Robynn Steffen
Director, Impact Investing
&
McKenzie Smith
Program Manager, Impact Investing

A Call to Action for Silicon Valley

October 31, 2017

In the last six months, two tech giants unveiled new impact investing funds. In May, we were proud to partner with the newly-announced Twilio.org Impact Fund. Earlier this month, Salesforce Ventures — a leading corporate investor — launched the $50 million Salesforce Impact Fund. Together, they represent two distinct but important funding models to inspire their Silicon Valley peers: Salesforce is investing “corporate capital [to] drive social change” and Twilio is leveraging impact investing to get the most from their corporate philanthropic dollars.

To understand why we think this matters, let’s rewind the clock back nearly 20 years to 1998: the year eBay went public. eBay created enormous wealth for Omidyar Network’s founders and also deeply shaped how they thought about putting that wealth to work for the world. eBay’s rapid scale inspired them to harness the power of markets to accelerate social change and — in doing so — to specifically target early-stage investments in innovative start-ups that had the potential for both massive scale and impact. At that time, impact investing was an extremely nascent field, and we have been tremendously pleased to see how the industry has grown in both size and scope of players since those early days. So when Salesforce and Twilio first reached out to us for advice in launching their respective efforts, we not only saw the shared DNA in our origin stories — but we warmly welcomed two new impact investors well-positioned to source, invest, and scale incredible start-ups.

In fact, we’ve already co-invested in a handful of deals. Omidyar, Twilio, and Salesforce Ventures each joined the Series A for Hustle: a peer-to-peer text messaging platform that allows organizers to start targeted, personalized conversations at scale. It was Twilio.org’s inaugural impact investing deal. Most recently, Salesforce Ventures co-invested in Andela — an Omidyar Network investee since 2014. Andela creates opportunity for Africa’s most talented developers and places them with Fortune 500 companies.

We see Twilio.org and Salesforce as more than fellow travelers: we see them as influential pioneers. Salesforce is the trailblazer behind the 1% Pledge, a campaign to encourage early stage companies to commit 1% of equity, time, product, or profit to effecting change in their communities. Following Salesforce, Twilio.org has become a leader among more than 1,000 companies who have committed 1% to impact. And now Twilio.org has added its own twist: maximizing its reach by adding impact investments into the mix. All of which brings us back to the title of this blog.

At the recent SOCAP conference, Twilio.org’s Erin Reilly issued a call to action to her peers to “super-charge” the 1% Pledge model: “The vision in five years is that everyone who is doing grantmaking is also doing impact investing.” In the same vein, one could imagine a world where every corporate venture investor had an explicit impact sleeve.

With Twilio.org and Salesforce stepping on the gas, that supercharged future might not be so far off.

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