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Impact Engine

Focused on growing companies that generate positive outcomes in education, health, economic empowerment, and environmental sustainability
Summary

Impact Engine is a venture capital and private equity investment firm focused on growing companies that generate positive outcomes in education, health, economic empowerment, and environmental sustainability. 

They focus on underprivileged groups of people, in their own words: “Businesses… that are founded by and/or create opportunity for people historically underserved by existing markets can be categorized as having a people-based impact. The potential to create income through jobs, business ownership, and services that increase the likelihood of gainful employment can create lasting change for individuals and their communities”.


History

The Impact Engine is a Chicago-based accelerator and venture fund that focuses on supporting startups that are creating social and environmental impact. The organization was founded in 2011 by Linda Darragh, Chuck Templeton, and Jamie Jones, with the goal of addressing the lack of investment and support for companies working in the social impact space.

Linda Darragh, a clinical professor of entrepreneurship at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, recognized the need for an accelerator that focused specifically on impact-driven businesses. Chuck Templeton, who had previously founded the restaurant reservation platform OpenTable, and Jamie Jones, who had experience in consulting and nonprofit management, joined Darragh to launch The Impact Engine.

The organization's first cohort of startups was selected in 2012, and included companies working in fields such as sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, and healthcare. The Impact Engine provided these startups with funding, mentorship, and access to a network of impact investors and advisors.

Since then, The Impact Engine has continued to support early-stage companies that are creating positive social and environmental impact. In addition to its accelerator program, the organization has also launched a venture fund, which invests in companies that have completed its accelerator program or that meet its impact criteria.

Over the years, The Impact Engine has helped to establish Chicago as a hub for social impact entrepreneurship. Its alumni include companies like Healthy Roots Dolls, which creates dolls with natural hair to promote positive self-image among children of color, and AMPY, which creates wearable technology that converts motion into power to charge mobile devices.

Today, The Impact Engine continues to support impact-driven startups through its accelerator program, venture fund, and other initiatives. The organization remains committed to fostering a thriving ecosystem of social and environmental entrepreneurs who are working to create a more just and sustainable world.


Investment criteria

Impact: The primary criterion for investment is the potential for social or environmental impact. The Impact Engine looks for companies that are addressing important social or environmental issues, such as climate change, healthcare access, or poverty reduction. The organization seeks to invest in companies that have a clear mission and a measurable impact.

Scalability: The Impact Engine also looks for companies that have the potential for growth and scalability. This includes companies with innovative business models, strong intellectual property, and a clear path to market. The organization seeks to invest in companies that have the potential to create significant impact at scale.

Team: The Impact Engine evaluates the team behind each potential investment, looking for individuals with experience in their industry and a strong track record of success. The organization seeks to invest in companies with diverse and skilled teams that are committed to the mission of the company.

Financials: The Impact Engine evaluates the financials of each potential investment, looking for companies with strong revenue potential and a clear path to profitability. The organization seeks to invest in companies with sound financial models and a clear plan for growth.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: The Impact Engine also considers diversity, equity, and inclusion in its investment criteria. The organization seeks to invest in companies that prioritize diversity and inclusion in their hiring and business practices, and that have a commitment to addressing systemic inequalities.


Values
  • Impact: The organization is committed to creating positive social and environmental impact. It believes that businesses have a responsibility to address pressing social and environmental issues and that by doing so, they can create both financial and social value.
  • Collaboration: The Impact Engine believes that collaboration is essential for creating meaningful impact. It works with a diverse range of partners, including entrepreneurs, investors, nonprofits, and policymakers, to support social and environmental innovation.
  • Equity: The organization is committed to promoting equity in all of its work. It believes that access to resources and opportunities should be available to all, regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic status, or other factors. The Impact Engine works to address systemic inequalities and create opportunities for marginalized communities.
  • Innovation: The Impact Engine values innovation and believes that it is essential for addressing complex social and environmental challenges. It supports startups that are using innovative business models, technologies, and approaches to create impact.
  • Sustainability: The organization believes that a sustainable future is essential for creating long-term impact. It supports companies that are working to address environmental challenges, such as climate change, and that are committed to sustainable business practices.

Mission

Impact Engine’s mission is to bring more capital to a market where financial returns are linked to positive social and environmental impacts. They manage funds for institutions and individuals that invest in for-profit, positive-impact businesses in private markets. They do both Venture Capital and Private Equity investing.

Impact Engine was launched in 2012 with the goal of recognising entrepreneurs starting businesses with the potential to drive both good financial returns and positive social impact. Impact Engine raised two accelerator funds in 2013 and 2014, all centred on investing in early stage companies. In total, Impact Engine invested in a portfolio of 23 companies.

In 2015, Impact Engine changed its investment strategy and raised a $10 million venture fund that invested in 22 companies. In 2018, they started operating as a public benefit corporation and investing from their second venture fund. They also launched a new product focused on supporting emerging impact private equity funds.

In 2018, Impact Engine raised the capital from 32 unnamed investors as part of a new $25 million fund, according to an SEC filing.


Portfolio
  • Healthy Roots Dolls: This company creates dolls with natural hair to promote positive self-image among children of colour. The dolls come with storybooks that teach children about the history and culture of their hair.
  • AMPY: This company creates wearable technology that converts motion into power to charge mobile devices. The technology can be used by anyone who wants to stay connected while on the go, without relying on traditional power sources.
  • Rheaply: This company has created a platform that allows organizations to track and share equipment and supplies. By making it easier for organizations to reuse and recycle materials, Rheaply is helping to reduce waste and promote sustainability.
  • Hazel Technologies: This company has developed a solution that extends the shelf life of fresh produce, reducing food waste and increasing access to healthy food. The solution is used by farmers, distributors, and retailers around the world.
  • Supply Clinic: This company is an online marketplace for dental supplies, providing an alternative to traditional distributors. By making it easier for dentists to access affordable supplies, Supply Clinic is helping to improve access to dental care.

References
Impact Engine
Leadership team

Jamie Jones (Founder)

Linda Darragh (Founder)

Investment type
MicroVC, Venture capital
Type
Early Stage Venture, Seed,Convertible Note
Number of Employees
0 - 50
Headquarters
Greater Chicago Area, Great Lakes, Midwestern US
Established
2011
Social Media
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