SOCAP Adds Gratitude Awards To Celebrate Social Entrepreneurs
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
SOCAP, the Social Capital Markets conference, has grown to likely be the largest annual conference connecting social entrepreneurs with impact investors. For 2014, Kevin Jones, the founder of SOCAP, has partnered with Randy Haykin’s Gratitude Awards to make the event even more significant.
Haykin recently announced the semi-finalists for the Gratitude Awards; you can find the list here.
In order to learn more about the combination, I reached out to Kevin and Randy and to Heather Faison, SOCAP Brand Manager.
Here is my interview with Kevin Jones:
Why did you choose to partner with the Gratitude Awards this year?
A lot of what goes on at SOCAP is relational; prospective mentors and angels meeting and forming relationships with entrepreneurs that will result, after both sides get to know each other, in an investment. The Gratitude Awards bringing top silicon valley VCs like Bill Draper and other tech luminaries into the social enterprise world and letting them help the top startups who win the award, acknowledges that relationships come before transactions in this market at the intersection of money and meaning.
How did SOCAP come to be? What was the personal impetus for you?
I created SOCAP because all of the other convenings had exactly the wrong approach; they thought things would take off when they “got the right people in the room.” We realized vibrant markets were about bringing in the valuable stranger, the unlikely allies you would not meet in your everyday work setting. Adhering rigorously to that simple design principle caused us to grow more than four fold and become the largest and most diverse convening of businesses trying to do good as a core to their mission in the world, and it has attracted the new breed of impact investors who want to put their money where their heart is.
What is the best thing you’ve observed about the Gratitude Awards?
The Gratitude Awards are expanding on our growing set of partnerships with Silicon Valley as the tech world learns to see the opportunity to make money investing in businesses designed to do good.
How have you seen SOCAP impact the social entrepreneurship and impact investing space over the years since you launched the conference?
I think we have shown the world that the market at the intersection of money and meaning – the place between giving and investing – is real and big and growing. I think we have expanded the possibilities for social entrepreneurs. I think the market is maturing. There are expansion stage deals and some of the early exits for investors are happening from the first generation of impact funds. It is working. It is real. It is growing. It is maturing.
Here is my interview with Heather Faison:
What are the big highlights you are anticipating at SOCAP this year?
SOCAP has joined the biggest names in innovation, entrepreneurship and impact investing for its 7th annual conference to explore ways to solve global problems with sustainable, local solutions. Our core mission is to create a platform where investors who believe in investing for social and financial return can meet innovative entrepreneurs. This year we hosting more than 130 entrepreneurs from all over the world who will be sharing how they are acting as change agents in their communities. Giving them an opportunity to take their work to scale through connections made at SOCAP is why we do this great work. Our speakers including USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, Rebuild the Dream Co-Founder Van Jones, award-winning social entrepreneur Leila Janah and hundreds more are working to advance social causes.
How many people do you anticipate will attend and why do you think so many people will be there?
This will be another sold-out year for SOCAP! We’re excited to welcome a record number of newcomers to the conference who will be joining a crowd of around 2,100 people at Fort Mason Center. Impact investing is everywhere this year; the White House, The Vatican, financial giants like Morgan Stanley and Prudential, are all talking about the benefits of investing for social return. SOCAP in many ways laid the foundation for impact investing and has brought more voices from sectors like the sharing economy, food systems, and healthcare to this once closed-door conversation. People know this is the place where everyone is invited to the table to help solve some of the world’s toughest issues.
What do you hope that participants leave knowing or doing that they didn’t before?
What makes SOCAP different than any other conference in this space are the genuine connections that are made with the most unlikely strangers. We like to call it the “SOCAP effect.” Not only do entrepreneurs find funding from investors who really care about social good, but CEOs, global leaders and people interested in social impact leave inspired to move their projects forward in a more meaningful way. We hope participants leave knowing that SOCAP is a community that grows with you all year round.
Here is my interview with Randy Haykin:
Why did you choose to partner with SOCAP for the awards this year?
The Gratitude Awards were initially held as part of The Intersection Event, an event that the Gratitude Network hosed in 2012 and 2013. For 2014, we realized that the SOCAP event is a gathering place for many of the audience members we would like to reach with the awards: corporate, entrepreneurial, social/impact, investors – so we approached the SOCAP team to partner with us on this year’s awards. SOCAP saw in the Gratitude Awards a way to create a more unified approach to working with entrepreneurs at the event – a superset will receive “scholarships” so they can attend and be part of the mix. Of those scholars, we’ve selected a subset that we feel are ready to receive more attention in how they build their businesses. Short on-stage presentations during SOCAP of the 9 nominees, who will be prepped by the Gratitude Network, for their talks in front of an audience of 2000, will be a great way to expose the broader SOCAP audience to a mixture of exciting/innovative young companies – both non-profit and for-profit — and the Concierge area of the Main Hall will allow SOCAP participants to find the 9 Finalists and connect with them.
How do you view the Gratitude Awards as advancing social entrepreneurship?
There are five ways in which the Gratitude Awards advances social entrepreneurship:
The Awards honor social entrepreneurs on the ground, in communities around the world – who want to learn from lessons of entrepreneurs in the Silicon Valley and can benefit from mentorship. Untimately, through the award process, we are trying to identify the most innovative and impactful entrepreneurs whose start-ups will make a lasting contribution to a social area of need.
By holding the Awards at SOCAP, we’re exposing 2000+ to the notion that there are a set of entrepreneurs out there who are using their passion, commitment, ingenuity, time and talents to benefit the lives of OTHERS. The connections these entrepreneurs will make from this exposure is immeasurable, but definitely will advance their causes.
The Awards recognize the importance of hands-on mentorship in assisting young entrepreneurs in building enterprises that can make an impact on the world. This lesson was learned from years that the Gratitude Network has spend in making “silicon Valley” style investments. Working with entrepreneurs is as much about RESOURCING them with people, ideas, connections and process, as it is about MONEY.
The Awards point to the importance of corporate philanthropy in the development of social innovation. In the “old” world order, philanthropy went into the hands of large NGOs, in the form of $$. These large (mostly non-profits) then dispersed the dollars to various projects of need around the world. Today, corporations are beginning to embrace social entrepreneurship – they are looking for ways to engage their employees int he work that social entrepreneurs are doing, and they are looking to LEARN from social innovators. The Gratitude Awards involve a set of companies (Google, Salesforce, Adobe this first year) that will become more involved in social entrepreneurship in the future.
The Awards honor the human emotion of “gratitude” – for those of us who have been successful (personally and as corporations) in being grateful for what we’ve achieved and in the “ pay-it-forward” spirit, giving back to others who can make an impact globally on tough social issues in impoverished communities in health, poverty and education.
What is the best thing you’ve observed about SOCAP?
SOCAP brings together an “intersection” of people who are critical to the future of social impact: corporation innovators, entrepreneurs, academia, NGOs, investors. The spirit of the 4 days is infectious and one leaves the event wanting to find a way personally to make an impact on our world. The event opens one up to a wide variety of ideas, and great number of innovators from many fields.
Also, it appears to be the one event during the year that many of the leaders of the social impact space make an appearance – so there are many meetings and communications that take place at SOCAP that influence the remainder of the year and the things these leaders do the other 360 days.
What have you seen your past winners do and accomplish after being recognized?
Our past winners, from our first year of the Gratitude Awards seem to have accomplished three primary things: they have all raised additional capital, have more clearly defined and “re-fined” their products and services (using input and advice from the network and mentors) and they have been able to staff up to prepare for growth. We’ve also worked with these companies on business model and leadership issues.
A great example of this is Zaya.org, an innovative learning platform for schools in India. The founder, Neil DSouza, was at SOCAP two years ago and met one of the Gratitude Network team members. In 2013, Neil applied for a Gratitude Award and he was selected as a finalist and presented at The Intersection 2013. Neil has shared with our team that he met many interesting people through The Intersection and his award presentation. In 2013, Neil was introduced to Pearson Learning and later in the year they funded his company with $600,000 in much-needed investment. From the time we met him, Neil has focused his service offering, hired a great team, developed critical technology for use in schools in India, and now hopes to impact 10,000 students in India by 2015.
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