Van IMPACT 2015 aims to attract hundreds of socially-minded enterprises looking to combine purpose and profit this Wednesday. The conference returns for its second year, happening at Vancouver Startup City during Vancouver Startup Week.
Featuring visionary speakers from UNICEF, Grouplend, the Thirst Project, the event at the Imperial (319 Main St.) will help companies that are starting to grow to “scale their enterprises with purpose and profit in mind,” said Keith Ippel, CEO of Spring, the Vancouver-based entrepreneur support organization leading the event.
Social impact investors from across North America and entrepreneurial participants will network with investors, mentors, and fellow business drivers supporting innovative social enterprises. “Community leaders are taking new approaches to solving complex social issues – and measuring their success on how their work changes society for the better,” Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation, Michelle Stilwell, speaking at IMPACT, explained.
BetaKit spoke with Ippel to look deeper into the challenges that organizations are facing as they try to build more purpose-driven organizations. The first challenge seems to be psychological – just getting over a self-imposed impression that creating change is inherently harder than chasing profits. The two can go hand-in-hand.
Where you get your money matters, Ippel said.
“Making the decision to run your business to change the world for the better is easy because you’re running your business, anyway,” Ippel said.
One of the biggest challenges is avoiding mission drift. “At the very moment you start your business, you need to articulate your mission and your values,” Ippel said. “Entrepreneurs need to think about transferring their personal values to their business. This will ensure you don’t drift over time.”
Ippel noted as an example that team behind Etsy, the platform creating opportunities for makers and artists who wanted to start their own businesses, realized as they grew that it would be harder to adhere to their core values; after 6 years, they launched the Etsy Foundation to ensure they maintained their values while allowing the core business to do its thing efficiently, at scale.
Where you get your money matters, Ippel said. “Find value-minded investors and money partners (equity investors, grant-providing institutions, etc.) who share your values.” Many large creditor organizations like VanCity and Royal Bank have social value funds that enable you to get a return on investment perspective while supporting your mission – “and they’re easy to work with.”
“Mission-driven entrepreneurs understand the value of technology for maximizing change,” Ippel added. “They look at all of the best practices that exist in the tech community. Mission-driven organizations come from different cultural lenses, but they can see the unparalleled growth of the tech industry and would do well to follow their best practices; from LEAN startup principles to ‘leading with why’, to business model Canvas, an eye to disrupt – those are key pieces.”