A retired global bank CEO has come to be helpful. Conversations cluster in front of the requisite logo-covered background poster, ready for celebrity shots. A global foundation executive lauds ImpactAlpha as the go-to place for impact investing news.
In front of the fully stocked bar at the back of the Forbes’ reception space on New York’s Fifth Avenue, the gentle jazz, soft drinks and vigorous handshakes recede, and the talks begin.
There’s more passion and vigor than technique. But then technique isn’t going to be the point today. “We’ll keep the dealflow for our June ’18 event,” says Brendan Doherty, Forbes Impact co-founder, wearing an up-turned jacket collar and a baseball cap with the word “coffee” upside down. “We’re building a rocket ship.”
The goal: bringing people with shared values but different personal narratives on board, with diversity at the heart. The endgame: to drive capital and culture, using the cultural references in sports, entertainment and corporate leadership.
Forbes Impact is building a community, and invites us to shed our pretense and come along, to shape “nothing but the future of investing” says Paul Noglows, fellow co-founder.
On the passion front: “You’re gonna see the best returns in this industry because everyone is starting to care” says Kamine Development Corporation’ Justin Kamine — a recent Forbes 30 under 30 laureate. “Let’s do sh$t and let’s all do it collectively together.”
“We believe entrepreneurial capitalism can solve our worlds most vexing challenges” — Corey McGuire of Winston House, a community space for artists.
Hip hop star A$ap Ferg, who’s teamed up with Uniform to provide school clothings for children in Liberia: “I kinda hate when people put charity on the side. I wanna put it full front.”
Justine Lucas, from the Clara Lionel Foundation (that’s Rihanna’s charity for kid’s education and healthcare): We’re building a community to make impact investing a cool thing. (Later, someone will remark it already is).
A moment of grace with a surprise guest appearance: AGT star Eric Yung, a 35-year-subway busking veteran whose career took a turn thanks to a viral video, sings Unchained Melody.
Erika Karp of Cornerstone, Jean Case of the eponymous foundation, and Nancy Pfund of DBL Investors bring perspective, and some deep thoughts.
Case: “Impact investing is a new way to solve old problems”. MBA students understand, why would you only invest for financial returns?
Karp quotes Abraham Joshua Heschel: “Wonder rather than doubt is the beginning of root knowledge.”
Her own observation: “All investing is impact investing, if you know what you are doing”. And a closer: “It’s not ideological it’s practical. Cornerstone is radically practical investing.”
Pfund: “It’s gone from a hunch to happening” and “People can’t get enough of this”. How does this begin to scale? “Keep dogging at it until you get to that inflection point.”
Noglows: “Not everyone can be a philanthropist but everyone can be an impact investor.”
The Pope makes a cameo: His challenge to the world’s entrepreneurs has been launched in honor of his Laudato Si encyclical on environment and human ecology.
Actress Mary-Louise Parker and filmmaker Thomas Morgan take the stage. But hey, it’s kids o’clock and I’ve got to go. I hear “refugees” and “kickstarter” as I head into the dark and warm autumn night. Well, it is kind of a cool thing. Not only in New York, kids, not only in New York.
Brendan Doherty’s name was spelled incorrectly in an earlier version of this story.