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Need seed capital to further develop your B Corps? Go beyond impact #investors, and learn more on how to raise money for your project.
by Michelle Goodman
When Donnel Baird needed seed capital to continue developing his B Corporation in 2013, he figured impact investors were the ticket. One year and 250 investor meetings later, BlocPower—Baird’s #online marketplace that connects investors with clean-energy projects in underserved communities—hadn’t raised a dime.
In 2014, Baird, who is based in New York, decided to try his luck in Silicon Valley. There, he landed a seed round from VC firms Kapor Capital and Andreessen Horowitz, plus more useful advice than he’d received in the previous 250 meetings. “In Silicon Valley, they said, ‘Oh, are you two guys with a laptop? Great idea. Let’s invest.’ I think they’re just more accustomed to that,” Baird says.
There are more than 1,300 Certified B Corps—as certified by nonprofit organization B Lab—from 41 countries and 121 industries. As more for-profit startups become B Corps, it’s worth examining how this designation factors into fundraising. Whether you’re an aspiring B Corp or are already certified, here are the strategies you should know.
Look beyond impact investors.
Some experts advise focusing your roadshow on investors who specifically target socially conscious businesses. Andrew Kassoy, co-founder of Wayne, Pa.-based B Lab, disagrees. “Most investors aren’t that interested in whether you’re a B Corp,” he says. “They’re interested mostly in: Is this a really talented entrepreneur, and is this a good idea?”
“Is this a really talented entrepreneur, and is this a good idea?”
Yes, you want to align yourself with investors who support your vision and values, but that doesn’t mean a company that’s mission-driven “has to go out and find a bunch of investors with Birkenstocks,” Kassoy says. “There are plenty of mission-driven businesses that are raising money from mainstream venture capitalists.”
Lead with the opportunity.
Your inclination may be to open your pitch with how your business model will help reduce pollution or feed the hungry. Quash that impulse.
“They’re not willing to take a discount on their financial returns.”
“One of the mistakes we made initially was that we led with impact, talking about job creation, green energy and the financial savings for low-income families,” Baird says. He quickly discovered that even impact investors place a premium on profitability. “They’re not willing to take a discount on their financial returns.”
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