Rethink Impact invests in DC companies, commits to progress

A new venture capital fund based in the capital region focuses not only on healthy returns for investors, but also improving the global community’s well being.

Jenny Abramson, the founder of Rethink Impact calls it “the largest-ever impact fund in the U.S. that invests with a gender lens.” In other words, Rethink Impact looks to fund companies with women in positions of leadership.

“Less that three percent of all venture dollars — actually it’s 2.19 percent — go to women-run businesses today,” she said, and this is a number that’s been going down in the past two decades.

“Venture is a pattern recognition business,” she said. With only five percent of venture capitalists who make decisions being women, it’s no wonder that less money goes to women entrepreneurs, Abramson said.

“I think that’s where some of the opportunity and some of the unconscious bias lies. I don’t think it’s overt sexism, per se.”

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Abramson’s says her passion in this position at Rethink Impact lets her do the things that were her favorite part of entrepreneurship.

“You’re behind the scenes, helping to pick talent, which is, to me, the best part of being a CEO… you get to help make introductions and leverage networks that you have, and in our case, we’re only doing that for business who are doing great things for the world,” she said.

Turning down companies seeking investment is the hardest part of the job, Abramson told What’s Working in Washington.

“For me, what I like to try to do, is always do something useful for the entrepreneur, regardless of whether we’re going to invest in them,” she said. “Whether it’s a helpful introduction, a helpful conversation, or otherwise.”

Rethink Impact is committed to balancing profit with societal improvement. “We tend to focus on areas that touch on the U.N. sustainable development goals, you know, some of the world’s greatest global challenges. Whether it’s education, healthcare, or inequality, climate problems, and otherwise. And we do think that it takes both the public sector… and the private sector to tackle these issues,” said Abramson.

She said her fund will take a “market-based approach, where you can use the technology and resources and talent in the private sector.” The fund is based in Washington because of the opportunities to have the private sector, non-profit organizations and government agencies work together.

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