Smart Money & the Social Entrepreneur API

In financial markets there is “smart money” and “dumb money”. These rather crude phrases refer to the fact that certain types of investors tend to make good decisions and others tend to make bad decisions. The “smart money” usually goes against the crowd and makes investments in things that the “crowd” currently dislikes. “Dumb money” investors tend to be trend followers and pile into the hottest fade of the moment. When someone says “follow the smart money”, they are urging you to invest in the things that the “smart money” investors are currently buying.

Today, Social Actions, in partnership with The Skoll Foundation, PopTech, ideablob, and Civic Ventures, announced a new resource that will let people interested in social entrepreneurs “follow the smart money.” The resource is called the Social Entrepreneur API:

From the Social Actions press release:

The Social Entrepreneur API (Application Programming Interface) will be the first open database of information about social entrepreneurs who have won fellowships and awards from social enterprise funders.

The tool will allow philanthropists, investors, press, and fellow entrepreneurs to find social entrepreneurs based on keyword, location, cause area, population served, and a variety of other factors.

"The Social Entrepreneur API will provide an easier way for people to find, invest in, and support social entrepreneurs, as well as serve as a resource for social entrepreneurs to connect with each other and partner for greater impact," says Jill Finlayson, Marketing Manager for Social Edge.

Lucy Bernholz offered her take on Philanthropy 2173:

This makes it easier for funders to find entrepreneurs. For entrepreneurs to find other entrepreneurs. For aspiring entrepreneurs to find mentors. For networks to bridge networks. For potential partnerships to be formed or common problems to be worked on collectively. For researchers to look for patterns or entrepreneurs to look for gaps in service or systems thinkers to consider the kind of networks and infrastructure that supports (or doesn’t) these people.

It’s nothing short of putting philanthropic data in the cloud – which leaves it to all of us to figure out what cool things to do with it…

This also happens to be an excellent example of the Googlization of Philanthropy.

I’d love to see a similar database for foundation grantees (Grantfire has been working on this for sometime). One way to think about how this might look is by checking out This site makes it easy for investors to search a database of professional investors’ stock picks (professional investors are required to disclose their investment positions once every quarter in the form 13F, much as foundations disclose grantees in their Form 990PF once a year). lets you enter the name of a company you are interested in and pull up a list of the professional investors that currently hold the stock. It also displays a list of other companies that people own who own the stock you are interested in. This is similar to Amazon’s “people who like book X, also enjoy book Y”.

Facing more than a million nonprofits and a vast field of social entrepreneurs, we need smart ways to create filters so that the great opportunities do not get lost in the fire hose of information.

One Comment

  1. Sean, thanks so much for drawing attention to the Social Entrepreneur API. As you can imagine, we’re pretty excited about the project and what it represents, and look forward to providing real-time updates as the launch approaches.

    Kudos for wrapping the conversation around to the issue of filter-creation, too. That’s the equally-important flip side of the aggregation coin: delivering this information in a way that’s relevant and empowering. Personally, I can’t wait to see all of the ways in which the Social Entrepreneur API will inspire their development.