MIT Healthcare Financing Lecture

mit_crest_logoIf 2014 had a narrative arc, it would look like a series of sprints – from obtaining visas, starting a new job, moving apartments to being in a new industry – all leaving me just enough room to catch my breath before the next leg begins. Amongst the many life-sprints that have occurred, one particular sprint has been most unexpected and rewarding – both personally and professionally.

It started in Dec, 2013 – when I received an email from a friend whose paths I crossed during my Nairobi days in late 2012. She offered the opportunity for me to become a guest lecturer at MIT Sana’s spring course on Global Health Informatics to Improve the Quality of Care. They were looking for someone to speak about financing in healthcare in rural/resource-limiting settings. Truthfully, it has never crossed my mind that I would be lecturing at MIT especially at this stage of my career/life, but embracing Sheryl Sandberg’s philosophy of “if you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat! Just get on!”, I accepted and found my way to the MIT campus in the beginning of March to deliver my lecture.

The course itself  “focuses on innovations in information systems to accelerate improvements of health outcomes in developing countries. The course will focus not only on technology and mHealth as it applies to global health, but also on broader issues necessary for the successful deployment of information systems such as quality of care, disease burden, and project management. This is the fourth iteration of the course, which is a collaborative offering from Sana, MIT, Partners in Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard Medical School, and a network of international partner academic institutions located around the globe.” – MIT Sana

During my lecture, 400 students were watching from 45 locations around the world. The lecture itself was a very basic introduction to financing as most of the students do not have finance or investing backgrounds. It will also be turned into an official MOOC edX/MITx curriculum in 2015! If you’re interesting in watching my lecture, it is available online.


Thank you Sarah, for this amazing opportunity.

Responsibilities of an (Impact) Investor

For the past few months, I have been reflecting a lot on my role as an investor. Business plans and proposals come across my desk and as I shift through them, it really struck me on how large a responsibility investors play in accelerating trends, shaping a community or even country’s economy, but yet how little this responsibility is spoken about in the investing circles. We place so much emphasis on finding the right business, the right management team, the right social impact, that sometimes we get lost in our own capacity to recognize what really is innovative and what truly deserves to be funded. So, from my experiences, here’s what I think an investor’s responsibilities are on top of the typical investment work:

1) Investors need to live in the future. 

This is a point I feel very strongly about. If you’re an investor: VC/PE and particularly if you play in the startup and impact investing work, (as Fred Wilson pointed today in his blog post and what Paul Graham said):  you should live in the future and see what is missing. So well said. I’m currently in an environment (yes, I recognize that I am in Africa – so feel free to shower stereotypes), where I know investors who are still using yahoo mail, internet explorer and Windows 2003 (true story!). Not to say that there are anything wrong with the products, but more so – I think it’s so important to be keeping up with the trends in the world, technology being one of them. How can you expect to identify an investment that is ‘ground-breaking’ if you’re not even following the newest trends in your sector? Taking this a step further, if you are following these global trends vs. local trends, it is then our responsibility to seek out entrepreneurs who can close this gap and further elevate the developing world, or the developing world would forever be playing ‘catch up’.

2) Don’t be a sheep. 

This responsibility is particularly important in the impact investing space. Given that we’re playing in a field that is largely uncharted, risk is high and typically, most investors are unable to size up a new market and end up relying on the opinions of other investors. aka. I’ll invest if someone else will too aka. a sheep. Impact investors say that they are risk tolerant, but few translate this tolerance into signing along the dotted line. A very chicken and egg situation. Hence, I have to constantly push myself to understand what is the right balance of being a market leader but also not be a reckless investor. Balance is key.

3) The need to close and disburse faster

There are a lot of delays that occur in [impact] investing. The courting of investors and [social] entrepreneurs, the dance between finding the right termsheet, the issue of making sure that the social impact actually has an impact, and [insert your traditional delays in investing here]. This is the norm. This is my challenge to investors: recognize that the longer the delay, the bigger the strain on the business/organization. From an entrepreneur perspective, you’re constantly watching your ‘runway’ aka. how much money do I have before I run out, and a delayed closing round and disbursement is to the [social] entrepreneur’s disadvantage as well as to their customers. If we’re really standing with the poor, then deals need to close quicker with clear and simple terms, as the longer the delay, the more people are missing out on potentially experiencing the product/service.

This is by no means supposed to be an exhaustive list of responsibilities, but instead ones that I feel are most important given my experience. As investors, we are in a privileged position to start/continue or end trends. I think it’s time that we started thinking a little harder about where our responsibilities lie.

My Week’s Discoveries

1) American Booty – The story of Sara Blakely, the youngest self-made billionaire as founder of Spanx

A hugely inspirational story on the quality of perseverance. Sara only had $5,000 to create Spanx, and she created a company, self-wrote her patent and developed a prototyped. She understood what women wanted. This is a quick 13min video on her story. Love the fact that she believed in her product so much that she never took no for an answer.

2) Why ‘Shared Value’ Can’t Fix Capitalism – Forbes

Thought-provoking commentary to counter Michael Porter’s and Mark Kramer’s idea of ‘Shared Value’. Worth a read to get you thinking about what aspects of capitalism needs ‘fixing’ and what doesn’t.

3) Launch of Women INvesting in Women INitiative (WIN-WIN)Calvert Foundation 

A highly encouraging piece of news that I celebrated for International Women’s Day. Calvert Foundation launched WIN-WIN with $20mm to be invested in high impact organizations and global projects to create financing opportunities for women.

4) Where did social enterprise come from, anyway? GOOD Magazine

Useful summary of the sector, including the legal aspects of social enterprises. Not sure if the founding of Ashoka started carving out the space – my personal take is that Drayton was one of the first that popularized the concept/language. Then again, does understanding of the space come with understanding of language. hm…

5) Tools and Resources for Assessing Social Impact – Foundation Centre

Toolkits and reports galore. From BACO by Acumen Fund to FSG‘s Guide to engaging stakeholders. Seriously great database.

Invest2Innovate: Addressing the Disconnect in the Social Enterprise Space

*The post below was orig­i­nally pub­lished on on Nov 25, 2011

In the social enterprise world, one key issue that constantly resurfaces, as it would in any growing sector, is one of funding and identifying a proper investment pipeline. The accessibility and  availability of start-up funding is crucial to startups, and in the case of social enterprises, a largely untapped market. Here’s whereInvest2Innovate (i2i) comes into the picture. They are a social enterprise intermediary that supports the growth of social entrepreneurship in new markets, helping funders and early stage entrepreneurs see eye to eye.

I had the opportunity to connect with Kalsoom Lakhani the founder and CEO of i2i to interview her about her recently launched social enterprise. A trailblazer and native to Pakistan, Lakhani launched i2i’s pilot in Pakistan in September 2011 with plans to expand operations to other countries post 2012. Here’s what she has to say about her startup and the space:

1) What is most interesting to you right now in the social enterprise space? 
There are many interesting innovations taking place right now – from groundbreaking SMS crowd-mapping tools to agriculture-based innovations for small farmers. Innovative tools & approaches of engaging and empowering low-income communities are coming up constantly. But I’m also extremely interested in the growth of the impact investment space, and where we are right now in terms of the community as an emerging asset class, whether or not this type of investment breeds better social impact metrics, and whether the capital is flowing to the right places. There are still a lot of spaces we need to fill when it comes to connecting capital to social enterprises, particularly at the early-stage, and it’s interesting to see how crowd-funding and other innovative ways of raising capital are becoming potential solutions to help fill that gap.

2) Why start up i2i? Why is this the time to enter into the market? 
i2i was launched in order to help address some of the disconnects in the social entrepreneurship space. Prior to launching the company, I worked in venture philanthropy for over three years, providing seed funding and support to early-stage social enterprises mainly in Pakistan. I was first exposed to the “space” then, and quickly immersed myself in all things social entrepreneurship & innovation. It has been fascinating and motivating to see growing ecosystems in markets like India, Latin America (Mexico, Brazil, Chile are good examples), and East Africa. Beyond higher access to capital (a lot of impact investors operate in these countries), we’ve seen the growth of other players that further support social enterprise – incubators, accelerators, government policies (in some cases), intermediaries, etc.

i2i was founded to take a similar ecosystem approach in the “untapped” markets – that’s a lot of jargon I know, but essentially we provide tailored services to early-stage social enterprises to grow their businesses and connect them to capital. Pakistan, our pilot market, is a great example of a country where there is a significant need for more innovative and market-based approaches to development – 66% of the population live on under $2 a day – but where the environment for social entrepreneurship is relatively new. Entrepreneurs often lack the tools & services to maximize the potential of their models and attract capital, especially in markets like Pakistan, where the volatile political and security situation hurt the investor environment. There is a lot opportunity for i2i, as an intermediary, along with other partner organizations, to be the architects of the ecosystem, fostering the social entrepreneurship space both from the top-down and the bottom-up.

3) What is the biggest misconception you see in the world of social enterprise and where do you stand on the issue? 
I think the biggest misconception in social enterprise is that it’s ok to stop at the “warm & fuzzy” and throw the term around irresponsibly. It drives me crazy. Social enterprise ultimately combines the best of the business and the charity world – it begs the question, “Could we magnify social impact if we take a business approach to development?” Social entrepreneurship is not the solution to everything, but in some cases, it can be really effective. For instance, if rural low-income communities that are off the electricity grid use kerosene as their light and heat source, not only is it a costly product, but it poses terrible health and environmental ramifications. Displacing this demand for kerosene with clean energy solutions provides these low-income communities with better alternatives at comparable prices, ultimately contributing to poverty alleviation. Social enterprises need to demonstrate social and/or environmental impact – that is what tends to qualify the “social” in the equation, but at the end of the day, they are businesses that need to have strong models and be sustainable in the long-term. Sometimes that gets lost in the “warm & fuzzy” stories we hear in the space, which are great in communicating an organization’s vision and building a community of supporters, but there needs to be substance behind that story.

4) What is one action would like people to take once they know if i2i? 
If you are a social enterprise, especially in Pakistan (since that is our pilot), get in touch with us to get an assessment of your business and how i2i can provide services (from business development to communications/marketing) to help your organization grow. If you are a potential investor (both for i2i and/or interested in early-stage enterprises in new markets), we’d love to talk to you! And finally, if you are just a supporter, we are always excited to hear your feedback and make our model better.

Kalsoom is a the founder of invest2innovate based in Washington, D.C. She is a co-ambassador for Sandbox, a global network of innovators under 30, and is also a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers.  She has written for the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, Foreign Policy, and Pakistan’s Dawn Newspaper. Get in touch:

VANCOUVER+acumen Presentation – Making an Impact through Social Finance

For the past year and a half or so, I have been involved with an incredible group, VANCOUVER+acumen. We’re a volunteer chapter supporting Acumen Fund by actively championing Acumen’s innovative model of patient capital to elevate global poverty. We achieve this by engaging in community, ranging from informational workshops, monthly salons and our annual case competition. As one of the founding members, it has been a great privilege to work alongside such passionate individuals in this space and to continue to create a world beyond poverty.

I’m really excited to announce that I will be speaking at the inaugural Canadian Global Impact Investing meetup in Vancouver on behalf of the group – sharing the acumen model (both on a global and chapter level) to the impact investing community in Vancouver. The event will be held on Wednesday, Nov 23rd from 6:30pm – 9pm at SFU Segal Graduate School of Business in downtown Vancouver. You can check out more details about the event here.

Three other organizations will also be presenting at the event: Vancity, Global Catalyst Initiative and Opportunity International Canada. Also, at the event, they will be giving away door prizes ( 2 books I couldn’t recommend highly enough): Impact investing: Transforming How We make Money While Making a Difference – Jed Emerson, Antony Bugg-Levine and Banker to the Poor – Muhammad Yunus.

See you on the 23rd. Looking forward to connecting with other fellow impact investing/social enterprise champions.

An Interview with Antony Bugg-Levine: Embracing Impact Investing

*This post was originally published on on Aug 26, 2011

I had the privilege to speak with Antony Bugg-Levine, Managing Director of the Rockefeller Foundation, Board member of the Global Impact Investing Network and one of the thought leaders and influencers in impact investing. He leads the Foundation’s impact investing team that works to harness the capital and expertise of investors making “impact investments” that generate a social and financial return. This in an insider interview to his book, Impact Investing: Transforming How We Make Money While Making a Difference. This book was co-authored with Jed Emerson, an executive atImpactAssets, Senior Advisor with the Sterling Group (Hong Kong) and a senior fellow with the Center for Social Investing at Heidelberg University. In our conversation, he shared key highlights in the book as well as his hopes for the book. Note: This interview is being posted in three parts; stay tuned for Part II and Part III over the next few days.

1) The premise of the book is on impact investing. How do you intend for people to read this book? What mindset should people be in?

Firstly, this book is not a ‘How-to’ guide for practitioners or investors who are looking for simple guidelines on how to construct an impact investing portfolio. There are other guidelines or resources that are available for that. We step back from the day-to-day work of constructing a portfolio of impact investments, but instead ask the more fundamental questions about how impact investing, as a new approach to addressing social problems and deploying capital, is disrupting our existing systems. The book is constructed in two parts.

Part 1, The Terrain of impact investing, takes a quick overview of impact investing’s historic and current role in the following sectors

  1. Accelerating the growth of microfinance
  2. Supporting the international development agenda
  3. Helping to build the social enterprise sector

In each of these cases, we examine how impact investing is generating opportunities as well as a set of challenges and questions.

In Part 2: The Implications of impact investing, we examine the fundamental systems around which our society is organized and how, one after another, they are going to need to change to accommodate the aspirations of impact investing and to take advantage of the potential that this field offers.

This is really the core of the book: In our society, especially in the West in the past 50 years, we have organized our society around two fundamental pillars that support our current systems:

  1. The only way to solve a social problem is through philanthropy and the government
  2. The only purpose of investing is to make money

If you accept these two fundamental pillars, then the system we currently have makes sense, and will support your activity. However, if you believe in the fundamental premise of impact investing, that we can integrate our investment and our social purpose, then these systems do not work. So in the book we highlight how impact investing is challenging various systems to change: the legal system, the philanthropic system, the system by which we develop leaders, our capital markets and our systems for measuring value.

We provide a framework for thinking about the new systems we will need to build. We think what is really exciting about impact investors is the opportunity to build a new set of systems to realize the great potential of impact investing.

However, we are not overly prescriptive partly because we don’t claim to have all the answers. We do not know, between Jed and myself, exactly what these systems need to be, but there are clear guidelines on how as a community, we have to engage on this.

2) What do you hope this book would inspire people to do? What is the next step? Spread the word? Become actionable? Start building systems?


Everyone has a different role to play. Every human system in which we live is the result of both intentional decisions we make and unintentional actions we take. We believe that anyone reading the book has the ability to participate.

If you are a student, you could challenge institutions in which you are learning to not fall back on easy stereotypes, but rather recognize the great potential in combining social impact and investing.
If you are fortunate to be a holder of wealth, you could read the book and challenge your wealth advisor to not give an easy answer that rejects how you can put your investments to work towards a social purpose.
If you work in the financial services sector, we hope you consider putting your skills to work to build a more efficient social capital market.

At the same time, we are not so naïve as to think that reading this book would inspire many people to change their current life path – and we don’t think you need to. In the book, we profile some inspiring heroes who have stepped out of mainstream work to pioneer new institutions and approaches, including Canadian based Sarona Asset Management and Social Capital Partners. However, we don’t believe that impact investing is a domain only for radicals.

We recognize that in order to be truly powerful, impact investing needs to be accessible to regular people as well. We emphasize in the book that we don’t want to perpetuate the idea that only the most revolutionary or entrepreneurial people have a right to be part of impact investing. Leadership is going to come in many forms, and not only from the charismatic individuals who start new enterprises or quit their jobs. Instead, we anticipate it will come from the many more thousands of people who can embrace impact investing at whatever scale they are able to.

3) What do you think this field is picking up momentum only now, given that it has been around for years? Why do you think people are realizing the importance of this space so late?

Impact investing has been going on for decades — but the coining of the phrase “impact investing” around four years ago has allowed different communities to share their aspirations under a common language and to come together more visibly.

In the book, we talk about this phenomenon. Many people are increasingly frustrated with business-as-usual approaches. There is a growing number who do not think that the model of philanthropy their parents adopted is enough.  At the same time, we talk about a new generation of people who have been raised within the social enterprise movement and seek to integrate business and social purpose throughout their career, not in sequence.

In addition, the recent financial crisis has shaken people’s confidence in old approaches. Governments, also, are increasingly intent on figuring out how to do more with less, and are mobilizing impact investing capital to complement government spending.

4) If you had one message for this community, what would it be?

Let us all go from rhetoric to action. We need to see real deals proliferate that generate social impact and financial return. We also need to recognize that we are part of a longer-term movement to change the fundamental systems and mindsets that currently limit us.

5) What was your favorite aspect in working on this book?

It has been a great honor and intellectual privilege to work with my co-author, Jed. He’s a real visionary. By its nature, impact investing will be best when it brings together people from different perspectives, even if that is not always the easiest and most comfortable way to work. For me, working with Jed was a real-world manifestation of this idea—we brought different perspectives and experiences to the process and challenged each other to both broaden and sharpen our ideas. I hope the result is more interesting and insightful for our readers.

Antony Bugg-Levine is the co-author, with Jed Emerson, ofImpact Investing: Transforming How We Make Money While Making a Difference (Wiley, 2011) which will be released in early September and is available now for download as an e-book. The opinions expressed in this article do not represent the official views of any institution with which he is affiliated.

Photo credit: Jai Catalano

SOCAP, Here I come!

I am SO excited to announce that I have the privilege to cover SOCAP 2011 Conference in San Francisco on behalf of I’ve been following the conference from afar for the last few years and to be attending and writing about the conference is one of my dreams come true! (Thank you socialearth & SOCAP!)

SOCAP is a organization dedicated in exploring the intersection of money and meaning. Their annual conference in San Fran is THE event to attend for leading global investors, innovators, curators and social entrepreneurs to build this social capital markets space.

I will be publishing a few pre-conference pieces and will write throughout the conference on I will also be live tweeting during some key speeches (will be revealing who as the conference draws closer!) – so follow me on twitter if you want to be updated! If you are planning on attending, presenting or speaking at the conference, I would love to be in touch. You can contact me here. I would seriously love to hear from you.

My goal at the conference not only includes highlighting and reporting the event, but to also: 1) deepen my personal understanding of this intersection; 2) meet other individuals who are passionate about this cause and 3) learn about opportunities and initiatives in this intersection of money and meaning. Who knows what we may create after this!

Check out more about the conference here.

Register here!

Design at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Segmenting the Base

I currently work in the financial sector, specifically asset management – and although the nature of my work doesn’t really focus on the Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP), I’ve made it my personal mission apart from work to be absorbing, learning, writing, designing, discussing, reading, and (insert other synonyms of previously listed adjectives here) issues at the BoP… and somewhere in that discovery have found a sweet spot in social enterprises and impact investing.

What I have been drawing on my current position and my research on the side is an interesting perspective from both ends of the specturm: capitalist vs. social. I did want to share today (coming from this double ended perspective) is my practical idealism and thoughts on answering the question of: How can I design/frame/create solution(s) that would help the BoP improve their standard of living. (I was also inspired by this post on OpenIDEO on designing for low-income communities)

This question has been one that has been asked over and over again and I would like to throw my thoughts into the stirring pot particularly in the area of segmenting the BoP.  This would be Part 1 of X and I would like to preface my thoughts by stating that the most important piece in this design is designing the solution around the terms of the BoP – taking into account culture, resources, country mentality/beliefs, business environment and politics. Anything that we design or create to help this segment has to be very very good and on their terms in order to be sustainable ( although now I wonder whether this is even possible – after all capitalism is a broken structure in itself. But I digress!).

Creative Commons License photo credit: Jametiks

I have narrowed it down into three ways to segment the BoP:

1) Living Standard:

Those living at the BoP can be sliced into three main categories: Low Income – $3-$5 a day; Subsistence – $1 – $3 a day; and Extreme poverty – Under $1 a day. Often, this ecosystem is overlooked and are lumped into one. Most aid, social enterprises and businesses only affect the Low Income portion of the segment as they provide affordable services and products that require a financial exchange. If some businesses are really lucky, they get to skim on the surface of the subsistence group with enough scale and good management. Some social or local enterprises manage to hit this second group indirectly through local community or supply chain engagement. As for those in extreme poverty, lack of nutrition, finances and limited education make them the most vulnerable. This is where governmental relief programs and non-profits step in. So how can we design social businesses that target all three groups?

I know some businesses hope to achieve this by scale, but perhaps another way to look at it would be to design into the business structure from the start a waterfall effect of each group helping to elevate the next as they are being given a hand up.

2) Value-Creation

Another way of segmenting the BoP is through value creation: consumers, producers and co-producers. By understanding the roles we play in the pyramid, we can then understand the incentives that drive each group. Income, basic needs, material wants. The first two groups are self-explanatory. However, the third requires more than just business structure. It requires a shift in our perspective and approach and considering the poor as equals in our shared humanity. We are co-producers and the BoP are no longer receivers of what we give them. This third value-creation group is perhaps the most important as numerous businesses have stumbled by failing to understand their role as a co-creator of value. All too often, they see their responsibilities end with the provision of a service or product but really, their role is so much more.

When I was working on the ground with an orphanage in Soweto, South Africa one of the key lessons I took away was to always know where you are creating value and to never try to be everything to everyone. You often find in brainstorm sessions that everyone always has a vision to be the hub, to offer everything – which is what I saw in this orphanage. They wanted to help kids with nutrition, provide money for education, counselling and often you’ll find in development sectors, there will always be something to do and to help in. Before you know it, you’ll be running around trying to catching all the falling pieces and wonder how you even got there in the first place. The key is knowing where we can design value. It might only be in one area – and that’s ok!

3) Need – Classification

The final segmentation is by need, and really draws on the first two to set a base of what is required. Needs classification breaks down into more macro pieces like: education, nutrition, housing, health, technology. Because the BoP’s needs are many, a business who is segmenting by this sector should enter a community by providing outstanding understanding of value…and that value should be a hand up for sustainability and empowerment.

Segmenting by need also means that the business’s ability to design the intersection of social and comercial value matters even more. This is because designing needs, means partnerships with other organizations, governments or businesses who might not have the same vision as we do.


What’s exciting is that at the end of the day, a new future is slowly being designed and sculpted in both developing and industrialized countries exploring the Base of the Pyramid. Now it’s really up to us to make sure we’re designing it right with all the right pieces in mind.

An Interview with SOCAP co-founder: Kevin Jones

In the impact investing space, one of my biggest areas of interest has been looking into ways on how to increase the momentum and mainstream interest in this area. What I have been discovering is that the knowledge gap between social and financial is alot wider than I initially anticipated it to be. On one end, we have people with huge hearts who are willing to give all their time and money for great causes, but not necessarily thoroughly understanding what social finance/patient capital/impact investing really is. I’ve had countless of conversations with individuals, particularly students, who want to gain experience in this area but unfortunately, demand is greater than supply at the moment. On the other end, we have people who are focused on the profit ( and I’m not saying there is anything wrong with this) end of a business and struggle to take into account the social impact of their work because at the end of the day – it simply takes away from the bottom line.

What all these conversations have given me though, is firstly an understanding that in order to contribute to the impact investing space, I would have to know my own goals better, know my areas of interest and most of all, know what I have to give and gain by being in this space. It is simply not enough to have the heart for this. I have to be honest – with myself and with what we are able to accomplish. I have to know my limits and be humble enough to admit what I actually do and don’t know and do my best to learn what that social capital continuum looks like. I want my idealism to be practical and actionable.

All that being said, I believe that one of the biggest ways to advance this space is to be as open as possible about discoveries that we know. From performance metrics to new initiatives. The impact investing space needs to reach a mass tipping point before it can truly hit mainstream and although we are picking up momentum, we’re not there yet. One of the forums that I admire and has provided a great platform for this sharing of ideas is Social Capital Markets – an annual conference in San Fran that connects global innovators, investors and entrepreneurs. They recently expanded into Europe this year and I had the privilege of covering some pre-conference stories for them. Below is an interview I had with SOCAP co-founder Kevin Jones for SOCAP Europe originally written for a couple weeks ago. I do hope to meet him in person one day and really admire his tenacity and passion for this space. You can view the original post here. Also, Check out the movement that SOCAP has been creating here.

Register here!


In my last post on SOCAP Europe, I wrote about the space, the need and the movement for social capital markets. Since, I had the opportunity to interview Kevin Jones, the co-founder and convener of SOCAP Markets. A remarkable visionary, here is what he has to say about his take on SOCAP, a 10 year vision and his number-one advice to social entrepreneurs:

Q: I love the fact that SOCAP is taking on a more international scene by having one in Europe this year. Can you shed some light on the development trends that you are starting to see on an international scale and how this would impact us here in North America?

A: The biggest trend is toward impact investing being taken seriously by mainstream finance.  At SOCAP Europe, we will have large $100 million plus fund of funds announcing they are integrating impact investing into their portfolios, two banks, one large and mainstream, abn amro, and one deeply mission aligned, triodos are on board as sponsors. Pension funds are also at the table. The issue for impact investing is going mainstream and avoiding losing their mission, what I call avoiding mission risk, the ben and jerry’s problem. Avoiding a microfinance scenario.

Another big thing is that renewable energy in the developing world is becoming a clearly investable sector. A new, not published yet report by McKinsey commissioned by mid-year pegs that potential at $6.5 billion. The upside to renewable energy is that it is a public good, in places like rural Africa and rural India; you are removing kerosene lamps that kill 1.5 million people a year through indoor air pollution, cutting power costs by around 1/3 and doing it at high margin.  Unlike microfinance which became a derivative and allowed investors to demand an unreasonable return on their equity to the point that it exploited the poor in some places, there is no chance to saturate the rural African village market with life saving electricity that enhances a family’s ability to be productive. The report pegs that market size at $6.5 billion, but it will be a week before we can use that figure.

Q: You’ve been in the social investing/enterprise space for a while now, and noted in one of your more recent interviews on how the space is continuing to grow on both ends of the spectrum. What do you believe is the biggest barrier/challenge for this environment?

A: What is the biggest challenge? It’s still mindset, the inherited cultural frame in which people think about investing. They feel justified thinking only about financial return on their money and then they do good in giving. On the other hand, I am really encouraged by new research from NESTA that says 39% of folks in the U.K. would take a lower financial return if they could invest alongside what they believe, for causes they care about. and that the percentage goes up dramatically for people under 40.

That said, there will be failures, and people should be ready for them. Not just scams like three cups of tea seems to be, but things go wrong. So hopes could be dashed, etc. if people are naive. We are working on the toughest problems of the world. In new ways, with new tools, but they are still the things that put us all at risk.

Q: SOCAP is a conference that brings together the intersection of money and meaning. How does this conference fit into the picture of bridging the gap between for-profit and nonprofit and where do you see the ideal form of collaboration between these two groups?

A: SOCAP is about bringing all the resources into the market and using what’s appropriate to get the job done. Many if not most social enterprises often start out needing donations or subsidies, or as a non profit working on a problem, a way to pay for the mission without relying only on program money from a foundation creates the need for earned income that then grows into a social enterprise that could be investable as they work out the model.  But the market does not solve all problems. Take malaria: the young mothers and children one to five who comprise 80% of the nearly 3 million who die every year in Sub-Saharan Africa (some say 1 million) do not have and are  not likely soon to have the money to buy insecticide treated nets. So they need to be subsidized.

SOCAP is about using gifts and grants where they are appropriate and when they are appropriate and subsidies that go away over time when that is the way to go, soft debt from mission focused, often non profit lenders like a Root Capital or E+Co when its appropriate and fast moving, catalytic venture capital like equity from an impact investment fund where it is the answer. SOCAP is a big tent event where people who work in silos come together to get more done than they could alone or working with the people they already know or run into in their regular course of work. It’s the gathering that incorporates giving and investing as twin forces for good for a world that needs all the help it can get.

Q: What is your 10 year vision for the social enterprise/impact investing space?

A: What is my 10-year vision… that mixing your money with your meaning will be the way most people think about investing. That a mindshift has taken place. That boomers will contribute to the efforts of millennials who want to change the world they have inherited from us.

Q: What is your #1 advice to social entrepreneurs/enterprises?

Start. Do it now. Fail fast, and fail smart. If you are not relentless, you will not make it. this needs to be not just your peace corps stint. This has to be the way you approach the world. When I started good capital six years ago, I went to the smartest investor in this space that I knew. He told me and Tim, my partner:

– Our idea was wrong
– Our plan was flawed
– We were the wrong guys
– Our chances for failure were high
– And he did not want his name associated with us.

People tell you that all the time when you are an entrepreneur, the more disruptive your approach the more likely smart guys will give you that reaction. and they may be right. Your idea may be wrong, your plan flawed, you might be the wrong guy. But if you need to do this, if its baked into who you are that this is the way you approach the world, and what needs to be done, you will do it anyway. Not everyone should be an entrepreneur. Most people should be employees or help the visionary reach her goals. It takes a certain level of insanity to go against the common wisdom. If you are afflicted with too much sanity you won’t survive as an entrepreneur.

Q: And just for fun: What is your favorite quote?

A: Probably one from Dirty Harry, “A man has to know his limitations.”


For more information about Kevin and SOCAP Europe, visit


SOCAP Europe: An intersection. A conference. A movement.

I’ve recently caught the writing bug and realized how incredibly enlightening writing is to organize and share my thoughts. I had the opportunity to start writing for, a fresh entrepreneurial and socially mindful weblog originating down in the states and below is my recent piece on SOCAP. You can view the original publication here.


Capitalism, as we know it, has evolved to focus on a one dimensional view of human nature – the pursuit of profit and self preservation. The emergence of the industrial revolution capitalized on this one dimensional theory, where humanity has been persuaded that the best way to attain happiness is to enthusiastically embrace this theory and subsequently transform ourselves into a profit driven generation. In the later part of the 20th century, a powerful movement called globalization swept across the world and the evolution of capitalism was solidified globally. The world now trended towards a ‘global’ economic system which resulted in the widening gap between the rich and poor and between developed and developing countries.

Today, the majority of the world is so entranced with the success of capitalism and the wake of globalization that we have forgotten the true line between what is reality and theory. We  have forgotten that at the end of the day, people are multi-dimensional beings and we are slowly coming to an awakening to what has been deeply intertwined in humanity all this time: the need for meaning. Thus, the emergence of the non-profit sector. A section on the other end of the capitalist spectrum to fulfil humanity’s search for meaning.

However, this purely double ended spectrum with purely charitable capital at one end and for-profit capital at the other is breaking down. Instead, a continuum is slowly taking its place. As SOCAP’s website states, “A new form of capitalism is arising that recognizes our ability to direct the power and efficiency of market systems toward social impact.” We are moving beyond the myopia of pure financial returns with the understanding that not every business or market is bound to serve the single objective of profit maximization and that not every non-profit is bound to serve the single objective of service.

On May 30th to June 1st, progressive impact driven investors, social entrepreneurs and innovators are gathering in Amsterdam at the historic site of the first stock exchange, to discover what it means to be at the intersection of money and meaning. The conference, Social Capital Markets Europe, is a collaboration of co-creation and vigorous due diligence to produce an output of over 70 panels and workshops tracking 7 key themes including: impact investing, investing in fragile states and the middle east, infrastructure and innovation, social funding, stories of social enterprise and technology for social change.

SOCAP Europe aims to create a platform at which “investors gather to collaborate and learn from others who are finding a way to invest their money for financial return as well as for the benefit of people and the planet; where entrepreneurs come to find out who has made a break through and who their next partner or next investor could be” – Kevin Jones, Co-founder of SOCAP . Much of the discussion at SOCAP Europe is expected to focus on the social-capital continuum and to discover, for any given social goal, which sort of social capital, or mix of different sorts of it, is most likely to succeed.

“Triodos Bank, Doen Foundation, Voxtra, Root Capital, Unltd, Blue Orchard Finance,, and OPIC are among the pioneering organizations that will be present at SOCAP/Europe. The gathering’s collaborative format will include problem-solving discussions, game-changing funding model exploration, and opportunities to delve into world-class case studies in entrepreneurial innovation” – SOCAP Europe

The notion of social capital markets can seen idealistic, because it is a disruptive idea to capitalism as we know it. There is a compelling case for exploring this continuum. I think there is also a compelling case in our self-interest to do so. We have already waited for far too long. The time to start this social capital movement is now. Let the discovery begin.