by Eric CooperstromWhen I joined D. Capital in July 2012, I became the fifth member of a team spread across London, Washington DC and Nairobi. At that time, we fit perfectly into the stereotypical start-up company mold: an entrepreneurial founder, young professionals motivated to change the financing dynamics of social impact, and a London “office” based in our managing partner’s house. Writing from our new offices (that don’t have sleeping quarters), it is amazing to look back at how far we’ve come as a company and just how exciting the road ahead appears both for us and our industry.
My first experience with the social impact space some four years ago –before D. Capital even existed – provided me with my initial view of the investment landscape. What I saw then was a sector defining itself; the phrases “social entrepreneur” and “social enterprise” became attached to novel corporate structures and ways of doing business. Industry conferences propelled the exchange of ideas in both developed and developing countries. Impact-first investment funds like Acumen had become household names, while socially-oriented private equity funds like TLG and Silk Invest proliferated. What I also saw was a disconnect between the growing pools of capital dedicated to social impact and the social entrepreneurs and businesses that so dearly needed access to this new avenue of financing.
In the six months I’ve been with D. Capital, I’ve witnessed the social impact space transforming before my eyes. I’ve already worked with an incredibly diverse range of stakeholders – from private companies in East Africa expanding into socially beneficial product lines and looking to explore their financing options, to development finance institutions seeking to deepen their pipeline of agribusiness companies in sub-Saharan Africa. It is clear that the sector is no longer just for funders and companies, with new intermediaries and traditionally secular players bridging the gap between financing need and investment reality.
As I look to the future with D. Capital, I see the types of stakeholders that participate in impact investing broadening even further. Innovative financing – applying novel investment structures in order to increase the flow of capital towards solving the world’s most pressing problems – is now at the forefront of the impact investing agenda. Having helped organize one of the largest conferences on innovative financing, and leading the formation of two exciting new innovative financing initiatives, D. Capital and Dalberg are pushing the boundaries of the impact investment space.
As more actors join the impact investment discussion, newer and even more innovative ideas will inevitably be created and implemented. After doubling our team and becoming fixtures in Dalberg’s Johannesburg and Nairobi offices, we at D. Capital know firsthand the positive power of this broader collaboration. At D. Capital, as with the impact investment space as a whole, we are rapidly growing out of our start-up mold to focus on the big ideas that will truly drive social change. As impact investing continues to move out of the founders’ houses and toward a more established state, D. Capital will be growing right alongside it.
Eric Cooperstrom is an Investment Associate at D. Capital Partners, specializing in financial analysis, due diligence and portfolio management. He is based in London.