Going through the Bend Venture Conference with two different startups, Ryan Andrews was intimately familiar with the state’s largest angel conference. Becoming the manager of the BVC’s first social impact fund, which debuted last year, offered Andrews another way to get involved with the conference—and exercise his investment expertise. Andrews wears many hats, but most of them involve finance. In addition to managing the newest BVC fund, which requires him to both solicit investors and evaluate investable startups, he’s also a partner in Trueline Capital, a Bend-based real estate fund. We recently caught up with Andrews to learn more about the BVC’s social impact, the interest in socially responsible investing and his new side project, a series of letters written to thoughtful investors.
First, how do you describe the Bend Venture Conference’s Social Impact Fund?
The fund invests in for-profit, early-stage companies that have a social or environmental impact as a core part of their business model. We purposely made the definition broad; we wanted to open the floodgates and then be able to decide who had a stronger or weaker social impact proposition. More than thirty companies applied last year. One of our two winners, Hemex Health, creates a portable, inexpensive device that can be used to screen for malaria and sickle cell disease in developing countries. Their social impact was off the charts as well as their potential revenue and market share.
What misconceptions do people have about social impact investing?
I sometimes get pushback that social impact startups aren’t viable or that they generate lower financial returns to investors. But the evidence is stacking up that there’s a strong business case for social impact startups that solve real, societal problems. Society at large is willing to reward these companies with revenue and market share.
The Bend Venture Conference takes place in October. Is there anything new or different about this year’s social impact track?
We have a lot of momentum coming off of last year. People are excited, especially after watching Hemex Health go on to raise another $1.7 million in a Series A round. Our fund was the first investor in the company. Last year, we raised $110,000 for the fund, about half from institutional investors. This year we’re aiming for $150,000. We’re also doing a Reg D 506(c) offering for the fund, which allows us to advertise publicly for investors.
You also manage investments for your day job, a partner at Bend-based Trueline Capital. What does Trueline do?
Trueline Capital is a boutique real estate investment fund focused on residential construction and development in the Pacific Northwest. After the last recession, most community banks stopped lending into the residential construction market, even as the economy came back, leaving a lot of these projects without a good source of capital. We manage the fund on behalf of our investors, investing in smaller, in-city and infill residential developments, usually projects that are too small for a large, private investment and not eligible for bank financing. We’re currently invested in more than thirty-five projects, valued at $32 million.
Lastly, tell us about your Thoughtful Investor series of letters.
I found myself having a lot of one-on-one conversations with investors about how money and monetary systems really work. I started writing about these conversations in a serialized letter format at thoughtfulinvestor.co. The goal is to write sophisticated, but accessible, letters to investors. Recent topics include the role of central banks, the importance of hard assets and whether we’re in a bubble. I also plan on writing about cryptocurrencies, the coming artificial intelligence/machine learning labor revolution and the innovations occurring in real estate finance. It’s pure thought leadership and a chance for me to start these conversations.