Commentary:

Feb
11
2013

Impact: The Next Venture Capital?

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review has the impact investing airwaves humming. In it, the author presents his case for the notion that impact investing will be for the early 21st century what venture capital was for the later 20th century. Interestingly, much of the commentary has been negative, with pointed remarks about the difference between investing for maximum financial return (venture) and investing with the intention of generating returns other than, and in addition to, financial. Most of these comments seem focused on the notion that venture capital is soulless, whereas impact is by definition "soulful". Although my friends in venture capital would go to great lengths to disagree, I find myself sympathetic to this stance. There IS something essentially soulless in viewing the process of seeding, nurturing and harvesting a company exclusively through the very narrow - if very powerful - microscope of financial return. But despite this, I disagree with the conclusion: the analog has nothing to do with soul. Instead, it has everyting to do with history. To wit, a Brief History Of Venture Capital:...
Jan
15
2013

An Early Morning Meditation On Being A Pioneer

Tom's point (and I've heard it argued before, but always from the purely environmental perspective... which tends to get a bit idealistic and impractical in terms of implementation) is that using coal is not evil. Quite the opposite. Coal use is the inevitable consequence of failing to set the rules such that the actual cost of using the commodity is reflected in its price. Full-cost accounting is no new concept, so I don't want to imply that Tom is somehow waving a magic wand over a problem that nobody has been able to crack. But he is the first person I've heard talk about it from the perspective of the CFO rather than from the perspective of the guy who lives downwind from the coal-fired plant....
Dec
9
2012

The Seduction of Hype

Several years ago, I delivered a presentation on the risks to the emerging discipline of impact investing. Among these risks was the notion that a wave of hype might propel the discpline into the headlines, that major Wall Street firms would see a marketing opportunity (and an enticing opportunity to green-wash in the wake of the financial crisis), and that the resulting flow of capital would overwhelm the small number of viable, investable impact opportunities before the space had the time to organically develop absorptive capacity. I remember the good-natured chuckles that spread through the room as I outlined this potential scenario... and the general sense that those of us who had been working to grow and refine the discipline should be so lucky! 


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Oct
15
2012

A Tale Of Two Impacts

With a title like "A Tale Of Two Impacts", the temptation is high to offer some sort of Dickensian quote to kick this post off... but I'll spare the reader. Instead, I'll start by observing the surreal juxtaposition of an security-and-canapés event hosted by Rockefeller Advisors and the Federal Reserve Bank followed promptly by the impact mosh pit known as SOCAP. With my punk roots (yep, my high school band was named "Gang Green" - an early nod to environmentalism?), one would have thought that the latter would have been the more interesting. Well... one would have been wrong.

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Sep
28
2012

Measuring Philanthropic Impact... or Impact Investing?

A New York Times article this morning explored the increasing trend among philanthropists to measure the impact of the money they give away:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/29/your-money/measuring-the-impact-of-impact-investing-wealth-matters.html

Although the author does a commendable job of highlighting some of the nuanced issues that surround the very difficult notion of giving money away effectively, he then tries to bridge this notion to the broader world of impact investing. In short, I think he missed the mark.

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