Feel Good Friday: Impact startups are here 🌱🌳🌏

By NATHAN KINCH

This blog is a simple articulation of something I’ve been observing actively for the last few years. It’s an attempt to communicate why, although things can seems pretty dark, I’m hopeful and optimistic.

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A little context

I made my first investment in a startup back in 2016. At the time I’d read a lot about the process. But I’d never done it. This was all new.

Fast forward to now and things are different. In late 2018 I made it a distinct objective to invest in 20+ impact focused, early stage startups each year (my first few investments were less tightly focused on this). For the last two years – since setting this ‘goal’ – I’ve actually followed through.

I’ve learned a lot in the process. I’ve refined my thesis through experimentation. I’ve been given access to better deal flow. I’ve connected with awesome people on both sides (founders and investors) of the equation.

I don’t have a huge fund behind me. I invest via Equity Crowdfunding. I invest in early angel rounds. My max for the latter is 10k AUD. My max for the former is about $2,500. Sometimes it’s much less for ECF (depending on different factors). The difference comes down to the stage of access and thus the valuation.

It’s a portfolio approach. I’m not focused on a specific ‘vertical’. I’m focused on socially preferable outcomes and the types of organisations that might be able to help us make positive progress.

If you wanna talk specifics, let me know.

With the context covered, let’s move onto the focus of the post.

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I've witnessed a really meaningful change

Here’s the thing, the number of startups that are social enterprises, certified B-Corps, or explicitly committed to a purpose (other than money making)Β  has overwhelmed me. I don’t think this was the case 4 years ago. I ‘get’ my mind might be playing tricks on me (I’m looking for it, therefore I find it). But hear me out.

Something has changed. It’s not just ‘cool’ to do this. From the conversations I keep having with founders, I believe they see a new type of business as an incredible force for good. They want to design for change. Their startup is the vehicle that will help them navigate the windy road, pit stops, pot holes and everything else that gets in the way. It’s designed to get them to that better destination.

That’s why I feel good this Friday.Β 

There’s so much momentum around us. There are more ethical alternatives than ever before. Yes we’re early. The whole system ain’t gonna change over night.Β 

But, with millions (or more) tiny steps, I believe we will look back a few years down the track and genuinely surprise ourselves with how far we’ve come.

Enough from me. What do you think? Am I just confirming my biases or is something really happening? Is there actually a proliferation of impact focused startups hitting the market?

Oh, and if you’re interested in this type of stuff, check out Ethical.net. It’s a super resource for alternatives to common stuff we rely upon daily.

As always, with much ❀️

Responses

  1. Personally I don’t believe in Startups, or more specifically in the ‘startup culture’ that is commonly practices, and where VC funding plays an important role. I have applied at a startup accelerator myself in the past, and it was all about the quick’n dirty MVP, growth hacking, and rapid acceleration. To become a ‘scale-up’ ASAP, and with ultimate success defined as either becoming a ‘Unicorn’ or a buy-out with big bucks going to the founders and VC funders. In startup culture there are kinds of nice-sounding stories about sustainability and social entrepreneurship, but in my opinion it still mostly boils down to adopting a “move fast and break things” mentality and go for the bottom line in search of fame and fortune.

    Much more interested am I in the rise of Sustainable Businesses that are based on new and innovative business and revenue models. I think you are also referring to this here, Nathan, and it is a very exciting field to explore further. I won’t go into specifics in this comment, and still have lots to learn and investigate. But my next business, if it comes to that, will be a sustainable one, and most probably non-profit as well with capped salaries for both founders as well as employees.

    1. We’re on the same page. the orgs I’m trying to invest in are challenging the goals of the system (key leverage point). This enables them to build purpose into the business as an enabler of meaningful progress. Happy to chat more about this though. Lots of nuance. And there’s always semantics, interpretation etc.