Several weeks ago we heard the news that Foundry Group, a well-known Boulder, Colorado based venture capital firm had just been certified as a B Corp. As members in the B Corp community, we were used to seeing fellow consumer companies like us take the plunge. But a finance firm? That was pretty rare. Intrigued, we reached out to Seth Levine, one of their managing directors, to talk about the decision and what it means to have an early stage investment firm join the movement.
1) As far as we know, you’re one of the first VC firms to become a certified B Corp. Can you tell us a little bit about the decision and how it came about?
Foundry Group has always focused on community. From our work across all manner of community organizations, to bringing key industry conferences to our home town of Boulder, to supporting entrepreneurs, we’ve always looked for ways to engage productively in the markets we work in.
We’re firm believers in doing more than just talking. We are founders and major supporters of Pledge 1% and The Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado and have watched them grow into nationally – now internationally – acclaimed organizations.
But we wanted to do more to align the Foundry brand with our commitment to give back to the communities in which we live and work. To really put a stake in the ground about what Foundry stands for.
2) What has the response been like from your stakeholders - LP’s, fellow investors, portfolio companies?
We have received overwhelming positive response from our portfolio companies, fellow investors and community members alike.
3) Most B Corps are in consumer driven industries - do you see that changing? Should we expect more investors or financial institutions taking a look at going the B Corp route?
We were excited that two fellow Colorado venture firms – Colorado Impact Fund and Greenmont Capital Partners – announced their B Certifications alongside us. We hope this sends a message to the broader industry that we can all do well by doing good and encourage others in the industry to make the leap to Certified B Corporations. We will join 75 other Certified B Corps in Colorado and over 1,700 in nearly 50 countries around the world including well-known leaders New Belgium Brewing, Patagonia, Seventh Generation, Ben & Jerry’s, Kickstarter, Etsy, Warby Parker and Hootsuite.
We also join notable tech B Corps in Colorado such as Rally Software (the first ever B Corp to go public with that certification), Namaste Solar, Simple Energy, and dojo4. Although the B Lab Impact Assesment is geared towards consumer-driven industries, we are already seeing a shift of non-physical product companies becoming B Certified.
4) Do you see this changing the way that your firm invests? Or is it more about how you do business on an operational level?
Foundry Group focuses on making investments in early-stage information technology, Internet and software startups - this will not change. Our passion is working alongside entrepreneurs to give birth to new technologies and to build those technologies into industry-leading companies. B Certification codifies our values that we have applied to our investing strategy since Foundry's inception. On an operational level, we have always sought to treat our employees, community and planet with respect and thoughtfulness. Becoming B Certified lets us quantify these things with the B Impact Assessment.
5) What excites you most about your work - tell us a little bit about why you do what you do?
For a long time I’ve been fascinated by the intersection between entrepreneurship and social change. As an MD at Foundry Group, I have exposure to a lot of amazingly smart entrepreneurs solving big real-world problems. Lastly, I couldn't do what we do without my partners - Brad, Ryan and Jason - we act as a team and have complete trust and transparency with each other. This has been a defining factor in the way we do business and will continue to do so.
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Seth Levine is a partner and co-founder at Boulder based Foundry Group focusing on early stage investments in technologies business. Foundry investments include companies such as Zynga, Admeld and Fitbit. In addition to his work at Foundry Seth is active around the world in the entrepreneurial community as a member of the board of directors of The Unreasonable Institute, an advisor to Palestinian focused venture fund Sadara, as well as an advisor to a number of other venture funds. Seth is a founding member of the Colorado Chapter of the Entrepreneur’s Foundation, co-founder of Pledge 1% and Colorado Entrepreneurial By Nature. Seth is a summa cum laude graduate of Macalester College. You can find him on Twitter at @sether or online at www.sethlevine.com