Flying back to Toronto after a great week at SOCAP13. Exhausted! But with this being the first time in a week that my iPhone hasn’t been buzzing with calendar reminders and messages I finally have a bit of time to reflect on connections made and topics discussed. Our week started at HUB San Francisco taking part in SOCAP’s Accelerator Program. The program was set-up to connect social entrepreneurs and discuss topics that help accelerate our ventures. It proved immensely valuable.
I met several great companies doing great things and having global impact:
- Solar Site Design – An app that simplifies site selection, assessment, and design. Reducing the cost of assessment and design goes a long way in improving the cost of solar. As panel prices fall, the industry needs to continue to look at ways to reduce the soft costs of solar systems. Jason Loyet and his team have set-up a fantastic app to do just this and we are excited to potentially be piloting it in rural and remote settings
- Beyonic– As a new non-profit, the task of setting up payroll fell to me…Oh joy. It was time consuming, confusing, just generally painful, and there were a million other things I rather be doing. Alas, we needed to pay our rent and buy some groceries. Add in a lack of robust banking systems, expansive geographies, and differing currencies and I would probably still be setting payroll up. Beyonic is tackling this problem and making life easier for companies in developing countries setup and manage payroll. A great innovation in the unsexy part of running a business. Nice work Dan!
- Ilumexico – Mexico is high on our list of countries we hope to expand to soon and this company is already there doing great things. Manuel and his team do everything from residential rural electrification to urban energy efficiency.
So, some great connections, but what did I learn?
- Business Plan Canvas – We have used this tool, but need to use more often. A great way to recheck assumptions, discuss new ones, and make sure employees, board members, and other stakeholders are on the same page. I encourage everyone starting up a business, non-profit, or any enterprise to use and revisit often.
- Elevator Pitch – Summarizing what we do in a non-technical, non-jargon laced manner is essential in attracting interest and support. Having accelerator session leaders force us to think simplicity was helpful as we continue to refine our message on proving that off-grid/rural solar is high impact and low risk.
- Measuring Impact – It is important to understand the impact you are creating and critical to be able to do so with a few key metrics. We all know that what gets measured gets done. Nevertheless, measurement and metrics need to be balanced against the reality of limited resources and budgets. It is a difficult balance to find.
A lot of connections and learnings and the week hadn’t even started!
So what about the actual conference? Two words - incredible networking. SOCAP’s app did a stellar job in connecting fellow conference goers. Everyone seemed to be using it and calendars filled up quickly. Finally, a conference where connections weren’t left to accidental encounters in the coffee line!
Meetings with Kiva, IADB, Unreasonable Institute, and many others, lead to great discussions and potential partnerships. In fact, I was so busy with these meetings that I am going to have to download and watch the many panels I missed.
For those that are interested, here are the ones I found valuable or I am downloading now:
- Impact Investing 2.0: Insight for the Inner Workings of 13 Outstanding Funds
- Seth Goldman - Mission in a Bottle
- What's Next: Evidence-Based Practice, Impact Investing, and Pay for Success Collide
- Financing Health Infrastructure in the Developing World
- Paul Polak - The Business Solution to Poverty
Through the accelerator, meetings, and panels, a common theme was certainly evident – social impact investing is growing quickly, attracting sophisticated leaders, innovative business ideas, and importantly, capital.
We are already looking forward to next year.