Ifund focuses on the provision of information on the one hand, and the promotion of entrepreneurial endeavour with the right impact on the right subject matter areas on the other. The i in ifund was not chosen lightly: it stands for inventiveness, intelligence, idealism, inspiration, interest, ideas, input and initiative. Entrepreneurs possess these character traits or skills and are better equipped than many to tackle these challenges.
Effective information – because people need to know what’s going on – is a pre-requisite to successful behavioural change. It can stimulate demand for a new way of living. It can also support the call for entrepreneurship, because new social enterprises can generate the supply of new options.
Alongside supporting others who endorse the Foundation’s goals, ifund itself takes initiatives to contribute to both its educational and entrepreneurial objectives.
Inter-personal communication increasingly takes place directly through visuals and less through text (books and reports etc.). A picture says more than a thousand words… Developments in information communication technology have simplified the production of a documentary or explanimation (a short animated explanatory video) and the distribution of these media is no longer an issue.
Ifund supports the development and distribution of documentaries, short films and explanimations of an educational nature about the way in which our current energy, food and water systems as well as the human dimension itself actually work. The Foundation itself develops initiatives in each of these focal areas.
The ifund Foundation carefully researches the problems that are fundamental to its goals. The next step is to pursue solution strategies that warrant further support. In reality, it inevitably happens that ifund is occasionally obliged to draw the conclusion that there are too few solution strategies. In that case, ifund can encourage their development by proclaiming a prize contest.
The winner of a prize contest takes home a cash sum that must be spent on further research or in the development of an idea towards a specific solution – and possibly the setting up of a company. Ifund supports this process with advice, experts, office premises and experimentation space, to name but a few.
Somebody has an idea and seeks a sparring partner or simply advice. There may not even be a tangible idea, but a clear set of interests, goals or ideals and a distinct knowledge area on hand. Ifund can then help by accelerating the shape of the contours of a feasible concept. A temporary think tank composed of experts can be formed, based on the know-how and interests of the initiator. The experts can be drawn from the initiator’s own network or invited by the Foundation. The result is twofold; either the conclusion that the idea is unfeasible, or that the idea is specific and entrepreneurial enough to be viable so long as a business plan is developed for the next phase.
In this next phase – from idea to start-up – much theoretical and practical research is required and offices premises are needed to carry this out. Ifund not only provides this space (an office and a lab, for example), but also creates synergy for the various start-ups in this phase of their development and that share the same objectives. Best suited for these purposes is the current incubator model. In this case, ifund compiles a network of mentors to fully support the Foundation and its associated entrepreneurs, to maintain contact with universities and to draft internship assignments.
The ifund Foundation is the investor behind BlueCity in Rotterdam, located in the former Tropicana swimming pool. Ifund runs its office from here and the entrepreneurs in whom ifund invests can move into inspiring office accommodation amongst other impact entrepreneurs and make use of the available dry and wet lab facilities. Click here for more information.
Funding is a pre-requisite as a company develops. It is a curious fact of life that the risks diminish relative to the developmental phase of a company, but the funding requirement only increases. In general, banks will only provide capital on the basis of extensive collateral. Informal investors are sometimes prepared to assume greater risk, but often demand an exceptionally high return on investment. And charitable causes often only truly look at impact, an aspect that on its own does not stimulate entrepreneurship.
The problem with funding social enterprises is precisely the focus on impact as well as return on investment, instead of solely on return on investment or impact. Ifund envisions that true change and impact can only be achieved through scale. And scale is only attainable for companies that actually make a little money. A company reliant on donations is doomed to fail once the donations fall off.
Ifund targets impact first companies with a solid and feasible business plan. The Foundation does what it takes to support and develop these start-ups, and does so in such a way that standard banks and investors are willing and able to finance further growth. Ifund is prepared to act as co-financier of impactful and feasible business plans, should the start-up itself be unable to attract funding through the normal channels, or should there be too much uncertainty in the company’s developmental phase.