Impact Crowdfunding. A Conversation with Olivia Sibony

SeedTribe is a brand-new impact crowdfunding platform launched in 2017. They are a spin-off of a larger investing platform, Angel Investment Network, which enables entrepreneurs to post their ideas on their marketplace so that sophisticated investors can browse opportunities and pick up the ones they want to invest in.

They have a twist on impact. “You are kind of the first experiment,” I opened the conversation. “Yes, and I can feel it!” Olivia exclaims.

Olivia Sibony is one of the Wise100 Top Women in Social Business and leads, as Head of Impact Crowdfunding, the development of the project.

An entrepreneur born and bred, she recalls the times when she was running her own food-tech platform, just a few years ago: “Fundraising is a challenging activity, so having in place professional investors eager to close the funding gap of promising and impactful start-ups is value-add.”

If you think about it, traffic is one of the key issues for any online platform to succeed. She reckons that “as a spin-off of a larger organization, we can leverage the same database of engaged angel investors which is a true competitive advantage. This supports entrepreneurs and helps investors see a simple, highly curated list of investment opportunities. Investors don’t have the time to trawl through lengthy lists of businesses. They want the confidence that they are only seeing the very best ones.”

It takes a personal, passionate element to focus on purposeful businesses, she points out. She shares with enthusiasm that, “I do not understand why anyone would ever start a business that will not solve a key challenge. There are enough social and environmental challenges in the world; if you can think outside the box, you can run a profitable business while addressing a real problem that needs to be solved in the world.”

The impact movement is growing at a fast pace worldwide. They set the global impact investment market to grow by 18% year-on-year to 2020 when it will be worth an estimated $307 billion.

However, “Our biggest challenge is sifting through all the businesses that apply to us, to select only the best projects for the platform; we will not compromise: we need high quality businesses where we believe execution is strong, and profit and purpose are aligned.”

Measuring impact is one of the trickiest issues in the industry as there are so many metrics around that it could become difficult to get to a common standard: “We made several experiments. There is such a vast diversity of entrepreneurs spanning from the producer of innovative medical technology to the environmental activist that having just one metric doesn’t work.” So, “In testing impact, we consider the challenge they want to solve and what their key performance objectives are, linked to that specific challenge.”

But still, what makes a great business, including its business model and the team working on it, remain key pillars for reviewing hundreds of business plans they receive every week, of which they reject over 90 percent.  Protecting their investors, their key asset, remains a priority.