Social Impact, the New Venture Capital? Harvard Business Review

My work at Mason has allowed me to engage daily with amazing people and organizations in the fields of social innovation, entrepreneurship and the growing sector of social impact investing. Some thoughts on impact investing from Cohen and Sahlam in HBR:

We believe we are on the threshold of a major change not unlike the early days of the modern venture capital industry. In the mid-1960s and early 1970s, a new type of investment vehicle was created: the professionally managed venture capital partnership. This organizational innovation drew investment capital from institutional players like pension funds and endowments and allowed for appropriate time horizons. Soon venture capital became a core part of many economies and those bold moves changed everything. Entrepreneurship has never been the same.

Just as the formation of the venture capital industry ushered a new approach and mindset toward funding innovation within the private sector, impact investment has started to bring opportunities to harness entrepreneurship and capital markets to drive social improvement. This in time will bring much needed change to the social sector.

We’re already beginning to see innovation. People are developing new securities that link social performance to financial returns. There are new experiments — models that use the tools of finance to try things in different ways — sometimes creating income streams from novel concepts, like funding cancer research. There are also hybrid organizations like the Acumen Fund, Bridges Ventures and Root Capital that channel patient capital to high social return investments around the world. There are even organizations like Endeavor and Social Finance that help entrepreneurs gain access to global capital markets to fuel growth in employment and social impact.

via Social Impact Investing Will Be the New Venture Capital – Sir Ronald Cohen and William A. Sahlman – Harvard Business Review.

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Global Social Venture Competition Call for Entries | #socent #socinn

The Global Social Venture Competition is calling for entries. Deadline is 30 Global Social Venture Competition ImageJanuary 2013. “The Global Social Venture Competition (GSVC) provides aspiring entrepreneurs with mentoring, exposure, and $50,000 in prizes to transform their ideas into businesses that will have positive real world impact. In 2012, GSVC received over 600 entries from 50 countries.”

Here are a few of the eligibility rules.

Submitted ventures should plan to be financially sustainable or profitable; whether it is a commercial business or a tax-exempt organization, your venture must have plans to be self-sufficient on earned revenue.

Submitted ventures must be scalable long term. This criterion will mean different things for each business plan. Scalability will take into account the potential for growth of the business, both financially and in its social impact.

Submitted ventures must have a quantifiable social and/or environmental bottom line incorporated into their mission and practices.

Your team must include a graduate student current or within two years of graduation as of December 31, 2012 from any masters-level or post-graduate higher education program in any area of study in the world; the student must be actively involved in the venture i.e., actively participating in development of the business plan or actively working on the business.

Looking forward to tracking this one and supporting teams from Startup Mason and Mason Center for Social Entrepreneurship as they get involved.

via Global Social Venture Competition.

Social Impact Bonds Webinar Panel | Video | #SOCENT

Doing some work on a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) for the Mason Center for Social Entrepreneurship and came across this interesting video on social impact bonds. Worth checking out.

Social Impact Bonds Webinar Panel – YouTube.

Will This Change Life for Millions | $9 Cardboard Bike Supports 485lbs | #SOCENT

Pretty amazing example of the power of creativity in the world economy versus labor and capital.

An industrial designer, Izhar Gafni, has created a $9 bike made out of cardboard that can carry riders up to 485 pounds. This has the ability to affordable make transportation available to millions around the world.  Hopefully they can set up local production, sales, and service globally to support employment and provide opportunity globally. Very cool social innovation.

The Alfa weighs 20lbs, yet supports riders up to 24 times its weight. It’s mostly cardboard and 100% recycled materials, yet uses a belt-driven pedal system that makes it maintenance free. And, maybe best of all, it’s project designed to be manufactured at about $9 to $12 per unit (and just $5 for a kids version), making it not only one of the most sustainable bikes you could imagine, but amongst the cheapest, depending on the markup.

 

via This $9 Cardboard Bike Can Support Riders Up To 485lbs | Co.Design: business + innovation + design.

Izhar cardboard bike project from Giora Kariv on Vimeo.

Venture Camp: Entrepreneurship Summer Series

The last session of the Mason Center for Social Entrepreneurship’s Summer Venture Camp is 1 August 2012.  Join us as we uncover the role that universities and colleges can play in helping you launch your career as an entrepreneur. What can we learn from Facebook, Google, Nike, and other campus based startups? What is available to everyone in the DC Metro (NoVa, MOCO, Baltimore etc)

Venture Camp: Entrepreneurship Summer Series – Eventbrite.

Financing Social Entrepreneurs | Guardian Sustainable Business | guardian.co.uk

Nice piece to think about from the Guardian on financing social ventures:

When social entrepreneur Luke Dowdney needed to raise funds two years ago to support Fight for Peace, the charity he founded that teaches boxing and martial arts to at-risk youth to reduce violence in gang-ridden communities, he didn’t go the usual route of looking for donations. Instead he launched LUTA, a martial arts-based sportswear company featuring street wear created by young designers from the tough Brazilian neighbourhoods where Fight for Peace began.

In doing so, Dowdney raised just under £1m in investment from seasoned investors who loved the idea. Half of the profits from LUTA go to support the charity, providing much needed funds at a time when other charities were seeing donations dry up during the financial crisis. And the business provides street cred and useful publicity for the charity.

Dowdney’s solution is typical of the kind of creative business and financial innovation that social entrepreneurs are increasingly adopting to stay afloat, and indeed to thrive.

Social entrepreneurs often struggle with the dilemma of how to raise finance. Should they be a charity, and seek donations? Or a business and look for commercial funding? They are driven by a social mission, but traditional philanthropy doesn’t provide them with a stable, long term source of finance. At the same time, commercial investors neither understand nor trust them, many believing that “social” means “soft” and is usually a polite word for “loss-making.

via Financing social entrepreneurs | Guardian Sustainable Business | guardian.co.uk.

The Case for a Trillion $ BoP Housing Market | #socent #socinn

Just read about a new e-book, The BIG IDEA: Global Spread of Affordable Housing from the Next Billion and their partners at Ashoka. Global housing (think slums, lack of legal rights, utilities, etc.) is an enormous issue with huge opportunities for social entrepreneurs and innovators. From SocialEarth:

Several months ago, NextBillion teamed up with one of our Content Partners, Ashoka Full Economic Citizenship, for a Twitter chat. Our mission: Source the most innovative and successful thought leaders and practitioners addressing the multiple challenges and market solutions to affordable housing and post their examples and ideas on our site to share with hundreds of thousands of our readers globally.

The discussion was lively, and ideas tumbled out even faster than your typical Twitter chat. It’s hard to find a topic with more complexities and more relevance to the poverty alleviation puzzle than affordable housing. From financing to land rights, from market incentives to build new homes to rehabilitation of self-built dilapidated dwellings, from new eco-friendly building materials to new social-business models that ensure sustainable and profitable development , affordable housing is a complex ecosystem with all its intricacies.

via New Ebook: The Case for a Trillion Dollar BoP Housing Market | SocialEarth.