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March 8, 2012

A New Investing Network for Solo Angels in Need of Company

By Spear's

The launch of Clearly Social Angels will allow more angel investors to fund social enterprises

by Mark Nayler

At their launch on the Terrace Pavilion at the House of Commons last night, HNWs gathered to hear from the founders of Clearly Social Angels, an investors’ network focused on businesses that address social issues. Spear’s, having recently launched its 1 Per Cent Campaign to encourage philanthropic activity among the wealthy, was in attendance to learn about the initiative.

In his welcome speech, Chris White MP pointed out that in the current economic climate, securing capital from private donors is the best ‘and perhaps the only’ way for social businesses to continue their work.

A CSA handout made clear the two types of organisations it will focus on: social enterprises, defined as businesses that reinvest at least 50 per cent of their profits for social good, and social businesses, defined as mainstream companies that generate lasting social or environmental benefit.

Suzanne Biegel, CSA’s founder and a highly successful American entrepreneur and angel, with current investments in the UK herself, spoke from personal experience when she told her guests of the importance of investor networks, not just for the social businesses they wish to support but for the investors themselves: ‘It’s a lonely thing to be a solo angel. You need people to celebrate with when things go well and cry with when things go badly.’

Not that it will necessarily go badly, of course – especially with the experience and business acumen of entrepreneurs like Biegel behind you. But investing in start-ups is not easy either – not easy for the investor or for the business trying to get off the ground.

Biegel reminded her potential angels of this, saying ‘we may have to kiss a lot of frogs before we kiss our prince. The average entrepreneur goes through five business plans before they get it right. And they’re the successful ones.’

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There are plenty of princes in the areas CSA wants to channel investment into. The investor networks that began to form at the launch last night will be encouraged to focus their money and expertise on businesses that deal with every type of social problem: education, homelessness, renewable energy and land conservation, to name just a few.

Biegel and her colleagues are after HNWIs with a ‘bias for action, capital and risk, and the ability to open their wallets’. And, most importantly, who want a social as well as financial return on their investment. 

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