Impact Investment: Venture Capital

posted 22 Jul 2020 3 mins

The third event in our Social Impact Investment series explored the role of venture capital in impact investment.

The audience enjoyed a range of perspectives, as Alex Pitt and Anya Nelson of Mustard Seed Venture Capital shared a virtual platform with two of the early-stage businesses they have helped fund: the food-sharing app, OLIO, and what3words, an innovative navigation tool.

Alex, co-founder of Mustard Seed, explained how his company searches out and backs exceptional entrepreneurs with a mission to drive social and environmental change.  Mindful of diversity - in its founder base and in its investor base - Mustard Seed has invested across sectors such as health care, education, environmental sustainability and financial inclusion (the company has also worked closely with the bank’s Golden Bottle Trust).  Alex’s colleague, Anya, shone a light on the crucial matter of impact assessment and proposed a range of useful metrics.

Chris, co-founder of what3words, also demonstrated the power of a simple, scalable idea.  His company has developed technology to map the whole world in 3m x 3m squares, tagged with a unique combination of three words. Chris outlined the business potential and was no less passionate about the app’s potential to solve a range of social issues: for individuals without a post code, it can mean access to utilities, services, and the democratic process, while for emergency services it can be a crucial alternative means of locating the scene of an accident.

Tessa Clarke, co-founder of OLIO, recalled the ‘lightbulb moment’ when she realised the impact of domestic food waste, and she shared shocking statistics: one third of the food we produce globally each year is thrown away; 800 million people who go to bed hungry every night could be fed on a quarter of the food wasted by the Western world, while ending food waste is potentially a bigger driver of climate change than solar power, electric cars or plant-based diets.  In short, Tessa argued, there is no more pressing an issue for humanity than solving our food-waste problem.

A stimulating Q&A followed, and as the event drew to a close, audience members were already downloading apps and looking forward to engaging further with the principles and projects presented by the panellists.  It was a wonderfully inspiring end to our talks on Social Impact Investment, and we would like to thank all our speakers, as well as our virtual audience, for making the series such a success.