Impact Voices | May 12, 2021

Shaper Impact Capital Q&A: Building a network of young professionals to support global impact startups

Shaper Impact Capital
Guest Author

Shaper Impact Capital

Shaper Impact Capital connects young professionals with the passion and skills to help impact-driven startups succeed with early-stage companies around the globe that can use all the help they can get. The firm’s newsletter has put hundreds of impact startups sourced from volunteers in North America and the Caribbean, Europe, Africa and Asia-Pacific in front of more than 500 investors, leading to more than a hundred introductions in 20 countries.

“We are trying to build a future where there is no difference between companies with an impact, and investable companies,” says founder Chia Jeng Yang, a principal at Saison Capital. Volunteers come from the Global Shaper Community, an initiative of the World Economic Forum that has recruited young professionals in over 150 countries.

How did you get the idea for Shaper Impact Capital and how did you get started?

Yang: Literally by night, since to accommodate our global team, the best times for our meetings have been at 10 or 11pm local time.

Joining the Global Shaper Community [a World Economic Forum initiative] in 2018, I had the privilege to join the Shape ASEAN conference in Bangkok. I was blown away by the quality of the community and the passion for doing good. 

At the same time, I saw so many great founders who were dedicating their lives to making an impact on the world.

I decided I wanted to do more to utilize the talent, network and community around me to help such impact founders, and to create a scalable, global platform that could help put talent, information and capital where it could be utilized.

What is the problem Shaper Impact Capital is trying to address?

Shaper Impact Capital is building the community infrastructure stack for impact startup resources – this means a global plug-and-play network for capital, marketing and mentorship. 

There are plenty of startups out there in the world and we especially wanted to help founders who were making an impact on the world and society around them.

At the same time, there was a great network and community of folks out there that had the ability to contribute time, labour and resources to these companies.

Shaper Impact Capital built the processes, community, and reach to plug these two sides together. Besides our newsletter featuring and connecting impact startups to investors, we have built a mentorship program, organize office hours and events, and we even have a VC analyst program that helps to democratize thinking about venture capital and business models, to allow our team to be better equipped to help startup founders.

How has Shaper Impact Capital changed or grown over time?

Shaper Impact Capital started as a private newsletter because the first obstacle that was the easiest to tackle was capital – startups always needed it, and investors were always seeking more quality dealflow. From there, we continued iterating on the needs of the startups in the ecosystem, and to build out new value-add functions, processes, teams and geographies.

Today, it has grown into a huge global platform, community and brand – with 4 key Shaper Impact Capital geographical teams – North America/Carribean, Europe, Africa, and Asia-Pacific, with 150 volunteers that are part of the Shaper Impact Capital family.

What is Shaper Impact Capital’s vision or end game?

At Shaper Impact Capital, we are trying to build a future where there is no difference between companies with an impact, and investable companies. This is the future we want to reach.

How do we get there? There is a huge mismatch of folks who can and want to help startups with an impact, with companies who can use all the help they can get as they are an early-stage startup.

By building that community and open-ended process flow stack, we think we can move our world to that future today.

What are the biggest obstacles you’ve overcome and future challenges you anticipate for Shaper Impact Capital?

Taking a step back, it is actually amazing that Shaper Impact Capital has really taken off. Building a remote-only, global, volunteer organization is not something that is easy to build, and we certainly had a lot of things running against us.

People would have their own life priorities, and we had to handle volunteer churn, while consistently maintaining and even upgrading our own capabilities and processes.

Over time, we have solved that by building a great community and culture, a lot of upskilling programs like the SIC VC Analyst Program, and a deep focus on building scalable processes and automation. It really helped that almost all the key leaders in Shaper Impact Capital were VCs or founders/operators themselves, and knew how to build organizations and add value to the founders they were talking to.

Tell us a bit more about the team.

I’ve been so lucky to be working with some of the best people passionate about startups with an impact. I could not have done this also without the team and a few key people like Akash and Amra.

“SIC is filling a vacuum left by our tech ecosystems, which don’t cater well enough to impact-driven startups’ needs, be it fundraising or otherwise. Working with such an ambitious and driven team has been immensely rewarding and I always enjoy our retrospectives at the end of each year, tallying the value we’ve brought to impact-driven companies, all as a volunteer organisation.” – Akash, Head of the UK Team

“Working in SIC has been incredible! I’ve had the opportunity to build something from scratch with previous acquaintances who I now consider good friends. It certainly was not easy to get to where we are at today, but I’m excited about the foundation we have collaboratively built and am optimistic that we will continue to carry out SIC’s mission successfully. Doing so will mean that we have helped improve the state of someone’s world, and – to me – that’s awesome!” – Jay, Geo-lead for the North America and Caribbean Region

“Working in SIC has always been a challenge, but a good one. It has been a challenge, as it required me to step up a lot of my learning and go out of my comfort zone. It has been immensely rewarding, especially when I see the impact of our efforts, or when we manage to match one of our amazing mentors with a startup that will benefit from their knowledge and subject matter expertise.” – Simeon, vice-Geo lead for the UK team

What statistics can you share publicly?

We have 150 SIC volunteers, 500 investors on the mailing list, and 40+ startup mentors. We’ve made about a hundred introductions across 20 countries. Featured about a hundred companies and talked to almost a thousand.

Investors: Looking to invest in impact startups? Subscribe to our newsletter on our website to receive deal flow or volunteer as a mentor.

Startups: Looking to fundraise? Apply to be featured in our newsletter to investors and potentially get mentorship from Shaper Impact Capital.