Good Money, a startup banking platform, committed to move at least $5 billion “to a values-based system financial system where every customer is an owner.” An employment service, 70 Million Jobs, pledged to facilitate the employment of one million formerly incarcerated men and women over 10 years. And the investment firm FullCycle promised to invest $100 million in the next year “to accelerate and scale the deployment of climate-restoring technologies.”
Taking a page from the playbook of the late Clinton Global Initiative, the first Entrepreneurs Impact Summit last week encouraged participants to publicly commit to measurable impact goals. ImpactAlpha was a media sponsor of the event in Santa Monica, which was organized by i(x) investments, an impact holding company focused on renewable energy, green real estate, gender equality and other themes.
The conference opened against the backdrop of last year’s Woolsey Fire in Malibu, which forced i(x) CEO Trevor Neilson and his family from their home. The climate emergency “is coming to other towns in a much more serious way,” Neilson said. “I want to do every single thing I can do to fight it with everything I have.”
Whether such pledges spur meaningful climate action remains to be seen, of course. But many of the summit participants appeared to be taking big swings at big problems. Good Money’s Gunnar Lovelace, for example, talked about accelerating “the disintermediation of banking” and “the tipping point of capitalism,” by sharing ownership of Good Money with its customers.
Flow Capital’s Ravé Mehta introduced WaterLedger, a blockchain-based water bank that aims to conserve water by encouraging efficiencies, particularly in agricultural use. Tabreez Verjee, founder of the investment firm Uprising, touted Devoted Health, a Medicare Advantage provider that has raised more than $370 million for what Verjee calls “an alternative-universe health care system.”
Power of love
“My favorite part of it is that the core value of the company is love. They talk about love as the secret sauce of the company,” Verjee said. “Anyone faced with a difficult decision is supposed to close their eyes and think about what they would want for someone they love, and then make that decision.”
That kind of talk flowed easily at the event, which drew 300 people to the Fairmont Miramar hotel. Mehta, an engineer and entrepreneur, will bring his Flow piano “sound bath” to New York’s Carnegie Hall next month and “take the audience on a musical journey to help them let go and drop into a deep blissful flow state.” Executive coach Nadav Wilf took summit participants through an exercise to learn to “love yourself to impact the world.” Added Good Money’s Lovelace, “This is not a normal conference of talking heads.”
I moderated a panel of entrepreneurs and investors who sought to encourage others to bake social impact into their business plans from the get-go. Jesse Draper, the fourth-generation venture capitalist who co-founded Halogen Ventures, has invested in more than 50 early-stage consumer tech companies, nearly all of them headed by women.
HopSkipDrive’s Joanna McFarland founded the ride-hailing service to help parents, mostly moms, manage the conflicting demands of work and family logistics. HopSkipDrive found unexpected impact, and revenues, through contracts with schools and public agencies to provide transportation for homeless and foster youths.
As for i(x), Neilson committed in the next year to raise and invest more than $100 million companies addressing the climate emergency by reducing carbon emissions, and to stage the second Entrepreneurs Impact Summit in 2020 as “the start of a new movement to align profit with purpose.”