When it comes to investing, in some ways, the Pacific Northwest region is uncharted. Paths can seem unclear for both potential backers and entrepreneurs. Now, a group of dedicated social and economic infrastructure builders and connecters, foundations, and even UO students are catching the attention of Forbes, the Portland Business Journal, and others, with an updated plan to highlight avenues of support for entrepreneurs and, equally important, show where there is a need but the funding piece is missing.
Students from the Cameron Center for Finance and Security Analysis and Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship and Lundquist College’s assistant dean for centers John Hull—with support and contributions from place-based investment company Canopy and wealth management firm Threshold Group—produced the 2016 Pacific Northwest Capital Scan to highlight trends across the investment ecosystem of the Pacific Northwest. Broadly, the scan focuses on the emerging field of impact investing, or investing with the goal of generating positive community, social, or environmental outcomes alongside financial returns. This work follows past reports focused solely within the state of Oregon.
Conceived by a group of Oregon foundations led by the Oregon Community Foundation, the original Oregon Capital Scan came out in 2012. With Hull’s guidance, the Lundquist College helped produced an update in 2014. This expanded 2016 report dives even deeper, expanding beyond Oregon to include the entire Pacific Northwest and further illuminating the gaps in opportunities for early stage funding for ventures. The new report also notes the traction gained in the intervening two years.
The value of the report reaches beyond investors and entrepreneurs. Hull noted Oregon lawmakers have picked up on some of the scan’s suggestions and dedicated, region-specific accelerators have also taken root in the form of Fertilab Thinkubator, Technology Association of Oregon, and Oregon RAIN (Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network).
“Taking a regional view, the 2016 Pacific Northwest Capital Scan is a guiding document for foundations, endowments, governments, and even individuals to invest more strategically in to their local communities,” said Brad Harrison, Impact Investing Strategist, Threshold Group.
As an added bonus, Canopy summarized the UO data and built an interactive, online map for investors, entrepreneurs, and public agencies to more easily find local investment opportunities.
“Think of it as the Zillow for regional investing,” said Harrison.
Founded in 2015 by leading impact investors including The Russell Family Foundation, Meyer Memorial Trust, and The Laird Norton Family Foundation, Canopy serves six large regional foundations who are collectively seeking to align their investment portfolios with their shared regional economic development goals. Canopy has built a platform for deal sourcing, mapping, and fund incubation through regional partnerships, including with the University of Oregon.
The 2016 Pacific Northwest Capital Scan is just one outcome of the Lundquist College’s collaboration with Canopy. With the aid of the college’s student-led Oregon Business Consulting Group, Canopy explored several topics within the regional impact investing ecosystem, such as the challenges of raising impact investing funds, the roles of public-private partnerships, and new tools for launching social enterprises. One example is a handbook for first-time fund managers looking to raise capital from institutional investors in the region. These projects are in many ways about putting the Pacific Northwest Capital Scan into practice. The case studies and handbook will provide proof points, templates, and guidance for entrepreneurs to leverage.
“It is incredibly exciting to work on a problem without a clear idea of what you will find or what the results will be. We had to synthesize dense details from interviews and work it into something that was both insightful as well as digestible for any audience,” said OBCG’s Chris Ableidinger ’17.
Soukpafolo Soro ’16, also a member of OBCG, said working on these projects was challenging, but ultimately one of his greatest student experiences.
“At the end of the day, it requires a lot of hard work and substantial research, but the skills you acquire in this process are unrivaled. There is no better way to separate yourself from your peers in the job market,” he said.
Hull, who along with his assistant dean role also serves as executive director of the UO Lundquist Business Innovation Institute, sees the potential influence of the scan as far-reaching.
“Our focus is on making an impact on students but also impacting communities and businesses throughout Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. More and better access to capital can result, over time, in more jobs and opportunities for the entire region. We are thrilled to work so closely with Canopy and their partners as place-based impact investing grows from a concept to an initiative,” he said.