Lots of networking between funders and founders before the panel discussion.
Lots of networking between funders and founders before the panel discussion.

It’s said you need to be the change you want to see in the world, but often that change costs money.

Organised by Venture Centre with Ākina Foundation, sponsored by Baytrust,  WEL Energy Trust, Momentum Waikato Community Foundation for Techweek Tauranga 18


That’s why business leaders and social entrepreneurs came together during Techweek Tauranga on May 25th to talk about a relatively new investment model combining social good with profit.

Leading Change in Regional New Zealand at the new Tauranga venue run by Venture Centre, the Basement@Basestation featured a line-up of regional and national speakers who shared how social enterprise start-ups can find investors who share their values, vision and ultimately, would share their capital.

Loomio executive director Michael Elwood-Smith described his journey starting a social enterprise. His organisation makes a software app allowing people around the world to discuss issues and make decisions away from social media.  Launched in 2013, Elwood-Smith said Loomio has raised $1 million in impact investment funds. “Customers use our productfor team collaboration, organisational collaboration, grand and fundingapproval, and stakeholder engagement ... it’s an online meeting place that reduces email confusion. It’s about getting clear outcomes, which saves time.”

Ākina Foundation investment director Dave Allison said a key component of impact investing is the ability to recycle capital, instead of simply allocating philanthropic funds. “Ākina’s plan is to invest up to $10 million dollars in a venture...capital coming back and being used again is central to our thinking.” He said global impact investors in 2017 activated US $114 billion in capital.

BayTrust chief executive Alastair Rhodes said the trust had set aside six per cent of its $220 million in assets for impact investments to help drive social change. The percentage is set to rise to ten per cent to help with issues such as the housing crisis. “We’re investing in Habitat for Humanity. We’re looking at financial return, social impact and risk ... If we truly want innovative, new ideas, we have to be a lot more willing to take risks.”

Momentum Waikato chief executive Kelvyn Eglinton said local governments can’t meet demand for social services, and issues don’t stop at the Waikato boundary. The Waikato and the Bay have profound housing issues. “There’s scalability for any start-up that tries to find a housing solution that works for both areas.”

Raewyn Jones of Hamilton-based WEL Energy Trust said the organisation takes a three-pronged attack to impact investment: backing innovation; using blended finance and a range of tools; and influencing government to make impact investing easier. “We have a huge opportunity to change how we do things.”

Bill Murphy, executive director of Enterprise Angels, started exploring impact investing a year ago. “Impact investing is how to make a big ‘D’ difference. Enterprise Angels have a fabulous asset - years and years of experience in investing...we’re working with the trust to establish a regional impact fund that would be available to invest in locally and beyond.

Participant Leeanna Kohn-Hardy of Auckland said she hadn’t seen a huge presence of social investors in her metro, so she travelled to Tauranga to connect with other socially-minded entrepreneurs and investors. “It’s quite different to talking to your average investor, who’s just like, ‘How many customers are you gonna get, how much money are you gonna make,’ before they exit. This is about people who care about having an impact, but also care about making a return, as well.” Kohn-Hardy was part of the event’s mini-expo, showcasing her product, finappster. The app is designed to help people track financial sustainability while giving them tips to improve.

Techweek is New Zealand’s annual festival of innovation which included more than 500 events nationwide from 19-27 May 2018. It featured regional, national and international speakers and companies. This year’s theme: innovation that’s good for the world.

Techweek Tauranga 2018 is curated, coordinated and promoted by Venture Centre. Venture Centre works to connect people on enterprising journeys - with each other and the mindset, skillset, toolsets, networks and resources they need - to build an ecosystem that delivers real-world, learn-by-doing events, activities, projects and experiences. Techweek Tauranga 2018  is supported by Tauranga City and Western Bay of Plenty District councils.


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