Joining The B Team

BCorp_logo_transparentFor a long time I’ve been fascinated by the intersection between entrepreneurship and social change. When I say that I’m not describing social entrepreneurship (a term I really don’t like; it’s not a subset of entrepreneurship, it’s simply “entrepreneurship”) or impact investing, at least not as they’re commonly understood in the current business lexicon. I really mean two things: The first is the application of entrepreneurial principles and startup techniques to solving critical, basic needs problems around the world (many of the companies I’ve worked with as a founding board member at the Unreasoanble Institute fall into this category, as one example). The second is that all businesses, regardless of the product or service they produce, can work to create positive change in their communities, including with their employees, vendors and partners (The Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado and more recently Pledge 1% are both great examples of organizations helping companies create positive impact in the communities in which they are building their businesses).

More recently I’ve become very interested in the B Corp movement. B Corps are for-profit companies certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. At the core of the B Corp movement is the idea that all companies share a duty for building responsible businesses. Responsible to their employees, to their customers, to their communities. I strongly believe that businesses that treat their constituents well attract and retain employees better, innovate faster, grow more quickly and create more value. I also believe that responsibility for creating a better world is something that can happen at all businesses – not as a side project or something that happens after your “core” work is done, but rather in the actions your business takes every day. By integrating responsible practices throughout an organization, companies can build better businesses while at the same time being agents for positive change in their communities and beyond.

This sort of thinking has been a part of Foundry Group since Jason, Ryan, Brad and I started the fund. In fact, before there was Foundry we got together to talk about our core operating principles. Things such as our “no assholes” rule, what we (along with our friends at Techstars)  now call #givefirst, putting entrepreneurs first and including all of our employees (and Pledge 1%) in our carried interest all came out of these discussions. As we’ve operated our firm over the past 9 years we’ve expanded on these ideas and tried to further integrate them into our business and our lives.

It is with great pride that we announce that Foundry Group has achieved B Corporation Certification through B lab. We believe that with this action we’re codifying our long-held beliefs as well as setting an example for others in our ecosystems – fellow venture firms, startups and service providers – to consider doing the same. It’s great to talk about these principles. Becoming B-Certified is our way of showing that we’re truly happy living these principles.

We are also excited that two fellow Colorado venture firms – Colorado Impact Fund and Greenmont Capital Partners – are announcing their B-certifications alongside us. We will join 75 other B-Certified companies 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.

At Foundry we believe that a group of people acting together towards a common goal can have a far greater impact than when they act alone. With this in mind we challenge everyone reading this to consider joining us in the B Corp movement. #BtheChange

  • Congratulations on become a B Corp! Very inspiring leadership (once again) from Foundry.

    (The hyperlink in the second paragraph has a typo and doesn’t work.)

  • Congrats on achieving the B Corp recognition. One friend you may want to connect with is Mandy Cabot of Dansko who is a pioneer in the B Corp space. Please let me know if I can help with an intro.

  • Congratulations! Thank you for leading the charge on this in the venture industry!

  • Sam

    Congrats! Makes all the sense in the world for Foundry.

    As an aside, for several months now I’d heard rumblings about this new “b-corp” designation. I’d been thinking that B-corps were a new form of legal entity like S-corps or C-corps simply because of the similarity in the language. Perhaps sort of a new kind of not-for-profit designation, so I never really dug into it further. Thank you for clarifying.

    • Hi Sam. Most states now do have a legal B-Corp entity (in Delaware this is called a PBC – Public Benefit Corporation). Think of B Certification as like LEEDS – an outside org coming in an certifying that you’ve met certain standards. Incorporating as a PBC would be like codifying what you’ve done into the building deed.

  • Laura Franklin

    Fantastic! I was at an event last week where you spoke about Foundry Group becoming a B-Corp.
    Quick question: Is Foundry Group going to be at CO-Impact Days next year? I don’t believe you were at this year’s, but I could be wrong.
    And, in light of becoming a B-Corp, is Foundry Group making a commitment to investing in more social enterprises? I saw you invested in Jacqueline Ros and Revolar (which I think it wonderful). I was wondering if you were going to invest in more.

    • Thanks for the comment Laura. When is CO-Impact Days?

      We’ve historically invested in a number of B-Corps. I think the type of entrepreneur that is attracted to working with Foundry is attracted to the B-Corp movement. While it’s not a part of our investment criteria specifically we do believe that a sense of purpose/treating employees and community well are all part of building a great business – the underpinnings of a great venture investment as well.

      • Laura Franklin

        Hi Seth! Thanks so much for the reply!

        I’m not sure when CO-Impact Days is for 2017, but it was in March earlier this year so I assume March 2017. Are you in touch at all with Dr. Stephanie Gripne? She founded CO-Impact Days and I know she would love for Foundry Group to be involved. There were a lot fantastic social enterprises there last year. Let me know if you want any sort of introduction. Thanks for the fast reply!

        • I was introduced to Stephanie by Paul Jerde a few years ago. I think what they’re putting together at CO-Impact days is great. I’ll certainly look to participate if I’m able to.

  • JohnLaGrou

    Good job. California recently passed law that allows a new kind of “social purpose” corporation, called the SPC (social purpose corp). The law was written by some of the same legal minds behind B Corp. Millennia Music & Media became a charter B Corp years ago (2007?). We switched to an SPC/FPC because it provides a more comprehensive legal framework allowing corporate directors to make fiduciary decisions based not just on maximizing stockholder return, but in consideration of all stakeholders, employees, suppliers, the environment, and the general health of the planet.

    • Interesting John. I hadn’t heard of CA’s twist to the PBC. DE has a relatively widely used version as well (same general concept – creates a broader set of goals beyond maximizing shareholder value).