Paula Goldman

NexThought Monday: Addressing Problems First, Structure Second : (With video) Omidyar Network shares lessons learned from the impact Investing field (Pt 1)

Editor’s note: This is the first of a four-part series. Please see additional articles below.

At Omidyar Network we are often asked to share our experiences with accomplished entrepreneurs and investors who are interested in getting involved in the impact investing field. It’s a humbling request, as we are frankly trying to figure it out as we go and learn along the way.

Earlier this year, we had a wonderful opportunity to reflect upon our first nine years in the field as the host of an impact investing learning session for a group of Giving Pledge members. This session helped us inject some practicality into what can often be an abstract discussion, and dig deep into the opportunities and challenges in the industry. Many of our guest speakers – all noted industry leaders—had insights that substantially overlapped with our own. In this four-part blog series (each part will include a video segment) we’ve curated some of those insights from the community.

There are lots of ways to do impact investing: Within a foundation, through your family office, through a stand-alone fund, or through a hybrid structure. We’ve learned it’s important to first examine the problem you are trying to solve—and what kind of talent, legal and financial resources you need to solve it—before creating an organizational structure to execute on the vision.

When Pierre Omidyar first decided to give away most of his wealth for social impact, common wisdom dictated there was only one way to do it: start a family foundation. However, many of the problems he wanted to work on—such as financial inclusion for the world’s poor—required market-based approaches to succeed. A traditional foundation structure placed constraints on the types of for-profit investments we could make, as well as the kind of talent we could hire to execute on these deals.

Pierre’s solution was to dissolve his family foundation and create Omidyar Network as a hybrid entity, giving us access to two checkbooks—that of a for-profit LLC alongside that of a grantmaking foundation. This flexibility has allowed us to access a broader range of tools to harness market forces for social good.

Mitch Kapor, founder of Lotus Development Corporation, came up with a slightly different solution—creating both Kapor Capital and Kapor Center for Social Impact respectively to give him the flexibility to pursue solutions to daunting social issues. In this video, he drives home the point that there is no formula or template for what kind of structure best supports impact investing. Rather, he says, “structure should serve purpose, not the other way around.”

Paula Goldman is the director of Knowledge & Advocacy for Omidyar Network.


? Match Return Expectations to the Market You’re Serving: (With video) Omidyar Network shares lessons learned from the impact Investing field (Pt 2)

?A Flexible Toolkit Increases Your Impact: (With video) Omidyar Network shares lessons learned from the impact Investing field (Pt 3)

impact investing