This content is brought to you in partnership with SOCAP.
More than 3,000 investors, entrepreneurs and executives convened at the Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture in San Francisco from Oct. 22-25 for the 12th annual SOCAP19 conference.
From gender and racial diversity to sustainable agriculture to alternative financing structures, the conference’s more than 150 sessions explored a wide array of key conversations at the “intersection of money and meaning.”
SOCAP19 programming featured over 500 of the top names in impact investing as speakers, including Derrick Morgan, former Tennessee Titans linebacker turned managing partner of KNGDM Group; Valerie RedHorse-Mohl, executive director of Social Venture Circle; and Fran Seegull, executive director of the U.S. Impact Investing Alliance.
Below are three of Karma’s key takeaways from SOCAP19:
The impact ecosystem is accelerating — and it’s not just because of investors.
A consistent theme throughout SOCAP19 was community-building and diversity of thought as a necessity for wide-scale change. This was evident both in scheduled conference events and while networking in the Festival Pavilion.
At any point during the conference, the stranger you talked to could have been a professional from a different sphere. Traditional investors and entrepreneurs had a large footprint, but it was common to meet members of government, foundations, educators and students, activists, artists and mission-driven branding agencies.
“If we’re going to unlock the potential of markets to advance impact, it’s going to take all of us,” SOCAP CEO Lindsay Smalling said in the opening plenary on Tuesday.
Solely providing capital to diverse founders isn’t enough.
One word that consistently resounded throughout the week was “narrative” — but not just in terms of underrepresented communities reclaiming their stories.
Instead, there was a palpable focus on the need for creating tangible avenues for female and minority founders to access both capital and connections.
Venture capitalist Monique Woodard noted in a session titled “Connecting Founders of Color to Community and Capital” that simply providing capital for both founders and venture capitalists isn’t enough.
Because they are entering an investment arena that historically hasn’t been inclusive, women and people of color need access to a strong network that can properly connect them with key stakeholders in order to succeed.
Woodard, a successful black entrepreneur-turned-investor who is in the process of raising a new fund, was candid about her personal struggles.
“Raising a fund is like crawling through glass,” she explained. “Raising a fund as a woman is like crawling through glass with no clothes on. Raising a fund as a black woman is like crawling through glass with no clothes on and covered in honey with a bunch of bees in the room.”
Gender lens investing is more than investing in women-founded companies.
Impact investors are approaching gender lens investing with a holistic approach: it’s not just about investing in female-founded companies. It’s about advancing women by investing in companies that ultimately benefit women as a whole, whether that be at the operator, leadership or end user level.
“Having a super rigid definition of gender lens investing can be problematic because not one way of approaching it is the panacea when you’re talking about women and economic empowerment,” Heather Matranga, senior director of Village Capital, said in a session on gender lens investing in agriculture.
In fact, some even considered male-founded or male-operated companies that affect women for the better as gender lens investments.
“We can’t just focus on women-run and managed companies,” Lisa Willems, managing director at AlphaMundi Group, said. “We have to focus on the other 95% of companies out there — or maybe even more than that — that aren’t run by women and ask, how can we embed gender integration into the DNA of these companies at an early stage?”
SOCAP is a strategic partner of Karma.