Spotlight on social business: Democratising impact investing feat OurCrowd

Working at Spark means constant exposure to inspiring and innovative companies working in the for-impact sector. Instead of keeping that knowledge and the associated feel-good feelings to ourselves, we’re keen to share pertinent insights that could benefit the social sector…

Cue OurCrowd, a leading equity crowdfunding platform for investing in startups, who we crossed paths with at Third Sector Live earlier this year. Following his presentation at the conference, we touched base with Brad Joffe from OurCrowd Australia & Asia. During our catch up, Brad shed light on: trends in crowdfunding and impact investing; OurCrowd’s approach to partnering; and some impactful start-ups to watch out for.

Please tell us a bit about yourself and what led you to OurCrowd?

My previous life was as a corporate lawyer in M&A [mergers and acquisitions], and a part of that involved advising start-ups in their early days. Through that, I got a real interest in the space and in dealing with start-ups. I’d worked with OurCrowd during my time as a lawyer so I was keen to join the team when the opportunity came up.

What is the story behind OurCrowd?

The genesis of OurCrowd is that it was founded five years ago by Jon Medved in Israel. He’s a well-known figure in the venture capital space and has been very successful in that area. Jon realised there was so much opportunity and so many amazing companies but that it was very hard for investors to access them. So, he set up OurCrowd to democratise those opportunities.

How would you describe OurCrowd in the here and now?

To date, we’ve raised over AU$700m which has been deployed into over 120 portfolio companies.  More than 20,000 people have registered on the OurCrowd platform, providing them with exciting investment opportunities. Roughly a third of our investments could be classified as impact investments.

What is OurCrowd’s approach to partnering?

Our partners need to be someone who is going to add value to us and we need to be able to add value to them. That’s really important. Our priority is helping our entrepreneurs grow and adding value to our investors. It’s all part of the same cause. We’ve got this awesome network and meeting place for hungry entrepreneurs that need capital to make good on their ideas. We’ve got investors who are looking for opportunities to support those entrepreneurs and deliver impact. And finally we’ve got our strategic partners who are able to plug in to this ecosystem and access exciting new technologies for their own business.

What are the major trends you are witnessing in crowdfunding?

It’s quite obvious from speaking to people that the term crowdfunding has become more mainstream. The market is maturing. The first tranche of crowdfunding laws into force late last year in Australia. Crowdfunding is now open to retail investors in limited circumstances and  the Government is planning to open it up to a broader range of companies, which will be the second tranche of laws. This follows various other geographies around the world who have introduced their own equity crowdfunding laws such as those in the USA, UK, New Zealand and Italy.

And what changes are evident in the impact investing space?

With impact investing, I think there’s a greater trend towards it at a personal and a situational level. People are realising they can make money and do good at the same time. A lot of millennials are coming to the fore now. By nature, millennials are quite socially responsible so I think we’re going to see more and more impact investing trends coming through. There’s other industry reports that say that the market potential for impact investing is growing. Ernst and Young have said that their impact investment strategies have increased significantly in the last few years. There’s a lot of other information and materials supporting that hypothesis.

Is there a not-for-profit or for-impact business that you’d like to shout out to?

I could give you so many examples of companies that we have funded which are in the impact space. Intuition Robotics are a great one. They are developing social companionship technology to positively impact the lives of millions of older adults. Their accessible and intuitive products help elderly people connect with their communities whilst also keeping them active and healthy.

Where can people go to learn more about OurCrowd?

There are loads of resources online. I’d say the website is the best point of entry. [See www.ourcrowd.com]

Thanks Brad! One final thing – if people were to remember just one thing about OurCrowd, it would be…

…democratising venture investment opportunities.

Doing something unique or innovative in the social sector? Interested to share your insights more broadly? Then please reach out to us by emailing heather@sparkstrategy.com.au.

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