Investing resources and capital to do more for Bay Area entrepreneurs, a letter from ICA’s CEO.

Dear Friends and Supporters,

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As you know, I joined the ICA Fund Good Jobs team earlier this year. Since my first day, I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen, and even more excited for what’s to come. I am proud to be a part of this organization and happy to share my perspective on this year’s impact report and our work.

ICA has accomplished a lot: over two decades we’ve worked with over 600 companies. These companies have together created and retained over 5,500 jobs, and paid more than $105M in wages. Furthermore, the companies in our investment portfolio have raised over $30M in capital, while the 13 companies in the Good Jobs Accelerator raised $10 million in capital. Together, they paid out more than $17M in wages to Bay Area employees in 2018.

It has been three years since ICA officially became a CDFI (Community Development Financial Institution). We remain the only CDFI explicitly designed to work with small businesses to create good jobs for those who need them most. The community development finance field has been very impactful in our history, but we still aren’t seeing the outcomes we need in terms of equity in access to capital across racial, gender, geographic, and industry lines. With an explicit focus of directing resources and capital to these communities, ICA is testing and measuring the outcomes this kind of work creates.

People of color, and especially women of color, have long started businesses at higher rates than their white counterparts. However, their capacity for growth is constrained by under-capitalization, and lack of access to high-caliber advisor and investor networks. ICA’s businesses are members of underestimated communities seeking to raise between $50,000 and $2 million. Most have outgrown micro-lenders and don’t qualify for private sector incubators nor for bank financing or other forms of investment, finding themselves trapped in our ecosystem’s “missing middle.” ICA works with these entrepreneurs throughout the 9 county San Francisco Bay Area, partnering with them to access resources, networks and capital to realize their full growth potential.

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Creating the conditions under which good jobs are provided by employers is a pivotal anchor in community stability and wealth creation for individuals and their families. ICA has been a pioneer in identifying and articulating the conditions for small businesses to create good jobs. The organization’s work has continued to evolve and adapt to the changing world around us and we continue to respond to the needs of the communities we serve. This takes iteration and innovation.

And as we build on our model, we are committed to continuing to work along three critical trajectories:

  1. Investing resources – The Good Jobs Accelerator is designed to help small businesses poised for growth prepare for capital and build strong teams. The Accelerator is the central key to this vision and it is our most intensive tailored offering for entrepreneurs. More broadly, the Accelerator offers support and resources to small businesses that is trusted & tailored specifically to their businesses’ needs.

  2. Bridging the missing middle through direct investment – Debt is an important factor in helping businesses grow, but what’s missing is a more flexible source of capital that can be customer centric, tailored to the needs of the small business customer, and accessible to entrepreneurs with backgrounds that vary from what the traditional finance field has historically defined as low risk. We’re here to ask the questions: what happens if we assess risk from a different perspective? How do we redefine the way capital is exchanged? How do we write a new framework for how it’s deployed? Can we move more money, faster? We may not have all of the answers, yet, but we’ve already proven that making bets on our mission returns value: the companies in our portfolio have more than doubled their revenues from an average revenue of $1.6M at investment to $4.1M currently. Furthermore, thanks in part to the power of our network, each dollar invested by ICA has leveraged more than $10 additional dollars from investors.

  3. Leading the way to better measure job quality – ICA has long worked to quantify the value of investing in people. More than just creating a measure of job quality, we are looking to take a holistic measure of the social capital invested in, and created by, businesses. As much of the philanthropic community focuses on the Future of Work, we believe the future involves a continued investment in people, and that future innovation and technology can be directed to generate opportunities for good job creation and wealth building for those who need them most. With the right types of expertise, partnerships, data, and a commitment to challenging systemic inequity, we can bring the communities we serve to the forefront of a changing economy.

Innovating through equity investments

In 2018 the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City reported that only 14% of its fastest-growing Inner City 100 companies have raised equity, and only 5% have raised equity from institutional investors, signaling a disconnect between the needs of many businesses and sources of equity. This reality, combined with our experience with growing small business, supports our belief that equity investments fill a significant gap in the small business funding ecosystem, and can better support the sustained growth of the businesses we serve.

ICA is committed to building a movement in creating parity in access to capital for ALL. This means our work has an explicit focus on groups that have historically been left out of the fair exchange of capital. To achieve this vision, we will be doing more to build partnerships with peers, lenders, and other organizations in the CDFI and broader small business finance ecosystems. By working together, we see an opportunity to lead the way in providing more equitable distributions of tailored capital to high-potential businesses. Together, we can make money move faster. And more fairly.

Our mission is possible because of our strong vision for change in the Bay Area economy. We believe economic growth should benefit all. This means acknowledging historical systems and present-day inequity, and working tirelessly to disrupt and demonstrate what solutions look like. Our work, and our ability to innovate, are needed now more than ever.

Onward,


Allison Kelly
CEO