Be Fearless Spotlight: Jay Newton-Small and the Story of Her Father

This Spotlight is a part of a special blog series curated by the Case Foundation featuring Be Fearless stories from the field. Follow along with us as we meet people and learn about organizations that are taking risks, being bold and failing forward in their efforts to create transformative change in the social sector. This Spotlight is authored by Jay Newton-Small (@JNSmall), Cofounder of MemoryWell, TIME magazine contributor and author of Broad Influence.

A few years ago, I put my father into a home for those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia. It was the hardest decision of my life, but he was a wanderer and I couldn’t care for him on my own following the death of my mother. I didn’t know it at the time, but that decision would be the start of a long journey that would change both of our lives.

The home asked me to fill out a 20-page questionnaire about his life. This made no sense to me: who would remember 20 pages of hand-written data points for the 150+ residents there? Instead, I offered to write down his story. I’m a journalist after all, story telling comes naturally to me. They loved the story I wrote, it transformed his care; MemoryWell was born.

Over the next 2.5 years, I worked with a partner, Ilan Brat formerly of the Wall Street Journal, to write more life stories of people like my dad. We knew that this tool could help change the lives of the more than 44 million around the world currently living with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia and the many who care for them. And so, we developed a website called MemoryWell to host the stories and allow family members to add their loved ones’ favorite photos, videos and music—so that when caregivers or family members sit with them they have a whole toolbox of things with which to engage them.

My firsthand experience with my father and Alzheimer’s helped me to identify a critical solution and develop MemoryWell in response. The leap from daughter to entrepreneur was a big one, but a necessary one as I realized what this tool could do for families like mine.

We got our first clients earlier this year and, less than two months later, I let urgency conquer fear and left TIME Magazine to work on MemoryWell full time. Our CTO Andrew Fribush joined our team this fall and we got accepted into Halcyon incubator in Washington, DC, in November.

While all this sounds easy: let me assure you it was not! We are journalists, not entrepreneurs. In our newsrooms, taking a stand is always discouraged: we are impartial observers of the events around us. Most journalists are given assignments instead of making them. We are naturally skeptical of salesmanship and marketing/PR puffery; we work well with structure and want steady jobs (although the upheaval in the industry is changing that). But, in short, journalism isn’t an industry predisposed to innovation and that’s why you see so few journalism startups. But as I saw the impact that storytelling could have in the lives of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, I knew that I had to take a risk in the face of these obstacles.

Certainly, our road hasn’t always been smooth and surely there will be many more bumps ahead. However, we have learned from every experience and failed forward to get to where we are today. We lost our first pitch contest to NewU, a group that gives grants to minority journalists, in September 2014, and then we lost three more Aging 2.0 pitch contests after than until Ilan finally won the Chicago Aging 2.0 contest in 2016—and still we didn’t make it to the national convention. The White House Summit on Aging loved our idea and approached us to participate in their 2015 summit only to cut us weeks later because we were too unproven. We’ve been blown off by investors and our bosses took extremely dim views of our extracurricular activities.

I’m taking a huge risk and it may well fail—indeed more startups do than succeed. But we feel passionately that stories can be used not just to inform the masses in a newspaper or magazine, but to affect change on a personal level, to build community where none exists. So instead of writing about the president-elect, I might be writing about your grandma, or your friend’s grandma, and nothing would make me happier.

Feeling inspired? If you’re ready to begin your own Be Fearless journey start by downloading the Case Foundation’s free Be Fearless Action Guide and Case Studies.

The Myth of the Coasts

The ‘Myth of the Coasts’ is a guest blog post from Cathy Belk, President of JumpStart, Inc., and is the seventh blog post in the Case Foundation’s Myth of the Entrepreneur series. This series is intended to intentionally examine, and change, the stories our culture tells about entrepreneurship. For more information on the Case Foundation’s approach to the Myth series and Inclusive Entrepreneurship, please check out our introductory piece. We encourage you to join the conversation using #Ent4All on Twitter.

If I say the word “startup,” you probably think Silicon Valley, or maybe Boston or New York City. And that would be understandable, considering that, according to NVCA and MoneyTree PriceWaterhouseCooper Annual 2015 Report, roughly 77 percent of all venture capital investment last year went to either California, New York or New England.

But what these statistics don’t show, is that right now is also a great time to be a startup entrepreneur in the Midwest.

Here are just a few of the common myths about Midwestern entrepreneurship that are being debunked more and more every day. 

Myth One: The Midwest Doesn’t Have Great Talent

One of the founders of modern venture capitalism, the late David Morgenthaler, was fond of comparing entrepreneurship to a horse race consisting of the jockey (team), the horse (product) and the track (market). One myth I hear often is that the Midwest just doesn’t have the jockeys—entrepreneurs with a track record of success and failure, along with all the connections (investors, customers, board members, etc.) and experience that come with both.

But the fact is, we have plenty of great talent. In Cleveland we have successful entrepreneurs like Mark Woodka, Laura Bennett, Steven Lindseth and Charu Ramanathan as well as entrepreneur/investors like Doug Weintraub and Charles Stack, not to mention recent exits from companies like OrthoHelix, TOA Technologies and Explorys, whose cofounder and CEO Stephen McHale is also an active angel investor and entrepreneurial mentor in the community. And that’s just a few examples from one city.

Meanwhile, Midwestern universities are actively working to develop the kind of talent startups need, challenging their students to think more entrepreneurially and encouraging them to start their own businesses. In Northeast Ohio alone, all of the region’s 22 colleges and universities have collegiate entrepreneurship programs, many of which also include experiential learning components, such as Cleveland State University’s Startup Vikes program.

And let’s not forget the rise of Midwestern coding bootcamps such as The Software Guild, TechElevator and WeCanCodeIt; or the many talented young people—from entrepreneurs and web developers to the greatest basketball player in the world—who are boomeranging back to the Midwest and bringing their talents back with them. 

Myth Two: There’s No Capital For Entrepreneurs

Did you know that, according to the 2016 NVCA Yearbook, more than $2.2 billion in venture capital was invested in the Midwest in 2015, the highest amount since 2001? Capital is always a concern for entrepreneurs, but there is money available, and more and more investors are starting to see the potential of tapping into the region’s grossly underserved market.

In the meantime, local investors are stepping up to provide much of the early financial (and intellectual) capital to help local startups grow. In Ohio, 75 percent of the capital prior to Series B rounds comes from local (statewide) sources, and these investors are continuing to ramp up their activity.

Right now my organization, JumpStart, is in the process of investing $40 million dollars into Ohio entrepreneurs over the next three years through three separate venture capital funds. Ohio also has five organized angel groups, including two of the nation’s largest, North Coast Angel Fund and Ohio TechAngel Funds.

Myth Three: There’s No Diversity

Silicon Valley is a diverse place, and accounted for nearly 50 percent of U.S. venture dollars invested in 2015. And yet, less than ten percent of U.S. startups backed by venture capital are led by women, and only one percent are headed by African-Americans. In addition, nearly 90 percent of all venture capital professionals are still Caucasian men and only 7 percent of the partners in the top venture firms are women.

Meanwhile, some in the Midwest—a region often stereotyped as being homogenous—are seizing a valuable opportunity to be diverse and inclusive, building both fully inclusive organizations such as TechTown, as well as targeted programs such as PowerMoves, driving a more diverse pipeline of entrepreneurs and creating a major competitive advantage. At JumpStart, more than 30 percent of the companies we advise or invest in are owned or led by women or people of color, and we recently took this commitment even further by creating the Focus Fund—a $10 million venture capital fund supported by the Case Foundation that focuses exclusively on female founders and entrepreneurs of color.

Myth Four: The Lower Cost Of Living Isn’t That Important

Most people already know that the general costs to start or run a tech business in the Midwest are lower than they are on the coasts. This is especially true for real estate—both commercial and residential—where Silicon Valley prices aren’t just high, they are the highest in the entire nation (New York City is right behind). Consequently, average salaries are also much higher.

But to grasp the true entrepreneurial advantages that come along with lower cost of living, you have to think less about dollars and more about time—specifically, how much time you have to make your startup successful before your venture runs out of runway. An entry level programmer salary for a company with fewer than 25 associates in the software industry in the Valley is ~$71K, while in the Midwest the average is ~$58K. That differential (almost 25 percent) is almost three months of time.

As you can see, it’s a very good time to be an entrepreneur in the Midwest. But no matter where you call home, don’t let these kinds of myths keep you from chasing your goals. Focus on whatever key competitive advantages your location offers, and remember that success is mostly determined by hard work and strong business fundamentals—not geography.

Crisscrossing the Country to Lift Up Diverse Entrepreneurs

As part of the Case Foundation’s work in catalyzing the inclusive entrepreneurship movement, #FacesofFounders launched this fall to search for America’s dynamic entrepreneurs, particularly entrepreneurs of color and women founders, who are key to driving innovation and job growth. Participants can upload their photos and entrepreneurs have the opportunity to tell their story for a chance to be featured in a sponsored series on FastCompany.com. Learn more at FacesofFounders.org.

At its core, entrepreneurship is about solving problems. Entrepreneurs around the world wake up every day asking themselves, “What problem does my company solve?” At the Case Foundation, we also ask ourselves, “What problems can we solve?”, particularly related to entrepreneurship. And we have seen the problems that entrepreneurs face in some very discouraging statistics.

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To address some of the barriers keeping women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color out of the arena, we partnered with Blackstone Charitable Foundation, Google for Entrepreneurs and UBS, along with Fast Company, to begin to change the narrative of who is and can be an entrepreneur in this country. #FacesofFounders is about highlighting those who can use their diverse experiences to see diverse problems and tackle them in diverse ways.

We launched #FacesofFounders at the White House South by South Lawn festival last month, surrounded by changemakers and entrepreneurs who are committed to using their time and talents to make the world a better place.This campaign has been a whirlwind of exciting new ideas and discoveries that have given us a greater sense of optimism for the future of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs have shared stories of cutting edge innovation and genius new ways to contribute to social good.These narratives embody our value of investing in people and ideas that can change the world, and our commitment to ensuring that any person with an innovative idea can bring that idea forward, regardless of their background.

We have travelled around the country meeting founders and supporters of inclusive entrepreneurship at SOCAP and Forbes 30 under 30 Summit, snapping photos at Google Demo Day: Women’s Edition, and hearing energizing stories at the New York Stock Exchange with Project Entrepreneur. At TEDxMidAtlantic, Jean Case gave a talk about just how urgent the inclusion of female founders and entrepreneurs of color is to securing the future we want to see for the world. Many of these entrepreneurs have never had their story told, or seen a story of someone who looks like them in a major media outlet. We are here to change that.

We are committed to inclusive entrepreneurship and have been joined on FacesofFounders.org and social media by thousands of others showing their support for a more inclusive approach to fostering entrepreneurship. But don’t take our word for it. Here is what some of those who have come along side us have to say:

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Entrepreneurs are decidedly Fearless; they focus on the urgency of now and let that drive their business with a vision for a better world. Diverse entrepreneurs do that while also combatting cultural norms that tell them they can’t be an entrepreneur and unconscious bias in the investment process. Whether you are an entrepreneur yourself or a supporter of inclusive entrepreneurship, add your voice at FacesofFounders.org to join the movement to redefine who is and can be an entrepreneur.

A quick note to entrepreneurs everywhere: You are a source of awe and inspiration, motivating others around the nation with your resilience and enthusiasm. Your creative spirits make us hopeful for a brighter future in creating the world we want. The time is now to be loud and proud about the value of our differences and redefine the idea of who is and can be an entrepreneur. The Case Foundation is calling on you, with all of your business-savvy and entrepreneurial energy, to be an example of why inclusive entrepreneurship is so crucial. Share your story on FacesofFounders.org for a chance to be featured in a sponsored story on Fast Company.com; your story matters for all of our futures.

#FacesofFounders Puts Entrepreneurship Front-And-Center at Forbes Under 30 Summit

The #FacesofFounders campaign, designed to highlight the dynamism and diversity of the modern entrepreneur, is in full force. Entrepreneurs from all walks of life and perspectives are uploading their photos and telling their stories at facesoffounders.org. The stories and the photos bring to life the fact that there has been a redefinition of who is and can be an entrepreneur.

In addition to uploading photos and stories at facesoffounders.org, we are taking our #FacesofFounders campaign and photo booth on the road. Last week we were in Boston with the Blackstone Charitable Foundation where we welcomed guests to the Forbes Under 30 Summit. At the event, hundreds of entrepreneurs snapped their photos and shared their stories of innovation.

While the #FacesofFounders photo booth was working overtime, we met with hundreds of founders, hosted Facebook Live conversations and watched insightful discussions with entrepreneurs from across the globe geared towards the topic of inclusivity. While there were many standouts at this event, in our opinion, these were the all-stars who stole the show and are representative of the changing face of entrepreneurship.

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  1. Founders Hayley Barna of First Round Capital and Birchbox, along with Lisa Falzone of Revel Systems, Jennifer Hyman of Rent the Runway and Marcella Sapone of Hello Alfred are changing the narrative around who is and can be an entrepreneur. On stage, they joined Janey Whiteside of American Express in a conversation on the changing face of entrepreneurship and how, by unlocking more flow of social capital, financial capital and knowledge capital, we can cultivate more women entrepreneurs.
  1. Christopher Gray, co-founder of Scholly, sat down with us in a Facebook Live interview for a conversation on the challenges he faced as a young Millennial founder and how we all can engage to change the narrative about what it means to be an entrepreneur.
  1. Trevor Wilkins, co-founder of Küdzoo, built a free mobile app where students cash in their grades for rewards. He shared with us during Facebook Live how the brand is leveraging incentives to motivate and reward students, and his experience building the brand as a founder of color.
  1. Sir Richard Branson took the stage for a conversation on breaking records, barriers and borders. He was joined by other top entrepreneurs Tyler Haney of Outdoor Voices, Payal Kadakla of ClassPass and James Proud of Hello, Inc. in discussion around the best ways to cause disruption, create change and achieve game-changing success.
  1. Eric Delgado and Victoria Weiss, co-founders of Rope Lace Supply and students at the University of Central Florida (UCF), joined us for a Facebook Live conversation on how the brand has grown from $300 to nearly $1 million in revenue in just three short years. The founders are part of the Blackstone LaunchPad at UCF, a program that provides one-on-one startup coaching, seminars and access to a mentor network and subject-matter experts and their story is a compelling reminder of how the entrepreneurs from all ages can succeed.
  1. Actor and investor Ashton Kutcher, Guy Oseary of Sound Ventures, and Peter Boyce II of Rough Draft Ventures hosted the $1 Million Forbes Under 30 Pitch Competition. More than 1,000 Under 30 entrepreneurs entered for the opportunity to pitch their project and the final four competed on stage at Faneuil Hall for the grand prize—an investment from Kutcher, Oseary and Rough Draft Ventures/General Catalyst, as well as an advertising campaign in Forbes. Atlanta-Based honorCode, founded by Jeffery Martin to teach the intersection of computer programming and entrepreneurship to our communities’ most vulnerable youth, walked away with the highly sought after prize.

Check out the faces of several of these entrepreneurs and their supporters who are joining the movement to change who is and can be a founder on FacesofFounders.org, and be sure to show your support for entrepreneurship for all by sharing your photo and stories there as well. Read more about the 600 entrepreneurs and changemakers who are part of this year’s 2016 Forbes Under 30 class HERE.

Disclosure: Steve Case has made a personal investment in Scholly.

#FacesofFounders Launches from the White House at SXSL

Today the Case Foundation is launching the #FacesofFounders campaign aimed at catalyzing the inclusive entrepreneurship movement. Our goal is to help change the narrative of how people talk about entrepreneurs, with the goal of leveling the playing field, so everyone has a shot at the American Dream.

America itself was once a startup, built upon the founding principle that we all are created equal. It follows that we should all have an equal opportunity—if we work hard—to succeed. The hope and promise of America is the promise that anyone—from any place, any race, any gender, any age and any sexual orientation—can bring forward the next big idea.

Yet, all too often it appears that while talent is equally distributed, opportunity is not. And that feels especially true for women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color. For a country where nearly all new jobs are being created by startups, maximizing opportunity for all entrepreneurs could not be a more urgent or important undertaking.

And so, this afternoon we are joined by more than 2,000 social champions for change as we launch #FacesofFounders at the White House South by South Lawn (SXSL) festival. The campaign creates a much-needed rallying cry for entrepreneurs and the allies who support them to showcase the diverse backgrounds and approaches of entrepreneurs today. Beginning today, until November 22nd, we invite all entrepreneurs—particularly women founders and entrepreneurs of color, as well as all those who support inclusive startup ecosystems—to share their photos and stories of entrepreneurship on FacesofFounders.org or on Twitter using #FacesofFounders.

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We’ve partnered with the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, Google for Entrepreneurs and UBS, along with Fast Company, to showcase and cultivate the best and brightest founders who are driving innovation and job creation across America. Additional promotional support is being provided by Black Enterprise and Latina Media Ventures. Together, we aim to change the storyline around who is and can be an entrepreneur.

Our commitment is to foster an inclusive approach to entrepreneurship, one that expands support for inclusive networks and inspires entrepreneurs from all backgrounds to launch scalable companies with the potential for global change. We know we have work to do, as today only less than 10 percent of venture-backed companies have at least one woman founder and less than one percent have an African American founder. Yet data shows women-founded ventures are outperforming their male counterparts and companies with diverse leadership teams provide greater returns for investors.

As we seek to showcase the diversity of entrepreneurs across our country and level the playing field for all entrepreneurs to thrive, we are inspired by the stories of women founders and entrepreneurs of color. Andrés Moreno of Open English, the internet-based English language instruction platform reaching more than 500,000 students, to date has received more than $120 million in venture capital funding. Or Kelechi Anyadiegwu, founder of Zuvaa, who heads a social enterprise fashion brand that went from $500 in revenue to $2 million in just two years. And others like CEO Shazi Visram, founder of Happy Family, who has created a B-Corporation and healthy baby food company sold in more than 40,000 stores across the globe. And in that “any age” category, how about Mikaila Ulmer, the dynamic 11-year old CEO and founder of Me & the Bees Lemonade sold in retailers like Whole Foods. These are founders who are changing the face of entrepreneurs in America and who can lead the next billion-dollar brands.

It’s time to change the narrative of how we talk about entrepreneurs in American culture. It’s time to break down the stereotypes of who can be an entrepreneur and correct the outdated myths of what an entrepreneur can look like. It’s time to lift up all entrepreneurs in order to create stronger communities, close the opportunity gap and scale creative solutions to persistent problems.

Join us in this movement! Post your photos on FacesofFounders.org or using #FacesofFounders on Twitter. Share the campaign with someone who is helping to build more inclusive ecosystems. And if you are an entrepreneur, tell us your story at FacesofFounders.org—five founders will have their story featured in a sponsored series on FastCompany.com next spring. Let’s rise together!

Four Ways to Tip the Inclusive Entrepreneurship Movement

When Jessica O. Matthews, the founder and CEO of Uncharted Play, an energy tech startup, closed a $7 million investments last week she became just the 13th black female founder in history to raise more than $1 million in outside investment. She followed Morgan DeBaun of Blavity, considered to be the Buzzfeed for Millennials of color, and who became the 12th female founder to surpass $1 million raised only days before.

The numbers are stark. The Diana Project out of Babson College was the first to report that less than three percent of venture capital investments made go to companies with a woman CEO. CB Insights reports that fewer than one percent have an African American founder.

So why does this matter anyway? While it’s true there is a fairness issue at work here that should concern us all, it’s also true that the potential to bring new innovations and new economic activity to segments of the population that may need it most is a significant opportunity we should seize. But what will it take to level the playing field for all entrepreneurs—particularly women and entrepreneurs of color—but also those from less obvious places, geographically and economically diverse entrepreneurs from the nation’s heartland to Southern Africa to the West Bank?

recent report by the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC) offers a compelling framework through which to view and potentially tip the inclusive entrepreneurship movement. ICIC laid out a four-part framework to increase participation of women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color through more inclusive hubs that provide mentoring, training, networking and sometimes capital for entrepreneurs in their network. These hubs are known as incubators or accelerators. When looking at barriers to access and how to create effective on-ramps for diverse entrepreneurs, this framework is promising in both the accelerator space and the broader inclusive entrepreneurship ecosystem.

Recruitment

Improving access to social capital through mentoring and networking with others who have found success will be key to accelerating the movement. Many successful accelerators or incubators rely on a competitive application process from applicants that find them. This often means that those living in underserved communities or outside of “power networks” don’t necessarily know about these pathways to opportunity. Adopting a strategy of intentional outreach to women and to people of color could change the ratio and ensure a more diverse pool of applicants. Kathryn Finney knows this firsthand. As the founder and Managing Director of digitalundivided, Kathryn invests in the success of Black and Latina women tech founders by providing them with the network, coaching and funding to build, scale and exit their high growth companies.

Selection

The ICIC report rightly points out that biases perpetuate the stereotype of what successful entrepreneurs look like which often impacts access to capital for women and entrepreneurs of color. This is often called “unconscious bias” which simply means that there is a pre-existing idea of what a successful entrepreneur looks like or where they come from. We’ve seen this in our own work with pitch competitions—where there is a more diverse judging panel we see a more diverse selection of winners, and it makes sense as these panels bring a broader perspective to the potential of underserved segments. And a more diverse selection panel can bring the benefit of putting the applicants more at ease and allowing them to be the best they can be when pitching their ideas. This point is one we can all understand—imagine how a young entrepreneur feels with a great idea if he/she is presenting to a panel of judges or an audience comprised entirely of a different gender or race/ethnicity. Of course, many young entrepreneurs have risen to the challenge for years since the data makes clear that most selection panels have been, and still are, comprised of white males, but it is common sense that if we want to grow the population of successful inclusive entrepreneurs, we might want to start by thinking about who is doing the selection.

On this point, Tristan WalkerCEO and co-founder of Walker and Co Brands, a company that designs and develops products and services specifically for people of color, demonstrated the power of building a company from personal experience when his company raised a $24 million Series B round in September 2015. But his experiences with white venture capitalists who doubted there was a market need for the new kind of razor he was creating for black men, taught him that context and perspective really matter when assessing great ideas for the market. In an interview with TIME Magazine, he commented: “I’m like, I get it but I don’t. All you had to do was get on the phone with 10 black men, and nine of them would have said, ‘I’ve had to deal with this my entire life.’ This is why I think folks talk about the need for more partners, the need for more folks in the industry because those folks come with the context.”

Program Design

Philanthropy is also in a unique position to bring significant support to ecosystem builders to ensure that the support services needed for entrepreneurs (both social capital and financial capital) exist. By building up networks and geographic hubs outside of Silicon Valley and across economic, gender and color lines, we can expand the opportunity for all entrepreneurs to bring their ideas to market—ideas like Jehiel Oliver’s Hello Tractor, an award winning ag-tech company focused on improving food and income security in several countries throughout Africa. We should also look to partnerships and programs that aim to reduce common barriers that diverse entrepreneurs face, and scale local pilots into national programs serving women and entrepreneurs of color, who have figured out the “secret sauce” to the kind of program design that builds success for inclusive entrepreneurs.

Culture

“The macho, exclusive, hyper-competitive culture of some high-tech accelerators is the image marketed and shared by media, creating perhaps the biggest deterrent to women and minority entrepreneurs,” says Janis Bowdler in TechCrunch. We absolutely must challenge the stereotypes and change the narrative on how our culture represents entrepreneurs across sectors. There are many remarkable stories of successful women and people of color who have built successful businesses, and we somehow need to build these stories more broadly into the narrative of the American entrepreneurship story. CEOs like Tristan Walker (mentioned above), or Kristin Groos Richmond and Kirsten Saenz Tobey, a pair of power moms who co-founded Revolution Foods*—a company on a mission to ignite a healthy food revolution for all children, whose business has now delivered more than 200 million healthy meals to our nation’s schoolchildren. Or Shazi Visram of Happy Family, a healthy baby food company acquired by Danone. With the acquisition, Shazi’s earliest investors realized a 30x return. Lifting up founders of diverse backgrounds will be key to ensuring that any individual with a great idea can see him or herself as the next great entrepreneur.

We need all individuals with breakthrough business ideas to have a seat at the table so that we can move more swiftly in tackling intractable global challenges, transforming communities, creating jobs, spurring economic growth and closing the opportunity gap. Maybe this framework is what’s needed to get all ecosystem builders—from accelerators, investors and incubators to founders and champions—to get much more intentional about leveling the playing field for all entrepreneurs in all places in order to create stronger communities. The U.S. has become the leader of the global economy because of great companies built by great entrepreneurs, but we’ve done it with half of the team left on the sidelines. We have an amazing opportunity to seize by getting everyone in the game.

*Disclosure: Steve Case is an investor in Revolution Growth II LP and Revolution Growth III LP, each of which is an investor in Revolution Foods. He is also on the Revolution Foods Board of Directors.

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SOCAP 2016: A New Chapter

Social Capital Markets (SOCAP) is a conference series dedicated to exploring, innovating and collaborating around the ideas and solutions that can increase the flow of capital toward social good. The annual flagship event concluded last week at the historic Fort Mason Center in San Francisco, CA.

SOCAP has played a special role within the Impact Investing field since the first conference in 2008. It has continued to draw crowds of impact investors, social enterprises, field-builders and thought-leaders to discuss the latest and greatest in Impact Investing.

In recent years, particularly as the Impact Investing movement has gained serious traction, the need for SOCAP to expand beyond “the choir” to include major investors—inclusive of asset managers and owners—has never been more important. Similarly, the need to shift conversations from Impact Investing being an “emerging field” to a “growing industry” has been much needed.

We observed that shift this year, and were happy to be a part of it.

Members of the Case Foundation team travelled to SOCAP last week to engage in a global conversation around money and meaning. We left with a renewed sense of inspiration, as well as fresh ideas for collaboration. Here are a few of our key takeaways from the week:

1. We’re no longer discussing the “emerging field” of Impact Investing. It has emerged.

Since the Impact Investing field was first formalized, much of the conference has focused around persuading broad audiences to embrace it. For the impact community, it has been particularly challenging to bring along mainstream investors to explore another tool in their investment toolbox.

This year, however, numerous individuals in the opening plenaries, panels, sessions and breakouts had a different message. No longer were experts advocating for the importance of Impact Investing, but rather that Impact Investing is already here. In a time of finite resources, heightened importance around business sustainability, need for holistic risk assessment and demand for matching capital with individual values, the question of whether Impact Investing is real has been answered.

Instead, there was an intentional pivot to “how?” How do we make Impact Investing tools broadly accessible to diverse markets and audiences? How do we equip wealth advisors, CIOs and institutional investors with the knowledge, training and resources they need to explore the integration of Impact Investing into their product suite? How do fiduciaries continue to meet stringent expectations around their financial duty, while also responsibly integrating impact? The signaling here is critical, and we were pleased to see the thoughtful and creative conversations around how to address these questions.

To dig deeper, check out a recap of our session on Thursday about leveraging the advisor community as a gateway to Impact Investing.

2. Levelling the entrepreneurship playing field is a must.

Just as the rhetoric around Impact Investing has changed in recent years, so has the conversation around entrepreneurship. At SOCAP, a concentrated effort has been made to provide entrepreneurs with a chance to connect, pitch and seek mentorship. But that’s not the only way the conversation has changed; an entire track of the conference this year focused on inclusive entrepreneurship. These sessions tackled important topics of diversity and inclusion across race and gender within entrepreneurship, and brought to light both critical shortcomings and tremendous benefits from access and opportunity for all of our changemakers.

At the Case Foundation, entrepreneurship has always been a big part of how we think about our movement catalyzation efforts. For nearly 20 years, we’ve continued to believe in entrepreneurship as a driving force behind growth, development—and importantly—inclusion. To that end, SOCAP was an opportunity to give a sneak peek of our #FacesofFounders campaign with a photo and storytelling booth at the Festival Pavilion. In partnership with the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, the Case Foundation’s #FacesofFounders campaign will shine a spotlight on the millions of diverse entrepreneurs in America, and reinforce the importance of an inclusive approach to entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs and supporters of entrepreneurs were invited to take free headshots, share their stories, showcase their varied backgrounds and share their journeys of learning and success.

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Check out a recording of Senior Vice President Sheila Herrling’s lively panel, Am I an Entrepreneur?, with changemakers Monique Woodard, Tony Tolentino and Kelechi Anyadiegwu.

3. Transparency is essential.

In the Impact Investing space, metrics, measurement and the data that supports these activities have observed a transformation in both necessity and importance. Often considered a cumbersome demand of early Impact Investing activity, measurement, tracking and transparency are essential in getting the field to scale.

During SOCAP, we co-hosted a standing room only session on open data for social good with ImpactSpace and SODA. Investors, entrepreneurs and field-builders crowded in to watch rapid-fire presentations from data-powered platform creators, who have all committed to innovate around the way we gather and share data. This is indicative of a growing community of data experts and stakeholders looking to advance the practice of effective collaboration through powerful, user-friendly tools.

Network Map Body

At the Case Foundation, our movement building efforts have included collaborative partnerships to sophisticate and streamline data accessibility, including impact measurement, investment reporting and research. Our work on the Impact Investing Network Map is one such way we’re hoping to bring in investors and organizations looking to engage in the space. Primarily, the Map will allow a visual overlay of transaction-led relationships across the Impact Investing industry and enable users to filter information by asset class, geography, and impact area. Through a partnership with ImpactSpace, and using data from CrunchBase, we’re hoping to demonstrate just where the relationships exist, tangibly bust through the myth that the field is still nascent, and work together to change how we talk about data.

Want to check out more on the Impact Investing Network Map? Sign up to be an early tester and submit your data directly to the platform!

We were thrilled to see our movement areas—Impact Investing and Inclusive Entrepreneurship—collide at SOCAP, and witness the momentum building around each of them. We look forward to continuing to forge strong partnerships in these areas, to build on these movements and reach tipping point.

VIDEO: Inclusive Entrepreneurship at MCON 2016

 This post was written by Calvin Millien, Case Foundation intern.

At MCON 2016 this past June, one of the themes attendees explored was around inclusive entrepreneurship—lifting up all entrepreneurs, particularly women and people of color, in all places in order to create stronger communities, close the opportunity gap and scale creative solutions to persistent problems.

To delve into this subject, Derrick Feldmann, Founder of Achieve and MCON, hosted two special panelists: Karla Monterroso of Code2040, an organization that provides $40,000 to seven entrepreneurs of color determined to turn their ideas into reality; and Brian Ferguson of Start Line, an online platform designed to equip returning, formerly incarcerated citizens with the tools necessary to become active and entrepreneurial contributors to our society. Together, they discuss the entrepreneurial landscape and realities for Black and LatinX communities specifically. Hear their insights into how together, we can support inclusive entrepreneurship.

To see more from these great speakers, check out their exclusive Facebook Live interview with the Case Foundation’s own Jade Floyd.

Reaching Beyond Your Bubble to Forge Strong Partnerships

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
-African Proverb

At the Case Foundation we are big believers in reaching beyond our bubble to forge and foster partnerships—sometimes unlikely ones. Over the years we have seen time and again that by linking arms with new people from across sectors we can achieve far greater impact than what we could have accomplished on our own.

For example, on two America’s Giving Challenges, $900K in grants and partnerships with Network for Good, Global Giving, Causes and PARADE led to more than $4M in donations for worthwhile causes and helped to inspire the creation of similar initiatives like the $20M Pepsi Refresh Challenge and the $20M Chase Community Giving campaign.

And our investment of $1M in grants and in-kind support for the Startup America Partnership led to nearly $500M of in-kind commitments to support startups from companies like American Airlines, American Express, Microsoft, Google, and others. There are so many inspiring examples—and certainly not just our own—of successful partnerships between nonprofits, corporations and government that have unleashed billions of dollars and sparked innovation.

At events and convenings across the country this month, we will be looking for more ways to move beyond our bubble and start relationships with the potential to unlock new opportunities.

Best for the World, September 8

The Best for the World Gathering at the University of California, Berkeley, in partnership with the Haas School of Business and the Center for Responsible Business will lift up companies whose groundbreaking business models are best for workers, communities and the environment. The Case Foundation will join students and business leaders at Best for the World to build relationships and celebrate the positive impact business can have in the world.

2016 UBS Philanthropy Forum – Americas, September 12-13

I’m excited to sit down with Silvia Bastante de Unverhau the Head of Philanthropy Advisory at UBS at the UBS Philanthropy Forum to delve into innovative approaches to philanthropy. There, I will be sharing my perspectives on how financial capital can be put to work to create significant social change.

Social Capital Markets (SOCAP), September 13-16 

Being called the conference at the intersection of money and meaning, Social Capital Markets or #SOCAP16 promises to bring together more than 500 changemakers, social entrepreneurs and impact investors representing  foundations, corporations and global nonprofits. In addition to making new connections in San Francisco, members of the Case Foundation team will be leading an impact investing data session, hosting a story booth and, from the main stage, challenging common stereotypes about entrepreneurship.

Social Good Summit, September 18-19

Mashable’s Social Good Summit will examine the impact of technology and new media on social good initiatives. Fully epitomizing the spirit of forging strong partnerships, the Social Good Summit brings together global leaders and grassroots activists to discuss solutions to our biggest challenges and tap the potential of technology to make the world a better place. I’m looking forward to to speaking at the Social Good Summit, helping to answer the question, “What type of world do I want to live in by the year 2030?” #2030NOW

ComNet, September 28-30

Later this month, Detroit hosts the Communications Network’s annual conference—known as the premier global leadership gathering for foundation and nonprofit leaders committed to building a better world through the smart use of strategic communications. The Case Foundation’s communications team will be there to share their own best practices and to learn, connect and collaborate.

Council on Foundations Endowments and Finance Summit, September 28-30  

I will take the stage with Vikki Spruill, President & CEO of the Council on Foundations, Dr. Jason Winged, Dean and Professor in the School of Professional Studies at Columbia University and Randall Lane, Editor of Forbes at the Council on Foundations Endowments and Finance Summit in New York City. During the session we will discuss the role of philanthropy in responding to growing community needs and for being effective catalysts for social change.

Even though it can be more comfortable to go it alone, partnerships with new players and across sectors should be embraced since more often than not, innovation happens at intersections and comes from new combinations.

If you plan on being at any of these events this month please introduce yourself. We are looking forward to reaching beyond our bubble in new and exciting ways this month.

Nine Sessions to Catch at SOCAP 2016

As we say goodbye to summer and hello to September, for many of us working in the social impact field that means getting ready for one of the sectors’ biggest events—Social Capital Markets, or SOCAP. This year the Case Foundation team is looking forward to engaging with our partners along with a growing network of impact focused investors, entrepreneurs, consumers and professionals at SOCAP.

SOCAP started in 2008 with a small group of investors who were determined to make their money work, not only for financial returns but also for social benefit; it is now one of the largest annual conferences for impact investors and social entrepreneurs globally. When we at the Case Foundation launch something new, we like to give a sneak-peek to great audiences, and the counsel from SOCAP changemakers makes it a perfect conference to work on enhancing the potential impact of our work.

That’s why at this year’s SOCAP, which takes place from September 13 – 16 in San Francisco, CA, we’re thrilled that the two movements we’re driving—impact investing and inclusive entrepreneurship—will be front and center. We can’t wait to share a few of our ideas and take the opportunity to learn from other incredible innovators at SOCAP. Here are just a few of next week’s standout sessions and programs; we hope to see you there!

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 14

9:00 AM – 6:00 PM – Faces of Founders Story Booth
It’s time to level the playing field when it comes to entrepreneurship for women and communities of color. It’s time to change the narrative and bust myths of what an entrepreneur does and doesn’t look like. Stop by the Festival Pavilion at booth 104 on Wednesday and Thursday from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM, and join the Case Foundation and Blackstone Charitable Foundation to take your free headshot and learn more about the upcoming Faces of Founders campaign. Come show the diverse backgrounds and approaches of entrepreneurs today and share your best advice on how to make this campaign a huge success.

10:45 AM – Accelerator Effectiveness in Developing Countries
Around the globe, entrepreneurs are turning to accelerator programs for support to grow their businesses, so how do we know if they’re effective or not? Ross Baird, Executive Director at Village Capital and other ecosystem innovators will lead small group discussions about the programmatic and environmental elements that determine an accelerator’s outcomes. Make your way to BATS! Annex at 10:45 AM to be a part of the conversation.

10:45 AM – Impact Unicorns: Can We Have Our Cake and Eat it Too?
A group of true impact investing powerhouses will take part in a panel at Cowell Theater at 10:45 AM to cover one of the biggest questions in impact investing: Can investors have their cake (financial returns) and eat it, too (impact returns)? The panel will feature the funds and firms—Elevar Equity, MicroVest, DBL Partners, Core Innovation Capital and ImpactAssets—that do just that, the so-called “Impact Unicorns.”

12:00 PM – Mapping the Impact Investing Landscape with Collaborative Data – Demos
Interested in the growing applicability and necessity of open data and collaboration in the impact investing and social good market? Be sure to join the Case Foundation’s SVP of Social Innovation, Sheila Herrling who will be co-hosting a conversation on open data for social good with ImpactSpace and SODA (Social Data Commons) at 12:00 PM in Firehouse. The session will feature rapid-fire presentations from innovative data-powered platform creators and hands-on demos in a collaborative environment. Stop by to try out the tools for yourself and get a preview of our soon-to-launch impact investing ecosystem map.

1:15 PM – Collaborative Data for Social Good – Just Do It!
Make sure you stick around for the collaboration workshop directly following the Mapping the Landscape session, which will be led by the great minds behind SODA in Firehouse at 1:15 PM. This workshop is for all who are serious about working together to build the connective infrastructure needed to create a more connected and efficient infrastructure.

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 15

9:00 AM – 6:00 PM – Faces of Founders Story Booth
If you couldn’t make it out on Wednesday for your photo, be sure to stop by on Thursday!

11:00 AM – Impactful Matchmaking: How Investment Advisors First Talk Impact with Clients
The early interactions between investors and their advisors are critical—particularly given that many more people express interest in impact investing than actually move to action. The Case Foundation’s VP of Social Innovation, Rehana Nathoo will join a panel of impact investment leaders and trendsetters from Tideline, ImpactAssets, The CAPROCK Group, Morgan Stanley and Cambridge Associates to discuss how advisors and their clients can talk about impact investing, and what we need to get to scale, at 11:00 AM in Cowell Theater.

4:00 PM – Am I an Entrepreneur? Challenging the Stereotypes
How can the stories we tell and the words we use to tell them help to level the playing field for all entrepreneurs to grow and scale their businesses? Hear from Sheila Herrling, SVP of Social Innovation from the Case Foundation, Blackstone Charitable Foundation, 500 Startups and Zuvaa African Fashion at the Festival Mainstage at 4:00 PM, on what challenges and opportunities diverse entrepreneurs face when building their brands and successful companies.

4:00 PM – Measure What Matters: Unveiling the New B Impact Assessment Tool
If you’re curious about a tool that is helping to direct investment into the companies that are creating high quality jobs, strengthening communities and preserving the environment, then you may want to check out this session in C230 at 4:00 PM, hosted by the nonprofit B Lab. Case Foundation Program Officer, Sean Tennerson will join a panel of investors that are using or developing strategies to use the B Impact Assessment, which just got a big overhaul.

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 16

11:00 AM – Best of Cities: How to Teach All Businesses in Your City about Impact
Is it possible to have every business in a city learn how to solve locally entrenched issues? Yes! Stop by BATS! Theater at 11:00 AM to hear how B Lab and New York City started a citywide program to teach all businesses—not just those that drink their Kool Aid—how to create high quality jobs, strengthen communities and preserve the environment.

 
We are excited to collaborate with innovators working toward new solutions within both of our movements and we look forward to seeing you at #SOCAP16.