Thomas Farley, the Knight of Wall Street

With his Hollywood smile and suave good looks, he’s central casting for the next 007 espionage extravaganza. While you won’t find Thomas Farley outwitting international criminal masterminds anytime soon, you will find this intrepid 39-year-old at the helm of the NYSE.

Big Board’s New Champion

Farley who? You probably recognize his name from last year’s Fortunes 40 under 40 list when he was listed as one of the most influential young people in business.

Son of a retired federal judge and decorated Vietnam veteran, he is the second-youngest person in history to run the Big Board. An impressive resume for this former Georgetown University baseball player, nicknamed “Solid”, led up to his appointment: by his 30th birthday he was already head of the New York Board of Trade (NYBOT). During his tenure there, Tom completely transformed the former NYBOT (renamed ICE); by doubling the trading volumes the (now) ICE saw a six-fold rise in profits.

His new role might be undeniably daunting. Yet, despite a busy schedule, staying fit is vital for this WWE fan, whose early-morning workout group includes Olympic swimmers Conor Dwyer and Matt Targett, as well as the Australian actor Hugh Jackman!

Mission: Keeping the old man of Wall Street in the game!

Tom’s goal is to revitalize the entire institution by simplifying everything – from the NYSE’s trading systems to its office space and, most importantly, by reshaping its culture. “I told him I want our culture to be the one that survives,” to quote Jeffrey Sprecher, CEO of ICE. Consequently, when Thomas Farley took control of the New York Stock Exchange, he didn’t only overhaul management, he immediately pushed to revamp its entire trading philosophy.

In a world where financial markets no longer need costly physical institutions to handle trades, reviving the 223-year-old icon of capitalism is no easy job! Seem like mission impossible? Not for Tom!

What do you think of Thomas W. Farley, the young President of NYSE Group? Does he inspire you?

Picture above: Courtesy of NYSE


Alexandra Peterson Cart : Bridging Investment and Philanthropy

Who said that investment and philanthropy were worlds apart? Well, not for Alexandra P. Cart, Co-Founder and Business Development Director of Madeira Global, an impact investment and advisory firm. She has been working hard to solve that dichotomy of blending together social philanthropy with an effective model to make money! It was therefore, not surprising to see her in the top 30 Social Entrepreneurs list, in 2015. Her leadership and success in impact investing have been often featured in world-class newspapers and Magazines.

Millennial Social Entrepreneur

Alexandra Cart is not a novice in the Financial sphere, she comes from a line of renowned investment managers – granddaughter of Peter Peterson, a Blackstone co-founder. Surprisingly, Cart who grew up in a very for-profit family headed straight for the nonprofit sector right after her studies! Ergo, Alexandra who holds a B.A. in International Studies and Political Science from Middlebury College, has also worked for the City of New York. She contributed on antipoverty initiatives and programs at the Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO) for the Office of the Mayor. While working there, she was frustrated by always having to choose between nonprofit and for-profits and was desperately seeking a way to resolve that polarity! Cart has managed to find that balance at Madeira Global, where she is regularly seeking to deploy assets with a social lens. Alexandra is driven by the conviction that Millennials today are opting to become social entrepreneurs because they want to go beyond “Business As Usual”!

Catalyzing Social Change

Despite her famous family background, Alexandra is forging her own path in the impact investing business and has started to make a name for herself with Madeira Global. The advisory firm, is nowadays widely recognized as a leader in the investment management industry for optimizing the alignment of social and financial returns by leaning on values-based investment philosophy. Intentionally seeking social or environmental benefits alongside financial returns, this is the motto of Cart’s business! When questioned about her definition of Impact Investing, the 29 year old replies: “I think that impact investing is perhaps the perfect confluence between Philanthropy and Finance, so it takes the best of both worlds.” Our young millennial has realized that younger generations these days are more open to the potential of impact investing than older generations, who tend to focus on more traditional modes of philanthropy such charity and so on. “I think impact investing will be a huge industry over the next couple years.”

Cart is undeniably a leader in social impact investments, a personal passion that has its roots in her heritage. She believes that it is possible to reach a number of young people through impact investing where it would be impossible with nonprofit institutions. Well, moving from an aid to an economic model with a for-profit mindset, is the new challenge of today’s Social Entrepreneurs.

Alexandra Cart, is definitely this new Millennial social entrepreneur who takes the bull-by-the-horns. Well, let’s hope that together with her fellow “Millennials” , they manage to create global engagement and succeed where our fathers and forefathers have failed!

Social Entrepreneurship: Fad or a new way of doing business? Share your thoughts!

Sarah Kearney : Priming the energy innovation pump

How to make philanthropists and startups work together? This is the self-assigned mission of Sarah Kearney, Founder and Executive Director of PRIME Coalition, a nonprofit, connecting philanthropists to investment opportunities addressing climate change. Sarah Kearney, a 31-year-old MIT graduate, advocates that companies aiming at reducing greenhouse gases are doing a social good thus they should be able to receive philanthropic funding. A visionary according to MIT Technology Review, she indeed figured in last year’s MIT Innovators under 35 list for urging foundations invest in clean energy!

Harnessing the power of Philanthropy

After graduating from the MIT Engineering Systems Division in 2012, Sarah Kearney who holds a Masters Degree in Technology and Policy, had a difficult decision to make: take a comfortable job or follow her dreams. Sarah finally took the second option as she was more thrilled to address the challenge for energy innovation by putting her MIT research into practice. This passion led her to found PRIME, which stands for Program-Related Investment Makers of Energy, in 2014. PRIME’s mission as she puts it bluntly – “empowering philanthropic investors with the critical tools they need to make direct, for-profit investments that address climate change”. With PRIME, Sarah Kearney, has redefined the traditional definition of charitable work and charitable giving. Ergo, she has been supporting President Obama’s call to action to encourage more private investors to fund clean-tech companies that can fight climate change.

When Philanthropists act like Venture Capitalists

How to foster social change with donations? According to Stanford Innovation Social Review, philanthropists who want to help change the world need to act more like venture capitalists. This is exactly what Kearney believes in and is achieving with PRIME. “By working with PRIME, foundations can fund the world-changing companies of tomorrow, enjoy best-in-class investment expertise without footing the bill alone, address climate change directly, and get their grants back to redeploy,” Kearney says. These days VC funding for early stage energy startups has all but dried up and therefore foundations have an important card to play. In fact, if you look at the “funding” as a grant, it is absolutely ingenious – a superior form of philanthropy – but if you look at it from the VC perspective, it is not an attractive investment. Consequently, if the grants provided by Foundations for “good causes” also happen to make a bunch of money back, well, then that’s a truly excellent upside.

Venture philanthropy (VP), could be a definition for this new kind of venture. It is based on similar concepts and techniques from VC but applying them to achieve a social, rather than a financial, return. “My MIT thesis suggested that it’s time to do the same thing for a different type of company that may not return capital in seven years, but whose product or service is critical to our society’s long-term future.” By and large, Kearney’s vision goes beyond VP as she aims at not only reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 by vivifying the clean-tech sector with philanthropic capital but also making sure that “for-profit nonprofits” do not sound like an oxymoron anymore!

*prime the pump: stimulate or support the growth or success of something by supplying it with money

Should Philanthropists act more like Venture Capitalists? Share your thoughts!

Crowd power: Is Crowdfunding crowding out Angel Investment and Venture Capital?

Launching a business today is not nearly as much a hassle as it was a decade ago. Innovative new technologies have unlocked fresh ways to raise money for startups, thus allowing capital to become accessible to innovators who wouldn’t have had access to it before. So now, more than ever, before engaging with potential investors, it behooves an entrepreneur to examine all the pros and cons of the various funding options so readily available. Let’s have a quick look at the “big three” funding options.

Angel Investment or Venture Capital

Why do angels exist? After all, based on sheer definitions, the two are seemingly the same thing. Like venture capitalists, business angels invest in a company’s development in exchange for a better than average return. However, what makes angel investors unique is that besides the appeal of any future ROI, they are usually motivated by altruism— the desire to see new and perhaps innovative businesses get off the ground and succeed. In that spirit, the angel investor will, typically, have a more vested interest to not just provide financial support but also advice and support to the business he or she invested in. In contrast, your average venture capitalists are more motivated by profit — pure and simple — since they’re only looking to invest in businesses that will offer security and a high return on their investments. Thus, it should come as no surprise that angel investors usually invest in smaller ventures, while venture capitalists normally invest a minimum of USD 2 million. Nevertheless, although, venture capital investments reached an all-time high of USD 34 billion in 2Q 2015, there has been a noticeable drop in deals since then in Europe and the USA. Could it be a foreshadowing of the new power of crowdfunding?

Crowd power

The concept of crowdfunding was originally looked down upon by professional investors, who saw it as entirely too idealistic. But according to the research firm Massolution’s annual report, the crowdfunding industry is on a roll: rapidly moving to overtake both venture capital and angel investing by 2016. With an estimated market value of USD 34 billion in 2015, crowdfunding has come a long, long way since its valuation of USD 880 million just five short years ago. So, just what is crowdfunding? And what makes it such a big deal? By definition, crowdfunding is the practice of raising funds from the online community in order to finance any kind of project. Counterintuitively, at least to conventional wisdom, “unconventional” industries – such as music and recording arts, films and performing arts, are not the only industries attracted by crowdfunding. Business and entrepreneurship have remained the most popular crowdfunding category, having collected USD 6.7 billion in 2014, these two sectors represent more than 40% of the global crowdfunding volume. Social causes (USD 3.06 billion) and real estate (USD 1.01 billion) complete the top five categories.

Venture capital funding and angel investing might account for roughly USD 30 billion and USD 20 billion a year, respectively, but the World Bank estimates that crowdfunding will reach USD 90 billion by 2020. That said, if the current trend of doubling year-over-year continues, it may well reach this figure by 2017! A giant new capital market is taking shape before our very eyes, so don’t underestimate the power of the crowd!

Ultimately, angels, venture capitalists, and crowdfunders all give capital in exchange for equity in a business, differing from each other mostly by the amount of stake in the enterprise they are willing to take! So, how much ownership are you willing to give up, and at what price?

Do you believe in crowd power? Share your comments!

Picture above: Courtesy Swarm Store ©