IMPACT2: Paris conference on impact investing.

We are here for IMPACT2, which is the first conference on impact finance and impact investing in France.

SOCAP in San Francisco (August 2011) yielded one of our key investors — Groupe SOS, based in Paris. Led by a charismatic young bright executive, the Comptoir de l’innovation (CDI) is the investment arm of Groupe SOS (10,000 people), mostly in France. CDI has taken the lead in shaping France’s impact investment world and is intent on making Paris the European hub for this emerging segment of the finance industry.

CO2 Bambu’s social and environmental impact in Nicaragua, earned us a spot on the panel presenting to a crowd of some 750 “movers and shakers” from 30 countries. The panel was comprised of four impact entrepeneurs — One from Africa (solar energy) another from Asia (sanitation) and another from Europe (communication for deaf communities) and CO2 Bambu from Latin America.

The conference was hosted in the MOST grand of settings in France. The Hotel de Ville which is the mayoral center of Paris.
The building is a rare treasure, filled with incredible floor to ceiling paintings (murals really) done from 17th to 19th century. The public rarely gets to see many of the rooms which have mural work on the walls depicting life of the times, both urban high society and rural farm life.
I (Peta) sat myself down to absorb the history of the environment, magnificent in its’ splendor, and left Ben fielding questions from the public. We brought with us a bamboo sample of Nicaraguan bamboo as well as a panel of split bamboo that we use to make walls. People respond well to seeing and touching bamboo and are always surprised as to how large in diameter it is. Usually we do this together, but I was mesmerized by the paintings and took the time to enjoy them. Ben can pitch “in his sleep.”
I staked my spot near the front in the grand ballroom where the presentations would take place. Headphones were handed out for translations “real time” in both French and English. Slowly the huge gilded room started to fill up.
Ben was seated in the front row awaiting the presentations when I realized I forgot to wish him good luck. I made my way to the front and found him totally relaxed and “cool as a cucumber” even though he was about to talk in front of 750 people and “big fish” at that! After the introductions by the deputy mayor of Paris it was time for the CO2 Bambu presentation. Ben did his usual excellent job and had the added benefit of addressing the crowd in both French and English.
It is extraordinary to see flashing on the giant screen in this most grand of environments, the indigenous people of Rosita, CO2 Bambu’s management staff and our field assemblers. When discussions of impact swirls around well meaning actors in this emerging field, it is easy to abstract people and talk statistics. CO2 Bambu is proud to put a face to the indigenous people we have impacted, to show the young Nicaraguan civil engineers who thanks to us have a chance to shape their careers and have positive environmental impact in their own country.
Following the presentation by impact enterpreneurs, another panel was set up to get the perspective of Europe’s leading impact investors. The panel was made up of the head of SOCAP in the US, JP Morgan Chase in Europe and Prince Maximillian Von Und Zu Liechtenstein (the chairman of LGT banking group) and CO2 Bambu’s primary investor.
Interest was high and we fielded a healthy flow of interested audience members after the presentations, with Ben engaging with the French speakers and myself taking the English speakers. We have done trade shows and investment conferences together ever since our joint adventure with Ethnicities a few years ago, and we are quite adept at crowd management and making pitches together as a team.
As always it is impossible ot tell what leads are surfaced tonight which might evolve into meaningful opportunities down the road. We are reminded of our recent fast track discussions with Holland, based on a SOCAP conference from San Francisco eight months ago.

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