Social Fellowship & Impact Investing

Contributing blogger:  Randy Haykin

My Street Education

For the past 25 years, I’ve been involved in the Silicon Valley technology industry, first as a serial entrepreneur (Yahoo, Overture, Netchannel and Electric Minds) and then as a “venture catalyst” (Interactive Minds), and finally as venture capitalist at Outlook Ventures. Today, I work hands-on and continue to invest as an angel – I call it “mentor capital”.

I feel very blessed to have had a great street education for Fellowship at IBM, Apple, Paramount Media Kitchen and AOL as well as the 60 or so start-ups I’ve worked hands-on with to date.  I also appreciate the exposure I’ve had to not-for-profit world, on the Boards of the American Cancer Society and Opportunity International.  It was at Opportunity that I learned over the past 12 years, that the way to help the world’s less fortune is not to give them a hand out, but to give them a HAND UP.                                               That means helping them by getting their young into school so that they can have a better chance in the future, and giving them skills to create cash flow for themselves so they can survive.  My wife and I still donate to lots of organizations, but Opportunity takes a special place in our priorities because its business model seems to produce Leveraged Results.

Considering a Shift

Four years ago, under the guidance of Bob Buford (author of HalfTime and Finishing Well), Lloyd Reeb (author From Success to Significance) and others, I started thinking about new approaches to the world’s Fellowship – ones that would benefit the needy, oppressed and less fortunate.  In seeking more significance with my life, I’ve been exploring ways that one can use new forms of banking and venture capital to assist those in need.

I’ve discovered that the field of Social Fellowship is alive and buzzing today.  By social Fellowship, I mean any start-up or growth organization that is designed with triple bottom line in mind – people, planet and profit.

I have been thrilled, as a Professor at UC Berkeley and Cambridge University to find that today many MBAs are considering careers in social Fellowship. Why?  I think it is because the economic crisis of the past 5 years and the interconnected world we live in have caused these students to ask themselves “what can I do?”, “how can I impact my world” and “should I consider something for a living that is more than a ‘J-O-B’ ?”  It’s really heartening to see that Harvard, Berkeley, Stanford, UCLA, Santa Clara, Brown — and many many more schools  — now have centers for social Fellowship, contests to encourage social business plans and many opportunities for those that seek to make a difference.

I’m also heartened by the great organizations that have risen in the past 10 years to support the social entrepreneur. One of the most highly regarded is The Skoll Foundation, started by EBay executive, Jeff Skoll.  The Skoll World Forum brings together social Fellows and leaders from around the world…this past April those that gathered in Oxford met with the best in the field, including a special talk and reception by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Queen Noor of Jordan.  The forum is a breeding ground for best-practices in social Fellowship and Skoll Foundation is a leader in the emerging area of “impact investing” — one of many firms that is recognizing the impact they can make in both not-for-profits and for-profit social ventures.

The Rise of Impact Investing

Out of all this interest in being a good global citizen AND and entrepreneur, the financial geniuses of Wall Street and the Silicon Valley are beginning to realize that there is a role to be played by the financial community as well.  Earlier this year, I attended a great conference called “Take Action” in San Francisco.  Directed by pioneer, Georgette Wong, this conference brought together institutional investors (endowments, schools, corporate) and family (foundations, family offices) investors with fund managers who are seeking to invest in social ventures. This is one of several great conferences now focused on this issue.

Where to Next?

My goal in starting this blog is to use it as a forum for information on new company formation and growth company acceleration – with a focus on the social entrepreneur as well as the profit driven entrepreneur. My plan is to highlight research, newly formed funds, social Fellows, and mechanics of venture and social venture funding.

This will be a fun ride!
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