We in Social Tech Partner Stories: ClearlySo on investment and the Social Tech sector
Q & A with Rod Schwartz Chief Executive of ClearlySo on investment and the Social Tech sector.
#WeinSocialTech #PartnerStories Accelerator partners
“The opportunities for social tech businesses are astonishing.
Never has the cost been so low and the opportunity so high to disrupt traditional economic sectors.“
What does it take to fundraise successfully, and what does the landscape looks like for the social tech sector?
Rod Schwartz, Chief Executive of ClearlySo, Accelerator partner and Mentor shares his thoughts on the matter
Q: Tell us a bit about your business and your purpose
RS: ClearlySo is an impact investment bank. That means we offer all the corporate finance and advisory services of a more conventional investment bank, but all our clients are enterprises and funds aimed at generating social and environmental impacts of a positive nature, at the same time they generate financial returns. We are the largest impact investment bank in Europe, having helped clients to raise roughly £250m since inception. We have connected nearly 150 clients with individual investors in the UK and institutional investors from across Europe. Our headquarters is in London and we were founded here almost 11 years ago; the same week Lehman Brothers collapsed.
Q: Why are you supporting the We in Social Tech programme?
RS: Since inception, technology-based businesses have been a big component in the enterprises we advise. In the impact investment space in particular, female entrepreneurs are better represented than in entrepreneurship generally. Also, with regard to ClearlySo’s angel network, there has historically been a higher percentage of women than in the mainstream. Nevertheless, we feel it is important to support social tech programs in general and are delighted to participate in this program which aims to encourage women entrepreneurs into social tech enterprises.
Q: What support are you providing to the female founders in the programme?
RS: As the CEO of ClearlySo I am personally delighted to be mentoring one of the women entrepreneurs—
a woman called Jane Fellner from Loopster. She is a person with a terrific background and a brilliant idea and I’m trying to help in any way I can to bring it to fruition. Her focus is on the recycling of baby clothes, thereby reducing waste, but also on making baby clothes affordable to many.
Q: What general advice would you provide our female founders to help improve their chances of gaining investment?
RS: I would give them the same advice that I would give any entrepreneur. Be able to clearly articulate why your enterprise is uniquely able to meet an important problem which you have identified. Do not focus overly on the nature of the problem but do explain clearly and succinctly why what you are doing is needed, relatively unique, defensible and has an attractive outlook.
Q: What potential is there for social tech businesses in today’s market and how is this important, in comparison to traditional businesses?
RS: The opportunities for social tech businesses are astonishing. Never has the cost been so low and the opportunity so high to disrupt traditional economic sectors. Furthermore, the fact that mainstream providers in many areas (think of utilities, for example) are delivering poor services and high prices provides an “open goal” for these social tech businesses.
Q: Do you have any other comments or thoughts that could be of interest to out participants?
RS: For women entrepreneurs in particular, it is important to ignore the fact that in the past discrimination has made things unfairly difficult. This and other programs are now there to help achieve ambitions, and the unique perspectives they have as individuals will give them, in time, a competitive edge.
Rodney Schwartz is CEO and Founder of ClearlySo, with a background in equity research, management, investment banking and venture capital. Joining Wall Street in 1980, he rose to become the number one ranked financial services analyst at PaineWebber and then held senior management posts at Lehman Brothers and Paribas, before leaving the sector in 1997 to found the fintech-oriented VC firm Catalyst. Rodney is a pioneer in the impact investment marketplace and he transformed Catalyst into a social business consultancy, which in 2008 morphed into ClearlySo, a business designed, “to help create 100 Justgivings”. This seemed an exciting new style of company, which achieves significant impact as well as great financial returns. Rodney also teaches Impact investing at the Said Business School (Oxford) and the ESMT (Berlin), and is Former Chair of Shelter, The Green Thing, Space Hive and JustGiving, in addition to having served on many fintech. He holds an MBA and BA from the University of Rochester and has four adult children.
Applications to the third cohort of We in Social Tech are open now until 17 November 2019.