You can tell when an industry is nascent, growing, or established by looking at how many different conferences and events there are in September and October, the size of those events, and the overlap of attendees.
Impact investing have moved from nascent to growing, and seems to be growing rather fast. Yesterday was my fifth industry event of the month:
1. SOCAP is the biggest annual gathering of impact investors. Eight years ago, it was a gathering of about 500 people in one conference room at Fort Mason in San Fransisco. In 2016, it has grown to 2,500 attendees and 12 simultaneous talks/panels for three straight days. So big they had two tents to fit all the content.
2. Investor’s Circle is a 25 year-old national Angel group focused on funding impactful startups. They have local chapters in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, North Carolina, and Colorado, plus two weeks ago held their second national gathering of the year in San Francisco. The city and timing was chosen to abut against SOCAP, and given the size of that event, I’m not going to be surprised if San Francisco doesn’t become the go-to city every September.
3. Toniic is an international group of impact investors learning how every asset class can be impactful, from cash and loans, to public stocks and bonds, real estate, farmland, forestry, fisheries, and of course, startups. This year 50 of the 150ish Toniic members bookended SOCAP with meetings at Fort Mason, then eight days later the 100% Impact Network had a separate gathering in Park City, Utah.
4. Gratitude Railroad held their fourth annual gathering two weeks after SOCAP. The event grew from 75 attendees last year to 175 attendees this year. The purpose is to introduce the concepts of impact investing to investors who are not already part of the tribe, as well as for tribe members to spend time in a retreat-like setting vs. the intensity of SOCAP. This year the Toniic 100% Gathering purposefully overlapped the GRR event, to allow the two groups to interact, and to allow a dozen of us to flow straight through from one event to another.
5. Big Path Capital‘s 5 Fund Forum is a semi-annual road show of five impact investing funds or companies. Big Path is something of an investment bank for impact, with this being just one even of many in any given year.
The 5 Fund Forum happened to be in Seattle the day after Gratitude Railroad, coincidentally making for three straight impact investing events for me in the span of nine days, and topping off the fifth such event in three weeks.
The next two months includes three other big events, none of which I’m planning on attending. Opportunity Collaboration in Mexico, another retreat-centric event for impact investors, foundations, and entrepreneurs addressing solutions for big environmental and social issues. Social Venture Network, a 29 year old peer-to-peer network of mission-driven business leaders, social entrepreneurs, and impact investors who are leveraging the power of business to solve social, economic, and environmental problems. Toniic‘s annual Global Gathering, where 100 members from all six continents will meet to push the boundaries of impact investing across all asset classes.
This is far too many events for anyone to attend them all, but from my five years in this industry, all seem to be growing in scale, some exponentially, and thus all showing that the interest in impact investing is growing by leaps and bounds. I can’t say I’m looking forward to the 2030’s with conferences of 10,000 or more attendees, but I’ve no doubt at least one of these events will make it to that size by then, if not sooner.