This post is adapted from Chuck Templeton’s speech at Impact Engine’s Demo Day on January 15, 2014 at Untitled Chicago. Demo Day is a showcase of our startups to community and business leaders throughout Chicago and beyond.
Why we are here.
We are here today because we know we can help build a better world. Too many people go to bed hungry, our food is too carbon intensive, our education system is not meeting the needs of our kids, there is too much wasteful consumption, our communities are not designed for the future in front of us, too many people eat alone, too much human capital is rotting away in our jails and prisons, our energy is too dirty, our existing resources of clean water are diminishing, there is still too much poverty, and our stable climate of the past 10,000 years is changing. We are here because our ecology is the foundation of our economy. We are here because people deserve to live with dignity.
We are here because there are entrepreneurs here and they see challenges like the ones I listed above as opportunities. They see weaknesses in the status quo and they see ways to use new business models, or new technologies, or new social norms as a force for positive change. Entrepreneurs see we can do better than we have so far. They see ways to disrupt the current mindset of mission OR money with mission AND money.
We are here because there are investors here who see the same opportunities. They see a way to make money AND solve some of the biggest challenges of our time. They are here because caring solely about profits is simply not rational anymore and may actually jeopardize their returns. They want to do well and do good with their resources.
We are here to build organizations that can scale, organizations that can get the resources they need and organizations that are nimble enough to move fast, handle risk, and be accountable. We are here to build for-profit organizations.
We are here to help entrepreneurs reach their potential. To help entrepreneurs take their vision from idea to action to solution to profitability. We are here to help them bring their business models to life, to help them reach the heights that only they can see. To help them change the world and lead us to a better future.
We are here to help build an ecosystem. An ecosystem that helps businesses scale so they can solve previously unsolved problems. An ecosystem that asks, “why would you spend time and invest resources in a company if it ONLY makes money?” An ecosystem that holds us accountable, gives everyone an equal chance, and balances today’s needs with a bright and prosperous future.
We are here to learn what impact means and to understand that it is not a marginal thing anymore:
- In 2006, only 25 percent of Fortune 500 companies produced Corporate Sustainability Reports (CSRs). Today that figure has climbed to 80 percent.
- A 2007 study demonstrated that companies focused on all stakeholders—rather than just shareholders—outperformed the S&P 500.
- In 2012, social enterprises generated $2.1 trillion in revenue.
- Socially responsible investing has grown into a $1 trillion industry.
Why am I hear today? I am here because after the birth of my first daughter I started to wonder what the world might be like when she got older and what I learned didn’t make me feel so great. I am here because I believe that impact entrepreneurs and the investors that invest in them are one of the most powerful forces to a better future. I am here because there is too much inequality in the world and I can help change that. And I am here because I believe that if we don’t get some things figured out in the next few years, it isn’t going to matter how much money I leave to my daughters.
So why are you here today? I hope you are here because you realize you can double your return by investing in impact companies—you get both a financial return AND a social return. I hope you are here to find an impact investment opportunity and make an investment. Make an investment in them with your time, your experience, your connections, and your capital. Sit on their boards, push them to be better, help them win business, or mentor them.
Here is my challenge to you for a better future, for a future that has both social and financial returns. A future where every business makes money and makes the world a better place. A future with clean water, clean air, a stable climate. A world in which someone doesn’t look at an impoverished person and sees costs, but looks at everyone as an opportunity to contribute to our world.
Find an impact company. (I hope it is one of ours, but either way, find one.) Make your first, or next investment in them. Help them grow, help them find new customers, or new business partnerships or new employees. Go to an uncomfortable place, make an investment in something you believe in. Learn how to be an impact investor, one investment at a time.
Now, let’s get started.