The lure of technology lies in its dynamism. The development of sleeker hardware and faster software lingers just around the corner, fueling the competitive desire to get to it first. Within the organizations birthed by this drive, the lights are dim, the drive is high, and snacks abound to keep you energized.
It’s this type of drive, curiosity and competition that brings some technology entrepreneurs, as investors, to the world of social enterprise.
Simply the language we use (“emerging”, “frontier”, and “impact”) lends itself to a certain breed of investor, a certain type of tolerance for risk. For this investor, they see the opportunity and the challenge to be the first to get the new, the good, and the cutting-edge to scale.
What if we switched out all of that language with some that might be better suited to the realities of building social enterprises? How about “no return”, “7-10 years”, “government subsidies”, and “long-term”? Do we still have the attention of the same investors?
In taking stock of my conversations, I’ve wondered about the investors who we haven’t considered. Where are the entrepreneurs who have grown their own organizations for 20+ years? Who are the investors that hold a company’s stock for decades? What are the industries that have taken years to show profit and who can tell the stories of lessons learned over a period – on both the building and investing sides? Which entrepreneurs and investors struggled with what their exit strategy should be, because they never really saw one?
In seeing both the opportunity and the challenges of building these blended value organizations, my own technology-driven temperament gets bogged down in how long and how much it will take to nurture some of these ideas.
Through Enterprising Non-Profits, I work in the space of providing education and technical assistance to hopeful social entrepreneurs. The funding helps with their business development, but doesn’t help with their operations (initial or ongoing). Our next challenge is how to secure early seed stage funding and investing. The question is, are we including a variety of investors in that conversation?
Without a doubt, there is space for this variety. Investors bring different temperaments, tolerances, and skills to the table. As we think about providing support, mentorship, and investment to social entrepreneurs, part of the focus needs to be on engaging a multitude of investors in the conversation – setting the stage for the reality of what it will take to build emerging social enterprises.
(Originally posted on Social Finance.ca)