Are you an Impact Investor or Unicorn Hunter?

Thank you to Annie Spratt for this photo.

Have you noticed how many investment funds have been created in last 5-10 years all claiming to have Impact Investing focus. It is overwhelming to see so many investment professionals raise money, govt. institutions allocate money , or asset owners invest their own to fix or improve society. Admirable and noble. Billions have been raised to help fix societal and environmental challenges. This is inspiring at first glance, until you actually look under the hood.

Take a look at the mission statements or ambitions of several of the funds created recently.

  • “investment platform focused on generating superior returns aligned with sustainable principles”
  • “Assist great entrepreneurs developing products and services for the three billion people in the bottom half of the world’s economic pyramid.”
  • “We invest to build more inclusive and equitable societies.”
  • “We back founders on a mission to build a better world”
  • “dedicated to startups leveraging exponentially accelerating technologies to address humanity’s grand challenges.”
  • “investing into companies, organizations, and funds with the intention to generate social and environmental impact alongside a financial return.”
  • “seeking deeper positive net impact across the spectrum of capital”
  • “We believe that investment capital can help meet large-scale global challenges”
  • “enables private sector investment in projects aimed at climate adaptation and mitigation in developing countries.”
  • “We back entrepreneurs building climate tech for a regenerative world.”
  • “Our ambition is to identify and invest in high-impact solutions for climate mitigation, as well as to catalyse and multiply capital to scale them.”
  • “family office investing in regenerative food systems”
  • “vision to invest in entrepreneurs building sustainable enterprises that can catalyze development impact for excluded communities and remote geographies across the globe.”
  • “support promising entrepreneurs, with growth capital and proven business tools to reach their full potential and enable them to achieve systemic change.”
  • “backs technology businesses committed to having a positive impact that answers the most pressing social and ecological challenges of our time, in a way that is both scalable and sustainable.”
  • “invests in companies driving measurable social impact alongside business performance and strong returns.”
  • “we believe that we can address and alleviate some of the world’s challenges by investing with purpose. “

These are all fine and important aspirations but are these investment funds or investors really purpose driven or do they revert to traditional investment mind set of “hunting unicorns”. Those companies that will have a 1 billion dollar valuation. Isn’t that the purpose of investments to maximise returns for the investor. I don’t have a problem with that. I have a problem with the false packaging. If you are just hunting unicorns, just say so, so the entrepreneur won’t lose any time who’s mission is not to be a unicorn, but a zebra (focussed on improving society and environment, not exponential growth) . Most investments will never be unicorns.

It is hard to start and run a company and do the continuous capital raise. They should not be wasting their time with investors that want to be entertained, informed or are pretending to be interested when they are just researching competitive investments. Perhaps the most important question to ask an investor “are you a unicorn hunter?”. If they are and your ambition is to drawdown carbon by improving the soil and livelihoods of small holder farmers, without any apps, then the fit is wrong. If you want to create meaningful jobs for unemployed youth by doing vocational hospitality training then unicorn hunters are not going to help or invest. If you are a long term developer to de-commoditise the food system then don’t bother with unicorn hunters. If the mission or purpose is your raison d’être, then you are not helped and won’t get money from unicorn hunters. They are looking for an app, few employees, super fast scaling, warp speed growth and monopoly. It is a win-lose approach mindset.

Many investors and most vc’s are fund managers driven by achieving the carry, asap. Few ever ran a company. Growth, Market share, IPO’s are the mantra. They are looking for that big payoff asap. Zebras won’t do that, unicorns will. Maybe they will. At least in the eyes of unicorn hunters they will.

If you are looking to fundamentally restore the social and environmental balance first and foremost, as well as make a profit to fund all your activities and growth, avoid unicorn hunters; especially those pretending to be impact Investors. Those are the worst. They wrap themselves in something that is important to you, but has no value at all to them. Be discerning. Ask them are you a UH (unicorn hunter) or II (Impact Investor) .

The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.

Groucho Marx

Covid-19 is a breakthrough not a breakdown!

Corona Virus clearly shows the balance in the world is awful, and how vulnerable the capitalist system is. Impact investing is investing in a healthy world. A world that is less vulnerable. We all benefit from that.

We all need to use this time to heal, regenerate and plan for rebuilding and retooling our society. One can already see the benefits of moving slower, less haste, less co2, less air and water pollution and less crime. Sure, we are locked up our home, but we finally have time to actually connect and communicate with our family. People avoiding each other to maintain social distancing is a new experience. That is true. Just smile, instead of shaking hands or hugging or give the Wai (Thai Greeting). If possible, go for long walk and enjoy quiet.

There is a fundamental shift in how the financial system should be structured and who should benefit. To quote a HNW Sikh friend of mine. “Unsustainable paths are no longer feasible whether for the billionaires, Wall Street or Main Street. Our collective destructive behaviours need to stop and Covid-19 has shown us how damaging we are to ourselves and the planet.” Here we see a billionaire shouting loudly that the billionaires should not be bailed out. “Billionaires deserve to get wiped out”. This would have been unheard of a short while ago.

TBLI is expanding its 25 year mission of creating a financial system that works for all. Ultimately, all investments should have multiple returns for the investor, the environment and society (Triple Bottom Line-Social, Environmental and Financial).

If you want to learn more about TBLI and how this strategy will help deal with a Covid-19 World, listen to our weekly webinar Shareholders for A Better World. Every week we will have discussions and interviews with thought leaders who are truly working to create an inclusive financial system.

Next week April 22-14:00 CET- Impact Investing and Climate Change in the world of a Global Pandemic with Stephen Brenninkmeijer, Private Investor and Chair, Supervisory Board of European Climate Foundation Register here