Investing for Social and Financial Return

Socially-driven healthcare companies, who may be unable to attract conventional venture investment because they address small markets, can turn to philanthropic venture capital investors, like those that have invested in Israeli companies via Impact First Investments.

Impact First Investments’s mission is to invest in companies that provide both a social and financial return, explains Cecile Blilious, a managing partner. “Often these are companies with small markets that other investment firms neglect,” said Blilious, speaking at the recent ID2 conference on Israeli Innovation in the Developing World. She pointed out that IFI has facilitated and managed investments by European investors in many Israeli life science companies that provide technological solutions to global healthcare problems including Neurotech, AMD Diagnostics and EarlySense.

Neurotech Solutions approached IFI in 2007 with a request for seed funding for a product aimed at helping solve an unmet medical need for people suffering from ADHD: an online test that helps doctors and health professionals diagnose ADHD patients. Because a limited market was involved, the inventor was having trouble finding financial backing. IFI provided seed funding and the company began to develop its product. The company has since then successfully proven the value of its technology, attracted other investors and is close to obtaining FDA approval and earning a profit. Similarly, the founders of EarlySense came to IFI with a request for funding for a product that would help monitor children at risk of having asthma attacks. IFI provided seed funding and as the company continued to develop its product, it discovered that the technology could also be used for remote under-the-mattress monitoring of many different kinds of patients in hospitals. The company expanded its business model, received FDA approval and has become a commercial success.

“Our goal is to take the power of the free market and harness it to benefit society and solve social problems,” says Blilious.

It was not surprising that IFI participated in a conference dealing with the problems of the developing world as that is where the greatest unmet medical, social and environmental challenges are to be found. ” Israeli innovation can be channeled to effectively and sustainably improve the lives of individuals and communities around the globe,” she concludes.

Impact First Investments is currently forming a dedicated Israeli technology investment fund.

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