SF Showcases: Youth Social Innovation Capital Fund (YSI) Part 1

SF Showcases: Youth Social Innovation Capital Fund (YSI) Part 1

Spotlighting YSI’s Support of Youth Innovation Through Investment

2014 is in full swing and with it comes the opportunity to tell more stories about the great work happening in Canadian social finance! In two pieces over the next two days we’ll be talking to Jory Cohen, Managing Director of Youth Social Innovation Capital Fund (YSI). The aim, as always, is to shine a light on folks in the field by lobbing a few questions their way: What problems are they tackling? What have they found to be best practices? Can this model be brought to scale and/or replicated? As always, we want your input on this and future profiles. Who would you like to know more about? What kind of stories do we need to tell more often? Whose lessons learned would you like to hear? Tweet us, Facebook us, email us or sound off in our Disqus section below!

To start us off, can you tell us what YSI in a tweet (140 characters or less)?

YSI invests in young entrepreneurs who are making the world a better place. We support entrepreneurs creating sustainable financial, social and environmental impact.

Expanding from that answer, what is the problem that YSI was conceived in order to address? What do you feel is unique about your approach to solving this problem?

The first, and most obvious problem is that social entrepreneurs need capital to grow their ventures.

YSI believes in the potential of young entrepreneurs to build successful enterprises that are dedicated to pursuing positive change. We also understand the obstacles these entrepreneurs encounter when establishing and expanding their ventures. Often traditional financial institutions are unable or unwilling to provide capital to young entrepreneurs without an established business record or considerable existing assets. YSI emphasizes character over collateral. We provide capital and support to young entrepreneurs so they can accomplish their financial, social, and environmental goals.

The second is that impact investors need opportunities to do both well and good. 

We’ve recognized that investors aren’t strictly interested in profits.  Often, they’re eager to find ways to use their money as a vehicle for social good. YSI offers investment opportunities that generate financial, social, and environmental impact.

We bring together like-minded entrepreneurs and investors working to drive positive change. We source capital from investors and loan it to entrepreneurs. Principal loans and financial interest is repaid to YSI and redistributed to investors. Social and environmental impact is measured and communicated.


You incorporated in September of 2012, but in that short period of time you have invested in four ventures and were even nominated this past year for a
Social Finance Award for “Most Promising Collaboration”. What factors have been important for your success and what will you need to build on to take YSI to the next level?

A major factor contributing to YSI’s success is that we provide capital and support to entrepreneurs when they need it the most: in the early stages of building their ventures. I often hear a lot of hype around impact investing – how it’s growing in dollars and reach. While impact investing is indeed a budding asset class, most impact capital is allocated to mature ventures and investment opportunities.

YSI does what others don’t do. We invest in early-stage social enterprises. This allows us to attract a significant and talented entrepreneur pipeline and offer exciting opportunities to our investors.

I believe YSI’s future success depends on our ability to graduate YSI-supported social enterprises from very early ventures to ones ready to take on growth capital. Our role is not to provide all necessary capital for an entrepreneur to aggressively grow their venture. Rather it’s to prepare entrepreneurs for their next financing step, and help them unlock capital to accomplish organizational goals.

YSI’s support for early-stage social enterprises doesn’t just benefit the enterprise itself. Our support helps build a pipeline of mature opportunities for the impact investment sector. I’m nothing but confident in YSI’s future.  When I consider all the fantastic individuals surrounding myself and the organization, I’m certain our outlook is bright.

Our incredible team, board of directors, advisors, Investment Committee, and partners – including the Ontario Trillium Foundation – have all played fundamental roles in YSI’s success.  I don’t have a doubt in my mind they’ll continue to drive YSI’s accomplishments in 2014 and beyond.

Lastly for today, will you be accepting new applications anytime soon?

As a matter of fact, YSI is launching an application period right now for young social entrepreneurs searching for financing and support! Interested socents can apply for a YSI loan here. The application period closes February 28, 2014.


Editor’s Note: Tune in tomorrow when we talk to YSI about their two most recent investments and why they are so excited about these ventures!

Also, please join us on Tuesday March 18, 2014 for ImpactOntario – a landmark conference that brings world-changing Ontario ventures together with world-leading investors and intermediaries. Registration is now open!

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