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ImpactOntario: Becoming Defined, Inclusive and Mainstream
On March 18th, the world of impact investing descended on the MaRS Discovery District. Here is a small piece of what you missed if you weren’t at ImpactOntario.
After months of planning and preparation, 25 ventures and over 120 impact investors took part in last week’s ImpactOntario hosted by the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing in partnership with the Government of Ontario and Social Capital Markets.
The event was sold out with 300 national and international delegates participating to learn about Ontario’s impact investing landscape and to meet Ontario’s impact entrepreneurs. ImpactOntario featured closed and open pitch sessions and practical workshops focused on building capacity for impact investing transactions, structuring deals and measuring impact.
The workshops were coupled with insightful plenary keynotes featuring renowned global leaders such as Geoff Burnand, CEO of Investing for Good and Michael Chodos, Senior Advisor, US National Advisory Board on Social Impact Investing. ImpactOntario engaged both investors and impact ventures and funds and shed light on the successes and trends of the sector.
More importantly, the conference provided insight on what we can expect to see next. Here are my takeaways on where impact investing is going and what’s becoming of this once nascent space:
ImpactOntario kicked off with Joanna Reynolds, Associate Director of the MaRS Center for Impact Investing and Karim Harji, Co-Founder and Partner at Purpose Capital launching the report “State of the Nation: Impact Investing in Canada”. They shared how the space has evolved and encompasses an array of industries and sectors. Whether it is clean technology, Aboriginal businesses or medical devices, the pathways to achieving impact are becoming more clear and easier to identify. We’re also seeing more impact investors formulate specific impact investment thesis’ and approaches such as panelist Richard Osborn, who described his investment strategy and approach as managing partner of RecapHealth Ventures.
It may seem counterintuitive but it’s easier to be a newcomer to impact investing now than it was when everyone was a newcomer. Even though impact investing sectors and approaches are becoming more defined, they are not becoming exclusive. These definitions provide the framework to support new stakeholders looking to enter the sector – either as investors, ventures or intermediaries, because there are many more examples and leaders to learn from.
It’s also much easier to find like-minded investors and values-aligned peers than it was 5 or 6 years ago. Whether you’re an angel investor, fund manager or foundation, it’s easier now to connect with and learn from existing impact angels, impact fund managers and foundations engaged in impact investing. This facet came to light at ImpactOntario as we saw many connections made both investor to venture but also investor to investor and venture to venture.
Keynote speaker, Abigail Noble, Head of Impact Investing at the World Economic Forum and author of “From the Margins to the Mainstream – Assessment of the Impact Investment Sector and Opportunities to Engage Mainstream Investors” discussed how impact investing is making its way to the mainstream. She shared her enthusiasm for catalysts such as B Lab who have ignited mainstream interest from leading financial institutions and governments. She also shared how catalysts and collaboration are critical to the mainstream success of impact investing. Being collaborative allows for increased opportunities to share risk through the creation of innovative funding models. These models include layered tiers of funding with varying risk, return and impact profiles to support a wider array of impact investment approaches that in turn, can and are being adopted by the mainstream.
ImpactOntario convened leading impact ventures, impact investors and intermediaries to highlight the opportunities for impact investing in Ontario while also demonstrating the tremendous growth of the sector to date. By learning directly from experienced impact investors and ventures, the event was a culmination of past successes, key insights and future trends that will continue to drive and support the flow of capital to impact ventures and funds.
Editor’s Note: While ImpactOntario is complete, our coverage of it is not! We’ll be continuing the conversations started there by covering ventures, talking with financial organizations and more! Stay tuned!