I’ve talked to half a dozen entrepreneurs, both enterprises and new funds, who are using one nugget of a takeaway from the Hope Report, which sized the demand side of the Social Capital Market at $120 billion in latent demand http://www.hopeconsulting.us/ to validate their plan’s particular premise. That’s the way it should be; markets are not uniform manufactured artifacts. Markets thrive when there are more niches, or facets of the story to create more ways value can flow.
The Social Capital Market is announcing, with dozens of voices, that it is open for business. Socap is the big tent event where you meet the people you would not have run into at your regular gatherings. The people may be from government, or philanthropy, or from traditional investing, all moving the same direction, toward the intersection of money and meaning. The people and organizations, that when you discover them, you realize you need to know them and their approach more deeply in order to get where you want to go.
Yet the market at the intersection of money and meaning is not only about the money. It’s also a market where meaning has a place. The Social Capital Market is also about what happened to a world-class business person like Ken Ansin.
Ansin has multiple large-scale successful businesses under his belt, from turning around and selling shoe makers like Cole Haan, to a cabinet business, to starting a community bank to a rollup of porta potties in the Northeast that sold for $80 million with and 8x return on Ansin’s money.
Ken Ansin can figure out a market, come up with new products that make more money and get the organization to its goal, whether it’s a sale or simply more money to do what it does better.
After his last business success, in the space where he was wondering what to do next, Ansin’s life took a sudden turn toward the intersection of money and meaning. He had an epiphany in West Africa when he actually went to visit the child he’d been sponsoring for $50 a month. When he left Boston for Mali, his main thought had been that being on a different continent and out of reach was better than being around the last stages of his divorce.
His eyes were opened in West Africa. He realized that he wanted to work on issues like the ones he discovered there. That lightning bolt was followed by intensive learning experiences in the developing world, touring microfinance institutions and starting schools in West Africa.
His deep and broad immersion made him want to put what he’d experienced in context and he went to Harvard to get an education on public policy and aid issues. Now, Ansin with a new wife and baby has moved to San Francisco because he wants to be where social enterprise is really taking off.
For Ansin, place is important. He had his epiphany in West Africa and that’s where he is devoting his international focus and charitable work and dollars. He joined the board of Root Capital, and is launching some deeply innovative projects with them he is helping fund in West Africa.
Working with Root, which finances developing world agriculture, he wants to experiment with some new agriculture products they can grow and sell for higher margin in new markets with a positive ecological impact all around the project. He’s interested in a particular nut that could be used in biofuels, with the trees planted within an agroecology framework contributing to global cooling. As an investor in Root, we at Good Capital want to help Ansin and Root, potentially through the Hoop, a startup we are incubating.
In San Francisco, Ansin has set up a small, low cost, consulting practice he will be talking about at Socap10. He is ready to put his skills at the disposal of Bay Area social enterprises in need of a jump-start or a turn around. Ken is looking for a social enterprise with around $2 to $3 million in revenue who needs help to take it to the next level, or a $10 million revenue organization (non profit or for profit) that is stuck and needs to find new revenue sources and a change in the way things are done. Ken is setting up shop here: http://www.ansinconsultinggroup.com/.
Not everybody can be Ken Ansin. And I have no intention of either putting him on a pedestal or promoting the hero mythology that has hampered the social enterprise space from growing as fast as it should. Too many visionaries are still running organizations when they should be handing the job over to operators and remaining as chief evangelist.
It’s gone beyond being about heroes. Social enterprise is a movement, but it’s about the enterprise, not the lone visionary entrepreneur. It’s a movement and asset class in which everyone can play a vital and unique part. To help people with a broad range of skills and resources find their way onto a path like the one Ansin found, we are creating a program called LifechangerU.
It’s a joint venture of the Hub and University of the Pacific. It will help people with a desire to find a connection between what has meaning for them with the skills they have acquired and are paid for deploying in traditional business. It’s going to be a mix of a curriculum with a certificate from one of the leading social enterprise focused business schools coupled with small groups and collaborative projects. More details about LifechangerU will revealed Socap. The program will be run out of the Hub.
-By Kevin Jones (Good Capital Newsletter)