/Elizabeth Riley

About Elizabeth Riley

Elizabeth Riley is an experienced journalist and digital content strategist who believes we all have the power to change the world. She is currently the Program Manager at Impact Engine and oversees all the day-to-day operations and communications and marketing outreach. Prior to Impact Engine, Elizabeth spent three years at Chicago magazine, most recently as its Digital Engagement Editor, where she managed the organization’s social media and community engagement strategies. Elizabeth also works as a freelance writer and communications consultant. In 2007, Elizabeth helped open a private school for underprivileged children in the Dominican Republic while volunteering for a nonprofit organization. This experience inspired her to quit her job at an insurance brokerage firm to pursue a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University. Elizabeth also holds a bachelor’s degree in American studies from the University of Texas at Austin.
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7 Tips for Talking to Impact Investors

When it comes to fundraising, finding the right investors to back your startup is key. This is true for nearly all early stage companies looking for capital, but when it comes to impact companies, finding the right financial partners is even more important. Not only do you want investors who see the financial opportunity of your impact company, you want investors who truly believe in your mission. And as we’ve highlighted in our “Spectrum of Impact Investing” post, investing philosophies vary greatly among impact investors. Despite this delicate dance, there are a few things every social entrepreneur can do prepare for fundraising. Impact Engine’s chief investment officer, Tasha Seitz, and chairman, Chuck Templeton, put together a some tips for preparing for and managing your conversations with potential impact investors.

1. Be ready. The best time to raise money is when you have a strong case to make: have some traction and proof points around customer demand, willingness to pay, business model, etc. Bootstrap and conserve your cash until you have those proof points. Bring together a team that can execute, and get stuff done before you start talking to investors.

2. Be prepared. Be able to explain your market opportunity, how your business works, and your unique (preferably) value proposition. In addition, impact investors will want to know what the potential for social or environmental impact is and how you intend to measure it. Come to the conversation with a clear outline of what you’ve done so far to build the business and how much you need to raise to reach the next set of key milestones. Also spend some time thinking […]

By |May 28, 2015|

WATCH: Impact Engine 3 Years Later

When Impact Engine launched in 2012, it was a bit of an experiment. The concept of impact entrepreneurship was very new in Chicago, and in many ways, it still is. After a lot of educating, handholding, risk taking, and everything in between, here we are—three years later—and we couldn’t be more proud of the community we’ve built. It’s a community filled with passionate entrepreneurs, investors, and mentors who truly believe for-profit and purpose go hand in hand. But don’t take it from us. Hear from Impact Engine graduates, impact investors, and community members firsthand about the growth of impact investing and entrepreneurship in Chicago. WATCH:


By |January 20, 2015|
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Join Us November 14th for The Power of Angel Investing

Join us this fall for a full-day seminar highlighting the ins and outs of angel investing. This angel bootcamp, led by John May, managing partner of New Vantage Group, is a great primer for anyone interested in the angel investing or impact investing process.
November 14th
7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Quarles & Brady LLP
300 N. LaSalle St., Ste. 4000
Chicago, IL
The Power of Angel Investing will feature experienced angel investors with diverse investment portfolios, tax and legal professionals, and angel-backed entrepreneurs. We’ll walk you through portfolio strategy, due diligence, deal structure, and valuation methodologies through interactive presentations, panel discussions, and case studies, including an impact-focused case study.

Who Should Attend?

High net-worth individuals with business experience and an interest in investing in early stage companies
Past successful entrepreneurs who are interested in staying involved in early stage companies
Current entrepreneurs looking to learn about the angel investing process


More About this Seminar

The Power of Angel Investing is part of a series of education programs about angel investing, developed by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, with content provided by experienced angels and angel group leaders from around the country. It is distributed by The Angel Resource Institute, the leader in educating angel investors, entrepreneurs, and economic development professionals on the skills and training needed to successfully engage in the angel investing process.

A Special Thanks to Our Sponsors

By |October 23, 2013|

Calling all Mavericks: Evaluating Influence vs. Impact

Editor’s Note: This post was originally featured on Light Up Africa’s blog and is being syndicated here. 

As the program manager of Impact Engine, a 16-week venture accelerator that supports for-profit businesses making the world a better place, I’m often asked about the criteria for accepting entrepreneurs into our program. There are four main categories we look at when evaluating a potential company for Impact Engine:

Concept – Is the idea viable? What’s the unique value proposition?
Entrepreneur – How determined in the entrepreneur? Do they have a thorough knowledge of the subject matter? Are they coachable?
Profitability – Does the idea rest on a sound and sustainable business model?
Potential for Impact – How many people could benefit from the product or service?

This last criterion is probably one of the hardest to judge, especially in an industry that’s still sorting out how impact should be measured. To be taken seriously, impact entrepreneurs need to communicate their value beyond the warm-and-fuzzy stories. They need hard numbers. With every product sold, how many people are impacted? And it’s important to think about both the positive and negative impact your product can have on a community. (TOMS shoes learned this the hard way.)

These are tough questions to answer, which is why the Impact Engine team spent a lot of time debating impact vs. influence during last year’s application process. We eventually decided that, in most cases, influence was greater than impact. By that, I mean, what’s your company’s potential to disrupt an industry despite lower impact numbers? Is your idea a game-changer?

I was reminded of this while listening to coverage of the American Airlines/US Airways merger on […]

By |February 20, 2013|

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