History has shown that government resources and charitable donations are insufficient to address the world’s most challenging social and environmental challenges. The future depends on sustainable, market-based solutions that leverage existing resources.
DuPage County has the opportunity and resources to become home to and support growing social impact enterprises — a powerful place where social entrepreneurs work alongside individuals who recognize social problems and utilize the experiences of mentors, a collaborative environment, and short informative classes to organize, develop and manage thriving enterprises.
Other recent successful efforts to catalyze social impact ecosystems in the Midwest demonstrate that there is both a pipeline of social entrepreneurs with enterprises attempting to solve important social issues and interested impact investors and other entities willing to provide essential resources.
The missing element in DuPage County is the lack of a focal point of activity that can bring these resources together. DuPage Impact, an impact incubator for startup and early stage entities, and Innovation DuPage, together create a dynamic hub for impact investment in the western suburbs.
Our vision for an entrepreneurial ecosystem in DuPage County involves a public/private collaboration between DuPage Impact, Innovation DuPage and other public and private entities and individuals. This collaboration identifies, trains, develops, supports and invests in startup and emerging for-profit companies that encourage local job creation by producing products or services with a positive social impact.
What Is the DuPage County Entrepreneurial Ecosystem?
The biological ecosystem is an appropriate metaphor for this joint effort, as its success and sustainability depend on many interdependent, contributing elements. There are four elements to any biological ecosystem:
- Energy Flow
- Material Flow
The first elements of the entrepreneurial ecosystem are the community and institutional stakeholders. The stakeholders are our county residents and the institutions that serve them: local government including DuPage County and Rev 3; national government research labs like Argonne and Fermi; educational institutions including COD, other colleges and K-12 schools; and local businesses.
The environment is the second element that is needed to support entrepreneurship. Innovation DuPage becomes the critical space where inspired people come together to create, develop and support new social impact businesses.
Ecosystems require energy flow to flourish. To create thriving social impact businesses, that energy comes from investors who are not averse to risk. The funding for startups and early stage companies is provided by local investors who make up DuPage Impact, in collaboration with other venture capital and private equity investors who support new ideas and rapidly growing businesses.
The final element of any successful ecosystem is the material flow. The raw material and building blocks of entrepreneurship are creative people with powerful ideas for new products and services that will change the world for the better.
DuPage Impact is helping to bring these four critical ecosystem elements together to create an exciting job creation engine for DuPage County that will improve our local economy and the lives of residents.
What Are DuPage Impact’s Guiding Beliefs?
DuPage Impact, LLC was founded in May 2017 as a for-profit company comprised of motivated, qualified investors in the economic health and future of DuPage County with a focus on startup and early stage for-profit social enterprise businesses. Social enterprise businesses are noteworthy for their dual focus on making a profit while making a positive difference in the communities they serve.
Our guiding beliefs include:
- Significant market opportunities can be realized while at the same time providing major health, environmental and social improvements.
- Investments create impact, and our focus is on making that impact positive.
- For-profit entities typically attract capital and can reach scale and sustainability more readily.
- Early stage mentorship and funding are crucial to entrepreneurial success.
- Building a supporting infrastructure for awareness, education, incubation and acceleration leads to entrepreneurial success.
What Is Impact Investing and Why Is It important?
Impact investing supports for-profit companies that make the world a better place.
Impact investing is not Socially Responsible Investing (SRI), which started over 30 years ago and focuses on negative screening to avoid investing in certain stocks that provide products or services contrary to personal values.
Impact investing focuses on positive selection criteria by choosing to invest in companies that seek to do good while also doing well financially.
Impact investing is an emerging investment focus as noted by J.P. Morgan Global Research in 2010:
“In a world where government resources and charitable donations are insufficient to address the world’s social problems, impact investing offers a new alternative for channeling large scale private capital for social benefit.”
What Is the Successful Foundational Model for DuPage Impact?
DuPage Impact will implement best practices from the successful efforts of Impact Engine and use of Chicago’s 1871 technology space. Impact Engine was a Chicago-based accelerator program started in 2012 before transitioning to a venture fund in 2015.
Impact Engine has supported 37 companies over the last five years with the help of over 500 mentors and investors. In addition, these companies have attracted more than $45 million in follow-on investments and created more than 360 jobs.