Investors’ Circle – an awesome group of social impact investors

The level of effort to prepare was WELL worth it! The twice annual conference set up in San Francisco was extremely well run and the quality of both entrepreneurs pitching their need for investment and investors was very high.

Day One was organized around entrepreneur pitches of 7mn + 3mn for questions, 20 entrepreneurs pitching over the course of the day. Entrepreneurs were clustered around “themes”, ours being community and international development. As luck would have it, CO2 Bambu was first on the roster, so I got to launch this portion of the conference and quickly get past “my pitch”. This was a fortunate positioning, as investors were not yet fatigued from massive amount of data thrown their way. I opened with the visual reality of what concrete houses look like in Haiti, pics I took last week. This had the benefit of cutting past a bunch of words and making it clear that a) Peta and I intend to have impact in Haiti, b) CO2 Bambu is already having impact (through the nursery activity kicked off last week) and c) we need funding to extend our reach, facilitate industrial ramp up, and therefore augment the impact we can have. IC investors are a savvy group of social and/or environmental impact investors and having impact is something that resonates with them, so this was a good way to launch the dialogue around CO2 Bambu’s needs.
There was an eclectic group of entrepreneurs, ranging from home-based composting machines, to solar shade analysis to optimize solar panel installations, to eco-street lights, on-line car-pooling, fair trade chocolates etc… I think that the fact we are doing something green and socially impactful, i.e. a triple bottom line company, resonated well.
Most surprising, and very welcome, is that this group of investors was not at all phased that our operations are in Central America, and Nicaragua specifically. In fact, many investors and entrepreneurs we talked with remarked “oh yes, one of my good friends just came back from Nicaragua” or “I visited there 4 years ago when…”. There were 4 entrepreneurs with activities “down South”, in Brazil, Columbia, Peru and Argentina, so having activities in Central America was not a distraction from our robust business model. It felt as though being in Latin America is “cool”, i.e. the sweet spot in terms of economic development, from a U.S. perspective.
Since my partner, Jonathan, had to stay back home to keep the wheels on, I felt that it would be useful to have Peta join me, if only to manage “hoped for” traffic at the booth. Through out the two day event, there were several opportunities for investors to follow up on the 7 minute “hook” to come by display tables (with pics, pieces of guadua bamboo, samples of pre-fabricated plyboo panels…) and ask questions of the entrepreneurs. My asking Peta to come and help explain CO2 Bambu turned out to be a stroke of genius. We are very used to working like this together, since the days of Ethnicities when we did trade shows, and since Peta is fully up to speed on CO2 Bambu, it was easy for Peta to field questions. And field she did… We had a virtually constant flow of visitors at our table and I would have necessarily short-changed important visitors had she not been there. In fact, Peta’s participation played to our advantage as investors were able to appreciate that this is not “just our business”, but a conscious decision on our part to make green housing and disaster relief solutions a core element of our lives’ trajectory. As a fantastic luncheon author and speaker explained, using Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the bottom rung of motivation is having a job; the middle rung is having a career; And the highest rung is having a “calling”. This is where we are at with CO2 Bambu and our commitment to make a difference both environmentally and in terms of social impact.
So, as the dust settles from the two day event, we are pleased with the traction we seemed to get. Several investors came by to kindly report that in the “investors only”, “behind closed doors” discussions, CO2 Bambu created quite a buzz of interest. That’s fantastic. We now look forward to following up with investors and taking the due diligence steps that will lead to some of these investors making the decision to have impact in Haiti through CO2 Bambu and sustainable housing solutions.