2017 In Review

By Maggie Stohler

On behalf of everyone at Impact Engine, we want to wish you happy holidays! Before we look ahead to the new year, we paused for a moment to reflect on 2017. Impact Engine has had a strong year of growth and evolution as we continue to invest in companies driving social and financial returns. Below we’ve recapped a few of the highlights from the year.

We kicked off 2017 with our Community Showcase in January which featured Chicago funds that invest for both financial and social return, as well as presentations from their investees. The event brought together over 275 people to hear about the inspiring work happening at Benefit Chicago, Clean Energy Trust, Energy Foundry, Ekistic Ventures, Furthur Fund and SLoFIG. In his Forbes write up of our event, John Carpenter remarked, “Not only do companies keep popping up with the dual aim of fixing some social ill while at the same time banking cash, but the pool of investor money willing to stake them seems to be growing.” It’s no surprise to us that Chicago was named the social entrepreneurship capital of the world, and this event was a testament to the exciting energy surrounding impact investing in the city. (Our next showcase is coming up January 30, 2018 — hope to see you there!)

Throughout the year we stayed busy, adding seven new investments to our portfolio (ConsejoSano, Kaizen Health, CoInspect, First Access, Book Nook, Measurabl, and Viridis), as well as three follow-on investments (Regroup Therapy, ThinkCERCA and Edovo). We explained why we made some of these investments and what we look for across our impact focus areas, in our Impact Tech Series on Medium (which we launched in February).

Our portfolio companies also received a number of awards and recognitions this year, including from the Momentum Awards, Chicago Inno’s 50 on Fire, Chicago Innovation Awards, Bluhm/Helfand Social Innovation Fellowship, ITA CityLIGHTS Awards, Moxie Awards, Global EdTech Startup Awards, American Business Awards, WeWork Creator Awards, United Fresh Innovation Awards & more! The Impact Engine team was excited to take home a ChicagoInno 50 on Fire Award and to be nominated for ChicagoInno’s Coolest Companies, as well as to see many of our investors and mentors featured in Chicago’s TechWeek100 and Crain’s Chicago Tech50.

We continue to add “insights” and give our “outlook” on the impact investing community through our blog content. This year we shared original pieces on our impact due diligence process, measuring impact for social entrepreneurs, explained why foundations are increasingly more interested in philanthropy as risk capital, and shared all the resources on job searching in the social impact sector. We also turned five(!) and in addition to celebrating with our investors, mentors, portfolio companies and supporters, we reflected on our history and evolution as an accelerator-turned-fund.

We capped the year off with a big team announcement in November: the addition of seasoned tech leader Roger Liew! The team is so excited to have Roger join in 2018 (though he’s been on board with Impact Engine as an investor and mentor for a while) as he’s sure to bring extensive technical knowledge and a dedication to supporting our portfolio companies.

We are ending the year with an active portfolio of 29 companies across the country. We are proud of their diversity: nearly 70% are led by women or non-white CEOs and 59% of them are based outside of the traditional venture market (data shows that in 2016, 75% of venture capital went to just three states — California, New York, and Massachusetts).

Next year, we’ll work harder and smarter on our efforts to create a better world through impact investing in a time that desperately needs innovation and positive change. As always, we’re especially grateful for your ongoing support. Happy Holidays!

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