Check out Issue 8 of the July/August 2016 Conscious Company Magazine featuring a piece from Melanie Pease Davidson, It's Time for a New Conversation About Who Gets Our Money.
Join us for Women Powering Change 2016! Help us build momentum and investment in our community. Save your spot now and don't forget to register.
Remember, all relationships, both personal and professional, are political to some degree. And social capital is important. Get to know these 4 Relationship Statuses to understand the relationships you are in and see if you can make better sense of challenges you may be having. Trust but verify is a healthy way to engage with those in your life; and, if all else fails, limit the damage.
Colorado Impact Days and Initiative raised awareness of “Impact Investing with a Gender Lens” last month (March 2-4). As a follow-on, I’m thrilled to be co-hosting the Women Transforming Social Impact networking event on May 12 in Denver to promote collaboration, communication, and connection within the Gender Lens space. Join me. Let’s dig into the conversation together.
Gender Lens Investing tends to be a catchall term for investing in women. Yet, the story is so much deeper. Investors, entrepreneurs and community leaders are now asking increasingly pointed questions about financial inclusion, diversity in the workplace, and gender equity, as a result of exploring these issues through a gender-nuanced lens applied to impact investing.
Accredited impact investors, foundations, and family funds have varying degree of experience and comfort investing in social ventures. CO Impact Days encourages all members of the impact community to “Learn. Connect. Invest.”
The fundamental underpinning for EARTH University is the philosophy that leaders should possess ethical values contributing to sustainable development and construction of a prosperous and just society. Following graduation, EARTH encourages students to return to their countries of origin, so they can apply and implement the lessons learned from their education.
This is not a new topic. In fact, many people agree about the importance of the methods that should be used to make Angel intros. However, it’s something I continue to see entrepreneurs struggle with. I get hundreds of emails in my inbox that I try to conquer daily (except for that one time when I declared email bankruptcy...but that’s a subject for another blog). The majority of these emails are requests for introductions and connections to my network: “Can you connect me with……” or “Do you know any Angels or VCs I can talk to about….”.
PeakChange, Inc. announced expansion of its management consulting services for startup and early-stage social ventures, beginning January 18, 2016. “PeakGovernance” services help young companies establish effective institutional governance, focusing on the recruitment and development of boards of directors and advisors. “PeakRelations” services provide resources for efficient communications between a company’s managers and investors.
#GivingTuesday is an essential part of many nonprofits end of year fundraising campaigns. As a result, there are tons of amazing and worthy organizations participating in #GivingTuesday. Please consider donating to Girls for a Change and Rocky Mountain MicroFinance Institute and join us and the global community on December 1st to celebrate the spirit of giving and philanthropy.
Never heard of SOCAP? It’s the world’s leading conference on impact investing and social enterprise. The conference unites innovators in business, tech, the sharing economy, health, philanthropy, and more to advance environmental and social causes. It’s not your typical conference, by any means.
At PeakChange, we have been big fans of the company Zirtual, who matched us with our wonderful assistant Ashley. In fact because of our positive experience, we were recommending Zirtual’s services to colleagues, friends, and family (basically anyone we met that could benefit from cloud based personal or team assistance).
In today’s contingent economy, transactional relationships have exploded and transformed the way we interact, as evidenced in the success of Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, Etsy and the list goes on and on. Cloud based platforms, from project management tools to outsourced HR, have become both necessary and prolific for businesses with global teams.
PeakChange is no exception. We used Zirtual’s services for travel bookings, scheduling, and research projects. It worked really well, although there were limitations. With Zirtual for example, our assistant could post a tweet on Twitter, but couldn’t compose original content for a tweet. In order for the company to streamline services into packages that could be reasonably priced, assistants were restricted from using critical thinkingor more complex skillsets, which created a level of distance and detachment from clients.
So imagine our shock last Monday morning at 4:30am when we got an email stating Zirtual would be suspending it’s services indefinitely on August 10th. Jim was traveling in France and I was holding down the fort in Denver gearing up for vacation.
Can you imagine the client panic? Most Zirtual clients do not have access to their assistant’s personal information, only their Zirtual email. Luckily for us, PeakChange subscribed to a plan that we were able to connect with our assistant directly. We immediately reached out to Ashley to see how she was doing in the wake of such news and ask if there was anything we could do for her. This is when we learned that employees were informed that they were out of a job at the same time clients received the service suspension email.
The roller coaster continued.
On Tuesday afternoon, another email went out regarding the Zirtual meltdown. This time the email was a link to a website, VA Cooperative, where Zirtual employees and their clients could reconnect. Then Wednesday at 2:45am, ANOTHER email arrived stating that Zirtual had been acquired by Startups.co and would be back up and running on Monday, August 17th.
Fortunately for PeakChange, Ashley is now able to work with us without some of the limitations of Zirtual’s service. While Uber rides and short AirBnB stays don’t require more than an exchange of money, some trust, and quick due diligence, working with an assistant involves relationship building, understanding inter-personal dynamics, and more nuanced interactions. Perhaps Zirtual did not realize this crucial piece, which may have contrubuted to reasons their model failed and they closed their doors?
Zirtual may have effectively killed the brand, but we wouldn’t have met Ashley, a key member of the PeakChange team, without them. To learn more about Ashley, visit the PeakChange Team.
Summer is well underway; and - although the desire here in Denver to slow down, relax, and escape to the mountains is definitely appealing – the PeakChange team has been hard at work adding new ventures to our portfolio.
Have you heard of Mother’s Milk Cooperative? Perhaps you’ve read about Ethelo Democracy? Well in case you haven’t, we are pleased to introduce you to Medolac and Ethelo, two new additions to the PeakChange portfolio.
At PeakChange we’ve invested in several start up companies dedicated to advancing efficiency in the health sector over the past 5 years (CirrusMD, Transparent Health, MedClimate) and I sit on the board of a small med-tech company. Through these investments, I’ve grown to understand what it takes for a company to have a profound effect in the market, make a difference in community health and navigate entrenched interests.To address the complexities on larger scale than my own experience with the system, I’ve found a unique opportunity to become more involved with health reform - through applying to become a board member with the Colorado HealthOp.
The PeakChange Team is happy to announce two exits from funds within the PeakChange Portfolio: Boston Heart Diagnostics (BHD) from Patient Capital Collaborative (PCC) ‘09 and UClass from Better Ventures Fund. The composition of PeakChange’s dynamic portfolio is ever-evolving due, in part, to our desire to optimize each investments’ long-term social and financial performance. As a result, we’ve learned how to let go of ventures, find new partners, scale early stage investments, and then help facilitate any of the multiple ways companies can exit. We’re particularly excited about these latest divestitures, because the acquiring entities recognize the financial success and depth of social impact achieved to date by these companies while under our tutelage. In addition, we have confidence in the next iteration for these ventures, proceeding forward in newly minted, culturally appropriate, synergistic partnerships.
Boston Heart Diagnostics was acquired by Eurofins Scientific in a transaction that resulted in a significant gain for investors, including meaningful additions to escrow and significant future earn-out payments, as well as a high return on social impact.
Why is this a win for BHD and PCC?
In addition to providing high financial returns for investors in the PCC ’09 Fund, women-led venture BHD has saved thousands of lives, created over 350 jobs, established a favorable work environment, and achieved positive economic impact – all during times of recession. Because PCC’s projections, based on its original investment strategy, proved correct, PCC can now recommit its capital funds into new projects. Moreover, through exit experiences PCC continues to learn how best to nuture its companies as they become ready to operate at scale and make their mark in the world without PCC’s financial backing and management support. This model shows it’s possible to do well by doing good – a validation of the PCC mantra.
UClass, a Better Ventures Fund I company, has been acquired by Renaissance Learning, a K-12 assessment and learning analytics company with a valuation of over $1 billion.
Why is this a win for UClass and Better Ventures Fund?
UClass experienced success at an early stage, as over 16 million pieces of the company’s learning content are currently being used by hundreds of thousands of teachers and students in over 5,000 schools across the U.S. By joining forces with edtech industry giant Renaissance Learning, the UClass team will be able to reach a much larger audience more quickly through a combined platform that will be used by an estimated one-third of the K-12 schools in the U.S. As their first funder, Better Ventures helped catalyze the UClass team and can consider this merger a success, as the company has reached scale in just two years and since the partnership with Renaissance Learning is mutually beneficial and a great cultural fit. Better Ventures managers pride themselves on their ability to invest wisely at the intersection of technology and impact by backing entreprenuers who can leverge technology to tackle the world’s largest challenges. This acquisition shows that you can make money and do good – the Better Ventures way.
Why is this good news for PeakChange?
Long before social venture capital became the hot investment model, PeakChange’s portfolio was designed to contain diverse investments reflecting potential for high impact. PeakChange provides early stage investments with financial and social capital for entrepreuneurs to grow their company to a critical point, at which time they then exit the portfolio. While exits can be scary and messy, PeakChange works hard to ensure that all parties benefit through an appropriate exit strategy. Summize, for example, was one such investment. And, Summize became pivotal for PeakChange. because our experience with this company taught us how to say goodbye and, more important, helped us understand how and why exits by successful early stage companies are a good thing for all stakeholders. In the early days of Twitter, Summize was one of the best Twitter search engines in the market; so it didn’t take long for the company to get acquired by Twitter. Exits through acquisition, like Summize - and most recently with BHD and UClass - prove that our approach to investing in positive change not only works, but can be pretty lucrative. These two exits in the impact space are milestones and demonstrate positive internal growth and change for the PeakChange portfolio.
Our success can be attributed in part to learning continuously from the different exits in our portfolio and by working closely with entrepreneurs and fund managers to ensure a beneficial experience for all. With these recent divestitures, the PeakChange Team must now work to balance changes within our portfolio – as we apply additional resources to new investments and to robust support for continuing ventures.
Until next time,
The Peak Change Team
Jim and Emily
We’re excited to announce that JGDVentures has now become “PeakChange.”
Jim Davidson created PeakChange as his vehicle for continued investment that promotes positive change through direct investment in exceptional companies and by supporting selected investment funds. The PeakChange portfolio will expand within its current purview and will soon extend into new territories.
On our new, interactive website, www.peakchange.co, you will find a diverse, growing portfolio of exceptional companies and funds. Look for upcoming blog postings that provide updates about the PeakChange companies and funds, observations derived from our experiences in the field, and reports of innovations by entrepreneurs and their ventures worldwide.
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We look forward to continuing our work - investing in positive systemic change.
The PeakChange Team
Jim G. Davidson