By BEN SCHILLER
Ten years ago when Nancy Pfund first started making social impact investments, many people were skeptical about the idea of investing both for profit and social benefit. You either made money or you did good, but rarely both. “It was unheard of by most,” she says. “There was a very limited set of investors who were prepared to take the plunge.”
Today, impact investing has gained a lot of acceptance, and that’s reflected in the size and sources of Pfund’s new $400 million social impact fund. “The notion that you can make fantastic returns without having to sacrifice your mission, and vice versa, has really moved from the margins to the mainstream,” she says.
Pfund is managing partner of DBL Partners (DBL stands for double bottom line) and most famous for being an early investor in Tesla and SolarCity, two powerhouses of the green economy. She’s joined in the latest fund by Ira Ehrenpreis, another early Tesla investor. They make the case that impact investing has matured in several ways, starting with the attitude of entrepreneurs themselves.
“It used to be that we would have to sometimes propagate some of the ideas and then that would get them started,” Pfund says. “Now the entrepreneurs are often five steps ahead of us. That’s something we’re excited about getting going from the very beginning.”
Ehrenpreis adds: “The change we’ve seen is that entrepreneurs are really embracing the notion they actually don’t have to have a tradeoff. They can change the world and build a great company in the process.”
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