Lessons from First-Time Fund Managers: A Preview of the SOCAP17 Panel

A SOCAP Guest Post by Sarah Williams, CEO at Propel Capital

All impact investors remember their first fund. For us, at Propel Capital, it was 2008 and an investment in the Social Enterprise Expansion Fund (SEEF).  At the time, the Fund promised–in that exciting way that first-time fund managers do–the sun, the moon, and all the stars: it would deliver double digit returns while helping social impact companies scale.  

Now nine years later, after three fund extensions, and challenges and successes among portfolio companies–some of the original investors are weary. However, in the life of this small $4.5m fund, the portfolio companies have made over $30m in purchases supporting 26,000 smallholder organic farmers annually, generated 70 tons of carbon offset, directed $30m in funding for libraries in Africa, saved 2.3 billion tons of water, and planted 35,000 trees. The SEEF fund managers were instrumental in creating SOCAP and the ImpactHub, playing a key role in advancing the impact investing ecosystem. They have since gone on to raise subsequent funds while being on track to deliver a modest return when it dissolves next year, allowing us to recycle funds to other impact investments. At Propel, we believe that taking risks on first-time fund managers helps strengthen the field of impact investing.