A Seat at the Table

This article is contributed by Rehana Nathoo, VP of Social Innovation at the Case Foundation; Will Jacobson, Director of Business Development at Microvest; and Ben Thornley, Managing Partner at Tideline. The following was created based off of a panel discussion the three of them presented at Institutional Investor’s Senior Delegates Roundtable during the Fixed Income Forum.

Attend an investment conference these days and Impact Investing is part of every agenda. Sometimes it’s a panel of industry experts debating the necessary conditions for institutional-quality product development. Other times it’s the wildcard, pre-cocktail discussion of what impact means and how to measure it.

At a recent convening in Los Angeles last month, the three of us embraced the opportunity to lead a conversation on Impact Investing.

Impact Investing continues to grow rapidly, propelled by a range of actors interested in making a positive contribution. All the while still generating profit. Some Institutional Investors are doing their part to bolster the creation of solutions to urgent social and environmental challenges. But all of these efforts are happening in a fragmented fashion, and in small pockets of activity. This leads us to believe that with the trailblazing efforts of these early innovators, it’s time for traditional investors to jump in.

As with many nascent markets, the first Impact Investing products faced significant roadblocks. This style of investing was different, the breadth of managers who were well versed in the space was sparse, and benchmarks were non-existent or unrecognizable. But in the same way the sum total of carbon emitted in the production of the first Tesla Roadster hardly answered the call for environmental stewardship, there was immeasurable value in laying the groundwork for a paradigm shift. One that would see half of all cars in 2040 be electric.

Impact Investing can be at the helm of a similar global systemic change in the way we think and the way we invest. As the space has evolved, so too has the caliber of managers. DBL Partners has delighted many investors. TPG, Bain Capital, Morgan Stanley, and Blackrock have developed and established impact-oriented products and platforms away from the cocoonery of their CSR departments. And last we checked, none of these firms, funds, or managers are in the concessionary returns business.

Recent controversies, not least in Silicon Valley, show that the days of separating action from consequence are coming to an end. Historically, investors haven’t necessarily had to think about the specific, non-financial outcomes of their investment decisions. But getting educated on Impact Investing, and formulating a response, will provide an important on-ramp for what may ultimately become the future of all investing.

In the spirit or getting educated and moving to action, here are some core principles to keep in mind:

Be clear on your intention

It’s almost always possible to turn impact into action. Contrary to the scarcity myth, most impact “themes” are in fact investable. A general commitment to measurable economic development in the US, for example, may yield a range of products that support small business development in underserved parts of the country. A passion for changing the gender gap in business ownership, or course-correcting the global water scarcity are all focused, specific, and actionable. The more clarity investors have on their intentions, the easier it will be to find or develop investment opportunities for the problems they hope to solve.

Be specific with your objectives

Because Impact Investing is defined by the pursuit of “intentional” social and environmental outcomes, it would pay to develop a better understanding of what motivates the investment. Intentions of the actor are important, but so is the intended outcome of the investments. Is supporting a particular place important, as Newark is to Prudential? Or is it a particular theme or objective that motivates you, like investing in new products working to solve climate change across the globe? Being specific with a fund’s impact objective can help new investors see their place in that investment.

Be action-oriented

Perfect is no longer the enemy of the good. The field is increasingly embracing a broader definition of Impact Investing and lauding efforts to make important improvements in the totality of a portfolio’s impact. Relatedly, while Impact Investing also requires that hoped-for outcomes are measured, perfect rigor is less important than a commitment to putting in place a responsible, transparent process. The ethos of transparency is one of the reasons we’re seeing consistent thought leadership in onboarding new investors, the development of the Beta version of the Impact Investing Network Map and a multitude of other efforts.

We know that Impact Investing still has ample room to grow. We need stronger and longer track records, an increased culture of transparency and disclosure, responsible market segmentation, and greater clarity on what it means to create impact at different parts of the investment value chain—for asset owners, asset managers, and their investees. But it’s not too soon for traditional investors to take a closer look, and keeping the above principles in mind will help activate your impact investing journey today.

34 Organizations Building Social Capital for Diverse Entrepreneurs to Follow on Twitter

Accelerator. Incubator. Ecosystem Builder. Social Capital. These words are commonly used in the startup world, but can feel like jargon to those unfamiliar with the entrepreneurship space. They describe the partners and resources that are essential in an entrepreneur’s journey—mentors, education and connections that help founders succeed. Harvard Kennedy School refers to social capital as “the collective value of all ‘social networks’ (who people know) and the inclinations that arise from these networks to do things for each other (‘norms of reciprocity’).” Basically, social capital ensures that you are connected to the right people who will provide you with trusted information, collaboration and partnerships. Social capital is particularly important when an entrepreneur is just starting out and needs advisors who have been there before and connections to funders who are willing to work with them to build a business.

At the Case Foundation, we believe that the next era of entrepreneurship is about leveling the playing field, expanding participation and scaling the networks of social, financial and inspiration capital that provide the foundation for successful startups and scalable business. We partner with social capital networks providing important connections, training and mentorships for entrepreneurs, as well as the investors and influencers working to change the way capital flows to diverse entrepreneurs. Incubators for those just starting out, accelerators for those looking to grow and the ecosystem builders generally paving the way for entrepreneurs to succeed.

All entrepreneurs have similar needs—mentorship, funding, role models—but not all entrepreneurs have equal access to those resources. We see disproportionate funding going to white male entrepreneurs and underrepresentation of women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color in most major incubator and accelerator programs. When only a portion of the entrepreneurship community has access to the stepping stones needed to grow their business, it’s no wonder most of the breakout companies we laud in our society are founded by white men. To combat this trend, we have committed to catalyzing the inclusive entrepreneurship movement and launched #FacesofFounders to shed more light on the diverse entrepreneurs scaling businesses and important conversations around inclusive entrepreneurship we must have to change how our culture views entrepreneurship.

Fortunately, more and more entrepreneurship programs are being set up with intentionality around creating on-ramps for women entrepreneurs or entrepreneurs of color. Whether it’s a network for women only or an existing accelerator that has benchmarks for inclusion among its cohort, entrepreneurship supporters are getting serious about providing the resources diverse founders need to be successful.

To learn more about these inclusion-focused accelerators, incubators and ecosystem builders, we’ve put together a list to get you started. These organizations are committed to the inclusive entrepreneurship movement, taking action within their organizations to support diverse entrepreneurs and leaders in the field demonstrating the value of providing underrepresented groups of entrepreneurs with access to capital, networks and support. We are proud to be working to advance inclusive entrepreneurship alongside these organizations and the many more out there committed to this work!

Follow all of the organizations below with one click—subscribe to our Twitter list!

Organization Name
Twitter Handle
Twitter Bio
500 Startups
500 Startups is a seed fund & a network of startup programs. Founded by PayPal & Google alums. Born in Silicon Valley, the #500STRONG family is worldwide.
American Underground
The ‘Startup Capital of the South’ and one of ten Google for Entrepreneur Tech Hubs. We are home to more than 275 startups in downtown Durham & Raleigh.
Black Founders
Dedicated to increasing the number of successful black entrepreneurs in tech.
Black Tech Week
Black Tech Week is a week long series of events in Miami, Florida celebrating innovators of color. contact@blacktechweek.com
Blackstone Launchpad
Blackstone LaunchPad is a campus entrepreneurship program offering coaching, ideation and venture creation support. https://t.co/eBdvnPhkvo
Blueprint + Co
The workplace that works for you.
Change Catalyst
Empowering diverse leaders to #changetheworld. #socent #BCorp #impinv #startups #techinclusion16 https://t.co/8qMdI23qfd by @mbrianaepler @waynesutton & team
Circular Board
A collaborative startup accelerator serving a thriving community of globally minded women entrepreneurs.
Top black and latinx tech talent. Founders @tristanwalker + @laurawp. Follow the CODE2040 family: https://t.co/BS9giAiF33
Defy Ventures
We are an entrepreneurship, employment, and leadership training program that serves people with criminal histories.
digitalundivided (DID) fosters economic growth through the empowerment of women of color entrepreneurs.
We are a 12-week pre-accelerator program focused on championing diversity in the tech startup ecosystem.
Duke I&E
Latest happenings from the Duke Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative.
Google for Entrepreneurs
News and updates from Google for Entrepreneurs.
A community that provides mentorship, peer-support, and a discovery experience for select startups and entrepreneurs
Halcyon Incubator
Supports early stage social entrepreneurs through an immersive 18-month fellowship program
HBCU Innovation
Inclusive Innovation Incubator (In3) – D.C’s first co-working, training, & incubator space intentional about diversity & inclusion. #FindYourIn by @luma_lab 💡
Jumpstart Inc
We are a nationally recognized nonprofit that unlocks the full potential of diverse & ambitious entrepreneurs to economically transform entire communities.
Kauffman Foundation
Fostering economic independence by advancing education & entrepreneurship. RTs ≠ endorsements. House Rules https://t.co/963BVtcqVu
Kapor Center
The Kapor Center is relentlessly pursuing creative strategies to leverage tech for positive, progressive change.
Latino Startup Alliance
To encourage the inspiration & cultivation of Latino led tech startup ventures by providing a support network of fellow innovators, mentors & investors.
Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center
The #startup for startups! Designed to #educate, #innovate, and connect #entrepreneurs – all free of charge. Grow your ideas. Get inspired. Tell your story!
New Profit
Break through with New Profit. https://t.co/mRBW5FClRb
The Pink Ceiling
Propelling Breakthroughs for Women | Strategy + Investing | Mentorship Through the #Pinkubator | All Woman Team | Founder Cindy Whitehead @cindypinkceo
PowerMoves is about creating power through opportunity – the opportunity of high growth minority Traditional & Tech Entrepreneurship.
Project Entrepreneur
Project Entrepreneur ignites bold ideas by providing women access to the tools, training and networks needed to build scalable, economically impactful companies
#SocEnt incubator w/ locations in Washington, D.C. & Phoenix, AZ. Educating, accelerating & investing in entrepreneurs creating solutions to social problems.
Sephora Accelerate
Through Sephora Stands, we will use our strengths to promote even greater good by supporting female entrepreneurs in beauty, our communities, and our people.
Social Innovation Lab
Social Innovation Lab at @JohnsHopkins – Accelerating ventures that create change and opportunity in Baltimore and beyond. Director: @DariusG
Tory Birch Foundation
The official Tory Burch Foundation tweets.
Unshackled Ventures
An early stage venture fund for immigrant founders to create economic value in the U.S.
Village Capital
We democratize entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs themselves build and invest in world-changing companies. A new type of VC.
Women’s Startup Lab
Leading Women’s Startup Accelerator in Silicon Valley. Be Exceptional. Be Extraordinary. Be the Impact.

For more data on accelerators and the entrepreneurs they serve, check out the Global Accelerator Learning Initiative led by the Aspen Institute and Emory University at https://www.galidata.org/.

Have other tips for choosing an entrepreneurship program? A program or ecosystem builder you’ve seen that’s committed to inclusive entrepreneurship? We know there are many more out there! Share them with us at FacesofFounders.org or on Twitter with hashtag #FacesofFounders.