I just moderated what ended up being a standing room only session at SoCap 2008. Don’t tell the fire marshal, but the the audience was a exponentially larger than the room posted limit of 49. It was actually rather exciting to see the “demand” side of equation for social investments beyond capacity and to see the “supply” side consisting of panel members from UBS, Merrill Lynch, Guggenheim Partners, Veris Wealth Partners and my own firm Ensemble Capital Management.
Prior to the session I ran into an acquaintence who works for the The Institute for the Future. She was explaining to me that trends take 30-50 years to play out. So the Internet was first developed in the 1960’s, but it took 30 years for the internet to go mainstream and yet we’re still likely 10+ years from the Internet being fully “mature” in its growth cycle. I think the same is true in social investing. The first socially responsible investment fund was launched in the 1970’s, so we’re now 30 years into the trend. I have the sense (and the panel today was a nice affirmation) that we’re hitting the “knee in the curve” of growth in social investing. But that means that if you compared our industries to the growth path of the Internet, we’re probably sitting at around 1995.
The fun thing about the panel was that we didn’t have to explain why social investing was important. The crowd got that. So we got to surface some core disagreements between the panelists. Is there a trade off between social returns and financial returns? Is there enough deal flow for everyone who wants to invest with social impact to be able to find opportunities?
This is going to be a good conference. You can follow along with the blog team via the official SoCap blog.