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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