This week was a blur. We participated in the Investors Circle - Social Venture Network Bridge to the Future Conference in Brooklyn NY. It was great to see old friends in the social entrepreneurship community, to learn best practices, to share ideas, and to develop new relationships.
The top three takeaways (and there were many) were:
1) Transparency and alignment of values is essential between a company and its stakeholders.
One of the seminars I attended was entitled Social Impact Term Sheets (by Allen Bollenger and Teresa Fahl). I frankly did not know how specific and fascinating this would be. I thought they would just discuss normal financal term sheets for companies raising capital and investors considering investments. I never imagined that a term sheet could include social impact performance measures that were agreed upon by both parties. Of course, in hindsight it makes sense that this could be included in a term sheet. I would not have considered doing so, if not for Allen and Teresa's presentation. Now ELIA PBC will ensure that the social impact measures are considered in our term sheets. These terms add to a relationship of transparency whereby the investors and the company ensure that their values align.
Ben and Jerry's, when they sold to Unilever, had hundreds of clauses in the agreement that locked in their social impact values, almost a hundred of which were binding to the continuing operations of the brand. Many of these values and practices proliferated into the larger company's practices.
Transparency was discussed in other business practies as well, including compensation, internal company town hall meetings, supply chain sustainability, financing and social impact reporting to the public. Jeff Hollender shared his radical transparency practices at 7th Generation, spoke of the difficulties and reviewed instances where they aggressively aligned their values with their operations.
2) Raising capital is at least a 25% of your day job. It comes with much more rejection than your normal work. It takes persistance and it takes preparation and constant communication. Also, regarding forms of capital, there were indepth discussions of revenue based investments. The concept is logical, though we have never considered such a vehicle.
3) There is encouraging progress on recycling, energy use, and corporate social responsibility. We aren't moving fast enough, but despite a legislative headwind, the green sector hasn't stopped innovating and making progress.
Printer - Design File Sharing with Product Development Firms
Our partner HP recommended that we do what they do - leverage product design (PD) firms to enhance our engineering capabilites and accelerate our progress. Thus, we have been sharing printer files with PD firms, with the expectation that we may collaborate with them to
Keyboard - Prototyping
For our silicon overlay, we've engage Andrew Brase. He was recommended to us by Emily Saner, of Ohnut. They are both awesome. Our very own Dan Periard is working on the mechanical keyboard prototyping and that is coming along as well.
Pilot - What we learned this week
At the smallest font size (0.7 cm) Adam slows down to identify the letter Y, which, at that size, feels similar to the F. We will try an extended frame for the letters K, V, W, X, Y and Z. We don't view the font as uncustomizable. Just as other fonts can be modified to be bold, italicized, underlined,or at different font sizes, so too ELIA Frames can be customized for a user's needs.
Financing - Additional conversations
Through the IC-SVN conference we spoke with several investors in the social impact space. They were very helpful and we will continue to follow up with them. We'll apply for the Investors Circle December pitch event. And we may have a presentation to an impact investor this week. Based on the conference, we are revising our financing and metrics page, to provide more meaningful information. Financial projections are always only as valuable as the set of assumptions that feed them. We'll focus our presentation slide on those meaningful measures of our success, and we'll tighten up the projection methods behind the revenue, gross profit and operating profit estimates.
Boston Trip Follow Up
We were in contact with Dina Rosenthal and Jane Wiseman about possibly working with the Carroll Center for the Blind and establishing a pilot program. It would have been pretty cool. it won't work out to work with this semesters residents. They suggested that we circle back to them for a possible Spring collaboration.
We will probably be speaking with other folks we met in Boston next week. And we'll be sending the new presentation to Paul Marz of the South Shore group.