Sunday, September 13, 2009

San Fran and SOCAP09

I was in San Francisco last week to attend SOCAP09, the second edition of an annual conference focusing on social capital markets. Social investing is the fastest growing segment in the broader social sector, the boundaries of which keeps expanding by the way. Pure-play VC firms doing clean tech or PE firms focusing on emerging markets with no particular social emphasis in their mission are arguably part of this ever-bigger social sector.

The place was bustling last week and there seem to be so many new initiatives – I try to keep informed on what is going on in that space but I was blown away by the number of projects that I did not know about. The level of excitement and activity made me feel that social investing is on the cusp of a tipping point. Maybe it is a fad and nothing much will happen, in that social capital will remain marginal in the greater investment community – but it has the potential to become really big.

My sense is that the size of the socially-conscious investment community is going to grow, mainly through institutions or individuals that may not have that sole focus but 1) are under some obligation to be perceived as more socially-focused, 2) are interested to diversity their asset base and as such, view investing in emerging countries or focusing on clean tech as potential big wins.

The labor market in terms of number of folks, and particularly recent MBA grads, anxious to enter the sector is going to explode for sure. It is one of the hottest areas for MBA students right now and a lot of them seem to be ready to do anything to intern in the sector for free... Now, they won’t work full-time for free for long, thus the sector will have to grow and hire for that enormous interest to be fulfilled.

But this whole sector of social investing could become humongous… It will be fun to be involved and follow its progress.

On the by the way mode – and yes, I like making digressions - the conference took place at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco, a very cool place by the water that houses a number of local nonprofits. The view of the Golden Gate from where we were was to die for – what a gorgeous city in general, wow!! Who is moving there with me??

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