Impact Investing

Anyone looking to get their feel good on should plan on being in Los Angeles on April 23. That’s the day that Crowdfunder and Demand Media will host CROWDIMPACT LA, a social enterprise pitch event. The companies have paired up with a variety of well known social enterprises including Toniic, TED Fellows, Kairos Society, Thiel Foundation, Christie Communications, and others to galvanize the startup community around impact investing.

This is not Crowdfunder’s first live pitch event, but it’s much different in purpose than those in the past. The company previously hosted CROWDSTART LA and CROWDSTART LV in 2012, through which winning companies received tens of thousands in capital from sponsoring VCs and accelerators based on traditional metrics such as growth potential. This time around, participating companies will be pitching judges controlling more than $115 million in capital with a focus on the impact they can create with each dollar.

The model leading up to the live event will be similar to past contests, with hopeful companies from around the nation first creating profiles on Crowdfunder – this time in the social enterprise category – and working to build an online following within its community of crowdfunders, angel investors and VCs. Finalists will be chosen on April 3 based on those which generate the largest followings and those which the contest hosts deem to have the most impact potential.

The dozen or so finalists will present to a live audience of judges, investors, and supporters on April 23. The winner of the contest will win $20,000, but will have the opportunity to secure more from those category experts in attendance. More importantly, the hosts and sponsors hope to foster an ongoing conversation and community focus around social enterprises and the ability to give back while building a successful business.

Crowdfunder is the vision and passion project of two founders who had the audacious goal of reinventing how companies access capital. We documented how the pair took on the established powers in Washington, DC and on Wall Street to help pass the JOBS Act that first legalized crowdfunding. Now, as they await final guidelines to be handed down from the SEC, the startup is already realizing that it won’t necessarily be profit first startups, in the traditional sense, that will be its focus.

There are plenty of organizations that aren’t suited to raising traditional VC or angel capital, but that could find enthusiastic backers through the power of the crowd. It is these businesses that are the aim of CROWDIMPACT.

It’s easy to get caught up in the bright lights and swelling bank accounts that surround the startup scene. But with all the notoriety that many of these companies generate, there’s an enormous opportunity to create something more powerful than simply investor returns.

[Image source: Elos Foundation]