Aiming to break down barriers and back meaningful innovation, Impact Shakers has made its first investments through its microfund that is supporting purpose-driven ventures led by underrepresented founders. Here, we can exclusively share the details.
Impact investment is thriving at the moment – and it’s wonderful to see and feel the impact it is having on Europe’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Investors can now clearly see the benefits of investing in innovations that are bringing about meaningful and positive change for our society and environment, and they are also seeing the benefits of supporting diverse teams and previously underrepresented innovators.
While impact investment is opening up, there is still a long way to go. Underrepresented and purpose-driven leaders need to be supported through the full journey of startup life and there is still some disparity to catch up with and barriers to break down.
Enter Impact Shakers – an additional player in the impact investment space who is supporting founders at the very early stages of startup life. The firm has raised its first microfund and now unveiled the 6 ventures that will be beneficiaries.
“We believe inclusive impact entrepreneurship is the best vehicle for change. Yet, access to funds and supportive networks remain the biggest barriers for underrepresented founders. With this microfund, we want to tackle the first obstacle, the ‘friends and family round’.”
The ethos of Impact Shakers is to tackle complex social and environmental challenges through inclusive entrepreneurship and capital innovation. The ecosystem is built to enable a systemic shift – working with underrepresented entrepreneurs and investors on the complete lifecycle of an impact-driven business.
It was founded by Yonca Braeckman, a mission-driven entrepreneur and investor who has played an active role in Belgium’s thriving startup ecosystem, as well as the European system as a whole.
Raised from the crowd, the Impact Shakers Microfund is aimed at diversifying investors and supporting underrepresented founders with friends and family-sized tickets.
The first batch of six €25k cheques have now been designated to different startups from across Europe. Over the next few months, Impact Shakers CEO Yonca Braeckman and Head of Ventures Alina Klarner are looking to continue to find new “Co-Operators”, allowing people from all walks of life to invest from €250 onwards, pool their capital and their expertise, and invest in diverse impact founders.
Because people buy shares in the cooperative, the fund can continue to accept new investors on an ongoing basis in an evergreen format. Equally, returns on existing investments can be recycled to support more startups as the fund grows.
Founder & CEO Yonca Braeckman: “It feels amazing to finally be able to write cheques to the entrepreneurs we believe in. Too many times, we have seen incredibly promising startups that don’t make it because they don’t overcome this first barrier quickly enough. Investors tend to pattern-match and often don’t recognise the potential of founders who don’t look like them. This first round of investments through our Microfund has been an encouraging change to that – a diverse set of investors supporting diverse entrepreneurs. The potential we saw in the applications was enormous, so the hardest part was that we couldn’t invest in many more businesses. We certainly look forward to growing our investments through the Microfund and other innovative structures in the future.”
The six investments were all presented to and voted on by the Microfund community and cover impactful solutions from healthcare and combating loneliness for the elderly, to precision farming and organic composting. What all of these businesses have in common is a mission to make the world a better place, a scalable impact business model and that they are run by underrepresented founders.
Further, all of the companies have also been accepted into the 9-month virtual Impact Shakers Accelerator. Together with the cash boost, the startups will receive hands-on operational support and access to an ecosystem of mentors, partners and impact investors.
Creating and tapping into community is one of the guiding principles of the Microfund – it is structured as a cooperative, giving investors access to other like-minded change-makers, a diversified startup portfolio and, for those who are new to investing, formal and informal support in learning what it means to be an investor. Dozens of people working together also means a mix of experienced investors, as well as SMEs – marketers, lawyers, space engineers – who can work together with the startups they invest in to overcome challenges and increase their chances of success.
The six ventures
So, who are the beneficiaries of the initial cheques? Let’s take a look.
Vested Impact: A UK-based business that provides automated impact metrics for global capital. It assesses, quantifies and monitors the impact of a company’s products and services. By helping companies understand and measure their impact, the aim is to ‘redefine millionaires as someone who impacts a million lives”.
The Joy Club: An online activities club and community for retirees, The Joy Club is helping elderly people rediscover their joy of life and is tackling a loneliness crisis among the older generation.
Vyld: Based in Germany, Vyld is developing radically sustainable, ocean-friendly and healthy period products from seaweed. By rethinking the production of this essential consumer good in a regenerative way, Vyld wants to empower menstruators, reduce waste and CO² and improve ocean health.
Sensegrass: Agritech startup Sensegrass offers a soil intelligence platform for fertilizer management. The platform uses AI-based recommendations and soil sensors to deliver real-time analysis enabling more sustainable agriculture practices.
Sila Health: Sila Health helps people connect to and pay for healthcare across Africa. Whilst based in Amsterdam, Babusi Nyoni and Phillen Maqhuzu both belong to the African diaspora and are on a mission to make basic healthcare accessible to millions of people in emerging economies.
Compocity: Based in Hungary, this startup provides gamified sustainability services for companies who want to turn food waste into soil food. It’s creating a circular approach to food and food waste that takes a community approach.
Sila Health’s Founder & CEO Babusi Nyoni: “As underrepresented founders, we wanted our first cheque to come from an investor that understood the context of our journey so that they could support us adequately. We were blown away by Impact Shakers’ mission and how they empower founders like us in our mission to build sustainable, and impactful companies.”
The Microfund is the first investment vehicle launched by Impact Shakers and will be followed by an impact investment fund of €20 million to invest in diverse-led teams building impact businesses.