Impact Engine: On­Ramps to Impact Investing

Posted by on August 15th, 2016

A Guest Post by Jessica Droste Yagan and Tasha Seitz of Impact Engine

Impact Engine was created in 2012 to help build the ecosystem around impact investing in Chicago. We believe that many big social and environmental challenges in the world are also big market opportunities. Since 2012, we’ve invested nearly $1,000,000 in 30 socially and environmentally impactful companies, which has led to more than $35 million in follow-on investments.

By investing time and money in promising, for-­profit entrepreneurs, we can demonstrate the potential for addressing these challenges through business models and support startup impact companies during their early stages. Along the way, we find and create impact investors to connect to these businesses and build an ecosystem that brings more capital, mentorship and connections to the companies we invest in and helps our investors explore what it means to invest for both financial returns and social impact.

The majority of our current investors (85 individuals and families) are completely new to impact investing. We’ve intentionally designed our fund to make impact investing approachable and enjoyable. For instance, we provide co-­investment rights to our investors, as well as engaging investors in our due diligence process and mentoring portfolio companies, and hosting events for them to learn more about other aspects of impact investing from each other.

We’ve also recognized that many potential or new impact investors are looking for a broader perspective on the field which we facilitate through learning opportunities and access to a network of impact ­motivated peers. That is why we’re currently partnering with Forefront and Arabella Advisors to design and offer an impact investing bootcamp aimed at educating new and emerging impact investors. The goal of the day­long event is to provide impact investors with tools, roadmaps, and examples of how to get started and go deeper to advance their objectives. This bootcamp will be valuable for individuals and families as well as their family office, foundation or financial advisory staff.

We are lucky to be based in Chicago, where bringing impact investing mainstream is on the minds of other important leaders as well. Specifically, we’re excited to support Benefit Chicago, a $100M fund dedicated to impact investments for Chicago, started by The Chicago Community Trust, MacArthur and Calvert Foundation. The initiative aims to make impact investing more accessible and to address important challenges facing Chicago in education, food, housing, clean energy, and job creation. Collaboration between these leaders in impact investing will help bring awareness and, of course, more capital, to organizations that are working to solve important social or environmental challenges in innovative ways. The fund is designed to allow everyone to participate – individuals, businesses and institutions.

We have never been more bullish on the impact investing market. It was recently announced that we will be honored by 1871 and the Chicagoland Entrepreneurship Center with the Chicagoness Award, ­­reflecting their belief that the work of Impact Engine (facilitating the alignment of impact and business) is the essence of what it means to be entrepreneurial in Chicago. We look forward to continuing to learn from, and partner with, the many others doing this important work at SOCAP.

IEN_H_RGB_blue_posImpact Engine is a venture fund that invests financial and human capital in early­ stage, for­ profit technology businesses that are improving education, health, economic empowerment, and resource efficiency. Based in Chicago, Impact Engine currently manages a $10 million venture fund that invests between $25,000 to $250,000 in companies whose measurable, positive impact is tied to their business model. For more information, please visit, or follow us on Twitter @TheImpactEngine.
Impact Engine is a SOCAP16 Network Partner.