The first day at SOCAP was impressive. In only its third year, SOCAP completely sold out. There are 1198 attendees and many of the session rooms were overflowing. The Mason Center is an incredible venue with views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the perfect spot for SOCAP.
What we were most excited about on Day 1 of SOCAP was Jay Gilbert’s of B Labs keynote speech to close the day. His theme was the absolute imperative to creating a distinct asset class for impact investment. This asset class must have a single standard of measuring impact for triple bottom line companies, and he noted that GIIRS has garnered widespread support from government, business, foundations, and funds to be THE standard by which we can measure impact. He announced that 25 GIIRS Pioneer Funds have committed to using GIIRS as their metrics for measuring impact. Gilbert closed with a call to action, “If you want to plan for a year invest in a company. If you want to plan for a decade invest in a fund. If you want to plan for a century invest in an asset class.”
But the most exciting from Gilbert was buried in the middle of his speech. As of October 3rd, only 3 business days after the Maryland Benefit Corporation statue went into effect, 11 companies have filed as Benefit Corporations! Out of those 11, B Labs had only had a conversation with one of them. So, clearly the demand for the Benefit Corporation exists. All we need to do is make the structures available and companies will respond.
Novogratz was spreading her message of patient capital and the importance of measuring impact through PULSE. She spoke of the aid community looking to social enterprise to understand how to reform their efforts. She closed with a passionate call to action. We are the ones to create this movement that will bring equity to humanity.
Flannery, who started by celebrating the fact that Mohammed Yunus had made it on The Simpsons on Sunday night, was talking about the struggles that Kiva had starting a new category of online microlending. He ran into opposition from both the charity world and the business world. One side said Kiva is not charity, but the other side said that it’s not really business either. He had to navigate the legal landscape very carefully in order to get Kiva off the ground in the US, due to securities regulations. Looking ahead, Kiva’s biggest challenge is not a struggle for capital or for lenders, but a fight for the most rare commodity – attention. How does Kiva – who gives loans to farmers in the developing world – compete with the massively popular online game Farmville – where users tend to their “virtual farm”.
Chakrabarti talked about the success of Vittana, an online micro-student lending site. It seeks to address the main obstacel for students to stay in school in developing countries – money. 70% of students that dropped out of school in Uganda dropped out due to the cost of school.
Those were the main highlights of Day 1. Stay tuned for Day 2 Coverage.