By Jean Case, Contributor: For years, a nascent movement led by passionate pioneers out to change the world has been slowly but surely taking shape. Quietly, these early fearless leaders have been championing the idea that businesses can be a tool for social good, beyond the jobs that they create. Specifically, they’ve been building the movement for a new class of investors and entrepreneurs to lock arms and build companies that provide products and services that address daunting social challenges, and generate a financial return for investors. These companies are found in many sectors, including large markets such as education, energy, transportation and healthcare that are ripe for disruption.
It’s still early days. But as I’ve observed the incredible traction and momentum in the impact investing movement over the last 12 months, at this time of year, I can’t help but be drawn to a baseball analogy. From my perspective, the impact investing movement has until recently been in spring training. As we look at how the movement has advanced particularly in the past 12 months, I do know that the regular season is now well underway – and while we may still be playing the early innings, a game is now in progress, and it has been a remarkable year of early home runs.
All-Star Lineups Are Forming
A growing number of widely respected private investors have made important bets on social enterprises in the past year. Bill Gates, Evan Williams, Reid Hoffman and others invested in the latest round for Change.org. Gates, Desh Deshpande, Jim Sorensen and others invested in the India-focused Unitus Seed Fund. Marc Andreessen, who once said he would “run screaming” from a B Corp, invested in Alt School, which is, you guessed it, a B Corp.
They join pioneers like Vinod Khosla, who has been investing in impact companies for a number of years and Nancy Pfund, founder of venture capital fund DBL Investors, who saw early success in two of her “double bottom line” investments—SolarCity and Tesla Motors— both of whom went public. Her portfolio also incudes companies like Revolution Foods, Ecologic and FivePrime. While DBL only invests in companies with the potential to generate profits, investees must also identify their social goals and report on progress twice a year.
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