Sunday 11 December 2016

Berber plans €45m of funding deals for social enterprise start-ups

John Reynolds

Published 01/05/2016 | 02:30

Philip Berber has form in social enterprise
Philip Berber has form in social enterprise

Dublin-born tech entrepreneur Philip Berber has launched a new online funding platform that connects wealthy investors with social enterprise start-ups looking to raise money.

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The CyberCorp founder - who in 2000 made €488m when he sold the share trading firm - has invested €700,000 of his and his wife Donna's money in establishing the platform, Enable Impact. He aims to help businesses with a social mission that also want to make a profit raise a total of €45m over the next three years.

"Most of the ventures seeking funding work in developing countries, bring innovation and sustainable business solutions. Impact investing creates the opportunity of both a financial return, as well a social, humanitarian, environmental or other benefit," said Berber.

According to research by leading US investment advisors Cambridge Associates, funds of under €90m that invested in this way between 1998 and 2010 returned 9.5pc to investors, compared to 4.5pc for funds invested in traditional businesses. Impact investment funds focused on emerging markets returned 9.1pc, with those invested in Africa returning 9.7pc.

When Berber founded Enable Impact last year, the platform had hundreds of start-ups and investors registered. However, it is now a more focused investment services company and funding platform, partnered with US ­broker-dealer North Capital and fully regulated.

It remains free for investors (who must for regulatory reasons be based in the US) to use, while entrepreneurs from anywhere in the world pay a fee to raise money.

"We still offer a free searchable database of companies and investors, but now focus on a smaller number of great businesses and help connect them with relevant investors.

"I'm back in the online investing business again - but this time for profit and purpose," said Berber.

It currently has 30 active investors, while three investments - in education, baby food and a charitable giving business - have closed. Another three businesses - in solar energy, medicine and education - are seeking investments of between €130,000 and €1.4m.

Expanding the venture to allow people outside the US to invest would depend on collaboration with global partners, Berber said.

The Ferrari owner and Formula One fan and his wife have a long track record in social enterprise and charitable works.

Since 2000, the couple has given $42m in donations and microloans in Ethiopia through their charity A Glimmer of Hope (which has partnered with USAid and the Dell Foundation) and a water charity also backed by Virgin businessman Richard Branson.

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