OpenInvest Asks Investors to Put Their Money Where Their Values Are

May 16, 2017

5:50 pm

Investing platform OpenInvest has just raised $3.25 million in a seed round led by Andreessen Horowitz.

Termed a “social impact investing platform,” the company is one of the first VC-backed Public Benefit Corporations and operates by allowing its users to select issues they care about (climate change, LGBTQ rights, you name it) and then builds a custom portfolio to yield returns in alignment with the customers’ personal values.

OpenInvest is grown 85 percent since its soft launch last September, so Tech.Co used their seed round announcement as an opportunity to have a chat with OpenInvest CEO and cofounder Conor Murray about just how OpenInvest’s unique approach to socially responsible investing works.

Read about startups raising capital in your city at Tech.Co

Looking for a Positive Impact

Conor, alongside cofounder Phil Wei, was inspired to start their investing platform after starting with one question: How could they have the biggest positive impact on the society around them?

“We tried to figure out how we could have the biggest impact on society given our backgrounds / skill sets,” Conor tells me. “After a few months of exploring, and talking more with [Josh Levin, a sustainable finance leader from the world’s largest environmental organization, WWF], who has a deep background in that space, we saw a massive gap between the things people care about and their investments.

“We believe that if we allow people to align their investments with social and environmental issues, we can create a massive driver for positive change.”

competition

But Which Values Are the Right Values?

OpenInvest helps investors influence the world using their values. But does the platform embody any values itself? Conor had three of them on hand:

“Our values are honesty, transparency and integrity,” he explains. “OpenInvest is empowering people to drive activism with their investments. We are a public benefit corporation, meaning we are a mission-driven company that values impact as well as adding value. OpenInvest is aligned with what it cares about: the public good.”

But could the platform’s values ever be at odds with potential investors’ values?

“For VC investors, we explicitly look for financial backers or partners that align with our mission,” Conor says. “In regards to our customers, it is possible given that both our issues and a client’s are always evolving, but with a dedication to complete transparency, we will always be very clear and up-front about these.”

OpenInvest’s goals are an interesting take on the “philanthropreneur” movement: They aim to balance social consciousness with a financial benefit. Their investors are certainly optimistic they’ll succeed:

“OpenInvest is democratizing a movement that has already captured a significant percentage of institutional dollars, but in a much more powerful, granular, and approachable way,” Alex Rampell, general partner, Andreessen Horowitz, mentions in their press release.

Time will tell if OpenInvest can pull off this approach, but cofounders are definitely fulfilling their original goal: They’re shooting for the biggest positive impact on the world around them.

Read more about eco-friendly startups at Tech.Co

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Adam is a writer with an interest in a variety of mediums, from podcasts to comic books to video essays to novels to blogging — too many, basically. He's based out of Seattle, and remains a staunch defender of his state's slogan: "sayWA." In his spare time, he recommends articles about science fiction on Twitter, @AdamRRowe

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