Highlighting the rapidly growing interest in impact investment opportunities within Silicon Valley, entrepreneurs, investors and other partners were brought together on March 16, 2017 by the Palo Alto Impact Center’s “Impact Investing in Silicon Valley” Spring event.
As a follow up to the successful Demo Day in November, the latest event in Palo Alto Impact Center’s program combined fireside chat discussions, on-stage interviews and pitches from top Bay Area-based social entrepreneurs, drawing together members representing all parts of the impact investing community — which included corporate affiliates, local investors and top business schools. A diverse line up of eight entrepreneurs pitched their unique solutions to challenges within healthcare (Savonix, LegWorks, Weal Life), education (LiftEd, KiraKira), food (Tiny Farms, Barnraiser) and the environment (PowerScout).
Presenting her company, Weal Life, which aims to make caring for others during times of chronic illness or aging easier with the use of technology, Keely Stevenson said the day prompted a “wealth of insights and practical support from investors and other entrepreneurs.” One of five women pitching on the day, Keely also noted she was left impressed by the high percentage of female entrepreneurs on stage compared to elsewhere in Silicon Valley. “It demonstrates a leadership that is truly innovating.”
From start to finish, the event prompted thought-provoking discussions, with esteemed John Kohler from the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship reaffirming the crucial role of patience when assessing impact investment timelines and the associated returns, while Jenna Nichols (Impact Experience) and Wes Selke (Better Ventures) reflected on the influence their upbringings had on their respective impact investing journeys. The value from knowing, and telling, your story emerged as a key theme from the event.
Before making time for a friendly, informal reception, the official sessions ended with awards to entrepreneurs in 3 categories – Best Qualified Team, Most Innovative Solution and Best Overall Impact Investment – presented by an experienced and highly innovative panel of judges: entrepreneur CEOs Cat Berman (CNote) and Christine Su (PastureMap), alongside impact investors David Cooper (Nourish Ventures), Tony Stayner (Excelsior Impact Fund, SV2 & toniic member) and Peter Herz (FoodSystem6).
Established in 2015, the event reflects the Palo Alto Impact Center’s focus on cultivating a powerful ecosystem of social impact professionals to unlock resources and deliver their mission – enabling the launch of new social impact organizations that improve the lives of individuals in the Bay Area and globally. Central to this aim was the event’s friendly and relaxed atmosphere, allowing diverse change makers possessing common values to strengthen their connections. The reception also gave participants the opportunity to deep dive with each of the presenting entrepreneurs in order to find out more about their products and services first hand.
“It’s not just a networking event,” said Suzanne Andrews, investor and entrepreneur at wingpact. “At PAIC events, I always meet great people who I end up developing lasting and rewarding relationships with. I learned a ton from each expert that spoke, plus their expertise wove together to create an expansive and fascinating picture of the impact investing space.”
For anyone curious to find out more about impact investing in the Bay Area and the work of the Palo Alto Impact Center, further events are scheduled throughout the year and can be found on their website.