Impact Investing in Action Takeaways

Last week we participated in Agora Partnerships' Impact Investing in Action conference held at Georgetown’s business school. Planting Empowerment was invited to pitch as one of the “top early stage, for-profit companies creating social value around the world”. 

It was heartening to see more investing and actions being taken to support startup social ventures. The 21 companies presenting were collectively pursuing more than $50,000,000 of investment to further scale their businesses. Interestingly, the Inter-American Development Bank was heavily represented, mostly because the conference’s focus on Latin America. However, they’re investing very little into the companies that presented (but are investing indirectly through already established funds).

The topic of measuring impact continues to be a focus and a favorite of many. All of the companies that went through Agora’s accelerator came with a GIIRS score. While admirable, not one investor asked about a GIIRS score during the deal room presentations we attended. This makes us think that measuring impact still seems like an ivory tower proposition for most companies and potential investors. It’s important, yes, but is it worth the extra costs and time commitments for an entrepreneur to do if it doesn’t make their companies more attractive?

While most impact funds are looking for deals between $500,000-$5 million, there does seem to be slightly more capital flowing towards enterprises looking for less than $500,000. We expect that the growth of equity crowdfunding will increase support for SMEs at the startup level, and hopefully bridge them to mezzanine-level, where there seems to be plenty of capital looking for deals.