ELIAN D. ALVAREZ

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Social Venture Capital

Nov
25

Starting a business isn’t easy, and getting funds is even harder. But if your business is involved in social or environmental activities, access to funds is even more difficult. One of the things social enterprises repeatedly talk about is a tough time they face finding people who are interested in giving them funds.

Although, there are different types of investors who are interested in investing in these firms, it is not easy to find capital. However, the trends have started to change in the past few years with the rise of social venture capitals.

 

Social Enterprises

These are organizations that employ commercial strategies to improve the well-being of a society.

They have a revenue generating business set up with two objectives, i.e., to attain social, environmental, and cultural targets and to make profits. On the face of it, many of these firms operate in the similar fashion as traditional businesses. But it’s only when you look more carefully, do you get to see its distinct characteristics, with the social mission being a center point and income generation playing its role as a support system.

 

Social Venture Capital

Social Venture Capital isn’t the same as traditional Venture Capital, as investors seek to look past the profits and risk/reward figures. Some of the common causes supported by them are to have a clean environment, elimination of poverty, and social justice. Instead of keeping their focus on investment returns, they tend to look for ventures that show profitable prospects along with the mission to bring positive change through their product or services.

 

Social VC – Changing the Name of the Game

Normally, traditional VC firms prefer to invest in those emerging businesses that show great potential to grow in monetary terms. So, when the business takes off, it’s a win-win situation for venture capitalists as they retain a portion of profits. Social VC follow the same pattern. They look for startups, assess their product and potential to grow in future. By investing their money, they become entitled to receive an equity share in a business.

According to the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN), there are more than 300 VC firms that seek double bottom line businesses (companies with both profit and social impact). In a survey conducted by GIIN of 125 funds, it was found out that 25 to 50 percent of them follow the VC model or a private equity model.

 

So What Triggered the Social Wave?

Brian Griffiths and Kim Tan said that the social venture capital has partly been triggered by a shift in the role of business in developing countries that have a history of misusing the resources and poverty-stricken members of society. Another reason was the failure of massive aid to bring significant change.

This is why well-off venture capitalists expressed their desire to apply high tech style innovation to their altruism. Chairman of the Big Society Capital, Sir Ronald Cohen, said that impact-investing can balance the course of crime, poverty, and homelessness for green energy, education and a lot more.

 

Traditional VCs Shifting their Focus?

With the emergence of social VCs, a growing interest has been observed in traditional VCs as well. A former Wall Street Journal writer, David Bank, said that institutional funds that have given rise to social VC are looking at markets like sustainable timber, agriculture and green real estate. An eyeglass maker, Warby Parker, donates glasses to these businesses so they can sell it in emerging markets. They managed to secure around $100 million venture capital from Tiger Global Management, Spark Capital, General Catalyst and a lot of other firms.

There are many venture capitalists who are making small investments, for example, an outdoor gear firm, Cotopaxi, attracted $3 million from New Enterprise Associates and several other investors. Overall, it has secured around $9.5 million, showing that Silicon Valley can see the potential to generate returns in these businesses.

Venture capitalists actually get attracted to the fast-paced growth of these businesses, which is gaining popularity with more-than-ever-before socially aware consumers. Social VC is not generating high profits as of now, but it was the same for venture capital funds when they first appeared.