The MaRS Centre for Impact Investing is proud to announce the 2015 Fall Cohort for the Impact8 Program. Initially launched in 2013, Impact8 helps to close the gap between growth-stage impact based ventures and investors interested in opportunities to fund business with a social benefit. By providing mentorship and targeted workshops, Impact8 increases the pipeline of […]Read More ›
Introducing Impact8: the inaugural cohort
147 applications and only 8 spots
The application yielded an overwhelming response—and filtering the impressive and impactful pool of ventures down to 8 was no easy task! Although we wish we could have made room for more, we are extremely excited about the fantastic group of social entrepreneurs who will participate in the Impact8 program this fall. Here is a brief introduction to the cohort:
1. Local Buttons
Challenge: The mainstream fashion industry relies on methods of manufacturing that are detrimental to natural and social environments around the world. Of the recovered textiles in 2009, 60% were exported abroad, often to developing countries like Haiti, where the imported textile waste is not monitored, wiping out the national tailoring industry.
Solution: Local Buttons is refining the manufacturing process in Haiti to up-cycle “pepe,” secondhand clothing often worn by Haitians, into clothing that is marketable as fashion items on a mass scale for young professionals in North America. As curators of “pepe” Local Buttons is creating a market in North America to showcase the craftsmanship of Haitian tailors and provide sustainable fair paying jobs in Haiti.
Challenge: Downtown Toronto has less than five rental commercial kitchen spaces. Those that do exist have inadequate appliances, little or no fridge/freezer/dry storage, and no experienced staff available to advise or assist with the financial, legal, marketing, public relations or sales skills demanded by food business owners. Food entrepreneurs struggle to find the massive upfront capital and support needed to get their business off the ground.
Solution: Spun out of the great success of the Toronto Underground Market, Sumac aims to provide support for food businesses to incubate, launch and develop in South Western Ontario. Sumac will also be an inviting and forward-thinking social food hub for enthusiasts to learn, create, meet and eat.
3. Learning Bird
Challenge: Kids don’t hate learning. They hate not understanding. Every child should have the opportunity to learn and to succeed in a way that allows them to free their potential, regardless of their parents wealth or postal code.
Solution: Learning Bird offers affordable online individualized learning experiences and rewards the teachers who make them possible, both inside and outside of the classroom.
4. Lucky Iron Fish
Challenge: 3.5 billion people across the globe suffer from iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia, leading to short and long-term impacts including inhibited/delayed cognitive development, inability to work full time, increased susceptibility to disease, and reduced family and national income. Treatment options to date have been inadequate, as they are expensive, not constantly and consistently available and/or not culturally acceptable or understood.
Solution: The Lucky Iron Fish™ is a simple, affordable, culturally accepted health innovation. Cooking or boiling water with an iron ingot cast in the shape of a fish (which is a Cambodian symbol for luck) every day allows iron to leach into the water where it can be absorbed. One fish at $5 provides iron for the entire family for 10 years.
5. Detailing Knights:
Challenge: Youth unemployment; barriers to entry into entrepreneurship. Oh, and wasting water at the carwash!
Solution: Detailing Knights offers an eco-aware detailing model that reduces water waste by 99%. Its core social impact is empowering youth through an innovative franchising system focused on a network of car cleaning detailers that are running their own business and gaining valuable experiences that they can use in any career path they choose.
Challenge: The processes and procedures surrounding grant applications reflect old habits and outdated ways of working. Increased complexity in grant applications & reporting negatively impacts grantseeking organizations, reducing the net value of grants—sometimes up to 50%. The pace of change and volume of information grantmakers and grantseekers need to manage is multiplying. These challenges are leading to suboptimal decision making.
Solution: GrantBook curates lightweight and continuously updated technology solutions to advance collaboration, grants management, and knowledge-sharing. Specializing in the procurement and implementation of cloud-based tools that help grantmakers and their networks to maintain a more social and technology-enabled workplace, GrantBook offers expertise and proactive support as its clients take the important steps to transition some or all of their operations to the cloud.
Challenge: In many parts of the world, electricity is unavailable, unstable or extremely expensive. Many traditional energy sources are highly polluting and damage health and the environment. Lack of access to electricity prevents access to high quality healthcare, education and other services that are fundamental to alleviation of poverty and improved quality of life.
Solution: Sunfarmer provides solar energy services to rural and other communities lacking access to reliable and affordable electricity by providing financing and technology solutions. A capital-raising platform and rent-to-own financing assists with up-front costs of energy systems; third party oversight and management by solar design experts ensures solar systems are properly installed; oversight technology enables remote monitoring and troubleshooting of solar systems, while staff members at hospitals, schools and other institutions are trained to perform basic maintenance functions.
8. Citizen Rain
Challenge: Climate variable stormwater impacts are a major financial, environmental and social cost to North American, European and U.K. cities. Sanitary sewer overflows and contaminated stormwater are the single greatest threats to drinking water security, and stormwater is the largest source of property damage insurance claims for residential properties, municipal infrastructure and ecosystem services.
Solution: CitizenRain, the for-profit offshoot of RiverSides, offers a cost-effective climate change adaptation to replace substandard, unreliable, un-measurable consumer-purchased residential rain barrel programs with smart city rainfrastructure: reliable, centrally-managed and measurable at a fraction of conventional infrastructure costs.
We are thrilled to have the opportunity to help these innovative ventures unlock their impact and growth potential. Stay tuned for more!