GoParity’s CEO shares the experience of managing an impact investment platform in times of COVID-19
Two months have passed since GoParity’s last face-to-face meeting.
It was sunny so the meeting was on Casa do Impacto’s roof terrace. On this day, we decided to set an example and be one of the first companies to introduce mandatory remote working. Since then, we have had nine team meetings, an endless number of calls between us, with promoters, investors, and partners. We miss the human warmth and the spontaneity of social interactions with people who are dear to us.
Life has not stopped, nor has work. A lot has happened during these difficult yet promising times.
I want to share what these two months of lockdown and crisis have been like at GoParity so that you know what we have been doing, how we are coping with the risks and where we have seen an opportunity to continue making a difference and help create a healthier economy, for the world and for your finances.
StopCovid-19 — a fundraising campaign
Lockdown started on the 13th of March. By the 17th we already had a fundraising campaign up and running with donations coming in. We carried out the adaptions to the platform, our procedures, and content that this required in record time.
We raised more than 215.000€, we bought 6.000 FFP1 masks, 102.168 FFP2 masks, 2.169 visors, 3.000 aprons, and 2.150 surgical gowns.
We did this following a principle of maximum transparency, publishing a daily transparency report where we reported the donations received as well as the destination of all funds. Here, you can read about the experience and some of the lessons we learned.
Dedication and changes in the team
Faced by the threat of the crisis and the slowdown of business, despite initially resisting, we reduced the time commitment of the whole team to 70%. It was a difficult decision, that everyone accepted with understanding and grace. I have the feeling that in practice everyone has continued to work, at the very least, as much as before.
I am profoundly grateful and making all efforts to quickly return to normal dedication and salary.
Restructuring of loans
We were proactive. In the face of the looming crisis, we created a “debt restructuring pack” to support the continuity of the sustainable businesses we have financed while trying to minimize the impact on investors.
So far we have restructured 6 loans, and we have 3 underway, almost all of them with the base solution that we proposed: a six month grace period and a six-month project extension.
The exceptions were Balluta, with a 12 month grace period and a 12-month project extension and Oysterworld, for whom the interruption meant a 50% loss of production for this year, which will probably increase even more. In this case a more complex and impacting restructuring was necessary, which meant a significant project extension with a slight increase in the interest rate offered to investors.
In total, 692 investors were affected by the restructuring. This has been a very challenging process, and we are very grateful to all our investors who reacted in an exemplary manner with messages of support and encouragement such as: “Do not worry. I will consent to all the restructuring processes. Of course I registered on your platform for the economic component, but the sustainability ethos is fundamental and now more than ever it is important to support these businesses”.
The financing of new projects has continued at a good rate, and since the beginning of quarantine we have successfully financed three solar energy projects in non-profit social support institutions in Portugal: Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Borba, São Cristóvão Parish and Landal Community Centre who launched a second campaign to increase the potential of the solar power installed in the first round of financing through GoParity. And we recently launched Oceano Fresco II, after the mother company has secured a 3.8M€ investment from a private venture capital. And this will not be the only news this month.
News on the platform
We have introduced various improvements to our platform: users now have more information about investments on their dashboard, they can download the payment plan as an Excel and we have simplified the registration process, making it even easier for everyone to become an impact investor.
A letter to the Portuguese Government
At the end of last week, on behalf of the whole team, we wrote a letter to the Government, addressed to the Assistant Ministers and the Ministers of the Economy, Environment and Climate Change, Labour, Solidarity, and Social Security.
In the letter (that you can read in full in Portuguese) we proposed that part of the financing that had been announced and, above all, the provision of State guarantees, should be extended to loans obtained via crowdlending platforms licensed by the CMVM, as has happened in France and England.
We are confident that with up to 80% of the capital guaranteed, the Portuguese people would be very quick to meet the financing needs of SMEs and social organisations, with interest rates that allowed them to ensure the continuity (or rebound) of their activities.
A glimpse of the near future
While we await the results of the gradual reopening underway across the world, we will have more news. In this article, I address our vision for a philanthropic model with returns and I extend an invitation for more businesses to get involved in GoParity as an impact investor.
Soon, we will also open for investment in our first project outside Portugal. I don’t want to spoil the surprise but here are two clues: the promotor is nordic and the project is in a country much loved by the Portuguese.
On Tuesday, we had another team meeting online and we ended by talking about plans for our next possible face-to-face meeting. That simple idea brought a flurry of emotions. Despite that, we are going to plan it calmly so that it happens at the right moment and with the least possible risk.
We are going to continue our journey, aware and convinced that, now more than ever, our role and the role of all citizens is fundamental to emerge from this crisis and together construct a more sustainable model, at an economic, social, and environmental level.
Only seeing solutions in the face of problems might be a flaw of entrepreneurs, but it is the only way we know how to act.
Thank you for supporting us. We’re in this together!