Newsletter 1 2017
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The Impact We Make

Half way between our last Social Impact Festival event and the next one.. a pause for thought
Since our pitch event as part of the UWA Social Impact Festival last year, we’ve had a bit of time to think. About supporting startups and growing investment.  About impact investment and about where we fit in this growing ecosystem.
It is tempting to open our first 2017 newsletter with a flashy marketing piece about social innovation, with cute infographics and highlights about the #startupaus #blessed life of a social entrepreneur. But we’re not going to. At this critical moment, we want to take the glitter off, for just a minute. Don’t worry, we’ll put it back on in a second (we get that brand and storytelling are really important, and we don’t want to strip it of its magic)... But first, we want to make sure our feet are planted firmly on the ground and 2017 starts on the right foot.

We don't know about you, but after a while, all the chatter about startups, social enterprise and being a social entrepreneur (social impact, social innovation, startups, social business, purpose-for-profit, social ventures, B-corps, social investment, impact investment, scaleability, crowdfund, equity, disruption, unicorns, incubators, accelerators, networking, pitches, hackathons and hubs) can blend into a general white noise where the potency of what we are actually trying to achieve gets lost. We say this as people who are part of that noise.

This year we'd like to pare this work back to it's basic elements and revisit our own specific intent. We're looking at the types of investments being made, the angel investors in the startup space, taking a look at the social businesses and projects we are working on and asking ourselves, "how can we better align the startup/innovation scene, the investment community, and the corporate sector to generate investments that won't only pass a financial due diligence, but a broader innovation due diligence; a social and environmental one?"

How can we better align the startup/innovation scene, the investment community, and the corporate sector to generate investments that won't only pass a financial due diligence, but a broader innovation due diligence; a social and environmental one?

Innovation Conversation
Beyond the excitement of the startup scene, how are all stakeholders, our local community (and the broader community) benefited and uplifted, now and into the future, by and through the businesses we are building. How are we ensuring social and environmental values are embedded into the companies we are growing?  It's no longer about CSR as a 'bolt on', or disruption for the sake of it.
Why is it that we insist on separating innovation and social impact? Why do we have to say 'social innovation' in order to be clear we're not just talking about business innovation? All innovation impacts on the community that we live in and the kind of community that we want to live in. Not referencing one when talking about the other creates a false dichotomy.

These are some tough and unsexy questions, but when we pare things down, we want to have something of substance to show for our work.

To be clear, there's absolutely nothing wrong with incubation, accelerators, pitches and networking. These things are all useful tools along the journey:
  • A pitch can be great to raise awareness about your organisation 
  • Incubation can give you some valuable help with your business planning;
  • Networking events can help make connections and share experiences with peers; and
  • Social media can help engage people with your brand. 
But none of this is the end goal. After all the incubation and pitching is done, there is a long road of growing a business ahead, and the most sustainable business growth comes from creating value for all your stakeholders.
Unifying Innovation
The road to success for startups needs to account for these things. Two of the greatest 'unicorns' we hold up as examples lack robust social value propositions. Facebook long ago abandoned its 'democratisation of media' roots to evolve into a pure advertising company.  Innovation poster-boys Uber say they help people earn extra dollars, but pay drivers far below fair value, with an end game of eliminating drivers completely. 

Zero-cost replication in tech often means huge returns for some, and precarious returns for increasing numbers in our community, highlighting what can sometimes be an uncomfortable relationship between tech and social innovation. If we want our 'new economy' to truly disrupt the old system we must look beyond creating digital replications of the same exploitative and exclusionary 'old business' systems we are trying to disrupt. 

To effect positive change we need to unify the innovation conversation to include all people.
The Ask of Ourselves 

So the team at Impact Seed have been asking ourselves “What can we do in 2017 to contribute to growing the impact investment ecosystem? Whether it's a social business startup, a traditional business looking to integrate social impact metrics, or a not-for-profit looking at social enterprise; How can we better help foster and grow businesses that want to do well and do good at the same time?
If you’d like to partner with us, hear more, tell us something we haven't considered, or if you are a social business with ideas about what we can do to help, please get in touch.
And now, as promised, we can put the #glitter back on.  

Our 10 Most Interesting Articles of the Month

We’ve trawled the innards of the internet to bring you a curated look at the world of impact investment, innovation, social businesses, critical thought and reflection, with a smattering of events and news.

  1. When we realise all investment is impact investment, and doing good and doing well has capacity to fix society's biggest problems and save government money, disruption to Business as Usual becomes unavoidable.
  2. HNW’s, Foundations and Institutional Impact Investors.  Australia has 2% of global GDP but 9% of the world’s family offices.  This creates an immense opportunity to put capital to work in a socially beneficial way.
  3. Australian Government launches Social Impact Investing Discussion Paper on development of the impact investment market in Australia.
  4. $20K vouchers for innovative WA startups to spend on professional services/development now extends to in-house services.
  5. The Australian Social Business Forum – with Tim Costello and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Prof Muhummad Yunus.  April 6 in Melbourne.
  6. Homegrown evidence that people make purchase decisions with their conscience, not just on product value. When these 'conscious businesses' embrace a social mission aligned with their values, they almost always beat the competition.
  7. Investors are focused on growth, profits, and valuation. To do well and do good, means carefully choosing aligned partners and investors, so that when tensions arise, everyone has the same value set against which decisions are made.
  8. The answer to social impact is not more social entrepreneurs, it's more social impact that doesn't 'innovate' in a vacuum. Finding or deciding on a 'you-shaped' hole in the world which aligns with your skills, the problems you care about, which best suits your working style, and then consciously either starting a venture, or contributing, growing or improving an existing organisation is the key.
  9. The emotional journey of creating anything great involves putting one foot in front of the other, and making every step count. In the end, even projects that end up in the trash bin, can still provide amazing rewards.
  10. Accelerators may have a positive impact on regional startup ecosystems in terms of a financing environment. However, many programs don’t accelerate startup development, and in some cases may even slow them down.
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