As with many great ventures, it often takes a team of committed individuals driven by a common vision to turn an idea into a reality. This is the story of Impact Ventures UK.
In 2008, Richard Brass, Head of UK Clients at Berenberg, looked to understand the challenges and opportunities for social enterprises in the UK. Much of this learning came from his involvement with Wavelength, co-founded by Liam Black who is now a member of the IVUK Investment Committee. He also visited Bangladesh to understand the work of Grameen and its founder Professor Muhammad Yunus. Richard’s vision was to create an investment fund around the themes of collaboration and empowerment; a fund that prioritises social return and brings a diverse and independent investment committee alongside strategic partners to provide social enterprises with access to relevant networks to help them grow.
“IVUK is about demonstrating that people can work together to create social good,” said Richard. “The challenges and opportunities faced by social business models resonate strongly with individuals and institutions who have built successful businesses. Fundamental to social enterprises is that they have a clear social purpose and with the right capital, they can be empowered to achieve their vision and bring about significant social change.”
New Venture Built On Experience
To realise his vision for IVUK, Richard teamed up with Oliver Karius, Partner, LGT Impact to mobilise the necessary resources and commitment to bring Berenberg and LGT Impact together to launch Impact Ventures UK in 2012. “The timing was right,” says Richard, “market understanding was developing strongly and potential investors were moving from being interested to becoming intrigued and ready to invest.”
LGT Impact has been actively supporting social enterprises, predominantly in emerging markets, since 2007, and has developed an investment process that carefully assesses social impact. LGT Impact was founded with the mission to improve the quality of life of less advantaged people.
There were other significant factors that contributed to the timing. “The UK government was establishing itself as a global leader in their active support of social entrepreneurship,” explains Oliver. “At the same time important intermediaries such as Big Society Capital and others were being established to help mainstream social impact investing. We saw an exciting opportunity to bring our established investment process and learnings from the emerging markets to the UK.”
Consistent with the vision, Audrey Selian, Nick Jenkins, Susannah Nicklin and Janette Faherty, individuals with complementary experiences, were invited to join Liam and Richard on the Investment Committee chaired by Alexander Leeb, LGT Impact’s chairman. Strategic partners were also brought in to offer technology, education and mentoring support to IVUK’s investees. “It’s been through the Investment Committee’s networks and Strategic Partners that we’ve been able to grow IVUK and build the investment pipeline,” says Richard.
According to Oliver, IVUK also needed a different approach to raising funds to get IVUK started. “Big Society Capital’s commitment was very important to endorse the value proposition of IVUK,” recalls Oliver. “We then focused on drawing people in, taking time to explain what social investment was about. Our commitment to all our investors is to ensure they can participate in IVUK’s activities as much or as little as they want.”
New Ways of Working for Social Good
IVUK’s set-up was completed when Raf Goovaerts joined LGT Impact to manage the fund. “It was an exciting opportunity to bring my private equity and growth capital experiences alongside LGT Impact’s track record,” says Raf who has assembled a strong team that is responsible for developing a strong pipeline of investment opportunities, making the investments and actively supporting portfolio organisations.
The future is exciting. Collaboration and empowerment remains integral to IVUK. “A broad and diverse group of individuals and institutions came together to launch IVUK,” says Oliver. “I think this shows that there are always new ways of working together to benefit society.”
“With IVUK we’ve created the capital to empower social enterprises,” says Richard. “Now it’s up to them; there’s no limit to their ambitions.”
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IVUK is about demonstrating that people can work together to create social good.