Monthly Archives: August 2009

Why we need Social Investors

The latest Time Magazine has a great article about social entrepreneur Reed Paget and his startup Belu that has grown from $13,000 in 2004 to nearly $4 million in 2008 while providing water in corn based bottles that can be composted and redeploying its profits to projects that bring clean water to deserving regions of the world.

In the article Paget says it was important “to remove the ‘We must maximize profit’ from our management system.” His objective is to provide maximal social and environmental benefit, like social businesses defined by Yunus. However the challenge for him is finding socially motivated investors. Over the past several years he has managed to raise $2.5 Million in 32 painstaking rounds of funding. Even environmental charities like Greenpeace do not see it in their purview to fund startups like his.

This is a classic example of the type of opportunity that makes business and social sense but is left hanging as there are not enough socially motivated investors willing to take this early stage risk. As we mentioned in earlier posts, this new market segment badly needs socially conscious investors who are willing to support early stage companies and to take a lower economic rate of return in exchange for greater social/environmental impact. Like Belu, many socially motivated businesses struggle with fundraising expending precious resources in multiple rounds of incremental funding instead of focusing on building and scaling their businesses.

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Responding to Clayton Christensen’s article on Government’s potential role in Social Innovation

My recent post on Clayton Christensen’s article on Social Innovation resulted in several comments and responses questioning the appropriate role of the government in fostering social innovation. I do believe there is a role for government to play in encouraging growth in this sector. I believe the Office of Social Innovation is a well intentioned attempt by Obama of putting Social Innovation on the nation’s agenda. I also believe that the government should try to be a transparent facilitator where needed and then get out of the way and let the market work its way.

The single most critical issue for a young, startup social entrepreneur is the lack of a well structured ecosystem to encourage social innovation. This is where the government can play a significant role. Some of the things it can do are to: Continue reading

Some thoughts on Clayton Christensens article on Social Innovation

Clayton Christensen, who has written extensively on a number of strategic ideas, recently opined in The Huffington Post about the potential role the White House Office of Social Innovation could play. (The article was co-authored by Vanessa Kirsch who founded New Profit – an interesting organization itself espousing a venture philanthropy model) Continue reading