A Virtuous Circle

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of joining a dinner conversation with Deb Parsons, co-director of Investor’s Circle (IC). The purpose of the get-together was to determine interest among a representative group of local investors in building a presence for their group (short answer:YES). I was pleasantly surprised by what I heard from the mechanical perspective. I’ve been aware of IC for a number of years through my research and efforts in the “social entrepreneurship” sector, so I had already considered them a leader in the category of socially responsible investing. What I had not be aware of is how well-run they are as an angel organization.

Like many angel groups, they have chosen to focus on a specific industry sector or theme. The Investor’s Circle theme is “socially responsible investing”, which generally means investing in companies that not only have a profit motive but which also seek to create social and/or environmental betterment. Not surprisingly, this creates some self-selection of industry sectors (no military startups or oil lease deals here, folks). Specifically, they note that their members tend to invest in:

  • Energy & Environment
  • Food & Organics
  • Education & Media
  • Health & Wellness
  • Community & International Development

They have a well-run screening and investment process that I can’t do justice to here, and present a strong bi-annual conference in Boston and San Francisco that includes not just pitch sessions, but good learning opportunities. The next event is coming up April 19-20 in San Francisco. They have also done a great job incubating new investment vehicles so investors can better diversify their portfolios.

One of the cool things they have done is prepare a multi-faceted rating on the companies from their history of investments, and have created a top-twenty list called IC20 that reflect the best outcomes on all three bottom-lines (financial, social, environmental) that they are tracking. It’s an impressive group of companies, and a great reminder that successful investing doesn’t have to come at the expense of other principles.


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