On the 11th of June, we welcomed the SI2 Fund and Shaerpa Foundation community at the ‘Sharing the Passion’ event in the Impact House in Brussels.
The Sharing the Passion event series brings together SI2 Fund portfolio companies, its shareholders and a select group of experts and practitioners in the field of social entrepreneurship and impact investing, with the aim to exchange insights and expertise regarding our common passion. This edition tackled a question that many social entrepreneurs and impact investors ask themselves sooner or later: “How to scale an impact enterprise?”. How to increase revenue ànd positive societal impact in a synchronized way?
After a short introduction of the present impact companies, we gave the floor to Menno van Dijk, founder of both THNK and ScaleUpNation. Many years of experience and extensive research led up to an enlightening presentation on scale-up success factors, the opportunities that impact-oriented businesses can leverage and the pitfalls to avoid. In the afternoon, our team member Wim Verbeek highlighted pathways for scaling impact as such, from defining an endgame to choosing a structure fit for scaling. Both presentations provided plentyof food for thought to discuss at the guided brainstorming sessions. Last but not least, investment analyst Lina Benmehrez topped off the program sharing best practices on impact measurement and management, a practice allowing businesses to develop and scale solutions that create the most value.
We were very glad to see the participants getting the most out of the experience: a lot of tools, inspiration and new connections.
SI2 Fund is proud to be one of the first members of the newly created Integrated Capital Network, bringing together impact-oriented finance providers in the Netherlands. The network focuses on supporting social entrepreneurs with funding and expertise to grow their business and social impact.
The Integrated Capital Network, ICN for short, is set up by Generous Minds, Impact Hub Amsterdam and the City of Amsterdam to strengthen the social entrepreneurship ecosystem and improve access to capital. The network represents a wide range of established impact funders, focusing on companies in different stages of development and offering diverse kinds of financing, from donations to loans or equity. Once a month the ICN meets up in an Integrated Capital Lab, where social entrepreneurs in need of funding and expertise can present their companies. The members assess whether to fund the social enterprise and which mix of financial instruments, know-how and network would be fit to take the company to the next level. By joining forces, proposing hybrid funding and tailored support and working closely together with the social entrepreneurs, risks are lowered and the chance of success and broad societal impact increases.
Parties that joined the ICN initiators from the start are SI2 Fund, DOEN Foundation, One Planet Crowd, Heroes & Friends, ABN AMRO Social Impact Fund, ABN AMRO Sustainable Finance Desk, Triodos Bank, Rabobank Foundation and Rijksdienst Voor Ondernemend Nederland.
SI2 Fund is proud to announce its investment in We Are Digital, a UK-based company that works to tackle digital and financial exclusion by upskilling poor and vulnerable people with limited technological skills. The investment serves to scale its operations and impact in the UK and beyond.
In Europe, 44% of people aged between 16 and 74 years lack basic digital skills. In the UK no less than 12,6 million people do not have essential digital knowledge, the highest proportion of whom are the poorest and most vulnerable. We are Digital helps bridge the divide through high-quality digital and financial group courses, workshops and home trainings, offered by a wide network of outreach tutors and delivery partners. The company works closely together with government departments, corporates, banks and housing associations, that buy the trainings on behalf of their costumers and beneficiaries. These actors are all undergoing a huge shift towards the digitization of processes and applications and want to help vulnerable people access fundamental services.
Matthew Adam, founder and CEO of We Are Digital, is thrilled with the progress of the company and the results of the financing round: “We are currently growing at 100% a year and the number of contracts keeps increasing. I’m proud to now have some of the best social impact investors on board to help our social business scale further in the upcoming years.”
“We Are Digital fits perfectly into the SI2 Fund portfolio as it set up a very innovative business model to address the societal issue of digital and financial exclusion,” states SI2 Fund manager Pieter Oostlander. “We are excited to join forces with other impact investors, each offering a specific expertise and added value, and help the company expand its impact in the UK and beyond.”
MoveSmart Company, which has been part of the SI2 Fund portfolio since 2015, merged with FitzMe. The companies will continue their activities under the FitzMe brand.
MoveSmart Company, founded at the end of 2015, has developed an innovative lifestyle coaching concept aimed at lasting behavioural change. It sells licenses for software applications that support exercise, healthy eating habits and mental activities. As a result of the merger, these applications will be integrated under the name “MyVitality” into the products and services provided by FitzMe, an activation and consulting agency which supports organisations in creating a workspace that stimulates vitality. By enhancing coporate well-being on a mental, physical and social level, backed by a fitting health policy developed by the management, FitzMe aims to create an optimal ‘fit’ between energetic employees and a vibrant organisation. Its offer ranges from an online portal to coaching, physical trainings and workshops.
By joining forces, MoveSmart Company and Fitzme aim to reach a wide public and further strengthen the corporate well-being programs FitzMe offers. Geert-Jan van der Sangen, former CEO of MoveSmart Company and CEO of the merged companies, comments: “It’s a big challenge to make the integrated approach towards well-being used by MoveSmart Company stand out in a market full of quick fixes and empty promises. I’m very pleased that we can now integrate that unique proposition in the B2B market through the services of FitzMe.”
As a consequence of the merger, SI2 Fund is now a shareholder in FitzMe,
On the 28th of February His Majesty the King of Belgium visited the Impact House, the main office of SI2 Fund and several other actors in the social entrepreneurship and impact investing scene.
The Impact House is a dynamic hub situated between the European quarters and the centre of Brussels. It houses diverse organisations and enterprises, having the common goal to foster positive societal impact. Each in their own way, they commit to tackling the pressing social and environmental challenges of today. Diverse forms of support can be found in the house: from financing to coaching, consultancy and network sharing. The house also has a co-working space which frequently opens its doors to interesting events about societal innovation and social entrepreneurship.
After a royal welcome, the King was invited to visit the offices and make the acquaintance of the various entities in the building. Our manager Pieter Oostlander proudly presented SI2 Fund. By way of an example of the fund’s impact, the King was also introduced to our portfolio company Bluesquare, a Belgium-based data provider for results-based funding solutions in the health and education sectors. The visit ended with a thought-provoking round table featuring the young generation of the Impact House, amongst which our team members Timothy Lambert and Lina Benmehrez, clarifying the importance of the right support, a combined approach – that includes both business and societal aspects – as well as a strong ecosystem to achieve sustainable societal impact.
The visit of the King shows his appreciation for the social entrepreneurship and impact investing scene, as well as the support of the Impact House ecosystem. It is a meaningful recognition of the commitment of the SI2 Fund team and the other Impact House members, creating and backing solutions that tackle the most pressing societal problems of our time.
Our portfolio company Justice42 recently won of one of the categories of the Start-up in Residence Program of the Dutch ministry responsible for justice and security.
The Start-up in Residence Program challenges start-ups to come up with solutions to social issues in the field of justice and security. One of the issues to tackle was that lawyers are often faced with non-legal issues, as well as problems that could have been prevented through earlier intervention. This causes a lot of extra work and generates costs for society. Justice42 ended up number one for its solution to the challenge of finding a tool that provides insight in solving real problems, including the legal one. Developing such mechanisms is at the heart of what Justice42 does. They proposed an online diagnostic tool, which was selected out of many others.
Winning the competition gives Justice42 the opportunity to participate in an intensive five-month program including training, funding and coaching. In the upcoming months, the company will work closely together with the Ministry of Justice and Security, the commissioning partners and other stakeholders to develop the online diagnostic tool. In July, a prototype will be officially presented.
In February 2019 Impact Now, a new initiative counting SI2 Fund among its partners, is kicking off.
Impact Now is a series of participative events dedicated to positive societal impact, with the Sustainable Development Goals as a common thread. It arose from the conviction that we can only solve the challenges humanity faces if we place societal impact at the center of every action, on all levels, from citizens to enterprises, investors, organizations, institutions and public authorities.
Every Impact Now event offers an all-round program aimed to inform, inspire and accelerate collaborations that change society for the better. There will be a hackathon and workshops addressing a variety of topics revolving around the common theme of societal impact creation. These interactive sessions alternate with keynotes of powerful speakers such as Sihame El Kaouakibi, Piet Colruyt, Emmanuel Mossay and Guibert Del Marmol, as wel as a round table about investing in the SDGs featuring the SI2 Fund team. The program also includes pitch sessions by the most impactful enterprises of the region, showing how they generate societal impact daily. Participants can end the day networking at the ‘garden of innovation’, where several organizations and companies that put societal impact creation at the core of their activities, among which SI2 Fund, will be represented at a stand.
For World Alzheimer’s Month, we gathered up in Antwerp to deepen our insight in a traditional “Sharing the Passion”, this time with SI² Fund’s portfolio company Active Minds and Professor Rik Vandenberghe of KULeuven.
Shareholders, investors, social entrepreneurs and the SI² Fund team participated actively in round tables around dementia and Alzheimer, current societal challenges. The Sharing the Passion was kicked off by Ben Atkinson-Willes and Alice Osborne from Active Minds, who came from London to give us an insight into their activities. This was followed by the expert’s vision of Prof. Rik Vandenberghe, who is also Head of the memory clinic UZ, Hospitals Leuven. He raised awareness about the characteristics of the Alzheimer disease and dementia, as well as the evolution of the patients that suffer from these diseases. Then we had a chance to brainstorm with Active Minds about two of their current challenges and the future desired developments of the company. A lot of promising outputs came out of this meeting and we are all looking forward to see them happening !
The two following days, we used the opportunity of introducing Active Minds in the Belgium field of care for Alzheimer and dementia patients with visits to several relevant parties in Belgium active in this field.
We invite you to discover Impact House, our brand new office building, dedicated to Social Entrepreneurs & Impact Investors.
– visit our co-working, meetingrooms and event spaces
– meet the tenant organisations in the house : Ashoka, Lita.co, Oksigen Lab, i-propeller and SI² Fund
– attend workshops on social entrepreneurship and impact investing
– connect, have a drink and enjoy an icecream to close summer holidays
In 2017 it became clear that an independent future for Cirkle was not feasible. Cirkle’s societal impact stood at 2.9, meaning that the company’s activities returned a value to society at almost 3 times the inputs. Nevertheless, without a profitable business model, this is not sustainable. After more than a year of search for a strategic party, SI2 Fund concluded to stop further funding on an independent basis. Cirkle filed for bankruptcy end of June 2018 and the services to clients have come to a stop.
We are grateful to all Cirkle clients who have trusted and supported the company in its attempt to build an impactful and profitable business.
After seven years of service Boobs ‘n’ Burps societal adventure is over. The venture, that has reached the size of 5 shops in Belgium plus a web shop brought a social return of 3,07 ; a societal impact more than 3 times as high as the input. We were right in our assessment that longer breastfeeding by young mothers have a very positive impact in society. Profitability however was by far not in sight, and a continuation of the service was therefore not possible.
SI2 Fund is proud it has contributed to the worthwhile attempt to prolong breastfeeding. For those who were triggered and helped by Boobs ‘n’ Burps it has made a lasting impact.
Last month we hosted a Sharing the Passion event at our brand new office in Brussels. Shareholders, investors, social entrepreneurs and the SI² Fund team participated in round tables about several topics that are crucial to any business, and a social enterprise in particular.
The Sharing the Passion was kicked off by Pieter Oostlander, our fund manager. Pieter explained how important the Sharing the Passion events are in allowing our shareholders to engage with the SI² Fund portfolio companies. Our shareholders and social entrepreneurs meeting and exchanging ideas, experiences and visions is a significant added value in the development and growth of the fund’s portfolio companies.
During the Sharing the Passion events, our shareholders also learn about the impact they are helping our social entrepreneurs to achieve.
After the introduction, several topics were addressed during round table discussions. The topics were carefully chosen by our team to allow the shareholders and investors to share their expertise with the social entrepreneurs. Very interesting conversations arose and we believe everyone got a lot out of it. Here are a few topics, among others, that were discussed:
Structuring sales, CRM, incentivizing team.
Online & offline branding
SROI as a management instrument
Customer feedback to improve quality
As a conclusion, we would like to say that the event would not have been such a success without the participation of the entrepreneurs and shareholders. We are happy to see such enthusiasm to share knowledge and meaningful conversations coming from both parties. Our whole team thanks everyone who took part in the event and is looking forward to seeing them again for the next edition of Sharing the Passion.
Before looking forward to an exciting year ahead, we would like to highlight SI² Fund’s accomplishments and celebrate some of our portfolio companies’ achievements from 2017.
In 2017 we invested in Justice42, a social business based in the Netherlands that works towards the 16th Sustainable Development Goal of the UN (peace, justice & strong institutions). Justice42 develops dispute resolution services. The company recently launched an online tool (www.uitelkaar.nl) to help (ex-)partners in the resolution of their divorce. Justice42 helps to find the best solution for both the couple and their children. This is a change in dispute resolution which addresses important societal problems and lowers the costs related to a separation process. Justice42 will use the funding to grow the business and expand their services.
In December 2017 we announced our investment in Active Minds, a UK-based social business that works towards the 3rd Sustainable Development Goal (good health and well-being). Active Minds develops human-centered activity products and games for people living with dementia. The new funds will be used to accelerate Active Minds’ international growth, expand its product offering and achieve social impact at scale. The SI² Fund team will also assist Active Minds with the implementation of the SROI (Social Return On Investment) framework.
We not only added companies to our portfolio, some of our existing portfolio companies went through changes as well. In August 2017 Bubble Post was acquired by Bpost, the Belgian Post Group. The partnership was a great opportunity for Bubble Post and a perfect fit. The acquisition allows Bubble Post to scale its business and impact much faster and Bpost is able to accelerate its expansion and leadership position in eco- and congestion friendly delivery services. As with other business ventures, there are also risks for social enterprises where a combination of both internal and external factors have an influence on the success of the company. In July portfolio company Boobs ‘n’ Burps and in August FitClass were put into liquidation. Although the potential for high social impact was there, we didn’t see a sustainable, profitable business developing.
We continue to be amazed at the incredible hard work and determination of our social entrepreneurs, not to mention some of their great stories! Spacehive, part of our portfolio since August 2014, is the world’s first civic crowdfunding platform. In 2017, the company has seen considerable growth in the UK market. One of their remarkable stories of last year was a ground-breaking crowdfunding program, in partnership with the mayor of London Sadiq Khan and the London Economic Action Partnership (LEAP). The program invited communities to come together and propose ideas to regenerate their local areas. In total, 25 community-led projects were selected and funded through this initiative.
2017 was a year in which we’ve seen social entrepreneurship and impact investing gaining more traction in the Benelux and the UK. Our pipeline has been growing with interesting new leads. We have added numerous new ventures to our prospect list of which some look very promising!
We organized three Sharing the Passion events in 2017. Two of them were set around a portfolio company: in June we visited Bluesquare’s office and in October we went to HiiL Foundation in the Hague to hear more about Justice42’s Uitelkaar. The third Sharing the Passion event took place in Transforma in Brussels and focussed on sharing experience about IT/development across portfolio companies.
Finally, our team also evolved with some new team members in 2017. Timothy Lambert came on board as our new investment analyst and has been working from Belgium since January 2017. He’s in charge of sourcing and screening new leads, contributing to structure deals and supporting portfolio companies. Jelena Jakulj joined our team in November as an investment manager based in Amsterdam. As such, she will contribute to expanding SI² Fund’s portfolio in the Netherlands. Finally Nicolas Lahaye joined our team in August as communication assistant, he’s in charge of the fund’s communication effort both online & offline.
Our 2018 resolutions
In 2017 we feel SI² Fund improved focus on achieving its mission. We’re thankful to our shareholders, portfolio companies and partners for this progress.
In 2018, we will focus on creating value with the existing portfolio companies. They all have significant potential which will take hard work to reach. We look forward to working with the companies to increase the impact in their respective fields.
Additionally we will continue our search and selection of high impact ventures, that can be added to the portfolio, and where we can add value to their growth and development as a societal impact business.
And last but not least, we plan to organise four Sharing the Passion events in 2018, to engage SI2 Fund shareholders and other relations that have an interest, with the social impact work of our portfolio companies.
We hope and believe that the impact we’re helping to create through our existing and future portfolio companies will continue to grow throughout 2018 and beyond.
We are pleased to announce our newest investment in Active Minds, a UK-based company that develops human-centred activity products and games for people living with dementia. The funding by SI² Fund will be used to accelerate international growth, expand its product offering and achieve social impact at scale.
Founded in 2008, Active Minds is a social business with a mission to create positive, well-made and evidence-based activity products and games, offering people living with dementia a better quality of life. Active Minds’ award-winning products are tested in partnership with care homes, activity coordinators, families and carers to ensure they are as effective as possible. Proven positive outcomes for people living with dementia include a reduction in depression, boredom and isolation and an improvement in communications and engagement.
Building on its unique offering and strong customer network, Active Minds will use the funds to grow its international activities and product range and achieve social impact at scale.
Ben Atkinson-Willes, Founder of Active Minds, on the partnership:
“We are excited to partner with SI² Fund. We are relying on SI² Fund’s exceptional track-record in business management and the social impact sector to accelerate our international growth, strengthen our operations and grow a long-term, profitable social business.”
Pieter Oostlander, Fund Manager of SI² Fund comments:
“Active Minds is a unique company, built on years of research and personal experience, in a high impact and attractive segment. We look forward to supporting Ben and his team in scaling the social impact they have already achieved over the past couple of years. We will assist the company in implementing the SROI (Social Return on Investment) framework to enable them to truly understand, measure and manage the social impact of their business.”
Active Minds already has a diverse list of products available for care homes and individuals. Clients include Unilever Food Solutions, The Alzheimer’s Society and Four Seasons Healthcare.
On October 26th, our Sharing the Passion program took us to The Hague at the HiiL Foundation to learn more about our newest portfolio company: Justice42. Investors and shareholders of SI² Fund gathered there with some entrepreneurs and of course our entire team for an afternoon of sharing about the first service of Justice42: uitelkaar.nl, an online divorce resolution platform.
Prof Maurits Barendrecht, research director at the HiiL Foundation, started off the afternoon by giving us some insights on a survey the HiiL Foundation conducted about justice needs in several countries. The results he shared highlighted the needs for a better and more efficient justice system. He pointed out that online dispute resolution could help tackle those issues but that there were still barriers to be overcome.
Kaspar Scheltema, CEO and co-founder of Justice42 took the floor right after Prof Barendrecht and gave an introduction of what Justice42 is about, where it comes from and what it aims to do. He explained why they chose to start with divorce as the first type of dispute they want to help tackle. He also explained that they hope to expand their services to other type of dispute, and maybe to other countries.
Last but not least, Laura Kistemaker, COO and co-founder of Justice42, made a brief introduction of uitelkaar.nl and of the key concepts behind the platform. Most importantly, she gave us a demonstration of how the platform actually works, showing us all the steps necessary for the (ex)-partners to reach an agreement and how those steps were optimized to avoid conflicts. It was really interesting to see their vision of online divorce resolution and how they put it in place.
Throughout those introductions, the participants asked many questions from which some good, serious and constructive conversations arose afterwards. All the speakers showed a lot of enthusiasm and passion about the uitelkaar.nl project and they could pass those on to us quite easily. It is fair to say they are giving all their energy for their service to grow and expand in the right direction.
To conclude, we can say that this Sharing the Passion event was a nice experience. Our investors and shareholders got to meet the team behind Justice42 and share ideas and thoughts with them. Our whole team is already looking forward to the next Sharing the Passion event and thanks everyone who was there for this edition.
On September 8th, Justice42 launched its first online platform: uitelkaar.nl. Today, they are proud to announce that the platform fulfilled all the requirements needed to be officially recognized by the Raad voor Rechtsbijstand (Legal Aid Board), and thus the Dutch Government. This was made official on October 31st in the Staatscourant (State journal) and represents a big step forward for Justice42 and their online divorce resolution platform.
This not only is a seal of quality and of approval by the Government but also entitles the users of the platform to subsidies, which makes it the only one in the Netherlands. The normal price of a divorce settled through the platform is 425€ per person and the price goes down to 110€ per person if they are indeed entitled to subsidies.
If you wish to know more, the full press release can be read here and the Staatscourant article can be found here.
On September 21st Alexander de Croo announced that Belgium will cooperate with Benin and Senegal, its partner countries, to improve access to family planning services through the use of big data and satellite imagery. In 2016 1.3 billion dollars were invested by international communities in family planning programs, however, it is not clear if the entirety of the investments has reached the targeted population.
This is why, during the “She Decides” conference in margin of the United Nations General Assembly in New-York, Belgium introduced a pilot project to try to take care of that situation. Belgian data company Blue Square will be directing the project along with the universities of Brussels and Namur. The project will verify if the investments are made in the most efficient way possible, if they reach the desired aim and if they reach the girls and women who need them.
Big data and satellite imagery will be used to build up to date analyses of girls and women’s access to family planning in Benin and Senegal. The project should lead to a better availability of contraception and a better access to family planning information’s. Awa Marie Coll Seck, state minister of Senegal, commented that “With good data, we can lead good strategies. If it works, we will be able to include other programs and other indicators”. The long term vision is to build a broad data platform that can be used in other countries as well.
Here’s what Alexander de Croo says: “If we want to give girls and women more opportunities to lead the life they want, easy access to family planning is crucial. This project should lead to better availability of contraceptives and easier access to information about family planning. It shows how the use of new technologies leads to better results on the ground. Aiming for innovation to strengthen women’s rights is the pioneering role Belgium’s international development policy wants to play.”
We are proud to announce the SI² Fund’s recent investment in Justice42 (“J42”, justice for two). J42 is a system changer in dispute resolution offering guided mediation via an online platform with expert and case managers available to help where needed. This approach delivers a better resolution service than the current lawyer/court centric process. Instead of the tournament model where two lawyers fight for their clients, the clients themselves are led through the mediation process seeking the best solution for both parties – hence the name.
J42 is a spinout from the HiiL foundation and focuses on product development, marketing and service delivery for online dispute resolution. The first type of disputes is divorce delivered in the Netherlands via the website www.uitelkaar.nl. A new software version with the latest insights embedded went online on September 8th 2017. The new approach to divorce was validated in a pilot handling over 900 cases with a much higher satisfaction level compared to the traditional process. Lawyers, Judges, the Raad voor Rechtbijstand, and many more stakeholders were involved in the pilot. As of today, the pilot is over and J42 as a business started.
Divorce is a major event with high (negative) impact in the life of the (ex-) partners and particularly the children. The new approach helps them to find the best solutions for all of them. We expect Social Return via lower health, educational, and employment problems. The government will also benefit as this approach lowers the costs of legal aid and health care, and makes people more self-reliant.
J42 also plans other types of disputes to follow in the future like tenant, labour and neighbour disputes. These new developments are often in cooperation with the HiiL foundation. International expansion is certainly possible as well. Not only other European countries show interest; also, African nations see this approach as a major opportunity to improve their legal system.
In August, the shareholders of Bubble Post reached an agreement on its acquisition by Bpost. This deal is beneficial to both companies as Bubble Post was actively looking for a strategic partner and Bpost wishes to expand in eco- and congestion friendly delivery services.
With this deal, both companies confirm their goal to grow in the smart ecological urban delivery landscape. Bubble Post will be working hand in hand with Citydepot, a subsidiary of Bpost working in urban ecological delivery. Bubble Post and Citydepot are already working together in Gand in a mutually benefical partnership.
Bpost also enriches its hybrid network with Bubble Post’s expertise regarding cold and refrigerated transport. Bubble Post has a broad knowledge in this area with food wholesalers and the delivery of a.o. prepared meals and lunch boxes.
Both CEO’s are happy with the new partnership. Koen van Gerven, CEO of Bpost says that the acquisition of Bubble Post is perfectly aligned with Bpost’s strategy to become a major player in the package delivery landscape. It also has the ambition to expand its sustainable and refrigerated logistics chains in Belgium and Netherlands.
The CEO of Bubble Post, Marc Morioux, says his company and co-workers are delighted to write a new chapter in the history of both companies together.
As part of the ‘Sharing the Passion’ program, Bluesquare welcomed curious entrepreneurs, investors and sympathizers in its new offices for an afternoon presentation by the CEO and its team on past, present and future developments of the company.
Recently established in the Hive5 coworking & community space in Brussels, the team of Bluesquare opened its doors to visitors for an inspiring presentation of the company’s journey towards building a thriving multi-solutions healthcare data company.
Living up to the mission of delivering innovative technology for better lives, Bluesquare explained how the company moved from a Result-Based Financing data solutions to a modular approach integrating complementary solutions such as a public-facing dashboard to monitor performance of international health programs and a mobile application for effective data collection.
The company visit attracted several entrepreneurs and investors as well as curious sympathizers interested in understanding the challenges and opportunities of working in the healthcare tech industry with some of the largest Development Finance Institutions and NGO’s working on providing better healthcare systems in the world.
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