Making an Impact in 2022: SWAN’s Year End Review

Despite the economic uncertainties experienced by our angel investors in 2022, they
stepped up and invested in eleven social or environmental impact companies. SWAN angels are committed to making the world a better place.

SWAN’s investments enable creative entrepreneurs to
address important United Nation Sustainable Development Goals.

 

The SWAN Impact Network’s portfolio significantly increased in value in 2022.
And SWAN established a Philanthropic Fund that allows charitable
donations to be invested in companies that have been funded by SWAN angels.

In 2022, SWAN  added to its broad alliance of impact and syndication partners.

 

Portfolio company Yotta in the News

Yotta Energy has been selected by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the U.S. Department of Energy as one of ten climate tech companies, hailing from Europe, Australia, North America and across the U.S, that are dedicated to significantly accelerating the move to a resilient, electrified, and clean economy, in New York and beyond.

Working across the value chain, these transformative companies are positioned for scale and ready to make an impact, with solutions ranging from cells and packs; thermal, long-duration, stationary and portable storage; mobility solutions; and distributed energy resources.

Austin, Texas-based Yotta Energy produces distributed energy products, including EV chargers and the first solar battery that integrates behind rooftop solar panels. The integrated battery significantly reduces installation costs, along with its plug-and-play design that means if you can install a solar module, you can install their battery.

 

Impact Assessment, YES! ESG Assessment, not yet!

The SWAN Impact Network now has a Director of Impact reporting, Meagan Packard. Meagan is doing a wonderful job of advancing our Network’s understanding of how to assess and document the impact potential of a company before our angels invest. She is also coaching companies on how to measure impact in ways that creates actionable information that helps the CEOs to maximize the impact delivered.

Meagan pointed me to a well-written article that supports what I have been saying for years. SWAN  focuses on impact investing, and not on ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance). Impact investing comsiders a company’s business primary product or service offering. ESG considers how the company’s operations interact with society and the environment.

You can read more in the Stanford Social Innovation Review at ESG is Not Impact Investing and Impact Investing Is Not ESG.

SWAN Director Juan Thurman in the News

The investment tracking platform SERAF featured Juan Thurman in the seventh in a series of interviews highlighting the work of interesting impact investors. Juan Thurman is a Director of the SWAN Impact Angel Network.

SERAF asked, “Looking ahead in early stage impact investing, what are you most excited about? What keeps you up at night?”

Juan replied, “When we started engaging with investors in 2016 they assumed impact investing was concessionary. Fortunately, investors have become more educated and now know you can make market or better returns investing in impact startups. The thing I am most excited about is working with early stage founders, helping them get traction and seeing them deliver impact in their chosen markets. Missing out on good deals is what keeps me up at night.”

Portfolio company ClearFlame named as one the Next Big Things in Tech

Thanks to its enormous installed base and prolonged driving distances, heavy trucking lags passenger cars in moving to zero-emissions operations. Geneva, Ill.-based ClearFlame Engine Technologies, however, is readying an alternative off-ramp from diesel fuel: a series of engine modifications that allow current-model trucks to run on ethanol sourced from corn at no loss in performance. Based upon that, ClearFlame has been named to Fast Company’s annual list of the Next Big Things in Tech.

Fast Company describes the chosen members of this list as “tech breakthroughs across industries that promise to transform the future.”  These technology breakthroughs were highlighted by Fast Company for their cutting-edge advancements and potential to impact consumers, businesses, and society overall. Clear Flame is recognized in the transportation category by this leading publication dedicated to the intersection of business, innovation, and design.

Portfolio company Harmonic Bionics has closed additional funding

Harmonic Bionics aims to empower patients and their care providers by designing intelligent technology that facilitates data-driven treatment for neurological and musculoskeletal movement impairments. Their flagship product, Harmony SHR™, is a bilateral upper extremity exoskeleton dynamically designed to provide unique value in three areas of practice: neuroscience and movement science research, movement disorder assessment, and rehabilitation.

Harmonic Bionics has announced that they have raised $3 million of venture funding from South Korea-based medical robot manufacturer Curexo, Inc.   Harmonic Bionics will now assist with US promotion and business development for Curexo’s Morning Walk S200, a robotic gait rehabilitation system, and CUVIS-spine, a surgical spine robot.

Last year, the company raised a $7.42 million Series A from H Robotics, Bass Investment, and DSC Investment.

Weathering the Uncertain Investment Environment

A Perspective from Bob’s Desk.
Executive Director, SWAN Impact Network

Likely you have seen headlines, such as the Wired article, “The Bad Times are coming for Startups”. The article starts with these words, “Last week, the employees of Cameo, a startup that sells personalized videos from celebrities, gathered for an all-hands meeting. The news was not good: Nearly a quarter of the staff was being laid off.” And the article goes on to say, “Soaring valuations and booming IPOs made startups seem like a safe bet, inspiring hundreds of new venture funds. Now, the party seems to be over.”

Concerns about the economy (inflation, possible recession, delayed IPOs) are causing VC to give their portfolio companies tough-love advice. “Cut spending. Conserve cash.” These words are a complete turn-around from the Silicon Valley message to companies: “Grow as quickly as possible to create or disrupt a market. Gain market share by raising and spending as much as possible and don’t worry about getting profitable.”

This shift in mindset influences how we, who are most often the first investors in pre-seed companies, should think about investing.

How should early-stage startups think about all of this?
Starting a company during a time of economic uncertainty has a number of advantages. Fewer startups are created, so competition in your niche market may lesson. Hiring becomes less difficult when other companies have layoffs or hiring freezes. Service providers need to shore up revenue, and may be more accessible. And most importantly, when the economic outlook improves, which it always does, the VCs will have fewer companies at your stage of development to invest in, since your class of startups will be smaller.

How should early-stage angel investors think about all of this?
Since we think of a five-to-seven year window for return, companies starting today should exit in a much stronger economic environment. We should continue our search for promising companies. And we should place a greater emphasis on cash-efficient companies. And, we should require first closing investment amounts to be sufficient to carry the company for two years. Can the company make solid business progress in two years with limited funds? And we will need to work diligently at syndication to help the companies to get to the first close amount.

Announcing Changes in SWAN’s Leadership

After three years of dedicated service on the SWAN Board of Directors, Laura Hill is rotating off the board. She has brought to the board keen insights about angel investing, was instrumental in improving our deal flow process, has been the lead on planning and organizing SWAN social events, and most recently ably led the working group that nominated her replacement on the board.

Thank you, Laura!

 

 

 

 

SWAN is pleased to have Gwen Echols join our Board of Directors. Gwen brings a wealth of experience to the board and strengthens the Dallas representation on the board. Gwen is an experienced professional with a record of driving progress in the business and nonprofit community. Presently a nonprofit advisor and board member, she has supported Dallas agencies in leadership roles for over 20 years. Concurrently Gwen has provided mentorship and coaching to social impact leaders and entrepreneurs since 2018. Gwen is a frequent investor at SWAN, and has been active at  the Rockies Venture Club, one of the country’s oldest angel groups. Gwen was formerly a Senior Vice President with Bank of America, including career roles on the Bank’s merger team, in technology development, and through 2003, as Senior Vice President and relationship team leader in corporate treasury services.

 

 

SWAN is delighted to have Meagan Packard join our leadership as Director of Impact Reporting. She is tackling one of the most-challenging aspects of being an effective impact investing network, namely .quantifying the actual impact resulting from our investment dollars. We expect her efforts will make SWAN a recognized leader in reporting on the impact, and will position SWAN as a role model for other impact angel networks.

Quoting Meagan, “Our world needs novel solutions to critical conservation & sustainability issues now. My aim is to get cutting edge research into the marketplace quickly to start solving our global climate and biodiversity problems today”.

SWAN now has a Houston Chapter

The SWAN Impact Network’s new Houston chapter joins our Austin and Dallas chapters in investing and supporting impact companies focused on delivering social or environmental impact. SWAN is the fastest growing impact-focused angel network in the US.

The SWAN Impact Network has deep expertise in life sciences and clean energy, plus a history of strongly supporting founding teams that have been historically underrepresented in term of investments. This skill and focus provides great synergy with Houston’s strong life science and energy sectors, and with Houston’s status of a leading multi-cultural metropolis.

Additionally, SWAN’s senior leadership has close connections with Rice University.

To learn more SWAN’s Houston chapter, please contact Bob Bridge, Founder and Executive Director of the SWAN Impact Network, bob.bridge@swanmpact.org.

and

We are actively looking for an Executive Director for our Houston Chapter! Please share candidate names with Bob. The ideal candidate has strong connections with the Houston start-up and early-stage investing community, enjoys meeting people and does not require a full-time salary. Compensation is tied to the number of Houston members. APPLY

Binary Bridge technology is aiding Ukrainian refugees

Binary Bridge is honored to be a small part in helping the Ukrainian refugees. The company’s  new customer, Operation Blessing’s Disaster Relief medical team, is using the BackpackEMR medical record system in Poland. The simplicity of deploying and using BackbackEMR made it possible for Operation Blessing to start using the system in mere days after  requesting it.

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