In an era of disruptive change, innovation and creativity are pivotal in the process of working together to find the right solutions to the challenges that it inevitably triggers.
The world is changing. While the realm of technology and information is expanding, many of us feel we are entering a new era that yet needs to be decrypted. I, myself, feel that my way of doing journalism is nothing short of obsolete, while many newsrooms nowadays rely on bots and digital engines to do part of the news-hunting that human beings would still be doing a not so long while ago. But journalists are not the only ones concerned. In Bangladesh, many workers are being deemed redundant in the apparel industry as machines are now performing their manual tasks. Likewise in Switzerland where pharmaceutical companies are firing at arm’s length due to the disruptive competition from MedTech startups. Which leaves me wondering if there really are ways to prevent the rise of unemployment, social unrest and poverty that these trends imply?
Yes, there are; and I am confident about that. The above examples are all picked off the media which, as we know, tend to be quite fussy about automation and robotics; but there is always a brighter side to things. Like, instead of the ‘robots are stealing human jobs’ speech, why not develop a ‘technology is helping us to work and live better’ discourse? From small villages in Africa to high-tech compounds in Europe, social innovation is a global reality, and it is building in us more hope into finding solutions for a far better quality of life than ever.
Consider SIGEF, the Social Innovation and Global Ethics Forum organized by Horyou; its 5th edition took place in Singapore, last September. Now a leading global event, SIGEF 2018 showcased examples of how human interactions with technology are liable to generate change for good. It also highlighted future energy solutions, smart cities accomplishments, and medical technology advances, while analyzing positive disruptive effects of Blockchain, and exploring promising areas of impact investing, in resonance with the UN Sustainable Development Goals that are set to shape better times to come.
The event notably introduced the realizations of noteworthy innovators such as Kavita Sinha, from Silver Spring Networks, who founded an NGO which uses brain implants to facilitate the inclusion of children with hearing disabilities, or Thuc Vu, co-founder and CEO of OhmniLabs’, who designed and set up an open innovation platform which calls on collaborations to make robotics more accessible.
In the words of Yonathan Parienti, founder and CEO of Horyou, the social network for social good, organizer of SIGEF, and initiator of HoryouToken, a cryptocurrency based on “Blockchain with a purpose”, SIGEF is a platform for the exchange of ideas and hope, where social innovation thrives to bring “real value for society while supporting constructive initiatives aimed at promoting sustainability and inclusion.” Initiatives like these can bring us together as a global society to share solutions and fast-forward thinking.
Events like SIGEF are crucial to show how social innovation can be initiated by everyone and, in most cases, it is sustainable and profitable. What we have learned after 5 years is that social innovation is a tool against ignorance and intolerance and to help open bridges to a healthier, smarter, and more inclusive society.
With its fifth edition of SIGEF, which was staged for the first time in Asia/Singapore, Horyou aimed high and took its participants right where technology pledges inclusion and sustainability.
From its opening remarks through to its closing speeches, with keynotes and panels tackling sensitive yet most relevant themes and topics such as urban sustainability, Fintech and blockchain with a purpose, Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), Gender equality, MedTech for inclusive care, social impact with financial returns, and clean and synchronized future energy, SIGEF2018 was set to serve as the model forum that Millenials have been requiring for years: a practical, positive and feasible solution geared gathering of investors, civil servants, researchers, experts, civil society activists, philanthropists, NGOs and academics sharing experiences, advice and proposals, all bound to lead to a more globally beyond frontier sustainable and inclusive future for all.
Fabrice Filliez, the Swiss Ambassador to Singapore, did the opening at the Suntec Convention Centre, insisting on “Swiss and Singapore commonalities promoting peace and security through dialogue”. This message, clearly, was not meant to stop at bilateral relations but be understood as the condition of possibility of global sustainability and inclusion. Building on the example of Horyou, the social network for social good, Mr. Filliez reminded the two-hundred-and-fifty-participant floor of the role of Switzerland in promoting peace and dialogue through hosting the headquarters of major global institutions whose role and actions are precisely aimed at Shaping Better Times to Come, which was the theme of the Forum.
Filliez was followed by Kazuhiro Hisata, serial entrepreneur, marketing expert, angel investor and a Blockchain evangelist, Founder of SRS Fintech Commerce Ltd. which sponsored the event, reminded the audience that likeminded differences are assets when sharing the same goals. Tackling the particular issue of blockchain and cryptocurrencies and the fears that, in some circles, they may induce, Mr. Hisata insisted that “Money can exist without form or shape; it is a good service and is more usable to change the world“. In that regard, and stemming inspiration from HoryouToken, he affirmed that each one can spread the ideals of Horyou.
Coming next, Yonathan Parienti, founder and CEO of Horyou, the organizer of the Forum, restated the objective of SIGEF2018 as a milestone on the road to “leverage technology to induce inclusion and sustainability”. Insisting on the need to find solutions he urged the participants to show more implication: “Don’t be shy, connect and share; be concrete and your dream – our dream – will turn to reality.”
First pitch on urban sustainability, Natalie Doran, Digital Marketing Director of Timetech, a blockchain-based time exchange project, put forth the importance of global timesharing as key to a more inclusive world. She was followed by Kavita Sinha, from Silver Spring Networks and founder of an NGO that caters for children with hearing disabilities, cited the example of her own son who, thanks to a chip implanted in his brain, “is now like just another kid”, to underscore the importance of technology for inclusion.
Also on that panel, Andy Sim, a philanthropist involved in digital innovations that make giving “simple, meaningful and fun for everyone”, talked about his pursuit of ways to “go beyond smart to avoid being less human”, and advocated the need to “create solutions before technology and to always seek the meaning of life while accruing our means to live.” He was succeeded by Damian Tan, Managing Director of Vickers Venture Partners and long-time IT specialist, who is actively involved in the project of “everyone being able to choose the kind of city they would like to live in”. Commenting on the best ways to mix philanthropy with profit, he asserted that the solution is to “always look for impact.”
Thuc Vu, co-founder and CEO of OhmniLabs’, and a robotics, Artificial Intelligence and algorithms expert, advocated getting over a sense of fear regarding robots and AI, for which end he designed and set up a special open innovation platform that calls on collaborations to make robotics more accessible and human friendly and turn them into real facilitators of inclusion. He was followed by Jan Ondrus, Associate Professor at ESSEC Asia Pacific and director of research at the Center for digital excellence in business, who underscored the digital divide but only to propose way to bridge the gap. “We are not equal in terms of access to technology”, reason why his current interests cover digital business models and innovation, digital platforms and ecosystems strategy, mobile payment and Fintech, and strategy of IT, to get over the divide.
The second session, dedicated to Fintech and blockchain, allowed for a second keynote contribution from Kazuhiro Hisata who described the ways Fintech and Blockchain technology are changing the world & lifestyles. “It is good service”, he asserted, insisting on “the opportunity that it offers to revolutionize humanity”. Also keynote speaker for that session, Yonathan Parienti insisted on the difficulty to get funding for all workers for social good but only to unveil effective ways to “make social good doers visible and sustainable, and help them expand.” “Everyone can be a force for good, everyone can share inspiration and be an agent of change” he added, before introducing HoryouToken, a cryptocurrency based on a Blockchain with a purpose, that “is not about speculation but about a cryptocurrency with real value for society that supports constructive initiatives aimed at promoting sustainability and inclusion.”
On the panel, Karen New, an ICO advisor and author of the first book on cryptocurrency, explicated ways of bridging “the gap in understanding technology of cryptocurrency in the general population”, a major obstacle hindering it’s going mainstream. She confirmed that “regulations are coming into space that will stabilize the market in terms of investment and speculation”, while admitting that “there’s always a risk because it takes time – easily a year or two.” Going in the same direction of how to turn cryptocurrency into mainstream substitute money, Kenneth Bok, director of Singapore-based Blocks, insisted that, beyond the issue of speculation, it is “important to talk about money and how the role of money is changing; talk about who issues and controls money, and how to be smart with fiat money”. Convinced that “decentralization will allow local communities to come together”, because “Blockchain is not just about money but about information.”
Chan Sik Ahn, a legal advisor and partner at HMP Law, explored the tricky ground of legal vs. illegal technology, reminding us of how we sometimes promote and sometimes prohibit technology. Reviewing ways of reconciling law and technology, which aims at the protection of the general public “because Blockchain has the same impact as the Internet”, he insisted on the importance of transparency and the need to make a difference among the many players that are coming up. “You have to look into them and find out about their project”, he advised.
Moving into SIGEF’s session 3 dedicated to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and how to help a quick implementation of their main dispositions, which was complemented with a panel on gender equality, was the occasion for keynote speaker Myriam Feiler, co-founder of bizzi.co, a collaboration platform for the world’s small business owners whose goal is to “enable collaborations that solve the world’s greatest challenges”. To that end, Miriam was looking to meet with individuals and organizations that are addressing the SDGs, as well as those that are committed to helping small businesses overcome their challenges to growth.
On the SDG panel was Mikkel Larsen, managing director at DBS, who assigned himself the mission to strengthen his bank’s sustainability agenda in various ways. In July 2017, for instance, DBS was the first financial institution in Singapore to issue a green bond to support the financing of green assets. “What does a bank to do with sustainability? Seek impact in all SDG areas, including gender equality.” “Money is at the core of everything”, he reminded candidly and “we look into a mix of social and environmental issues and we see the SDGs as investment opportunities.”
Looking into the perennial issue of which SDG should come first, Noriko Mitsui, entrepreneur and philanthropist, and Horyou’s ambassador in Japan, said that while all 17 SDGs are important and “Horyou supports all SDGs”, “for me hunger is my objective; my conviction and mission is that everybody has the right to live happily.” A conviction that was shared by Prasanna Da Silva, World Vision International’s (WVI) Senior Director of Operations/COO for APAC, whose motto is “work together”. Showcasing his unique experience in and excellent understanding of poor and marginalized communities, he underscored the importance of skills in community mobilization, capability building, and interfaith harmonization to successfully implement the SDGs. Da Silva also strongly promoted “the importance of partnerships and close collaboration with local government agencies and other community development actors.”
Da Silva was succeeded by Simon JD Schillebeeckx, Assistant Professor of Strategy & Innovation at the Lee Kong Chian School of Business of Singapore Management University (SMU), who urged all stakeholders for a clear prioritization of the SDGs, putting environmental issues and climate change at the very top, when Arndt Huar, Deputy Director at the UN Development Program (UNDP) Global Centre for Public Service Excellence (GCPSE), reminded panelists and participants alike that “SDG is a complex framework and complicated to measure while it reflects the complexity of reality”. Reflecting on the role of governments, he offered his vision whereby “governments are facilitators and not administrators of change.”
Keynote speaker on gender equality, Josie Ho, multiple award-winning actress, rock star, fashion icon and producer from Hong Kong, drew a list of some of the complications and hindrances relating to gender that an actress is bound to endure on any set but that, nevertheless, her positive and gamey vision of a life revolving around fire, ice and bliss, makes it easier on her to overcome and work to change through dialogue. On that panel, Hayden Majajas, head of diversity and inclusion at Bloomberg APAC, presented his strategy to deliver a measurable improvement in diverse workforce representation and work environment inclusion insisting on the propensity that many have in creating barriers and how to bring those barriers down via an institutional culture of inclusion. He was succeeded by Pia Bruce, soft-spoken and nevertheless very active former Executive Director of the Singapore Committee for UN Women (formerly UNIFEM), drew a compelling picture of her involvement in multiple initiatives that provide women and girls with access to education, economic independence and a life free of violence and abuse. Some of her contributions include supporting women led social enterprises in the region or being on the founding team of Aidha, a micro-business school for foreign domestic workers in Singapore, preparing migrant women to start small successful businesses in their home countries to support their families.
Also on that panel, Stephanie Dickson who assigned herself a “mission to make sustainability mainstream and sexy” as Director Blocks at Green is the new black, which she has founded and is “Asia’s first conscious festival and media platform for people who want to #LiveMoreConsciously by improving the way they think, work and consume while doing more good in the world”, through the organization of international events and experiences where fun and social responsibility go hand in hand.
The session was followed by a musical interlude that served as an introduction to the session on Medtech. The interlude was piloted by Emerson Gale, a violinist and international music education entrepreneur who specializes in soundscape Eco therapy. While doing his pitch, Gale introduced his strategy of building intergenerational communities via the arts and outdoor education in the U.S., U.K., and China. He has produced the Youtube channel Crypto Musical to offer educational information about blockchain for social good projects.
The interlude allowed for the MedTech session to get off to a flying start with a sixteen-year-old panelist who created an application to provide easy education for children with problems. Ondrej Vrabel, a true wonder boy, is indeed the author of the Innovative Project Pinf Hry (www.pinfhry.com), which was featured at SIGEF 2015, and the youngest holder of the Slovak Crystal Wing Award for Philanthropy. Project Pinf Hry helps children with special needs and learning difficulties with color recognition, reading, writing, logical thinking and other important skills which healthy people take for granted.
Ondrej was succeeded by Dr. Prem Pillay, now senior consultant at the Singapore Brain-Spine-Nerves Center at Mt Elizabeth Medical Center and Hospital and at the Advanced Spine Center at Mt Elizabeth Novena Medical Center and Hospital in Singapore. An award-winning and pioneering Neurosurgeon in the areas of less invasive Brain and Spine treatments/surgery, Dr. Prem Pillay predicts and militates for a programmed obsolescence of hospitals in favor of proximity technology that is both more humane and more efficient, whereby patients would be diagnosed and medicated at home thanks to adapted robotics.
Also on the panel, Maria Guzman, a psychologist, writer and life coach is also a survivor who went through a process of rebirth after a coma due to chemotherapy gone wrong. Her teaching/coaching, which she extensively presented at the conference, focuses on the meaning and importance of life and source of life., to close the gap between technology and humanity, and thus paved the way for Dr. Lindsay Wu, Chief Scientific Advisor and co-founder of Life Biosciences, whose work aims to control the ageing process to significantly extend lifespan while maintaining health and fertility late into life.
Then came the much-awaited session on impact investment with an opening keynote speech from Steve Leonard, founder and CEO of Singapore-based SGInnovate, a private limited company wholly owned by the Singapore Government who has chartered Mr. Leonard to lead a program that builds ‘deep-tech’ companies. Capitalizing on the science and technology research for which, he reminded, that Singapore has gained a global reputation, his team has worked with local and international partners, including universities, venture capitalists, and major corporations, to help technical founders imagine, start and scale globally-relevant early-stage technology companies from Singapore. Most notably, he has focused on people with no legal identity and consequently worked on providing legal identity to all and promoted Blockchain and donation to attain his goals. He also supported the revival of declining industries and cited, in that regard, the example of the support he provided to 750,000 people in Cambodia involved in reviving the silk painting industry.
Leonard was succeeded by Decentro Janukta, founder of Decentro Media New Zealand. In his talk, Decentro communicated to the floor his passion about the Education and Poverty aspects of the UN Sustainability Goals in particular, through a game changing truth regarding humanity and how we relate with Mathematics. With his mind challenging title of “Teaching Math to Goldfish”, he elaborated on his discovery and its importance to global social development and our decentralized future.
The panel that followed was comprised of Leonard and Decentro who were joined by Jenni Risku, a social impact entrepreneur and founder of the Women in Tech Conference in Asia. Jenni has been promoting cross-boarder investments between China and Europe until she launched Women in Tech, an annual technology conference that is organized in association with Singapore’s technology and innovation week SWITCH. Women in Tech, she explained, showcases female role models in tech and science, and provides various activities for career development in the industry. Its latest event at the MBS Expo in September, as she underscored, gathered over 1,500 people from 25 countries, had over 60 partner organizations and was sponsored by top industry influencers such as Accenture, Google, Facebook, CA Technologies, Amazon and others, and has attracted top policy makers, startups, corporate and SME leadership, students and media. Also on that panel were Marc Lansonneur, Robert Kraybill and Brian Wilson.
Lansonneur, Managing Director, Head of Managed Solutions and Investment Governance at DBS Singapore where he assigned himself the mission to source and distribute investment products and build an offer in social investment. Insisting on the need to avoid confusion between philanthropy and impact investing, he underscored the need to pick projects with a reasonable promise of guaranteed return on investment. As for Robert Kraybill, Managing Director, Portfolio Management of Impact Investment Exchange (IIX), has been instrumental in restructuring the Women’s Livelihood Bond, a first-of-its-kind listed impact investment bond designed to bring sustainable livelihoods to over 385,000 women in Southeast Asia.
Last but not least, Brian Wilson who defines himself as a Blockchain and cryptocurrency evangelist, has been focusing on Blockchain, cryptocurrency and mining to solve hunger. Based in Japan, he advocated transparency and cited his country of residence as an example of openness. In line with his philosophy, Wilson has started a cryptocurrency bar where he teaches cryptocurrency mining and the importance of this technology to the world. A firm believer in Horyou’s mission statement, he has opted to promote HoryouToken and has become an active ambassador of Horyou in Japan.
The final session on Future Energy kicked off with a keynote speech and two pitches that paved the way for a lively panel on the pivotal question of production standards and synchronized distribution during the transition towards the provision of cleaner energy. In his keynote, Leopold Feiler, a German serial entrepreneur in the fields of strategic marketing, media and communications, and Blockchain enthusiast, presented a revolutionary yet scalable and safe energy storage system that he designed and to which he finds potential to disrupt the future energy market. The pitch of Rowan Logie, an advisor to Swytch, a blockchain renewable energy verification and incentive project designed to create a trustless global market for smart carbon off-setting, presented various ways and devices based on solar energy. As for Vincent Bakker, co-founder and CFO of Positive Energy, he exposed ways and means to simplify the financing of smaller renewable energy projects that are meant to enable a sustainable electrification of the APAC region.
The panel that followed, was comprised of Feiler, Logie and Bakker who were joined by Assaad Razzouk, a Lebanese-British clean energy entrepreneur, investor and commentator, and Ryan Merrill, adjunct professor in sustainability, strategy and innovation at Singapore Management University. The animated discussions tackled the sensitive issue of realistic approaches to a smooth transition toward a wide scale production, storage and distribution of clean energy in the wake of the planned obsolescence – and death, in Mr. Razzouk’s words “Fossil fuels are dead, finished”, he affirmed -, of fossil fuels. Absolute as it was, though put into perspective by the other panelists, Mr. Razzouk’s statement was nevertheless an indication that the future of clean energy seems to be clearing out. That, at least, was the “reason to believe and be optimistic” conclusion of the panel.
Reason(s) to be optimistic was also the closing remark of SIGEF2018’s MC, Teymoor Nabili, as well as its chairman, Yonathan Parienti, both of whom reminded the participants that the forum’s primary aim was to nurture inspiration and positive action, while promoting the adoption of technology and innovation for sustainability and inclusion as the right way to start shaping better times to come. An appointment was made for everyone to gather again at SIGEF 2019.
Horyou revolutionizes philanthropy
at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit
Spotlight, the first digital currency for economic inclusion, will be launched in the event co-organized by the United States Government and the Republic of India.
Geneva, November, 2017 — Horyou, the social network for social good, will announce the launching of Spotlight, the first digital currency for economic inclusion during the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Hyderabad, India, on 28-30 November. After one year of beta testing, Spotlight will be showcased during the event to a strong group of entrepreneurs, government officials and impact investors attending the summit.
This year, the GES focuses on the theme Women First, Prosperity for All, and on supporting women entrepreneurs to foster economic growth globally. In resonance, Horyou will be joining forces with this inspiring initiative. Yonathan Parienti, founder and CEO of Horyou, has been invited by the US Government and the Republic of India to speak for the network on “Go For It: Tapping Alternative Financing Solutions”.
With Spotlight, Horyou supports the implementation of the 2030 United Nations Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals, aiming at providing philanthropic support to millions of social entrepreneurs, women, youth and social good doers by 2020. «It’s an honor to share with this broad audience the disruptive innovations we have been working on over the last few years in order to support social good and set up harmonious conditions for economic inclusion», says Parienti.
More to come
Horyou’s participation in the GES is set to strengthen the social network’s presence in Asia, upon its inauguration in Japan in 2018. «We are proud to announce our growing engagement in Asia through the upcoming launch of Horyou in Japan, spearheading our development in the ASEAN countries. Spotlight aims to start a new chapter for philanthropy and social innovation in the region», adds Parienti.
In 2018, Asia will also host the Social Innovation and Global Ethics Forum (SIGEF), now a milestone global summit on social entrepreneurship and social innovation ecosystem. Following two editions in Geneva, one in Marrakesh, parallel to COP22 and one in Astana, during EXPO 2017, SIGEF 2018 will thus come about in Singapore, during the chairmanship of ASEAN summit in September. «Smart Cities, FinTech, MedTech, Impact Investing, Future Energies and the Sustainable Development Goals will be the main areas explored in this fifth edition of SIGEF, in Singapore, one of the leading innovative Cities and States worldwide”, concludes Parienti.
The Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES), an event co-organized by the United States Government and the Republic of India, will take place in Hyderabad, India, on 28-30 November. This year, it will highlight the theme Women First, Prosperity for All, and focus on supporting women entrepreneurs and fostering economic growth globally.
A strong group of entrepreneurs, government officials and impact investing actors will attend the event, reflecting the GES diversity of cultures and expertise. The Summit aims to foster the conditions that empower innovators to take their ideas to the next level. Horyou will present aspects of its experience as a social network for social good, in resonance with this inspiring social innovation initiative. Yonathan Parienti, founder and CEO of Horyou, has been invited by the US State Department and its Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva to attend the GES and speak for the network on the topic of “Go For It: Tapping Alternative Financing Solutions”. Before the international attendees, he will share his vision and perspective around the launch of Spotlight, the first digital currency for impact that supports philanthropy and economic inclusion.
With Spotlight, as well as its many other events and initiatives, and Foundation, Horyou supports the implementation of the 2030 Agenda of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, while aiming to provide philanthropic support to millions of social entrepreneurs, women, youth and social good projects.
«It is a great credit to our efforts to be given such a unique opportunity to share with this international audience the disruptive innovations we have been working on over the past few years at Horyou to further social good and to set up more harmonious conditions for economic inclusion», says Mr. Parienti. «Horyou, the social network for social good, has many stories to disclose about inspiring women, with our member organizations, whose initiatives lead by example in shaping a better future for their communities », he adds.
The Global Entrepreneurship Summit is one of the most important annual entrepreneurship gatherings in the world in that it showcases the efforts of both emerging and developed countries to answer the challenge of furthering joint business opportunities worldwide. GES 2017 aims to create an empowering environment for innovators, especially women, to take their ideas to the next level. The Right Honorable Prime Minister of India, Mr. Narendra Modi, is expected to inaugurate the Summit on 28 November 2017 and Mrs. Ivanka Trump, advisor to the President of the United States on advancing policies and initiatives for women empowerment, is due to lead the US delegation. As she recently reminded the World Assembly for Women in Tokyo: «Ensuring 50% of our population can fully participate in the workforce is critical to strengthen our communities and grow our prosperity».
GES participants will be supported by mentors and coaches, through workshops and networking sessions, and will be provided with opportunities to meet funders, build partnerships and find their target customers. Plenary sessions will highlight businesses led by women and their stories while master classes will discuss innovative topics as Blockchain, Fintech and e-commerce. «It is an amazing ecosystem to be part of and feel inspired by, due to the diversity of its participants. We will be there to speak the language of social entrepreneurship to shape a better future for the generations to come», concludes Yonathan Parienti.
Horyou blog will provide regular GES updates! Be the change, be Horyou!
One part of technology, two parts of social innovation, mixed with a generous deal of good intentions and a pinch of thoughtful investments: voilà! We have a recipe for successful social entrepreneurship. Horyou blog is media partner of the Social Good Summit, an impact investment and social innovation event which took place in Geneva on the 6th of October, during which we followed the journey of real-life changemakers and now share their stories!
Organized by Impact Hub in conjunction with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the one-day event was focused on promoting social entrepreneurship and impact investing for the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Dozens of entrepreneurs, investors, media and organizations shared success stories and inspiration to transform the world into a better place.
The opening speech was delivered by Sarah Bel and Maria Luisa Silva, from UNDP who called for the engagement of all actors to pursue the agenda of SDGs. The private sector and innovators are key participants on this social good path as “we will need an incredible amount of innovation in the next 15 years, and that’s exactly what the private sector does better”, said Maria Luisa. Karen Wilson, from the OECD, asked: “Why invest in social innovation? Because it makes good business sense – it is an innovative and increasingly accountable way to diversify portfolios”.
The Summit was then open to the real stories of young and brave finalists of Accelerate 2030, a social impact supporting program which received more than 177 applications from 10 countries. The 5 best projects were presented during the Social Good Summit. There were amazing stories such as Agruppa’s, a Colombian startup who has helped small food shop owners to buy 30% cheaper and be more competitive only by aggregating their demand in a mobile technology solution; or Ignitia’s, a tropical weather forecast company much more accurate and with a strong focus on small farmers from climate change vulnerable areas in Africa.
All the entrepreneurs gave a short pitch to the audience and then answered questions about their business models, challenges, potential grey areas and future developments. All of them were looking for investors and shared their prospective plans with a very engaged public.
Many of them face the challenge of maximizing their impact. “Good leadership, quick learning and simple business models are important drivers”, said John Ayliffee, CEO of Swiss Idea Box. Access to talent and to financing are also challenges, according to Krisztina Tora, from the UNLTD, especially in developing countries – difficulties like finding good back office professionals were mentioned by some entrepreneurs during the event. All of the speakers shared a vision for 2030: a world with equal opportunities for all social entrepreneurs, shared business models and markets. Deeper and broader positive impact on society.
Investors also had the opportunity to express their views on innovative ventures. Bertrand Gacon, from Lombard Obier bank, sees mainstream investors increasingly accepting the idea of impact investments – he believes entrepreneurs still have to work on liquidity mechanisms to be more attractive. Katherine Millinga, from Schwab Foundation, added that social enterprises should leverage technology, distribution and aggregation solutions to attract more investors.
Aymeric Jung, from Quadia, believes sustainable businesses are a matter of survival. “Impact investing is the new economy”, he said. Ivan Agabekov, from INOKS, explained impact is not a subcategory of investment – according to him, performance and impact should not be excluding.
The Social Good Summit ended with their visions of the future – a more impactful one, with more innovative and profitable social entrepreneurs and a true aim to turn the Sustainable Development Goals into reality. Being a strong supporter of the SDGs, Horyou shares their views and believes that the future lies in social innovation & social good. 2030, here we go!
Eric Lonergan first grabbed my attention when I came across an interview with him in an Irish Sunday newspaper. As somebody who also read philosophy and political economy at University, I’m always intrigued as to how I often look at economic issues through a completely different lens than some of my contemporaries who have studied pure finance or mathematics. Horyou, although not solely profit seeking, is an enterprise like any other with respect to having financial costs, so it is keenly aware that money, whether used for social or personal interest, is a tool of mobilization. In the interview I read, I learned that Eric Lonergan has just written a book on the philosophy of money and society’s relationship with it it. And I found myself nodding along with much of Eric’s hypotheses, so I was delighted when he agreed to sit down for a chat.
1) You did your undergraduate degree in philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford and your masters in economics and philosophy at the London School of Economics. Subsequently, working as a hedge fund manager, do you find yourself reading certain situations or analyzing things differently to your colleagues who might have studied pure finance?
One of the challenges with education in areas like economics and finance is that you have to learn the conventional wisdom before you can identify what’s wrong with it. So I spent a lot of my time studying mainstream economics and finance – much of which has some insight. Even advocates of ‘efficient markets’ like Eugene Fama, have useful observations. That said, the most useful studying I have done, ironically, was philosophy. I learned that virtually all theories are flawed, as is a lot of ‘expert opinion’. Financial markets are similarly unforgiving. Pure finance typically ignores the most important aspect of markets – human behavior and psychology.
2) In your recent, highly acclaimed book ‘Money’, you make the point that money as a function should be looked at as a tool to live rather than an ability to accumulate. Was this view formed from your academic study or from seeing money at work in the real world?
Part of the reason I wrote ‘Money’ was to broaden our understanding of money and finance. One of the intellectually fascinating aspects of money is that it underpins human progress, but it is also a source of many problems. I tried to explore this theme more broadly. Finance connects us all at a real human level – pensions are inter-generational transfers, mortgage lending connects depositors and young households etc. And at the other extreme, millions of people are inter-connected through global financial markets. I have seen both sides at work in the real world. At a positive level, global investors can try and set high standards for global governance, encourage long-term thinking in policy-making, and finance international trade and the exchange of technology and ideas. These are all positive forces. The other side of this interdependence is that you can have destructive financial panics – which I witnessed first-hand in the late 1990s, during the Asian crisis, and again in 2008. The challenge for policy-makers is to harness the benefits of trade and finance and mitigate these risks – which primarily means developing policies to prevent or shorten recessions.
3) There are hundreds of stories of people leaving finance post crises, when the greed of the system was exposed, including Horyou’s own CEO who held director positions at JP Morgan and Bank of China. As someone who still works in the industry, have you seen a definite culture shift/change in priorities? How does conversation within the industry compare to pre-financial crisis?
I do think there has been a cultural shift, encouraged also by a major shift in the regulatory environment, which should be welcomed by the industry. But it would be naive to think that an industry mainly focused on making money will foster a culture of generous, socially-minded, individuals! The main challenge for the regulators, who have a difficult task, is to ensure that the incentives of participants in the industry are aligned with doing the right thing, and ultimately the interests of broader society.
4) Horyou have just launched their global social currency “Spotlight”, which matches investors to social enterprises they want to support. We see that there is a huge appetite for impact investing, green finance etc. What are your views on these areas? Will environmental/social returns ever override profits for investors or as consumers become more discerning and regulations tighten, do you think they even have a choice to ignore more sustainable investment patterns?
My thinking on this has been heavily influenced by knowing and working with Nigel Kershaw from the Big Issue, and one of the UK’s leading social entrepreneurs and thinkers. I think social enterprises will grow in importance. In contrast to many charities, which have to devote considerable resources to fund-raising, social enterprises can be self-sufficient. And they can have an economic advantage – there is little doubt, I think, that consumers will continue to be more discerning in considering the broader effects of their actions and those of the enterprises they interact with.
5) What are the main areas you are seeing investment opportunity in, in the short term?
I try always to think in terms of the ‘long term’ – there is a lot of distracting noise in the short-term. I think one of the most interesting aspects of public markets currently – a huge fad – is what I call ‘volatility aversion’. Investor obsession with recent historic volatility as a measure of risk is causing huge anomalies in pricing. The most straightforward manifestation of this is the equity risk premium – the difference in implied returns from equities compared with government bonds. Global equities are currently priced to deliver far superior returns to government bonds over the next five to 10 years.
6) Finally, Horyou support people making impact on society for good. What impact or contribution do you want to be remembered for/still want to achieve?
I’m too much of a philosopher to want to be remembered for anything – I’m not sure that’s a helpful ambition! I would be very happy if I could contribute to the development of policies that shorten the duration of recessions.
Eric Longeran has an interesting way of looking at the world. I could be accused of bias, considering we share many of the same views on the concept of money within society, but the more we watch economies evolve each day, the more we realise how we view money and our propensity to spend or save, is actually very much driven by human sentiment and social pressures, be it from our neighbour or the data we see in the markets. There is nothing to say that these views are right or wrong, but it is becoming more apparent that the discipline of economics is moving away from linear models and learning to adapt to the uncertain world we live in today.