How four social impact companies attracted investment

Social impact companies have cracked a unique approach to doing business. They’re improving countless millions of lives across the world and are attracting financial capital to make this a reality.

Improving educational outcomes, supplying affordable and sustainable energy in developing communities, and caring for vulnerable children and young adults in society. These are just some of the areas where UK scaling companies are making a huge difference.

The UK’s impact investing market is worth £150bn. It includes social businesses, renewable energy infrastructure, social housing and green bonds.

To celebrate fast-growth companies that are benefitting society and delivering investor returns at the same time, this week the 100 Stories of Growth campaign showcases four shining stars to watch.


BBOXX powers thriving developing communities

With a mission to bring solar-powered electricity to communities across developing Africa and Asia, three co-founders who’d met at Imperial College London set up BBOXX in 2010.

Co-founder and chief technology officer Chris Baker-Brian says the company has raised $50m of equity and debt along with $2m of debt in Africa.

Even as BBOXX has scaled successfully, he says its impact focus remains strong. But over time the company has appealed to a wider group of capital providers.

For our early investor base the impact angle was very important. But as we’ve scaled the business, the commercial returns started to get more important for certain investors.

Today, BBOXX’s annual revenue has topped $28m. It has 550 employees and powers 150,000 households in developing communities, so far benefiting 500,000 people. And each day BBOXX connects as many as 400 homes to reliable and affordable energy supply. [Read the BBOXX story]


Firefly inspires students to reach new heights

Co-founders Simon Hay and Joe Mathewson were inspired to set up Firefly as school students. They were frustrated by a lack of communication about their own school work.

They used their IT skills to make classroom activities more accessible to students, teachers and parents. Then their own school embraced their idea and soon Firefly’s appeal spread quickly to others.

They aligned capital with mission, so Firefly chose investors BGF Ventures, Beringea, and Silicon Valley Bank. They share the company’s long-term passion to scale its social impact tech model.

There are one billion school students in the world and the vast majority are studying the same way their ancestors were 150 years ago. That will change over the coming decade.

Today, students across the world in English-speaking schools are using Firefly’s tech-driven platform to bring school work into the 21st century. [Read the Firefly story]


Horizon Care & Education improves young lives

Horizon Care & Education’s people-centric business supports, cares for and educates society’s vulnerable children and young adults.

Backed by private equity investor Stage Capital and financed by Yorkshire Bank, the company’s latest revenue figure was £21m, says CEO Paul Callander. 

With the public sector, you absolutely guarantee that you’ll be paid… With such high demand, our service fees are about as Teflon-coated as it gets.

The company employs 562 staff across 42 homes, schools, and care facilities across the length and breadth of England. [Read the Horizon Care & Education story]


Sumdog improves educational attainment for all

Sumdog’s online games platform is designed to help all kids improve their English and maths skills in a fun and engaging way. The company is passionate about bridging the educational attainment gap for all young learners in society, says co-founder and CEO Andrew Hall.

Convincing the mainstream venture capital world of its scalable products – used in UK and US schools – has been a bit tricky though.

Our main impact metric is king and that’s what’s driving everything.

But for social impact pure-play businesses like Sumdog, capital is available. The company raised £850,000 from Nesta Impact Investments and £550,000 from Scottish Investment Bank to scale its tech offering.

The Edinburgh-based company employs 50 people and counts as many as 1.5m active learners using its online educational games. [Read the Sumdog story]


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