AVPN had a chat with Paul Carttar and Nat Sloane on their views on the stage of venture philanthropy in Asia and what one can expect from AVPN’s inaugural conference in May this year.
Paul Carttar, former director of the US Social Innovation Fund, has had several engagements in the Asia-Pacific region in the course of his career. In the 1990s, Paul served as head of business development and marketing for two companies in the medical device industry that had strong competitive positions in the region. He says that as a socially conscious business consultant and manager, he had a strong predisposition to venture philanthropy (VP). Paul is one of the keynote speakers at the AVPN conference in May 2013 and he is of the view that venture philanthropy “can be a very powerful and productive force for social change and that Asians have extraordinary potential to make stronger impact faster by leveraging on the accumulated experience of their US and European predecessors – including both successes and failures”.
According to Nat Sloane, also a keynote speaker at the AVPN conference and co-founder of Impetus Trust, the VP and social investment market are still emerging even in the US and Europe and so the pace of development can seem slow and patchy. However, he says this isn’t surprising considering how the venture capital industry developed. In terms of implications for Asia, he argues that there is a need for a “patient impatience” which refers to how “it is always worth pushing hard to drive change, but trying not to get frustrated if the pace of change on the ground at any one point in time does not match one’s aspirations”.
Nat says that Asian investors have return expectations that are “probably still too high relative to performance to date and to the likely performance in the future”. In his view, low single digit returns will represent success and bringing that perspective into Asian investors’ outlook will be helpful.
Raising capital remains one of the most critical aspects of venture philanthropy, and Paul believes that the VP approach can be applied at any point where a high-potential or proven social purpose organisation requires growth capital to expand its impact. In his view, the sweet spot for a VP looks to be what is generally referred to as the “promising stage”, which occurs after an organisation has established the basic validity of its programme and organisational models, but before the point when the main imperative is to scale.
Nat founded Impetus in 2002 with Stephen Dawson on the principle that ambitious charities and social enterprises deserve to have access to the money and skills needed to build and scale organisations, and not just projects. He has traveled around India to meet social entrepreneurs over the last three years and has been “impressed with the fearless ambition that these entrepreneurs have exhibited”.He feels that conferences such as AVPN’s own in May 2013 offer networking that is always valuable “especially as the learning drawn from practitioners working in the emerging social financial markets is real intellectual gold dust”.
Paul, on the other hand, says those engaged in social entrepreneurship and venture philanthropy should attend the AVPN conference for two primary reasons: the first is it is an effective and cost-efficient way for a participant in VP to take advantage of the accumulated expertise of others in this arena and expand one’s knowledge about the broad range of subjects critical to delivering strong performance. Secondly, it is a powerful and efficient way to establish relationships with other participants, which can add enormous value.
Paul and Nat will be the two keynote speakers at the AVPN Annual Conference 2013, sharing their vast experience working on social innovation and venture philanthropy in the US and UK respectively.
The AVPN Annual Conference 2013 will be held on 9-10 May 2013 at the Singapore Management University.Tickets at SGD500 are available at www.avpn2013.com