Margaret Bradley: Turning Philadelphia institutions into impact investors



New Revivalists is a series from ImpactAlpha and Village Capital profiling the people, places and policies reviving entrepreneurship — and the American Dream.

New Revivalist: Margaret Bradley is director of investment partnership, Ben Franklin Technology Partners, a state-backed economic development investor that manages ImpactPHL Ventures
Place: Philadelphia
Mission: ImpactPHL Ventures raised $15 million from seven universities, health insurers, pension funds and other local investors to put to work in the region’s social-impact startups.
Follow: @mbbrad

Margaret Bradley is on a mission to make Philadelphia “the center of the impact investment universe.”

Bradley cut her at teeth at The Reinvestment Fund, one of the nation’s top community finance institutions. Now with Ben Franklin Technology Partners, a regional economic development fund, she’s charged with deploying $15 million into Philly startups tackling education, health, other social and environmental challenges.

Ben Franklin’s investment vehicle is ImpactPHL Ventures, formed in 2017 as a one-stop early-stage capital shop the region’s early-stage ‘impact’ startups. Seven local universities, health insurers and pension funds have committed capital.

ImpactAlpha caught up with Bradley to find out why she thinks investors are overlooking Philadelphia startups, and how ImpactPHL Ventures is trying to change that.

Philadelphia rings the bell on a 21st-century revival

ImpactAlpha: What is ImpactPHL Ventures?

Bradley: It’s a capital consortium that we created here (at Ben Franklin) and we’re coordinating the investments. We saw how many of our portfolio companies already are companies that in another context you would call impact companies. It’s about bringing more capital to companies that are tackling social problems and bringing more attention to what we’re doing in Philadelphia to attract other capital to these opportunities.

We’ve developed co-investment partnerships with other investors in which they buy into our professional team and dealflow process and we focus with them on investments that are particular to their interests. ImpactPHL Ventures went to our existing partners and said, “Do you have interest in pursuing this with us?” Many of them did.

ImpactAlpha: What types of impact companies are putting Philadelphia on the map?

Bradley: First it’s about investing in strong companies. Next is how we are able to attract capital from elsewhere to Philadelphia. There are a lot of people who don’t know what opportunities are here.

Roar for Good is a great example. Their mission is about women’s safety with the press of a button. It’s a safety wearable. They work very closely here in our region with an organization called Women Against Abuse. The social mission of a company like that is so intertwined with the product itself. EnviroKure is repurposing chicken waste into organic liquid fertilizer and growing well. It’s the kind of company that you look to as a model.

Margaret Bradley introduces ImpactPHL Ventures l Photo courtesy of Margaret Bradley

ImpactAlpha: How does Impact PHL Ventures find entrepreneurs overlooked by traditional investors?

Bradley: Ben Franklin works with companies that are so young they’re not yet companies, all the way through to the investments we make in our actual portfolio. Part of what we’ve done — with Village Capital now twice this year — is to offer a venture development program or boost.

We have selected a cohort for a program called VilCap Pathways to focus on women and African American and Latino entrepreneurs. These are all companies that are too young for investment. We’re seeing if there are ways that we can jumpstart the growth of these companies by bringing in a combination of training and coaching, and relationships with other angel investors.

ImpactAlpha: Is Philadelphia really primed for social and economic revival?

Bradley: Part of what makes Philadelphia unique is its history in impact investing. We have very strong community development financial institutions like the Reinvestment Fund. We have an extraordinarily strong “eds and meds” world. When connected well to community or to entrepreneurship, there is a lot of opportunity for growth and development.

The Reinvestment Fund tests the public bond market’s appetite for social impact

On Bradley’s night stand:
1. The Innovation Blind Spot, Ross Baird
2. The New Localism, Bruce Katz and Jeremy Nowak.
3. Returns on Investments podcasts from ImpactAlpha (“I’ve told others, not just you!”)

Catch up with Bradley and other impact investors in Philadelphia Apr. 26-27 at Total Impact, a conference from Good Capital Project and ImpactPHL for advisors, family offices, and investors interested in aligning their portfolios with their social values. Register before Feb. 23rd for a discount.

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