2018 In Review

By Elise O’Malley

Over the last year, we have continued to see reports about the growth of the impact investing industry. In an article featuring our firm, Crunchbase attributed this growth to the rising number of socially-conscious millennials entering the workforce. The Financial Times wrote about why family offices are gravitating towards impact investing while The Wharton School’s online business journal published a piece about foundations. The Global Impact Investing Network shared its Annual Impact Investor Survey, noting that impact fund managers planned to raise 20% more USD in 2018 compared to 2017.

Impact Engine is no exception to this positive trend: we’ve added team members, expanded our portfolio, and produced larger events. As 2018 draws to a close, we reiterate our gratitude for our supportive community and eagerly share the year’s highlights.

Impact Engine Ventures

We wrapped up our first venture fund with our 20th, 21st, and 22nd investments in Moving Analytics, The Graide Network, and Fixer. In total, our first fund has 22 investments, including 9 in Chicago, 7 on the West Coast, and 6 spread throughout the rest of the country. We are proud of the diversity of our portfolio: 41% of CEOs were women and 32% were non-white. In terms of impact areas, 36% of the portfolio has a health focus, 32% in education, 23% in economic empowerment, and the remaining 9% in environmental sustainability.

In May, we launched our second venture fund and have since made four investments: Fixer, Glimpse, and two additional startups that we will publicly announce in next month’s newsletter. We’re very excited to have a great group of portfolio companies with diverse CEOs improving access to skilled trades, increasing the effectiveness of education spending, reducing the financial burden of student debt, and enabling greater access to genetic cancer screening.

Many of our venture portfolio companies and their leaders have been acknowledged for their great work this year. We are so proud to support them!

Impact Engine Private Equity

This spring, we were excited to welcome Priya Parrish to the team to launch and lead Impact Engine’s private equity strategy. Priya is an experienced institutional investor and impact investor, having previously served as Chief Investment Officer at Schwartz Capital Group. Priya also currently holds the role of Impact Investor in Residence at the University of Chicago, where she supports impact investing programs at the Booth School of Business. Through our private equity strategy, we will invest in impact funds and companies, targeting growth equity and buyout strategies. More PE news coming in 2019!

Impact Engine HQ

In addition to Priya joining our team, we also welcomed Roger Liew (Partner, Ventures), Chris Wu (Associate, Ventures), and Elise O’Malley (Communications Coordinator) as new team members. The year’s work has also been supported by a talented group of MBA interns from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, including Sam Abbott, Brandon Boros, Rich Friedman, Tiago Gomes, and Sarah McGraw. We were proud to see some of our team members recognized externally this year: Jessica and Tasha appeared on Crain’s Tech 50, Priya earned a spot on Crain’s Notable LGBTQ Executives list, and co-founder/board member Linda Darragh received the Entrepreneurial Champion Award.

We continue to aim to educate, engage, and inspire others about impact investing. Our annual Chicago Impact Investing Showcase took place in January, and the response was incredible: the event sold out, with over 500 people signing up to learn about the work taking place at Impact Engine and other Chicago-based impact funds. In addition to Impact Engine team members, we heard from Debra Schwartz (MacArthur Foundation), Will Towns (Benefit Chicago), Mats Lederhausen (BeCause), and 6 impact entrepreneurs based in Chicago. We’re looking forward to the same energy and enthusiasm at our next Showcase. (If you’re in Chicago, mark your calendars for February 19!)

We also launched a new website! You can now find updated information about our team, impact, and community job postings — all in one place. Our recent blog posts live on our website, while the archives exist on our Medium page. This year, our most popular pieces were: The Spectrum of Impact investing, Impact Investing is Growing in Chicago — Here’s Why It Matters, and Mind the Gaps: What’s Missing in Impact Investing Markets?

The new year ahead feels exciting as we continue to grow our portfolio and community with the goal of addressing society’s most pressing challenges. Many thanks to everyone who supported us in our mission — we wish you peace and joy during this holiday season!


Interested in staying in touch as we head into 2019? Sign up for our newsletter, where you can receive information about our team, portfolio companies, and upcoming events.