Impact investors often complain they can’t find enough viable social enterprises to invest in. And entrepreneurs bemoan a lack of available funding.
A recently introduced online impact investing marketplace hopes to address that problem. ImpactUs, a Washington, D.C.-based platform, aims to provide a place where investors can find out about, research and connect with funds, operating companies and projects around the world, and where businesses raising money through private debt and equity offerings can list. The initiative was incubated at Enterprise Community Loan Fund, one of the country’s largest CDFIs, and is funded by the MacArthur Foundation, Ford Foundation, Enterprise Community Partners and City First Enterprises.
The marketplace joins a number of other social impact platforms and stock exchanges, such as the Social Venture Exchange (SVX) in Canada, Singapore’s Impact Exchange (IIX), and the former Mission Markets in the U.S.
For now, the platform is only open to accredited, invited investors. But ImpactUs, a registered broker dealer, plans to make it available to all investors, including regular civilians, financial advisors and institutions investing on behalf of clients. The platform will operate a bit like an online brokerage, according to Reginald Stanley, co-founder, president and CEO.
ImpactUS launched with four listings, but, according to Liz Sessler, co-founder and vice president, client engagement, there are another 35 in the pipeline. Deals work best at the $3 million to $5 million level, according to Sessler, though, “We will have deals that are $100 million,” she says. Offerings are in such thematic areas as the environment, clear water, education, healthy food and health care, or they can be placed-based, aimed at economic and community development issues. There will be a mix of models: mission-first, financial bottom line first or a blend of the two.
According to Sessler, the platform will provide companies with back-office support, a cumbersome and expensive process they usually would have to take care of on their own. That ability, plus the opportunity for investors to see an aggregation of offerings all in one place, will help boost deal flow, providing more money for entrepreneurs and options for investors, she says.
The plan is to have about $150 million in assets under administration by the end of the year and $3 billion in 10 years, with over 350 deals cycling through the platform.
The four listings include:
- Iroquois Valley Farms, a farmland finance company providing land access to organic family farmers
- Shared Interest, which provides guarantees to South African financial institutions making loans to communities that typically have trouble getting access to capital
- Common Bond Communities, a nonprofit developer of affordable housing that has a fund for impact investors focused on preserving multi-family housing in the Midwest
- Envest Microfinance, a provider of early-stage loans to microfinance lenders in the developing world
Anne Field is a New York-based journalist who writes about social enterprise and impact investing. A version of this article originally appeared on her Not Only For Profit blog on Forbes.com.