Impact Investing | October 20, 2022

Dealmakers seize the return of SOCAP to move capital toward impact

Dennis Price and David Bank
ImpactAlpha Editor

Dennis Price

ImpactAlpha Editor

David Bank

ImpactAlpha, Oct. 20 – Tired: talking. Wired: doing.

Impact fund managers and startup founders, placement agents and headhunters worked the halls and terraces of San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Arts Center to make connections and close deals at SOCAP, as the in-person event convened after a two-year hiatus.

“It’s the most deal activity I’ve seen in all my years at SOCAP,” Big Path Capital’s Shawn Lesser told ImpactAlpha.

SOCAP’s relocation to the city center evoked nostalgia for the Fort Mason waterfront, but the familiar crowd adapted quickly.

“The best days are ahead of us,” said Geoff Davis of Sorenson Impact Center, which took over management of SOCAP after a restructuring this spring. “We are at the early days of a massive structural shift in the way our economy works, so this is needed more than ever.”

Among the highlights

  • Place to be. Next door at the Moscone Center West, Techcrunch hosted its annual Disrupt startup conference. SOCAP and Disrupt “should merge,” quipped Rakesh Apte, an innovation director at Dell, as he passed through the Yerba Buena garden.

    One Disrupt attendee, entrepreneur Gwyneth Borden from credit recovery startup Remynt crashed ImpactAlpha’s SOCAP happy hour. “They told me this is where the investors are at.”

    Recruiter Kate Shattuck of Korn Ferry said the talent pool at the conference was so deep that she could find prospects for her clients just by positioning herself near the registration desk.
  • Good jobs. Investors should insist on knowing the status of the employees of the companies they invest in, Lafayette Square’s Antony Bugg-Levine said in the “Workers as Stakeholders” panel.

    Jobs for the Future stood up JFF Ventures as a new impact investing arm to manage funds that invest in companies improving economic mobility for workers in low-wage jobs. JFF Ventures will manage ETF@JFFLabs (now JFF Ventures Fund I), a $25 million fund that has backed 35 companies including ChargerHelp, Forage and AdeptId. A new corporate innovation council, including Walmart, Northwestern Mutual and Capital One, will provide founders with insights into the needs of employers. JFF Ventures will launch a second fund later this year. 
  • Regeneration rejuvenated. A perfect storm of Inflation Reduction Act funding, carbon credit markets and surging demand for climate solutions has put wind in the sails of the regenerative agriculture movement. New funds, innovative farmers and enabling technologies are mobilizing.

    “It’s one of the biggest opportunities in climate and impact investing,” says Michael Gevertz of Propagate, which last month raised $10 million to help farms transition to agroforestry. Gevertz was fresh from last week’s Regenerative Food Systems investment forum in Denver, where he joined more than 300 participants. “Next year it’ll be 3,000 people,” he said.

    Vibrant Data Labs’ Eric Berlow highlighted gaps in finance for regenerative agriculture in his presentation of the new Climate Finance Tracker in partnership with ImpactAlpha.
  • Web3 use cases. Not a peep about the “crypto winter.” Impact’s web3 enthusiasts were abuzz about blockchain-enabled nuclear disarmament and arms control verification, transparency in carbon markets and traceability in plastic recycling.

    “We have a chance not to just evolve a market, but create an entirely new one,” says security researcher Lyndon Burford of Path Collective, who wants to use the technology underlying cryptocurrencies and NFTs for disarmament verification. Delton Chen promoted his concept of a Global Carbon Reward as a way to mobilize trillions for the low-carbon transition. 

Share your SOCAP takeaways. Email us at [email protected] (or reply to this email) and we’ll roundup our favorites.