1. Only 1% of Austin’s Food is Local
The City of Austin staffed their Office of Sustainability with a really great guy, Edwin Marty, in 2015, who produced the excellent “State of the Food System Report” of April 2015. Of many telling statistics and stories, the one that hit hardest is the absurdly low percentage of food consumed in the Austin area that is actually produced around here. 1%. One stinking percent? Hard to believe such a food-inspired town imports 99% of what it eats from somewhere else. Collaborating to improving this statistic is one of our top priorities.
2. Austin's Food and Impact EcoSystems Exist, They’re Just Disjointed
Austin has a robust food ecosystem. Lots of players in lots of sub-niches; lots of innovation; lots of energy. Same with the impact investing space, which is far less mature and really just emerging from the non-profit and foundation space, but includes some power players and a variety of promising approaches. But both lack the “connective tissue” or “pollinators" that researchers like the Kauffman Foundation or authors like Michael Shuman or William Eggers insist are crucial to enabling the benefits of local network effects on collaboration, innovation, and sustainable economic development.
3. Entrepreneur Readiness is the Gating Factor
We came into the year believing the gating factor to local sustainable food entrepreneur success was access to capital. Not long after recruiting investors and meeting syndicate partners - as well as attending many contests and pitch tests - we realized that “readiness to face investors” is the gating factor. And that’s even for firms that have been through incubators and accelerators. To address, we beefed up our process definition, our gap analysis tools, our examples, our Expert Network, and our one-on-one consulting services.
4. There's Lotsa Noise About Impact Investing, But How to Actually Do It?
Our Twitter and RSS feeds are full of stories in the popular (and niche) press about Impact Investing…how great it is, how big it is, how fast it is growing. But how, specifically, can the average investor actually find and transact deals? How should one construct a portfolio of impact investments? What financial advisors specialize in this? In 2016 we’ll work with partners to help our investors understand the nuts and bolts of where to look, how to engage, how to put money to work.
5. There’s No Good Way to do Impact Tracking
Many have written much on the need for impact (i.e. non-financial) assessment and tracking, and a few organizations have tackled cataloging and systematizing potential metrics, but we couldn’t find any easy-to-use tools that could actually help real life busy entrepreneurs assess, track, and improve their performance on the aspects of "impact" that are important to them.
6. We’re Thinking About this Differently
While explaining our story, our approach, our goals, many, many people have commented that they had never heard these kinds of concepts put forth, or together, before. Living it every day deludes us into thinking that our approach is common knowledge, or at least common sense, but we have to remember it might be new for many folks. And change is hard, even good change.
"Insights" is our blog of case studies, newsletters, podcasts, videos, tips & tools, research, and more at the intersection of food, finance, and social good.