2013 Annual Gathering Overview

This past weekend we had our 10th annual Gathering. Over the course of three days we were able to see top notch entrepreneurs present their businesses, hear two wonderful keynote speakers, and connect with people with a common passion.

Our Gathering kicked off on Thursday night at Arent Fox with our DC/Affinity Lab finalists presenting. Triea Systems and Clovest both gave thoughtful and well-crafted pitches. While the judges deliberated to select the winner we were joined by Allison Shapira on the guitar at our evening reception. During this time we were able to listen to wonderful music, speak with others in our field and meet some true legends like Barbara Pyle, co-Creator of Captain Planet. Our evening came to a close with the exciting announcement of the judges awarding Triea Systems first place for our DC/Affinity Lab prize.

 Friday built upon the excitement and momentum created on Thursday as we heard updates from former WJF entrants Mitra Ardron of Lumeter Networks and Ali Cherry of Snack Packers.  our two keynote speakers and watched our Green Grab presenters pitch for actual investments. Seth Goldman, T-EO and co-Founder of Honest Tea, and Jigar Shah, Founder of Sun Edison and former CEO of Carbon War Room, spoke back to back about their exciting careers in the social enterprise sphere. Seth shared about how to navigate the grey area faced by social entrepreneurs, like Honest Tea’s work as being a social enterprise owned by Coca Cola. Jigar challenged us to work towards truly systemic change when starting a social enterprise. With Seth and Jigar’s words we took a break to discuss their ideas over lunch and Honest Tea. Friday’s lunch also featured a meeting of the Impact Accelerator Network.

 Friday afternoon was centered on a very exciting and educational Green Grab event. Green Grab featured three companies, JuabarSun Edge, and Greenbean Recycle, who pitched to investors for on the spot investment. During each presentation the presenter had a time to pitch and then received feedback from judges who either gave or denied investment on the spot. Through out Green Grab we were fueled by some green snacks from Peeled Snacks and Snack Packers. Following Green Grab we enjoyed an evening at the home of longtime WJF supporter, judge, and friend Dr. Wayne Curtis and his wife Dina Curtis. This was a great way to create more connections and continue the discussions started throughout the day.

Saturday morning we transitioned to the World Resource Institute offices to see our Idea and Venture Phase finalists present as well as engage in a number of workshops. Our Idea Phase finalists, First Access , Colectivo 1050, and MoWoza, took the stage first. Each of their presentations were well executed and centered on very different businesses. While we waited for our judges to announce the winner Tami Kesselman gave a thought provoking talk about the negative implications of scale for social entrepreneurs. With the exciting announcement from our judges who named First Access the winner of our Idea Phase category we enjoyed some tasty Runa Tea and a discussion filled lunch. During lunch we were also joined by William James Foundation’s co-Founder, Chuck Dell. Mr. Dell, at 95, shared many stories about the history of the William James Foundation and his lifelong passion for changing the traditional business landscape.

Following lunch we watched our three Venture Phase finalists, Morale Fashion GroupAccess Afya, and Wecyclers, present. All three of their presentations were excellent and opened up a great dialog between the presenter, the judges, and the audience. With their comments made and questions answered our judges went to begin the difficult process of selecting the winner while the rest of us took part in a variety of workshops and practitioner gatherings ranging from: ‘career paths in impact investing’ with Mrim Boulta, to a discussion about the many support networks available to social entrepreneurs called ‘Who are our friends?’ led by Ian Fisk. Taking a break from our discussions on these topics our judges called our attention to announce Access Afya as the winner of the Venture Phase category.

Despite the fact that our official events concluded with the announcement of our Venture Phase category winner many of us continued our dialogues and created more connections until late into the evening. This passion for working together to solve problems and a real interest in forging genuine connections with those in our field is an amazing thing to witness. The WJF team is honored to have provided a space to encourage these connections and conversations and would like to thank everyone who attended and our in kind sponsors. We would also like to thank Arrent Fox and the World Resource Institute for giving us the wonderful meeting spaces that helped facilitate important discussions and connections.

By Madeline Parrish, Communications Intern