Why attend SOCAP?
It’s hard to find a group of entrepreneurs and investors who are not focused solely on technology. Even the Cleantech Open, where Bellwether Materials won the 2010 Sustainability Award, has shifted to techie products. But even in 2010, there were only two of us in California who had products that didn’t have a microchip.
The reality is that all these “cleantech” organizations are driven not by “clean” but by “tech” because investors are looking for the next Google, not ways to save the world.
So it was incredibly exciting for us to discover the Social Capital Markets (SOCAP) conference where global innovators from over 70 countries can meet like-minded people — investors, foundations, institutions and social entrepreneurs – to build a market “at the intersection of money and meaning.”
SOCAP attracts social entrepreneurs who want to build businesses that not only make money but also provide work or services for those who desperately need it. Impact investors come to SOCAP to find interesting new companies to invest in. For those who want to participate in social change but are not sure how they can contribute, SOCAP provides a welcoming place to learn and connect.
At a time when global warming, population explosion, displacement and poverty are in the news daily, it’s wonderful that a growing army of people are determined to find solutions. There is a level of personal satisfaction derived from using business to help others that can’t be found in the typical corporate job. SOCAP provides a meeting place for this community that is in the process of defining a new form of capitalism that blends profit with social impact.
While many of the entrepreneurs and investors are looking at the developing world, some are also interested in helping out at home. A trip to Oakland may not sound as exciting as a trip to Bangkok, but there are opportunities to make a difference both at home and abroad.
SOCAP was started in 2008 by Kevin Jones. He told me during a phone conversation that after he sold his sixth business and was about to launch his seventh startup, his 20-year-old daughter asked, “What is your life about?” This comment triggered a search for something more. First he joined the boards of nonprofits but he said, “Things moved too slowly and I didn’t feel I was having a positive impact.”
Then he raised money and planned projects with Columbia’s Jeffrey Sachs to combat malaria in Africa. “As positive as the experience was,” Jones said, “Working at ground level felt limiting.”
However, during this process, he started meeting like-minded people. Jones said, “I realized that raising money for impact investment was too hard for individuals and that bringing them together could make the movement coherent and more effective.”
This year the SOCAP conference will be held at Fort Mason in San Francisco from October 1 through 4. Featured speakers include the CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Jeff Raikes, who leads one of the world's leading foundations to promote equity for all people and Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation, who was recently listed by Forbes as one of the world's 100 most powerful women.
One of the best parts is the pre-conference meet-up. By searching through the attendee list, you can find the folks you’d like to meet and arrange appointments before the conference.
The conference is organized around themes that clearly demonstrate what will be discussed. These themes are very different from conferences like the Cleantech Open in that they cover new trends in philanthropy that look a lot like starting businesses and support businesses that make money by helping people around the world. Themes this year include: