As we pack away the conference materials, we are reflecting on the conference year-to-year growth. When we made a risky decision three years ago to cap conference attendance at 250 people, we actively chose not to scale ticket sales, but rather to try to grow deeper and more grounded conversations. This year felt like it was the harvest of that decision; also a feeling that is reflected in the feedback surveys. Across the spectrum of attendees, from investors to financial institutions, and to the impressive social entrepreneurs, the conversations reflected more lessons learned; more interaction; more focused groups and breakouts, with the result that more experience and wisdom were shared.
In the room were participants from 27 countries. This year 61% of Impact Days participants were investors: 49% representing private capital and 13% representing institutional or charitable investors.
New developments on the capital side: family principals across generations sharing the ongoing journey towards full alignment of their portfolio to an impact focus. While a small percentage of private banking clients have always been able to direct capital towards particular goals, a deeper and more democratized demand is now being met, with new product offerings across all asset classes: in Sustainability Bonds, in Real Assets, in sector-specific funds with larger investment tickets, and an new awareness that even cash accounts can be working for the greater good. Pymwymic’s core investor focus continues to be investing into system-change entrepreneurs with risk capital, where personal intention aligns with investment goals. We celebrated our 20th birthday, not by looking backward but forward, towards the possibilities of what 20 years forward might bring.
New developments on the product side: opportunity exists now in all asset classes. The deeper conversation was about the authenticity of those offers. More on these questions below.
Overall Conference Themes:
- Full Alignment: The primary theme of this year’s conference was the ongoing journey towards full alignment of capital and intention. (Put Your Money Where Your Meaning Is.) The small workshop on ‘Money and Consciousness’ was deemed ‘transformative’ from 10 participants and scored highest on feedback at 9.5. On the plenary level, we worked with 250 people with art, music, statement reflecting inner beliefs on capital deployment. In harvest, we realized the nimble ability of one-generation capital to deploy with intention, and the more complex nuance of helping to change a 12-generation family system. This awareness of complexity of change also resonated when looking at Pymwymic’s two aligned banking partners: ABN AMRO, which is at work imbedding impact into a banking history that stretches centuries; and Triodos Bank, founded 30 years ago with a clear and embedded 100% impact focus.
- Authenticity and Impact at Scale: A hearty discussion between experienced investors from Omidyar, FMO, and DOEN – who represent decades of experience, and hundreds of investments – kicked off the ‘authenticity at scale’ conversation, with the provocative statement from FMO ‘If its not scale, it’s a hobby.” But is scale always the end goal? Transformative one-off local community initiatives can make a huge impact. With portfolios held equally between grants and investments, Omidyar and DOEN agreed that they look to the criteria of scale more closely on the venture side. As large-scale institutions with dubious records also declare ‘impact,’ the authenticity of intention was also a resonant question. Look to track record, existing partnerships, and aligned action as guidelines.
- Connection to the Real Economy: Pymwymic has a strong, core belief in nurturing early business models which focus on ecosystem restoration and biodiversity. This year, we introduced a conversation around Biomimicry, or business models that mimic nature. For a greater understanding of this subject, see guest Mike Chamberlain’s presentation ‘From Whales to Windmills” here. The connection of capital to the real economy was explored more deeply in Families, Farms and Forests – what does adding an impact lens bring to investments in real assets? Full forestry farming and investing to offset climate change will continue to be a focus for us, and member Rufo Quintavalle’s writing in Stanford’s Social Innovation Review is worth reading here.
The full alignment theme carried into Impact into the Value Chain and Impact Agriculture at Scale. Dutch development bank FMO presented a case study exploring the local-specific complexities of land-rights and ecosystems when investing into agriculture in developing lands. With the help of Triodos Bank, special guest Nasser Abufarha from Palestine Territories dove into a case study of full value-chain impact with 4000 organic farmers. While Triodos Bank in Europe is aligned with supporting local enterprise, it seemed to be a revelation to the Europe investors that Triodos Investment Management has helped mission-driven entrepreneurs also in Middle East and Africa achieve scale with their mission intact.
- Skills & Structures – Hands-on skillsets and peer sharing of lessons learned continue to be Impact Days highlights. In both Early Stage Investing and Give, Lend or Invest? experienced investors led case-study examinations on early stage screening; measuring impact; financial modeling; and due diligence considerations. Catalytic Philanthropy showcased the importance of widening the definition of philanthropy, as illustrated through an ABN AMRO client case study; the panel was assisted by GIIN’s experience with the role that first-loss protection can play in scaling impact. The panel’s conclusion was that the previous wall between donation and investment has shifted towards a vertical, layered model, where different kinds of capital can build a foundation that supports growth at different stages.
- Fragile Nations and Emerging Markets Every year, Impact Days showcases different emerging market opportunities. This year, partner Cordaid brought 100 years of experience to bear in helping investors understand Investing into Fragile Nations, with experienced entrepreneurs from South Sudan and Congo providing illuminating on the ground experience. Cordaid and Incluvest, responded to investors challenges about the efficacy of NGOs becoming investment houses, while Pymwymic friends from both Venture South and One to Watch provided insight into the fast changing spectrum of opportunity in both Philippines and Nepal.
Special thanks to the UK-based NESTA and Bethal Green for taking participants through the processes of incubation and acceleration; to the founders of B-Corp Europe for their work to bring a global movement of benefit corporation to this continent; and to True Price, whom we congratulate for the first issue report on the Business Case for True Price.
Wednesday Pitch and Investment Breakfast – HURRAH!!
The 2014 theme of ‘connecting impact and action’ was celebrated on a energetic Wednesday morning, when the 12 growth-stage Pitch entrepreneurs catalyzed investor pledges of €3,015 million. These 12 entrepreneurs were selected out of 108 applicants, and met a rigorous screening on impact business model and readiness. The models that generated most investor interest were Dutch enterprises Snappcar and Spreekkamer Online, Philippines Kalibrr, and Gham Power from Nepal. Pymwymic will convene deeper investor tables for seven of the companies, and have linked the other entrepreneurs (under 100K) to individual investors.
Thank you to all who joined for a memorable and interactive Impact Days 2014 – we are reviewing your requests for ‘next steps’ and will be in touch.
And the team at Pymwymic