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CHAIR « FINANCE FOR INNOVATION » NL #2 - Our sponsors news

30 avril 2019
Impact investing with Sowefund

Since 2014, an alternative funding solution came out in France, thanks to new regulation allowing individuals to directly invest in non-listed companies, and more precisely SMEs through crowdfunding platforms. This new way of investing bring individuals closer to business creation, entrepreneurship, job creation and innovation, and revealed the fact that everyone can choose precisely in what to invest.

It was a new tool to make savings more civic (alongside with green saving accounts, SRI and ESG funds, green bonds, etc.). After 5 years, it clearly appears that the crowd has a preference for investments in the environment protection, solving social issues, or improving healthcare, … in other words, investments with important social values.

Last year, to go further in this new civic investment strategy, Sowefund launched its Impact Investing label, focused on selecting promising and innovative startups which activity directly targets a social or environmental issue. For the platform, Impact Investing is an investment strategy chosen with the intention to generate positive impact on environment and society, alongside a financial return. The platform is convinced that startups can bring solutions for the planet and the people, thanks to their innovation culture and agility. Also, Sowefund believe that individual people have a major role to play by leading their savings toward small enterprises, what we call “the real economy” and capital for good.

Based on the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, Sowefund criterias select startups with a strong impact vision and business culture. It means the start-up has to

  • Be committed to contribute to one or more SDGs,
  • Develop its activity through a scalable business model, to be sure the company will grow independently and will become profitable,
  • Design an inclusive corporate governance, including all the stakeholders of the firm (shareholders, employees, suppliers and beneficiaries)
  • Give a transparent and honest information on financial & economical situation of the company, as well as its social and environmental print, structured by a report defined before any investment.

As crowdfunding platform, Sowefund’s goal is to help investors to select and follow startup with best skills, innovating for the planet and the people, and proving that impact activities can be as profitable as mainstream businesses. This is why they mix “classical” startups with impact investing ones. If today Impact Investing is still a minority choice for investors, representing “only” 1% of investment deals (for 248 billion dollars worldwide), it grew by 146% between 2015 and 2016, and we strongly believe that it will became a major investment strategy.

Since last year, Sowefund selected 3 startups for its impact investing label: Eonef (previously known as Zephyr Solar), Osmia and Celloz. Eonef develops solar balloons, integrating functionalities as wifi, lightening, telecommunication, easily deployed to facilitate humanitarian help in emergency intervention; Osmia helps farmers to improve pollination of their cultures thanks to a natural solution: bees; Celloz develops a new construction material, made with recycled cellulosic fibers, for the roofing market. Despite their differences, all of these startups bring an answer to a strong societal and environmental problem and integrate societal values in all the step of their activity. We noticed that multiple startups want to be branded as “social business”, but in reality, few are the ones who really integrate social values in their daily business, and it’s these one that we want to promote, for their strong commitment for the people and the planet.

Case of Celloz :

“Celloz, founded in 2017, develops the first roof panel made from biobased materials. With a validated proof of concept and the commitment of a retailer leader in France and Europe to distribute Celloz’s products, we thought it would be easy to raise money through VC funds. Despite a real interest in the project, they finally didn’t invest for this first round because our startup doesn’t make revenue yet. We turned to crowdfunding platforms and decided to start a campaign with Sowefund. Sowefund helps startup on the way to commercialization and with significant needs for industrialisation and intellectual property. Beyond its financial expertise, Sowefund has skills to deliver labels such has “Impact Investing” and “Crowdfunding for Green Growth” (a label created by the French Ministry of Ecological and Solidarity Transition) and naturally suggested to us to apply for these two labels. Celloz’s activity has a double positive impact on environment: it reduces non-renewable materials’ extraction and recovers wastes from the paper industry. Through these labels, Celloz is engaged to communicate about its environmental performance, in a fully transparent way to all share and stakeholders. We are delighted to assume this responsibility and to welcome engaged investors through the opportunity offered by a Sowefund campaign”.

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