Hi. I’m Daniel Brandão, an evaluator who has recently joined Vox Capital – a Brazilian impact investing asset manager with a strong background on Venture Capital to early-stage startups – as Impact Director. My current challenge is to bring my evaluation expertise based on grant transactions to investments oriented to delivering positive impact alongside a financial return.
To engage startup founders and teams with impact management and measurement (IMM) is not a simple task. Many of them are focused on making the company viable, so managing impact can understandably sound like a less-urgent priority.
Here are some tips to help engage founders with IMM:
Hot tip #1. Invest in founders committed to impact. This may sound too basic, but impact intentionality is at the core of the impact investing definition and if the startup founders do not have this commitment, holding impact just as a rhetoric to raise funds, they will give little or no attention to IMM in the long run. In-depth conversations, deck analysis, asking for basic output data, and theory of change workshops are some activities that are helping us to understand their impact intentionality and likelihood of engagement with IMM post-investment.
Hot tip #2. Make it formal. It is helpful to write down basic IMM commitments the company must undertake during the investment period. These should come in the term-sheet and in the later investment agreement. We formally contract with the companies a commitment to send quarterly impact output data and carry out an annual B Impact Assessment (BIA).
Hot tip #3. Connect IMM with the business. Make your best effort to connect IMM data with business improvements. This will vary among the different companies and may not apply to all situations; however, in our experience, impact data have already helped businesses to better understand a company’s market position which, in turn, helped to design strategies to differentiate themselves from the competition. Similarly, we were pleased to see that undertaking the B Impact Assessment prompted a very early-stage health startup to improve some basics of their management process.
Hot tip #4. Go qualitative in addition to quantitative. You can look at many curves based on output data to understand if the business is increasing the number of people reached, among other indicators, but it is just cold information. When we brought qualitative impact data, from in-depth interviews with some companies’ clients, we got the founders excited, inspired and willing to deliver more impact. Of course, this kind of information has limited external validity and should be balanced with other data.
Hot tip #5. Share standardized data (if any) among founders, encouraging them to go into a healthy competition to improve their performances. BIA is a standardized dataset collected annually from each company. We present the results in a collective session with all the companies of the portfolio. To see their performance compared to others motivates founders to do better and engage in IMM plans as well to share learnings among themselves.
Hot tip #6. Bring founders to talk about impact with the fund’s investors. As an asset manager we have a fiduciary duty to communicate the fund results to our investors (Limited Partners) and it is done on a quarterly basis. To invite founders to be at this table to talk about their impact and how the company is performing encourages them to take a closer look at this agenda.
The Venture at the Helm report is an amazing resource to learn how to engage founders and investors in the IMM journey. Look for a blog post by these authors that’s coming up on Day 5 of our SIM TIG blog week.
This week, AEA365 is hosting Social Impact Measurement Week with our colleagues in the Social Impact Measurement Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to AEA365 come from our SIM TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this AEA365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the AEA365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an AEA365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to AEA365@eval.org. AEA365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.e.