[Since the time of this interview, Doug Park has taken on a new role. He is now Director of Education at SASB – Sustainability Accounting Standards Board]

Sometimes you can learn as much about people by what they ask as by what they say. I learned that early when meeting Doug Park. Read his bio– showcasing his success as a student, attorney, professor, and leader—and you might be surprised by his thoughtful curiosity and desire to continue exploring when you meet him.In addition to sharing his own experience, he asks nuanced questions, poses hypotheticals, and probes into issues of relevance to the social enterprise.I had the pleasure of meeting Doug Park a few months ago at an event showcasing the potential of social entrepreneurship, and recently sat down with him for an interview about his journey to the social enterprise space and the his tips for entrepreneurs.

Meet Doug Park

Doug ParkDoug specializes in problem-solving related to corporate governance, securities law, and responsible investment. He is an attorney partner and Chief Sustainability Officer at Rimon PC–a law firm dedicated to innovation and community that is a certified B corporation as well as a benefit corporation.
Most recently, Doug has ventured into the social enterprise space as as a co-founder of ThinkTomi. ThinkTomi is an education platform combining the innovation of online education with the benefits of live/group learning. It is aimed at sharing the learnings of Silicon Valley entrepreneurship across the country and globally. Doug serves as General Counsel and the primary education architect and professor.
He studied at Harvard (BA), University of Michigan (J.D), and Stanford GSB (Ph.D. in Strategy and Organizations) and has taught courses at Stanford continuing education  on entrepreneurship.  Doug is President of the Harvard Club of Silicon Valley and is active in the community.
Beyond his stellar academic credentials, Doug has been a long-time blogger. He sat down recently to share his journey, wisdom he has gained along the way, and his thoughts about what is in store ahead for social enterprise.

 

Listen to the Interview

Continue Reading

In case you want to learn more about Doug and his work, you can take a look at the articles below:

The photo used above has been adapted from LinkedIn.

One of the remarkable things I have noticed from speaking to many driven social entrepreneurs is that their current effort is usually not the first they have worked on.And judging by the experience of Tristan Pollock it is often not the last.I first had a chance to connect with Tristan and co-founder Erik Eliason when they were cultivating and growing social enterprise SocialEarth.

SocialEarth, a Platform for Social Enterprise Content

SocialEarth—overviewed here last year (“What is SocialEarth?“)—crowdsources social innovation news, narratives, and features from around the globe. It was founded by Tristan and Erik in 2009 to provide a dedicated platform for seasoned journalists and bloggers as well as those new to penning thought to blog for the purpose of sharing and learning about impact-related events and stories.

Their endeavors resulted in favorable traction among a burgeoning community of social innovators.  By 2012, the site featured 170 contributors from 25 countries, and had a fan following of over 13K Twitter followers and 14K Facebook fans. (Today, those numbers are up to 200 contributors, 23K Twitter followers, and 80K Facebook fans)

Cognizant of the challenges of running a journalism-rooted site, when Tristan and Erik received an offer in March 2012 by leading CSR content distributor 3BL–the co-founders decided to sign the dotted line. And that made way for a new adventure.

Storefront, Pop Up Retail

Within months of SocialEarth’s acquisition, the co-founders were developing an innovative new startup idea, this time focusing squarely on the sharing economy and retail marketplace. From disrupting channels of social news, the latest effort—Storefront—disrupts retail sales outlets.

Instead of committing to lengthy leases in single locations, Storefront allows retailers of all kinds (i.e. brick-and-mortar, online, and specialty stores) the opportunity to engage in short-term leases (including single-day!) in a variety of locations.

Storefront joins other startups in the “sharing economy” by championing “pop up” retail experiences. It provides the platform for retailers to connect with available space and provides ways to let audiences know about pop-up experiences nearby.

Meet Tristan

Tristan Pollock is located in one of the social entrepreneurship capitals of the world, San Francisco. He and Erik launched Tristan PollackStorefront just months after SocialEarth was acquired. This effort has been unique from SocialEarth in a few respects: 1) the topic is distinct; and 2) the funding path has been different. In their latest venture, Tristan and Erik participated in AngelPad, an accelerator program for startups. Their work caught the interest of angel investors including 500 Startups, Sandhill Angels, and Great Oaks Venture Capital. They ended up raising $1.6M in initial seed funding.

The funds are enabling the duo to grow their team and expand their operations to New York City and beyond.

After following Tristan and Erik over the past few years, it was exciting to be able to chat with Tristan about his personal journey to the social enterprise space and what he has learned from two startups with very different paths and areas of focus.

Listen to the Interview

 

Further Reading

Interested in learning more? Here are a few links to posts and articles about Tristan and Eriks’ startups. And, you can take a look at the cool time lapse video of one of the pop up shops in San Francisco below!

Storefront Gets $1.6M To Grow Its ‘Pop-Up Shop’ Marketplace For Short-Term Commercial Rentals [TechCrunch]
Making Renting A Store As Easy As Booking A Hotel Room [FastCo]
Q&A with Storefront Founder Tristan Pollock [The News Funnel]
What Launching in New York Means To Us  [Storefront Blog]

Sometimes to understand a river’s path, it helps to go to its source. As a co-founder of B Lab, Jay Coen Gilbert is one of the original architects of B Lab which has facilitated the B/benefit corporation movement that has been gaining traction across the nation (including legislation passed in 19 states!) and globe.

About B Lab

B Lab is the 501(c)(3) non-profit engine behind the benefit corporation and B corporation certification movement—designed to foster business that serves the community and environment in addition to pursuing profit. Founded in 2006, B Lab took the idea B Labof impact-driven business out of abstraction and thrust into a working reality. One of its first major acts for the organization was drafting the B Impact Assessment—a tool that lets organizations and companies evaluate their impact. Another milestone was the approval of the first B Lab certification in 2007—which has paved the way to today’s 800 certified B corporations spanning 27 countries and 60 industries.

On a personal note, following the B/benefit corporation movement in 2011 was the early subject of Innov8Social’s exploration of social innovation. I had the pleasure of meeting Jay along with fellow co-founder Andrew Kassoy following the passage of AB 361—California’s benefit corporation legislation.

Meet Jay

Talk shop with Jay for a few minutes and you will note that his stance on sustainable business is firmly rooted in pragmatism as Jay Coen Gilbertwell as possibility. His early career as an entrepreneur informs his approach to impact-driven business. Jay co-founded AND 1 an athletic footwear and apparel company which was later sold for $250M.

He has become one of the key spokesperson for the movement—-authoring articles on Huffington Post, Stanford Social Innovation Review, and speaking at TED talks.

By the time most people learn about a movement for change—it usually has already been long in the works—and it is its sheer momentum that draws new supporters.  In talking to Jay, I wanted to learn more about the genesis of the idea that has turned into a movement as well as the path ahead involving adoption. He highlighted a key impetus for B Lab as the golden rule of doing unto others as they would have them do unto you—and applying that to business.

 

Listen to the Interview

 

Additional Reading

Every 500 Years or So by Jay Coen Gilbert [Stanford Social Innovation Review]
Jay Coen Gilbert on Huffington PostJay Coen Gilbert on ForbesJay Coen Gilbert on Sustainable BrandsBenefit Corporation Info CenterDo-Gooder: Jay Coen Gilbert, Co-Founder, B Lab [Social Good Network]
Q&A with Jay Coen Gilbert, Co-Founder of B Lab [Philadelphia Generocity]

This podcast episode features an interview with Dirk Sampselle, and attorney and founder focusing on supporting social entrepreneurs, impact investors, and nonprofit organizations.

The Numerous Choices Available for Social Entrepreneurs Can Be Overwhelming

Increased choice can create confusion. Barry Schwartz’s 2004 book titled Paradox of Choice: Why Less is More even suggests that the process of making a decision among many choices can actually decrease our enjoyment and confidence in our choice.Viewing social innovation through that unique lens, there seems to be a certain trend emerging. The trend of more. Today there are new legal structures, new business models, additional sustainability certifications, and more choices than ever before when it comes to effectuating change and measuring impact.The space that is emerging, while exciting and motivating, can seem overwhelming to both the consumer as well as the entrepreneur. The increased choice creates opportunities for experienced guides who can use and make sense of growing data to guide social entrepreneurs through the space.

B Revolution, a Consultancy for the B Corporation Movement

That’s why it was fascinating to come across new initiatives such B Revolution, seeking to address the potential problem of increased choice in social innovation. Founded by Dirk Sampselle in 2011, B Revolution serves growth companies, nonprofits, as well as individual and early-stage entrepreneurs. The consultancy assists its clients in projects such as designing an impact strategy, identifying investment sources, and taking a holistic look at legal and business needs in evaluating structuring options.

B Revolution has launched a few initiatives related to the impact space, including:

  • ezBcorp – a new B Revolution initiative that combines Legal Zoom type automation with benefit corporation legal structure to create an online platform for social entrepreneurs to explore benefit corporation options as well as incorporate as one.
  • B Revolution Consulting – consulting service for entrepreneurs, impact investors, companies, and nonprofits traversing the impact space.
  • B Revolution Capital – pairing mission-driven entrepreneurs seeking $50K-$1M in funding with impact investors seeking new avenues of creating impact-aligned investments.

Interestingly, B Revolution Consulting is itself structured as a California benefit corporation subsidiary of B Revolution, Inc., a B Corporation-certified Maryland benefit corporation.

Meet Dirk

DIrk SampselleDirk Sampselle grew up in Maryland and completed his undergraduate education at the University of Florida, where he also created a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization called “Citizens for Social Justice.”

His path to finding new ways to create meaningful change in society and business drew him to become involved in the benefit corporation movement early on and he has co-authored several white papers for B Lab on the subject. He recently graduated from Pepperdine University with dual degrees in business and law.

Listen to the Interview

 

Learn More

You can read Dirk’s white papers on benefit corporations here:

Can you make a business model around volunteering? The co-founders of GoVoluntr have put their bets on yes.I met M.J., Kevin, and Young when they served as judges of a panel for New Leaders’ Council Silicon Valley Startup Saturday in the Fall of 2012.   They provided insightful input from a social entrepreneur perspective to current fellows who pitched potential fundraiser ideas. They also introduced their work to make volunteering opportunities social, easy to find, and company-friendly.

Meet Young

Co-Founder and GoVoluntr’s CEO Young Han also led a session on social entrepreneurship Young Han(along with GoodJoe founder Nathan Pham) and participated in the informal social innovation unconference we organized in Spring 2013. The events provided a whole new snapshot on his passion for this work, his depth and breadth of experience in entrepreneurship, and the dynamic qualities that help him articulate GoVoluntr’s broader vision.

Young is a serial entrepreneur with the title of “Professional Do Gooder”, he helped launch GoVoluntr in 2011.

Listen to the Interview

 

GoVoluntr: Creating a Business around Volunteering

What makes a social entrepreneur unique is adopting a mindset of impact + enterprise. Adding layers of impact to the already-challenging task of creating a business is a puzzle all its own. As Young explains in his interview, it can help to be passionate about a problem or cause.

The founders of GoVoluntr saw a need in volunteerism. They saw potential to build a community of do gooders by making volunteer opportunities easy to find, creating ways to easily track and reward volunteers, and finding ways to centralize and encourage volunteering by companies.

Their innovative platform does these things in an easy-to-use format. A new user can select to create a volunteer, nonprofit, business, or school profile and login using Facebook. From there the fun begins by finding volunteer opportunities—which include one-time events (like local film, music, and art festivals) as well as ongoing needs (such as mentorship, math/reading tutoring, or museum volunteering). Sign up for an event and you receive a reminder by email as well as an automatic tracking of hours. In case you volunteer outside of the offered opportunities, you can submit “missing hours” to continue tracking your total.

To gamify the experience, volunteers receive rewards and badges for their service to the community. And companies can encourage employee participation by providing ways to track hours and share unique volunteer experience internally.

Read Interview Responses

Q | Innov8Social:  You have a rich history in entrepreneurship, tell us a little about your path to your current startup GoVoluntr.

A | Young Han, GoVoluntr:  I don’t think a typical person would call my entreprenuerial journey “rich” but it does sound much nicer to say that than saying, I’ve failed several businesses prior to GoVoluntr. (LOL). I think that there are a lot of experiences that have helped me to land on GoVoluntr. Including my various business ventures, community service roles, and my time at Starbucks and Apple. I know that I’ve always had a desire to be an entrepreneur since I was in high school and was able to leverage my experiences in the last decade to realize and bring together my passion for business and volunteerism through GoVoluntr.

Q | Innov8Social:  Do “social” and “entrepreneurship” mix—-or does it create more challenges for the social entrepreneur?

A | Young:  I think they mix wonderfully. I believe that with societal changes that have been trending, the next iteration of businesses will be inherently socially conscious business model. Partly due to the demands coming from future “paying” customers as well as the the future workforce looking for more and more responsible business operators to work for. Currently there are some challenges in overcoming the initial misunderstanding of what constitutes a social entrepreneur and we face the inability to understand how we are a for profit social good company. We are bridging our monetary gain with our social impact, creating a fairly unique model where the more money we make the more good we do and vice versa. It is becoming increasingly more popular though with great social good startups like Tom’s shoes and Causes leading the way.

 

Q | Innov8Social:  Tell us a little about GoVoluntr—how does it work, what inspired this startup idea, how is it structured, have you rec’d initial funding?

A | Young:   GoVoluntr is an online platform that brings together volunteer, nonprofits, and businesses to engage in doing good. We enable volunteers/employees to quickly and easily find the right volunteer opportunity, register for specific shifts, positions, times and dates, then work with our nonprofit partners to track and verify their service hours. Once the hours have been added by the nonprofit the volunteer starts to earn virtual recognition through Volunteer Pins. They can earn VPins the more they volunteer and each VPin comes with Points, that they can then go to our Volunteer Rewards store to purchase goods and services from businesses that support community service.

In addition we help Nonprofits effectively source, track, manage, report, and reward their volunteers. For businesses we offer a turn key employee volunteer program, cause related marketing program and robust reporting. They all fit together to create a mutually beneficial ecosystem around doing good.

We have raised an initial seed round to get us started and will be working on subsequent rounds as we work towards further building out the ecosystem and platform.

 

Q | Innov8Social:  What advice or tips do you have for new entrepreneurs who are trying create value but also make a positive impact?

A | Young:   Be unbelievably passionate about your impact and laser focused on the value you are creating. It’s not necessarily harder to be a social entrepreneur but like anything, it has it’s unique pros and cons, but being a social entrepreneur will require a certain amount of creativity and resourcefulness as it’s not a path that has been tread as much as other fields and industries.

 

Anthony shares video examples of transformative hip hop in his guest post, here

For many of us, music plays a huge role in our lives. It is the soundtrack to what do and think about. It is helps inform our memories. It can shift our mood and give perspective. It can make us want to dance. And, according to Anthony Pineda, it can be a powerful force for transformative social change.

Meet Anthony Pineda, Founder of Creatrix Institute

Anthony holds a Masters degree in Consciousness and Transformative Studies from John F. Kennedy University and is the Anthony Pinedafounder of Creatrix Institute. He is currently finishing a documentary on transformational hip hop—the culmination of over seven years of research and work.

Anthony has been a student of the effects of music and human consciousness since 1999, when he reflected on the role music played in his own life. Hip hop, specifically a genre dubbed ‘Conscious Hip Hop‘, transformed his outlook and personal and professional goals. It was a catalyst to his personal evolution and launched him on a path to deepening his understanding of the music and sharing its potential with others, especially kids.

In fact, Anthony has demoed a class called “Hip Hop & Poetry” in local middle schools and high schools in Silicon Valley. He designed a class specifically for emotionally disturbed students and used conscious hip hop as a way to connect, related, and help students move forward.

Starting with the music, he analyzes elements that make it conscious-raising and transformative, as well as creating ways to discuss themes of overcoming hardship and challenge through examining lyrics and message.

Conscious Hip-Hop: A Tool for Social Innovation?

Anthony firmly believes in the power of hip hop to be conscious-raising and in a word, transformative.

What struck me most about meeting Anthony over a year ago during the course of our New Leaders Council Fellowship in 2012, was his determination to create the life he envision for himself and share his knowledge and passion. From becoming a father at an early age to finding his voice and purpose in hip hop, he has worked against numerous challenges to pursue his education, develop his art, and set a meaningful example for his family. It is humbling to meet such a determined, committed proponent for social change.

I had a chance to sit down with him and discuss in depth his evolving view of music, hip hop, conscious hip hop, and the 2.0 version he calls transformative hip hop.

 

Q | When did the transformative/conscious hip hop movement begin?

Anthony Pineda, Founder of Creatrix: The movement of transformative hip-hop was in the beginning, in my opinion. Hip-hop began in America as a way to transcend socioeconomic and environmental situations. It was to expose the ills of society and a critique of what was happening on the streets of impoverished areas of America.

Some may argue that the golden age of hip-hop through the mid 90’s with Tupac began a new stage in conscious hip-hop. I believe it was created with this premise of being transformative, so the basic foundation of hip-hop culture is a conscious movement. I feel that transformative hip-hop is a new phrase I feel I am contributing to the academic discourse of hip-hop studies. People often use ‘conscious hip-hop’ or even ‘spiritual/positive hip-hop’ to define sub-genres of hip-hop music, yet transformative hip-hop denotes a process by which the music offers a new perspective to become self-aware and change one’s path.

 

Q | How can someone get involved in the movement?

Anthony: First, I think its important to note that hip-hop is a global youth culture and most of our youth are in fact involved with the movement. The way to get most involved in the movement is to become a practitioner of the craft or culture. To be involved means to act, and action can occur in many ways. For me, becoming not only an emcee, but to actively engage my community and help facilitate dialogue regarding hip-hop as a way to educate youth is part of my path within the movement.

 

Q | Tell us about the film project and what you hope to accomplish with its release?

Anthony: So the film represents the story/narratives of Hiphop music and culture. The power of Hiphop to save the minds and lives of people who use it to evoke their consciousness. We are looking at the impact of the music to be transformative and educational.

The main themes are education, spirituality, and story. The therapeutic implications of Hiphop are innate, so perspectives will solidify the current and ongoing research of Hiphop within institutions and systems. We are interested in personal stories with the youth and desires to expand Hiphop culture as a main aspect towards educational aspirations and what would it mean to include Hiphop in schools with structure and curricula. I have been documenting hip-hop in my life for 7 years and this film is the culmination of my transformation and research.

I hope that people begin to question the stereotypes of hip-hop and what we can accomplish with hip-hop in schools and around the globe. I also hope people acknowledge the power of lyrics in hip-hop to advance human consciousness. I want this to be the first installment of future projects on hip-hop research in visual form and to continue to document what it means to be hip-hop and what our responsibilities are to youth and their development. Hip-hop is more then entertainment and culture, it is a way of life and a spiritual practice by which people transform.

 

Gene Takagi has been a friend of Innov8Social nearly from the start. He demonstrates a dedication to nonprofit and social enterprise law and uses social media in innovative, nuanced ways. It was a pleasure to interview him and learn more about his path into the the social enterprise law space as well as the future he sees for the field.

Meet Gene Takagi

Gene TakagiGene is a leading attorney in the nonprofit law space and is an active voice for social impact on social media.

He is the Managing Attorney of NEO Law Group (Nonprofit & Exempt Organizations), based in San Francisco, CA. His presence on social media includes regularly blogging on the Nonprofit Law Blog and tweeting as @Gtak. He also posts a weekly series called “Nonprofit Tweets of the Week“.

Listen to the Interview

Interview with Gene: key takeaways

How did you get involved in social enterprise law?
  • Gene started as a science major in college, graduated with degrees in Zoology and Oceonography
  • First worked in for-profit sector, including role in operations of Duty Free Business in San Francisco.
  • Realized he wanted to work in non-profit sector
  • Then pursued graduate studies in non-profit
  • Worked at SPCA in San Francisco, learned about the power of advocacy
  • Attended law school to develop skills in nonprofit law school
  • Worked at a big law firm as an associate in corporate and securities law, leading him to reassess his interest in working in nonprofit law
  • So, started own law practice focusing on nonprofit 8 years ago
What role do you see social media playing in the nonprofit/social enterprise space?
  • Plays a huge role in sharing of information, potential development of networks, collaboration among organizational leaders—it is already showing an impact
  • In social enterprise law space, however, there aren’t currently a lot of players on social media—why? Lawyers tend to be risk-averse and there are not many attorneys in this space.
  • However, for small firms/solo practice firms—they can share more valuable information that can be helpful and informative. There is more of a willingness to share over social media.
  • Tries to get the conversation started about key issues in the space through his social media
What do you think of new legal structures for social change? 
  • The movement is tremendously valuable and the time has come
  • Sees a gap between for-profit and nonprofit that new legal structures might fill
  • It is incredibly valuable
  • There is a misconception that as a board member of for-profit, the primary purpose is to maximizing shareholder valuable. Gene doesn’t think that is exactly true, but notes that there is a grey area in how board members can promote social cause.
  • On a case by case basis, it can be more challenging to recommend a new structure because of the lack of case law and untested treatment by courts, ability to attract institutional investors
What tips or advice do you have for social entrepreneurs who are considering what legal structure to adopt?
  • Become educated about the process
  • Read For Love or Lucre, Stanford Social Innovation Review which outlines some key considerations and options for traditional and new legal structures
  • “Hybrid” legal structures used to refer to situations in which for-profit and nonprofit entities were affiliated in some way
  • Talk to a knowledgeable consultant or attorney early in the process before setting your heart on a particular structure
Do you have any tips for new attorneys, JD’s, and policymakers interested in the social enterprise space?
  • First off, follow your passion into the social enterprise space
  • You can maintain a traditional career and also start working with clients in the nonprofit space
  • If seeking to work at a traditional firm, get tax and corporate securities background before joining a firm dedicated to nonprofits
  • If you do engage in a solo or small firm practice, cultivate a business acumen so you can effectively run a practice
  • Invest in your networks and developing knowledge in the social enterprise law

What does Janelle Orsi have in common with the Dalai Lama, Buckminster Fuller, Mahatma Gandhi, and Dr. Seuss? She joins them as one of 100 individuals named on the (En)Rich list of inspirational leaders whose work contributes to a sustainable future.

I was introduced to Janelle by Jenny Kassan last year—they both co-founded the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) in 2009. Based in Oakland, California, SELC is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that provides legal resources, education, and advocacy to support more sustainable, localized, and just economies.

Meet Janelle Orsi, a leading attorney for the sharing economyJanelle Orsi

Janelle continues to actively run SELC, serving as its Executive Director. She also manages a law practice focused on meeting the needs of the sharing economy.  The sharing economy encompasses social enterprises, collaborative consumption startups, local food initiatives, cooperatives, and co-housing projects that are shifting the way we seek, use, and spend on products, services, and space.

How is Janelle a leading attorney in the space? She wrote the book on the topic, literally.

In 2012 ABA published her latest book, “Practicing Law in the Sharing Economy: Helping People Build Cooperatives, Social Enterprise, and Local Sustainable Economies”.

Listen to the interview

I had a chance to catch up with Janelle for the first time at a coffee shop in downtown Oakland, along with SELC staffer and law apprentice Christina Oatfield in 2012. More recently, we sat down to learn more about her path to social impact law, her interest in the sharing economy, and the future challenges and successes she envisions.

Key Takeaways:

  • Janelle was originally interested in defending juveniles in the court system
  • Her focus shifted after taking a transactional law class taught by Professor Bill Kell at Berkeley
  • She then looked at the types of organizations that impact change—and focused on shared resources (i.e. car-sharing, shared housing, food cooperatives, etc.)
  • She started her own practice in “sharing law” out of law school because this was an emerging field
  • She has been surprised by barriers encountered in sharing economy—regulations that were intended to protect, but don’t fit will in highly-collaborative, highly-democratic sharing initiatives
  • Has seen that even in the past 3 years, we have gone from not using the phrase “sharing economy” to an explosion of the use of the phrase. She foresees the sharing economy and social enterprise will bump up against the existing law, causing law to evolve to include these new ways of thinking of consumption and business.
  • Her advice for attorneys and law graduates interested in this field: start a law practice

 

SELC goal: raise $300K in 2013

SELC has some exciting projects it is working on, including building a legal apprenticeship program, hosting a regular “legal cafe” to make law more accessible to those in the community, and working on legislation to legalize cooperative housing. An overarching goal for SELC is to raise $300K in 2013.

Learn more in the cartoon (ahem, with narration and guitar by Janelle!)

Jenny Kassan is a pioneering attorney in the social enterprise space. I first met her two years ago when she delivered an insightful presentation at the San Jose Green Business Academy. There, she detailed ways that social entrepreneurs can raise capital.When we met last, she recapped her involvement with the federal crowdfunding legislation (part of the JOBS Act), which at the time was still making its way through Congress. (See her Huffington Post article here). Since then, the bill has passed and is awaiting official rule details from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Meet Jenny Kassan, a pioneering social enterprise attorney

Jenny is incredibly personable, experienced, and passionate about connecting law, sustainability, and small businesses to create Jenny Kassansocially responsible ventures. She is the CEO of Cutting Edge Capital (check out their great blog), and a Partner at Katovich & Kassan Law Group.

It was a sincere pleasure interviewing Jenny for Innov8Social. It was an opportunity to hear more about her path to social enterprise law,  her interest in pushing for equity crowdfunding for non-accredited investors, her current work with creating new financial tools, and advice she has for individuals entering the social enterprise law and policy space.

Listen to the interview

A few interesting takeaways:

  • After law school, Jenny became interested in community development
  • Saw that law alone didn’t necessarily help individuals in disadvantaged communities—legal remedies do not always address the root of issues
  • Completed a Masters in City Planning after law school
  • Worked at community development nonprofit, Unity Council for 11 years, in the commercial district in Oakland
  • Loves working with small business owners
  • Joined John Katovich’s firm and worked to find new ways for small businesses to pursue financing
  • Launched Cutting Edge Capital in 2011, focused on creative financing tools for social enterprises—with focus on raising funds from their communities
  • Direct Public Offering (or investment crowdfunding) is a financial tool small businesses can use to raise funds: is legal, but must comply with strict legal compliance guidelines, open to accredited (wealthy) and non-wealthy investors
  • Suggests law students interested in social enterprise law take classes and electives in corporate law subjects

 

Big news for Cutting Edge Capital!

*Note: Since our interview, Cutting Edge Capital successfully raised $150K in a Direct Public Offering of their own. Congratulations! You can contribute until July 1, 2013. More information here.

Visit D-Prize.org and your bound to do a double take when posed with the question:

“If you were awarded $20,000, how would you fight poverty?”

I had a chance to learn about this innovative program that identifies and funds promising social ventures that are still at an idea phase through a conversation with Nicholas Fusso. Nicholas serves as Program Director of D-Prize.

Q & A with Nicholas Fusso, Program Director of D-Prize

Nicholas FussoWhat is D-Prize?

[Nicholas Fusso] D-prize is a competition program to identify top social entrepreneurs focused on innovative initiatives for distribution.

It was launched by Andrew Youn, of One Acre Fund. Andrew has been working with African farmers to help them become more sustainable. Since One Acre fund started in 2006 it has expanded in scope and scale, now serving over a 100K families.

Through his work at One Acre Fund, Andrew became increasingly frustrated because he saw easy solutions to major problems but they were not being scaled & distributed effectively. He and a few co-founders launched D-Prize to focus on the distribution end of the social enterprise equation. The “D” in D-Prize stands for “distribution equals development”.

How does D-Prize work? Is it an accelerator program?

[Nicholas] D-prize is not necessarily an accelerator program. It is a mechanism to fund ventures that are at the idea stage.  Entrants are considered based on: (1) distribution-focused venture; 2) that can radically scale up (i.e. create massive amounts of impact). Ideal candidate will read the description and come up with concept that meets (1) and (2) and then can apply for D-Prize.

D-prize applications are generally accepted on a rolling basis. Our first round of applications was due April 30, 2013, and we received over 300 applications.  The next deadline for applications for the Fall 2013 cohort will be November 30, 2013.

What are the requirements for candidates? U.S.-based? Proven Model?

[Nicholas] There is no geographic requirement, however, solutions have to be launched in developing areas. The organizations that D-Prize looks to fund are generally highly proven, and just need innovative methods of scaling and distributing solutions. The other skill we look for is the ability of the founders to listen and find out what people need in the area.

How is D-Prize funded?

[Nicholas] By the co-founders & colleagues.

How is D-Prize structured?

[Nicholas] It has applied for non-profit status.

Tell us a little about yourself

[Nicholas] I have been in the role of Program Director since February 2013. When I started, D-Prize had already  published and launched the first competition program, and interested applicants had about 5 weeks to submit an idea. We had an aggressive schedule but were able to identify entrepreneurs in that space.

A little about me…I studied political economics in college and had a lot of friends with idealistic goals pursue nonprofit and ngo-work. I was one of the few to go into business. My first social enterprise was right out of college, called “Sustainable of Sexy.” The mission was to educate people of coffee-drinking habits, especially sustainability of coffee-related goods, such as coffee cups. We took the problem on from a business perspective, trying to show how reusable coffee cups could be better for business all-around. We had a blog, and received some great press coverage. The whole experience really excited me about entrepreneurship. D-Prize was a great fit and has been an exciting experience.

What do you see as the connection between enterprise and impact?

[Nicholas] I see entrepreneurship as the surest path to sustainable development.

How is funding disbursed?

[Nicholas] People submit a 1st round application, then if its a good fit will invite them to a final round. Selected finalists will receive $10-20K funding. Payment method will be Lump sum or in parts, based on what makes more sense for the concept and work. It’s important to determine what type of venture to figure out how to fund. (i.e. build website, market, etc.). D-Prize does not necessarily take an equity stake. The amount of funding is partially based on the budget that applicants must include as part of the final application.

What are you looking for in D-Prize candidates?

[Nicholas] Measurable impact, and lots of it. Whether applicants are non-profit or for-profit, we look at whether they are committed to creating responsible change—that it part of their core business, and not just a consideration. Finally, we are look for ideas that are transformational in their approach to meeting the distribution challenge.

How does a team apply?

Visit the D-Prize competition page for deadlines, etc. and download the application packet.

[Note: This post has been updated to reflect that D-Prize may not necessarily take equity stake in startups.]