emerging Tech, Financial Inclusion, Governance & Citizen Engagement, and Property Rights. To learn more, visit www.omidyar.com, and follow on Twitter @omidyarnetwork #PositiveReturns.

Isabelle Hau. Photo Credit: Omidyar Network

Isabelle Hau’s bio:

Twitter: @volcoucou

Linkedin: linkedin.com/in/isabelle-hau-a57175/

Isabelle is an investment partner at Omidyar Network, where she leads the firm’s US education work through an inter-generational approach, investing in quality learning opportunities for both young children and parents.

She has held board seats or observer/advisory committee roles with EdSurge, Ellevation, GeniusPlaza, Holberton School, Khan Academy Kids, Reach Capital, and Tinkergarten in US education, as well as d.light and dr.consulta outside of education.

She joined Omidyar Network in 2012 in investment management.  Previously, she was an executive director at Morgan Stanley, where she worked in venture capital investing in technology companies, and in investment banking.  She also worked at ImpactAssets, a non-profit organization focused on increasing capital flows in impact investing.

Isabelle earned an MBA from Harvard Business School and graduated from ESSEC and Sciences Po Paris. Isabelle was honored as 100 Harvard Business School Women in the Bay Area.


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Big Impact Sometimes Requires ‘Unreasonable’ Goals

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

Unreasonable Impact, a collaboration between Unreasonable Group and Barclays, has its sites set on advancing social entrepreneurship at massive—even unreasonable—scale.

Unreasonable Group founder and CEO, Daniel Epstein, 32, says the world needs to create 212 million new jobs over the next four years to bring idle, mostly young people into the work force and to absorb lost employment from automation and other economic shifts.

At the same time, he notes that the world faces a variety of other societal and environmental challenges.

Be sure to watch the full interview with Epstein in the video player at the top of this article.

Daniel Epstein, Unreasonable Group CREDIT: UNREASONABLE GROUP

Epstein says he’s always believed that entrepreneurs could solve whatever problem we throw at them. The premise of the collaboration, therefore, is that by supporting and driving investment in startups that address social problems, the program can quickly create thousands of jobs to address at least in part the huge gap in employment while addressing social and environmental problems.

Simply put, Unreasonable Impact is a global accelerator for social entrepreneurs.

“Unreasonable Impact runs a series of programs in the UK, US and Asia Pacific that support the scale of growth-stage impact-driven ventures by providing entrepreneurs with the resources, mentorship, and global network they need to rapidly create jobs and address key global issues,” Epstein says.

He reports that its ventures have raised $1.3 billion in funding, have generated $1.1 billion in revenue and have already created 7,000 new jobs.

Some of the enterprises that have raised funds with the Unreasonable Impact effort include Plant Prefab, Lanza Tech and BreezeoMeter.

Epstein is no doomsayer. Ever the optimist, he says, “The future is bright. Forward-thinking businesses are creating new roles and, in some cases, new industries that will sustain the working population for decades to come with jobs we don’t even know exist yet.”

As an example, he points to Vancouver-based Inventys, which he says has the technology required to sequester 2 gigatons of carbon each year. He notes that the world needs to sequester about 7 gigatons so this single solution can play a significant role.

“Barclays and the Unreasonable Group share a belief that today’s high-growth entrepreneurs represent the job creators of tomorrow,” says Deborah Goldfarb, Global Head of Citizenship at Barclays International. “In co-founding Unreasonable Impact, we aim to support a community of inspiring entrepreneurs who are harnessing new technologies that have the potential to employ thousands of people around the world, while also delivering scalable environmental impact – from reducing greenhouse gas emissions to ensuring millions of people now have access to reliable, clean and affordable electricity.”

She notes that thousands of Barclays people are sharing their networks and talents to support the Unreasonable Impact companies. By contrast, Unreasonable Group has just 21 full-time employees plus seven part-time employees and contractors.

For Barclays, Unreasonable Impact is just a part of the broader effort to address global problems. “In 2018, we also launched a dedicated Social Impact Banking Group inside our Investment Bank. This group is advising growth stage positive-impact companies on their businesses while building relationships with sustainability-focused investors across asset classes in order to better understand their needs and connect them with potential investments,” Goldfarb says.

Optimistic and passionate about entrepreneurship, Epstein acknowledges his views on the role of governments around the world has evolved. “Five years ago, I would have been naive and said that the private sector can do it.”

Now, he says, public policy has the potential to help bring the Unreasonable Impact technologies to market more quickly—or to stifle them. He notes, too, that some of the companies have received investment from governments while others sell to governments. Finally, he points out that some of the companies do business in some countries and avoid others because of tax policies and other incentives structures. All this, he says, underscores the important role of government in scaling entrepreneurs’ solutions.

The Unreasonable Impact collaboration is nothing if not ambitious. It will be exciting to see what comes of the partnership over the next few years as companies quickly scale and global problems are addressed.

In the shadow of #metoo, learn how to quickly make your business safe and inclusive for everyone–click here.


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ShariaPortfolio Provides Halal-Compliant Investing Platform


ShariaPortfolio, Inc., operates a halal compliant investment platform that provides a socially responsible investment screen, excluding a variety of “sin” stocks, including alcohol, tobacco and gaming. The investment criteria also exclude highly levered stocks, resulting in some measurable downside protection.

Interview with Aliredha Walji, the Vice President, USA of ShariaPortfolio, Inc.

The following is the pre-interview with Aliredha Walji. Be sure to watch the recorded interview above.

For-profit/Nonprofit: For-profit

Revenue model: ShariaPortfolio has always been a fiduciary, fee-only service firm. With no conflicts of interest, our only revenue comes from the management fee we charge our clients. The exact fee is dependent on the total assets being managed and type of service chosen by the client. Our Express service fee ranges from 0.4 to 0.75% annually while our Access service fee ranges from 0.5 to 1.5% annually.

Scale: We have a total of 13 people on our team currently managing $65M in AUM. We are projected to reach $150M in AUM and roughly 1.3M revenue by FY 2020 any by FY 2022 we hope to achieve $500M in AUM and around 5M in revenue.

What is the problem you solve and how do you solve it?

The Muslim population in the U.S. is projected to grow from 3.45 million in 2017 to 8.1 million by 2050, and despite the growth, Muslims lack access to investment solutions tailored to their religious beliefs. ShariaPortfolio is experienced and well positioned to help this underserved population, offering comprehensive wealth management solutions, robo-advisor service, 401(k) plans for businesses and co-managed accounts for non-Sharia-compliant advisors.

From an investment management standpoint, our historical returns typically thrive in up markets – in 2017 our aggressive strategy outperformed the S&P by 5%.  Perhaps more importantly, we also offer greater downside protection than conventional firms since we do not engage in speculative trading and avoid highly leveraged industries. During the financial crisis of 2008, for example, our most aggressive portfolios were only down around 24%, while the broader markets had dropped almost 37%.

More about ShariaPortfolio, Inc. :

Twitter: @ShariaPortfolio

Facebook: facebook.com/shariaportfolio

Instagram: @shariaportfolio

Website: shariaportfolio.com

ShariaPortfolio, Inc. is a full-service, boutique asset manager specializing in 
Sharia-compliant investing with international expansion plans in 2019. We believe in carefully maintaining social responsibility and emphasizing ethics in our investment choices. We completely avoid industries related to alcohol, tobacco, pornography and gambling. In accordance with Islamic principles, we also shun pork and interest-based finance and avoid businesses whose operations are highly leveraged. We have been in business since 2003 and currently serve clients in over 25 states. We offer a wider range of solutions than other Sharia-compliant investment advisors, and provide customized services not available at most large brokerage shops.

Aliredha Walji

Aliredha Walji’s bio:

Twitter: @AliredhaWalji

Linkedin: linkedin.com/company/shariaportfolio/

Aliredha Walji manages the US operations at ShariaPortfolio, Inc. Based out of the company’s main office in Lake Mary, FL, Aliredha has traveled across the United States presenting on the topic of Halal Investing at a variety of venues, including mosques, personal residences and large conventions. During his tenure at ShariaPortfolio, Aliredha has helped to double the company’s total assets under management, as well as grow the advisor team. He holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Minnesota, a Masters of Business Administration from Crown College, a faith-based institution, and is currently working on a Certified Financial Planning course through the NYU School of Professional Studies.


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If Billionaires Are A Cause Of Climate Change, Social Entrepreneurs Are A Solution

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

GQ’s Luke Darby’s article, “Billionaires Are the Leading Cause of Climate Change,” makes the compelling point that 100 corporations produce 70% of the global greenhouse gas or GHG emissions.

Upon reading that, the first thought that comes to my mind is that climate change should be easy to address, simply because only 100 boardrooms need be convinced to change their ways. Darby argues it won’t be so easy.

Next, I think that corporations have zero incentive to produce GHGs unless consumers are buying up products derived from or requiring emission of GHGs. GM presumably sells lots of Suburbans that get only 15 miles per gallon in the city because people buy them. There is an easy way for us to stop GM from producing Suburbans—stop buying them.

And, let’s note, that a Suburban carrying eight people on a long road trip where the massive vehicle impressively logs 22 miles per gallon is arguably more efficient per passenger (about 176 miles per gallon per person) than my electric Nissan Leaf when I’m driving it alone (99 MPGe on average).

Oil rigs CREDIT: DEPOSITPHOTOS

Still, the argument that powerful corporations could do more than they are to reduce GHG emissions is almost undeniable. The argument—and we need to have it—should be how much more and how quickly should they do more. Such an argument falls outside my Forbes-sanctioned “swim lane” so look to someone else to lead that discussion.

Darby points out that we have only about 12 years “to prevent the worst, most catastrophic elements of [climate change] from wreaking havoc on the world’s population.” He may be right that gambling on large companies to move quickly enough to address these problems is betting against the house.

Instead, I wish to make the point that Harvard’s Clayton Christensen explained more than 20 years ago what is likely to happen in his seminal work, The Innovator’s Dilemma. Startups will innovate and displace behemoths that fail to do so—and real innovation within the massive organization of a large corporation is painfully difficult.

Ford still has a market capitalization of $31.4 billion as I write this. GM’s is even larger at $46.55 billion. Tesla, however, is still larger still at $54.2 billion, despite producing a small fraction of the cars produced by the U.S. auto giants. We seem to be watching the feature film version of The Innovator’s Dilemma playing out in a sort of real-time slow motion. (Full disclosure: I own 60 shares of Tesla).

If Christensen is to be believed, over the next 25 to 30 years, we can expect to see a complete replacement of some of the world’s largest companies, especially those tied to high GHG emissions, like oil and gas companies and some players in the auto industry. While most if not all of them are making investments in clean energy, the dilemma they face between profiting from their legacy businesses and innovating their replacements could be too great for them to succeed.

At the same time, startups with nothing invested and nothing to lose in the production of GHGs, can innovate around them. It will be billionaires who provide at least some of the funding for these startups, providing the economic fuel for their success.

For an example you’re less likely to recognize, Renewlogy is a startup based in Salt Lake City that converts even the lowest quality plastics, including both high-quality plastics that have been degraded by floating in the ocean for years and low-quality plastics like grocery bags that typically aren’t recycled into either diesel fuel or the raw material for food-grade plastic.

Innovation in the renewable energy space is certainly more than I can keep pace with, but I’ve written about solar energy advancements in almost every phase of their design, production, distribution, installation and operation.

Wind energy is already the cheapest source of electricity (but without batteries can’t yet be relied upon for baseload power to the grid). GE, it should be noted, has helped lead innovation in wind turbines and is a major producer—proving that all is not lost for the incumbents.

There are startups in the wind-power arena who are working on affordable rooftop and backyard turbines that could work alongside or in place of rooftop solar where there is too little sun.

Since he published The Innovator’s Dilemma in 1997, much of Christensen’s work has been focused on helping large companies innovate. I hope the 100 big GHG emitters Darby mentioned have Christensen on retainer. They’re going to need him.

In the meantime, I will look to social entrepreneurs to lead the innovations that will solve climate change. Remember, we don’t have to solve climate change with yesterday’s technology or even today’s. The financial incentives have never been bigger. You can count on entrepreneurs and inventors to keep right on innovating in 2019 and beyond—and there is no bureaucracy preventing them from succeeding.


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