With nearly 30 members, the Philadelphia chapter of Investors’ Circle, a national angel group that invests in social entrepreneurs, is the biggest chapter in the country.
The local chapter started in 2009 and was the first of its kind, said IC-Philadelphia president John Moore. Investors’ Circle was traditionally a group of angel investors spread throughout the country. They’d meet twice a year on each coast for two days of startup presentations. Now, cities like New York, Raleigh and San Francisco are following Philadelphia’s lead and building up local chapters of their own.
“This is one way that Philly is teaching the rest of the venture world,” said Moore of the group, which meets monthly to hear pitches from local companies.
IC-Philadelphia has invested $3 million in 10 companies since its launch, including sustainable laundry service Wash Cycle Laundry, sponsored advertising startup ElectNext (now Versa) and women’s financial literacy site DailyWorth. Those companies have gone on to raise $22 million, Moore said. The group only considers companies in a two-hour train ride radius (that would put D.C. in, but Boston out).
Why create a group that focuses on investing locally? It’s a move toward more hands-on investing. If investors are just a train ride away, they can have a closer relationship with their portfolio company and “bring more to the table than cash,” as Moore puts it. Of course, the idea of investors requiring the companies they invest in to relocate nearer to them is a traditional concept that is fading. This, on the other hand, is about sourcing deals in one’s own community.
IC-Philadelphia was founded by GoodCompany Ventures head Garrett Melby, SustainVC managing partner Tom Balderston, B-Lab cofounder Jay Coen Gilbert and Cliff David, who runs a sustainable real estate company called Cirsium. It’s an anchor of Philadelphia’s strengthening social enterprise sector.
IC-Philadelphia held a pitch event that was open to the public earlier this month that drew 160 people, Moore said. These are different from the monthly meetings that IC-Philadelphia has, which are closed to the public. Code for America founder Jennifer Pahlka was the keynote speaker.
The following companies pitched at the event, held at Blank Rome in Center City. (The event was open to companies from all over the country.)
- Wash Cycle Laundry (Philadelphia)
- Scrible, which participated in the Philadelphia-run Education Design Studio, inc. edtech accelerator (Silicon Valley)
- Jail Education Systems, which participated in the FastFWD social entrepreneurship accelerator
- EDpuzzle (Palo Alto)
- EVConnect (Los Angeles)
- GroViaDiaper (Montana)
- mHealth (Philadelphia)
- The Recycling Network (New Hampshire)
- E3Clean Technologies (Ohio)
- MPowered (NYC)
- Fig Food (NYC)