Feb 1, 2011, 12:53pm PST
By Christina Williams
Editor, Sustainable Business Oregon

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A Portland organization focused on promoting and supporting social entrepreneurs is teaming up with Mission Markets, a New York startup aiming to build an online exchange for investing in enterprises with environmental and social missions.

Springboard Innovation, which in 2009 launched ChangeXchange, an online matchmaker between social ventures and financial backers, will partner with Mission Markets to market the concept of what’s being called “impact investing” — putting money into ventures that pursue social and environmental goals.

The partnership highlights a growing interest in the practice of impact investing among both accredited investors and money managers on Wall Street as well as individuals inspired by the popularity of microfinance programs.

“We’re sort of a LinkedIn platform for investor groups,” said Michael Van Patten, founder and CEO of Mission Markets and a 20-year Wall Street veteran. “We try to provide an infrastructure for accessing capital.”

Mission Markets is working with 85 companies in various stages of approval that the company will attempt to match up with a group of 90-and-growing accredited investors. Mission Markets complies with U.S. Securities and Exchange regulations and uses standards such as the Benefit Corporation certification and the Global Impact Investing Rating System to vet companies.

“The tie-in is that they all have something that drives them toward a sustainable impact,” Van Patten said.

Amy Pearl, executive director and CEO of Springboard Innovation, said ChangeXchange differs from Mission Markets in that while it connects would-be backers with social ventures, the transactions are donations rather than investments.

Pearl was inspired to launch ChangeXchange after meeting the founder of South African Social Innovation Exchange, Tamzin Ratcliffe.

Ratcliffe came to Portland last year to speak at Springboard’s annual ReVisioning Value conference. Van Patten is on this year’s agenda for the March conference.

After raising $10,000 through ChangeXchange during its first two months online, Pearl said she has struggled to get the word out about the site.

“Marketing is the biggest challenge,” Pearl said. “So when I met Mike (Van Patten) he said, ‘Ride on our coattails.'”

After getting the infrastructure in place on Mission Markets, Van Patten is in expansion mode, planning Web-based, virtual road shows for its investment prospects and planning to expand its roster of investors.

“What they’re doing is pretty powerful,” said Gregg Semler, managing director and co-founder at Pivotal Investments, a Portland venture capital firm. “It’s an early-stage company, but they’re a potential platform.”

Malaika Maphalala, a Portland-based financial adviser with Natural Investments LLC, another Mission Markets ally, said the partnership is a sign of growing support for mission investing.

“We’re excited about the relationship with mission Market to help develop impact investing here in the Northwest,” Maphalala said. “I admire this. It’s important.”

Christina Williams
Editor, Sustainable Business Oregon

[email protected] | 503.219.3438