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Scaling Sustainable Investments

Screen Shot 2013-06-21 at 8.21.02 PMI had the pleasure of attending the 2013 TBLI (Triple Bottom Line Investment) conference on June 17th in New York City.  Day one of the two day conference highlighted what became a recurrent theme: financially viable sustainability projects and companies are available for investment. What is missing are the appropriate financial products for the end buyer to actually make an investment at a scale that will shift the status quo and accelerate the transition to sustainable systems.

The Opening Keynote by Paul Rose, Vice President of the Royal Geographical Society, was effective in making clear that the continued deterioration of our environmental ecosystems is accelerating to potentially catastrophic levels. The need has never been greater to solve the critical element of deploying capital to sustainable and socially conscious enterprises. He did this in excellent fashion through wit and humor, which made his slide shows of global environmental collapse from his many explorations ever more alarming.

Paul followed his presentation by moderating a roundtable assembled to address the following questions, “Do Sandy and Katrina make a lasting impression regarding ESG and Impact Investing in the USA?” and, “What sustainable new initiatives or policy changes are to occur in the (American) financial industry?”  Included on the panel were Mel Aaronson, president of National Conference on Public Employee Retirement System (NCPERS) and treasurer of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT); Carter Bales, Chairman at NewWorld Capital Group, LLC; Peter Malik, Managing Director, Corporate Engagement & Innovative Finance at The Nature Conservancy; and Hilary McMahon, Director of Research, Carbon War Room.

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SOCAP12 Reconnects Impact Investing Leaders and Highlights New Social Entrepreneurs in SF

Last week our very own Jeff Tuller and Eleanor Horowitz traveled to the West Coast and joined over 1600 attendees for SOCAP12 at San Francisco’s Fort Mason. This was the fifth annual weeklong conference hosted by Social Capital Markets (and Jeff’s fifth time in attendance) and this year’s theme was Making Meaning Matter.

For those who have yet to experience it, SOCAP is a conference dedicated to increasing the flow of capital to social good and convenes social entrepreneurs, impact investors, intermediaries, students, government officials and more.

“We are here because we are about investing in a new way that supports businesses doing business in a new way; a way that creates positive good, measurable good, and impact, while it makes a profit,” wrote convener Kevin Jones.

At SOCAP, we caught up with friends and business partners and were energized to meet so many entrepreneurs new to SOCAP12 like Julia Sevilla, the founder of Kape Maria, a coffee company supporting local farmers and communities in the Philippines, Debbie Sterling, the founder of GoldieBlox, a toy company that sets out to inspire girls to become engineers, and Tonee Ndungu from Kenya who founded Kytabu, a textbook subscription app for tablets providing access to low-cost schoolbooks for low and middle income families.

A few of our favorite highlights:

Majora Carter speaking at Wednesday’s opening plenary at SOCAP12

  • Mission Markets was an active part of the conversation on Jed Emerson’s panel on impact investing platforms. What really defines a platform anyways?
  • Jeff Raikes, CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, announced the launch of the Markets for Good initiative in partnership with LiquidNet, which will be tasked with improving data collection for impact investing. It is great to see some heavy hitters reinvigorating the conversation around impact measurement.
  • Majora Carter of Sustainable South Bronx spoke at Wednesday’s morning plenary about the importance of building and investing in sustainable local communities
  • Jenny Kassan of Cutting Edge Capital and Amy Pearl of Change XChange led a panel on Direct Public Offerings, something Mission Markets will be partnering with Jenny and Amy to offer. At last year’s SOCAP, the JOBS act and crowdfunding were all the buzz, but sometimes people forget that DPOs also enable the democratization of impact investing
  • Impact Assets launched the IA50, a resource of 50 investment opportunities that value both financial and environmental returns and includes Iroquois Valley Farms and Brazil’s first impact investing fund Vox Capital
  • And of course we loved the view…

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Reporting from SOCAP Europe: Mission Markets Goes International

Greetings from old Amsterdam! I am sitting with Steve Rocco (Mission Markets Co-Founder) in the foyer of a building that was built when New York was New Amsterdam, and the wireless internet is faster than in our offices in Soho.  SOCAP picked a great spot for its inaugural European conference.

The conference is sold out (again, that makes three years running!) which bodes well for the social capital markets in general, but it makes for an awful lot to absorb in just three days.

I presented Mission Markets to a global audience of impact investors (yes that’s me in the photo) yesterday, and am pleased to report it went smashingly well.

We were already pleasantly surprised how well-known Mission Markets was here on The Continent before our session, and afterwards it only got better.  We may not be a household name yet, but within this admittedly small pond, we’re pretty big fish and it feels terrific.

Timing our announcement of Mission Markets’ partnership with Impact Investment Exchange Asia with SOCAP worked out nicely – no surprise that news played well to this international audience.  I plugged the partnership in the presentation too, in addition to HubCulture, the brains behind the Ven digital social currency.

The conference is winding down now, there’s an oddly dressed man informing us the final session is about to begin by gently banging a gong as he wanders the room (sounds tacky but here it works) and so I will end here.  I’ll have more to say about the experience after giving it a while to soak in… dag!

– Jeff Tuller, CTO/Director of Social Metrics

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Guest Post: Slow Money NYC

Mission Markets + Slow Money NYC = Entrepreneur Showcase and Resource Exchange, this Saturday, May 14th in Brooklyn, NY.

A former boss of mine, whenever he heard a good idea, would look at his staff and say, “Let’s dream that into existence.”  He was directing a team of artists, and his words were our marching orders to transform our wildest thoughts into tangible work.

I was reminded of this when I read the book Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money by Woody Tasch.  For a few years now, our country has been wading through tough economic times.  Yet, to give an example, we continue to search for signs of recovery in a higher GDP.  Considering that the GDP measures all economic activity — everything from car accidents to mountain-top removal included — it hardly seems a measure of improvement.  It’s time for kindred thinkers like those behind Mission Markets and the Slow Money movement to dream something new into existence.

With these lofty goals, I’m happy to announce tangible work right now:  This Saturday, May 14th, Slow Money NYC is proud to partner with Mission Markets for the first-ever Entrepreneur Showcase and Resource Exchange in Brooklyn, NY.  The event will be at The Commons, 388 Atlantic Avenue, from 1-6 pm.

Slow Money NYC is a network of food activists, investors and entrepreneurs.  We nurture a range of conversations in order to actively develop funding and investment channels for local and sustainable food enterprises.  Our work is based on the principles of collaborative knowledge sharing, mutually reinforcing relationships, community participation, fairness, diversity and non-violence.

Like Mission Markets, we want to see investment directed towards companies that restore our environment.  We believe that, in turn, will restore the economy.

On Saturday, May 14th the doors are open to all.  In addition to the presentations from the ten Slow Money NYC entrepreneur finalists, we’ll have a Resource Exchange with numerous exhibitors who offer a range of services for sustainable food and farming entrepreneurs.  And we’re delighted to host Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer as the Opening Speaker.

Why this and why now?  On page 116 of Slow Money, Tasch gives us the status quo:  “I would argue that an investor whose financial activity is predicated on extraction — on the linear take-make-waste methodologies of a world that had never seen the picture of the earth rising over the moon — is not really an investor at all.  He is not truly investing himself in that to which he is applying his capital.  Quite the opposite.  He is keeping himself completely out of it, denying any personal connection to or responsibility for that to which his capital is lending its energy.”

Later in the book, within pages 132-136, he writes, “…financial markets are man-made.  And we can remake them…We need to create a new market.  A new kind of market.  A market that will turn the market into a market or that market.”

Join Mission Markets and Slow Money NYC as we bring into existence new, sustainable food and farming markets for New York City this Saturday, May 14th.


Nicole Reed
Steering Committee
Slow Money NYC


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Mission Markets Musings: Rob Thomas

I realized Michael Van Patten was following me after the third conference.

Social Venture Network, Slow Money Gathering, and SRI In The Rockies are all conferences I have attended for quite some time.  The beauty of these conferences is the opportunity to network with like-minded members of our community.  Michael is the founder and president of Mission Markets, and we soon sat down together to learn more about each other’s business.

To say Michael is enthusiastic would be a gross understatement.  He radiates a passion for his work. Mission Markets is an active and robust community marketplace for impact investments of all kinds. I heard Michael out for an hour, and when he finally stopped for a breath I chimed in. I told him that Mission Markets is much like Social(k), in that we are both building investment products to fulfill a demand for conscientious investing–a demand that has reached critical mass. Our two businesses also took root in the same community of innovators who are looking for investments that make more than one kind of return.

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Portland Business Journal announces Mission Markets Partnership with Springboard Innovation

The Portland Business Journal and Sustainable Business Oregon just released a story featuring Mission Markets and Springboard Innovation. Here is a brief quote from the article:

“The partnership highlights a growing interest in the practice of impact investing among both accredited investors and money managers on Wall Street as well as individuals inspired by the popularity of microfinance programs.

“We’re sort of a LinkedIn platform for investor groups,” said Michael Van Patten, founder and CEO of Mission Markets and a 20-year Wall Street veteran. “We try to provide an infrastructure for accessing capital.”

Mission Markets is working with 85 companies in various stages of approval that the company will attempt to match up with a group of 90-and-growing accredited investors. Mission Markets complies with U.S. Securities and Exchange regulations and uses standards such as the Benefit Corporation certification and the Global Impact Investing Rating System to vet companies.”

Click here to read more!

– The Mission Markets Team

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Mission Markets Musings: Vicky Stein

Lately, I have found that unusual conversations are occurring in unexpected places. For example, the Community Affairs staff at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston hosted a roundtable event this week on “Financing Disability Housing in New England”. The event brought together a wide variety of organizations from five different states, ranging from social service organizations and CDFIs to bankers to discuss a subject that receives far too little attention from community development practitioners: “How can we scale the current models for financing housing for the disabled in New England?”.  I should point out; this round table is part of a series that have been hosted by Federal Reserve Banks around the country.  The Boston event was the most recent one.

While this may sound like an esoteric subject, it in fact raises important issues that we as a society have failed to confront.  In a piece prepared for the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, entitled “The Disability Housing Market:  Opportunity for Community Development Finance as the Americans with Disabilities Act Turns 20”, Charles D. Hammerman of The Disability Opportunity Fund and Samantha Bennett of the Center for Wealth Preservation note that “In 2006, there were more than 21 million people between 18 and 65 in the United States with one or more disabilities.”  Moreover, people with disabilities have among the highest poverty rates.

What I find particularly compelling is the sheer number of disabled individuals who will need housing in the not too distant future.  For example, according to official studies, there are between 1 and 1.2 million Americans who have been diagnosed with some form of Autism and 80% of these individuals are below the age of 22.  Some 800,000 of these young people will need to be housed in the near future.  Hammerman and Bennett pinpoint the problem in their article, explaining that “Although there is no coherent approach to providing housing, the demand for it is strong. There are more than 41 million noninstitutionalized Americans living with some form of disability. More than 23 million are between the ages of 18 and 65.  It is the inadequate supply that has ultimately hindered those with disabilities from attaining housing.”

As a long time consultant in the community development field this would seem to be a natural fit for community development financial institutions (CDFIs) that finance affordable housing for low and moderate income individuals.  But much to my surprise there are relatively few CDFIs that focus on the housing needs of the disabled.

One relatively new organization in the space is The Disability Opportunity Fund, with a mission to increase the amount of quality, affordable, and suitable housing for people with disabilities. DOF founder, Charles Hammerman, has put out a clarion call to the CDFI industry about the growing need for housing among

This week’s Americans with disabilities roundtable at the Boston Fed and others across the country are highlighting a critical housing need in this country and one for which we need scalable financing solutions.  It also showcased a number of promising approaches from around New England.  I hope CDFIs, banks and other private and public sector players will consider developing such models into larger programs to address this pressing need.

The Federal Reserve System might seem like an unlikely partner in this effort but as a convener and a research organization – the Fed has an amazing ability to bring together parties who serve disabled people but often times do not coordinate or collaborate to support this population.  What was uplifting about this roundtable was the level of expertise and the range of participants in the room, including CDFIs, social service providers, bankers, advocates, federal, state and local agencies.

The disabled community is an incredibly diverse population with a wide range of needs for housing and accompanying support services.  This event and others like it around the country have started a critical dialogue that we need to continue, particularly in the community development field.  I applaud the Federal Reserve’s effort and look forward to more of these convenings in the future.

– Vicky Stein, Mission Markets Director of Community Investments