Guest Articles

September 3

NextBillion Editor

Seen and Heard at SOCAP14, Day 1

Editor’s note: We can’t possibly cover all the great panels and conversations at the four-day Social Capital Markets Conference (SOCAP14) in San Francisco. So we’re trying something a little different this year: Seen and Heard at SOCAP14. Each day we’ll assemble some of the key points and quotes from the conference. Here are a few tidbits from Day 1.

With equal parts wit and wisdom, William Draper, one of the keystone founders of Silicon Valley and creator of the famed venture capital firm Sutter Hill, helped kick off SOCAP14 on Tuesday by comparing the strictly for-profit entrepreneur with the social entrepreneur.

Both varieties exude the same energy, passion and vision, he said.

“The brain is just about the same … (but) the heart seems to be a lot bigger in social entrepreneurs,” Draper said.

“It doesn’t bring tears to my eyes anymore but it did for a while,” he added, drawing laughs from the crowd.

Today, Draper oversees the venture philanthropy group Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, which invests in social entrepreneurs. The foundation, he says, keeps it simple: investing $300,000 in enterprises over the course of three years and taking a seat on the board of many of them. Another commonality is empathy.

“I often say an entrepreneur has empathy … people say ‘But what about Steve Jobs?!’” he said to laughter. “He was very empathetic to the customers.”

Draper’s comments helped frame the mindset that entrepreneurs should carry with them as they encounter inevitable operational and fundraising challenges. Fellow panelist Susana Garcia-Robles, a principal in charge of the Multilateral Investment Fund at the Inter-American Development Bank, helped drive that point home. Robles explained that social entrepreneurs needn’t always define themselves as such. Instead, she advised startup entrepreneurs to know the language of investors.

“Try to think like an investor – so he or she understands what problem your company, idea is designed to solve,” she said.

Another key theme centered around the obstacles that inhibit building an ecosystem of players and resources and, ultimately, growing a social entrepreneurship into a more mature marketplace. Of course, the progression of that goal varies from geography to geography. Robles said for such an ecosystem to thrive, “at its center is the entrepreneur.”

“So if you blow it, alright so you blew it, but at least we provided you the access,” she said.

These two perspectives were a great way to launch SOCAP14, where frank and straightforward talk is what entrepreneurs, investors and market-oriented change makers of all stripes have come to expect.

– By Scott Anderson

Social Enterprise