SOCAP (Social Capital Markets), the world’s largest conference on social enterprise and impact investing, took place at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco, California this week. Jessica Droste Yagan and Tasha Seitz of Impact Engine both attended #SOCAP16 to speak on a few panels and connect with others in the impact investing field. Earlier this month, Tasha and Jessica wrote an article on the SOCAP blog, sharing Impact Engine’s model and their thoughts on the state of impact investing in Chicago and beyond. Below, they’ve shared a recap and their thoughts on this year’s conference.

It was so great to attend SOCAP16 in San Francisco, surrounded by the energy and excitement of the SOCAP community. As veteran attendees (this is Jessica’s third and Tasha’s fifth conference), we are always energized to be around smart people who are passionate about the potential of the intersection of impact and markets. We even crossed paths with two of our own portfolio companies (Develop Link and Sokowatch).

One of the highlights of the conference was hearing from the many entrepreneurs building solutions to important problems. Tasha had the opportunity to speak with the 2016 SOCAP Scholarship Recipients, close to 150 entrepreneurs from 35+ countries, about how to get the most out of their conference experience. A key piece of advice — which applies to all entrepreneurs at all times — was to always be ready with a set of “asks” related to business support and introductions, and focus on building and nurturing existing relationships as well as making valuable new connections.

This year we also noticed a growing interest in direct investing among the investor community. Tasha spoke on a panel called, “Direct Deals: Investing in the Early Stage”, sharing what she has learned working with entrepreneurs, emerging funds and angel investors. The session brought together a diverse group of investors, academics, and policy makers in the audience. We particularly enjoyed a question from a lawyer who asked how lawyers can help improve the deal process for both sides (Answer: keep it simple!). In case you missed the panel, watch it here.

Tasha also joined six women investors on a panel called “Impact Women Tell All”, where they shared their thoughts about the changing landscape for women in impact investing. We spoke with our female colleagues about gender diversity in board representation, fund managers and impact investors. Impact Engine was proud to share that one-third of our investor network is made up of women. Additionally, 39% of our portfolio companies have a female founder and 29% have a female CEO. While there are still obstacles for female leadership in the field, the panel made us optimistic about the future for women in impact investing.

Each year this conference brings together an engaging group of members of the social impact community, and this year was no different. This gathering is an excellent reminder just how much this movement and opportunity has grown over the years, and we look forward to attending the SOCAP conference for many years to come!

Did you like this post? Sign up for our community newsletter and we’ll send you the latest Impact Engine news each month.