photo by Bill Rice
Meet Impact First Investments, a certified b-corp, and the first Israeli investment firm specifically designed to leverage local technology and innovation to create global social impact. The fund is exclusively investing in socially driven Israeli start-ups positioned at the crossroads between global social challenges and the technological solutions that address them. The fund seeks to leverage Israel’s unique aptitude for tech innovation, and the growing global interest in the impact investment market, which some expect to grow to between $400 billion to $1 trillion within the next decade.
In order to finance its portfolio, Impact First has launched the first-ever Israeli investment vehicle that aggregates both tradition investment and philanthropic capital. This disruptive financial model is the only one in Israel that allows North American philanthropists and traditional investors to invest side-by-side, sustainably building socially driven tech companies and the ecosystem that supports them.
Below is a Q&A with Cecile Blilious, Co-founder of Impact First Investments.
How do you find the Israeli social enterprise market differs from North American and European markets?
The Israeli social enterprise market is in its nascent stages. Many of the investment models that were adopted in the US and Europe over the years have not yet been implemented. In this sense, Israel is a blue ocean with tremendous opportunity.
There are currently a few funds supporting small social enterprises aimed at creating employment for underserved populations, some additional impact activities with a wider range for local businesses, and a few active players in the social-‐tech domain (mostly angel investing). Impact First is the only venture capital fund investing in technology for impact that works in similar models to impact investors in the US and Europe, and that expects similar financial returns. However, we are ourselves in our early stages and need to nurture the eco-‐system, as well as educate investors.
Tell us a little more about what you do for your start-up clients.
We assist these entrepreneurs in framing their theory of change, their impact strategy, and how that blends into their business model. We help with market access and follow-‐on investing.
How have you found the trend around investing in social purpose ventures has affected the investment industry?
In Israel, we still don’t see much social purpose within the investment community, except for a few angel investors who are focusing on technology for impact. Institutional investors are still very far away from taking an investment decision for social purpose.
Tell us a little about the start-ups you are currently working with.
So far we’ve invested in two companies and are in the process of investing in our next two. The companies we are working with now are: Angelsense and Intendu . We are also partners in a digital healthcare incubator, MindUp, which is supported by the Israeli government. Its partners are Medtronic, IBM, Rambam Medical Center, and Pitango Venture Capital. Within this incubator, we screen and invest in early stage digital health companies.
Is Impact1st partnered with any local schools or organizations already fostering social purpose initiatives?
We are partnered with the market makers of the social-‐tech eco-‐system that support impact entrepreneurship. These include all of the accelerators, incubators, university programs, and entrepreneurship conferences and competitions existing in Israel. We are considered to be a leader in the impact industry and have close ties with the movers of the eco-‐system.
In one year from now, where do you hope Impact1st will be and the influence it will have with investors and investment projects?
We hope to have the fund in place and move ahead with our investments, add at least 3-‐4 companies to our portfolio, encourage other investors to step into this space from mainstream investing, as well as influence American and European impact investors to partner with us and have a local arm in Israel. We aim to introduce Israeli high-‐tech as a provider of solution to global social challenges in every domain.