What a Difference a Year Makes: SOCAP 2016

A wise person said to me, “the first time you go to SOCAP is unforgettable, but you will get the most out of it your second year.”  They were right in so many ways.

Photo taken right before a sea lion appeared to say hello

Photo taken right before a sea lion appeared to say hello

In 2015, I attended my first Social Capital Markets Conference (SOCAP) in San Francisco (see my Newbie Takeaways here).  Never heard of SOCAP? It’s the world’s leading conference on impact investing and social enterprise that unites innovators in business, tech, the sharing economy, health, and philanthropy to advance a new global market at the intersection of money and meaning. Unfortunately, this year’s SOCAP didn’t fall on Fleet Week, which meant no wonderful distractions from the Blue Angels.

The Hitachi Foundation announcement of legacy gifts to organizations including Investor's Circle.

The Hitachi Foundation announcement of legacy gifts to organizations including Investor's Circle.

Prior to attending SOCAP this year, PeakChange attended Investor’s Circle Beyond the Pitch, where we got to hear great pitches from 13 diverse social entrepreneurs.

The Beyond the Pitch event culminated with a major announcement on the SOCAP16 Main Stage. The Hitachi Foundation announced that they would be closing their doors at the end of 2016 and providing legacy gifts to the Aspen Institute, MIT Sloan School of Management, and Investor’s Circle to carry out their important work of growing good companies with good jobs from the beginning.
 

And with that, SOCAP16 was off to an amazing start.

So, how was my SOCAP 2016 experience different?

Sessions Weren’t My Main Focus

Last year my goal was to attend as many sessions as possible, learn everything I could from field experts, and discover what was cutting edge in the impact investing space. This year, my colleague and I were able to “divide and conquer” sessions, thereby taking advantage of the diverse organizations, individuals, and service providers who were gathered at Fort Mason for a concentrated period of time. Instead of attending back-to-back sessions, I spent my time connecting with colleagues who previously I had only communicated with through email or virtually engaged with via Skype. SOCAP is the one conference I can count on to provide the opportunity for face time with entrepreneurs and fund managers in the PeakChange portfolio.

Joking around with Luni Libes before the Investment Terms Workshop: Structuring for Impact without Relying on Exits

Joking around with Luni Libes before the Investment Terms Workshop: Structuring for Impact without Relying on Exits

The Field Has Come So Far in a Year

Impact investing is no longer a new concept. Most people understand the term generally or at least know it when they see it. The opening plenary solidified this point by emphasizing that our segment of the investing community is on the transformative edge of impact and poses the question ‘how can we continue to scale the good without getting in the way of the best’ (I’m paraphrasing Morgan Simon of Pi Investments here). At the core of impact investing is the reinvention of investment tools to create and share wealth. The dialogue has grown to include thoughtful impact integration through the design of tools and strategies for measuring impact across asset classes. Whether you were a first-time entrepreneur, seasoned investor, service provider, new family office, or student - there was something for everyone.

PeakChange’s Focus has Expanded

Enjoying the live music, networking, and food trucks at one of many SOCAP Happy Hour events

Enjoying the live music, networking, and food trucks at one of many SOCAP Happy Hour events

During the Fall of 2015, I began to beta test our PeakChange management consulting services for startups and early-stage social ventures. Our PeakGovernance and PeakRelations services weren’t even featured on the PeakChange website at that point. Today, we’re working with early-stage social ventures domestically and internationally by providing scaffolded services that improve the overall business experience for both investors and entrepreneurs/CEOs. During SOCAP16, PeakChange was able to not only connect with new entrepreneurs and early-stage ventures but also support the work of our current portfolio by attending and promoting sessions, networking events, and strategic planning sessions.

As PeakChange continues to promote collaborative field building efforts in the impact investing space, I can only wonder what amazing things SOCAP17 will have in store.