In October, thousands gathered in San Francisco for Social Capital Markets (or SOCAP for short) 2017 Forum, an annual impact investing conference that brings together social entrepreneurs and impact investors. The conference, which marked its 10th anniversary this year, started in 2007 to gather impact investors who are navigating new waters in putting capital into positive-impact entrepreneurs. Ten years on, SOCAP is the world’s leading conference on activating the power of capital markets to drive positive social and environmental impact. The conference brings together impact investors, social entrepreneurs, philanthropists, business leaders and other innovators from across the world in a unique cross-sector approach to catalyze collaboration for change.
This year also marked the 10th anniversary of B Lab Global. Taking part in the 10 year celebration, Olivia Muiru, B Lab East Africa Executive Director, attended the forum as a speaker and to scope out SOCAP. Here she briefly shares her thoughts on the event and provides key highlights from the sessions she attended.
Is SOCAP something African entrepreneurs should attend?
I think it is. Depending on a company’s stage of growth, service/product offering and appetite for shared learning, it is a great place to connect with other entrepreneurs, investors (philanthropy, impact first and PE investors) and capacity builders. I met a couple of entrepreneurs from Southern, Western and Eastern Africa sharing their experience – listen to Kola Masha, founder of Nigerian company Babban Gona, on how agriculture can be leveraged to solve rising insecurity due to youth unemployment – and also looking for fundraising opportunities.
The forum also provides great networks and resources for companies at different growth stages, from tools on fundraising to intermediaries that are keen to help match companies to the right partners, media etc. For example, DUKE now has a toolkit to help companies in their fundraising cycle. Another interesting intermediary to check out Africa Expert Network, a PR Company working on telling the African story – Akinyi Ochieng my point of contact, is very passionate about helping companies in the region tell their stories locally and internationally.
Does it actually lead to deals?
There is interest from investors in investing in the continent. And with room provided for networking, SOCAP can be a great place to fundraise. Deals happen at SOCAP, two companies Neopanda in Uganda and Good Nature Agro in Zambia were able to raise $75,000 each during the ADAP Deal Room session. That being said, for a first timer to SOCAP, I would first say having the in-person conversation is a good first step. A deal may happen during SOCAP or SOCAP can open up dialogue between your company and investors that would have been hard to have over email.
Though there is interest in the region, representation from entrepreneurs and investors from Africa is understandably low. If one is to consider travel time, cost of ticket, hotel cost and ticket cost to attend to SOCAP, it is a hefty investment especially for early stage entrepreneurs. However, the payoff can be big given SOCAP is curated to bring capital to good company. Like any event there are pros and cons. I think SOCAP is something entrepreneurs in Africa should try to attend at least once in their lifetime; or we should find a way to have an African SOCAP!
What are interesting conversations/topics you heard?
I managed to attend a few sessions, after all I am only one person. A few interesting topics that are interesting, and probably repetitive from what we hear in the market:
Impact Investing and Sustaniable Development Goals (SDGs) focused on how impact investors are working on contributing to the ambitious goals by the year 2030. The session included a focus on recent research by the GIIN and TONIIC as well as from actual investors themselves on their experiences. Overall, the goals provide an interesting opportunity in the space
Foundations are taking a bolder step in engaging with mission aligned enterprises.
You can check out SOCAP 2017 highlights here.