Why Good Capital Series: Jim Sorenson


The Good Capital Project will convene for the first time this June in New York City. This new SOCAP initiative will bring together a cross-sector collection of experts, practitioners, industry leaders and other stakeholders to drive greater collaboration and accelerate capital flows into purpose driven investments. In the months leading up that event we will be interviewing key pioneers and leaders in the impact space who have partnered with SOCAP to help make the Good Capital Project a success.

James Lee “Jim” Sorenson is a recognized leader in impact investing and the Chairman of the Sorenson Impact Foundation. Jim is the co-founder of the private equity firm Sorenson Capital and founder and chairman of Sorenson Media. He is a highly respected entrepreneur and business leader who has built many successful companies across a wide range of industries. Jim is also a well known philanthropist and social investor with a lifelong dedication to creating innovative solutions for challenges related to poverty. He endowed the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah with the funds to create the Sorenson Impact Center. Jim also serves on many boards, including the board of Village Capital, a nonprofit organization that uses the power of peer support to build enterprises that change the world.

What led you to become involved in The Good Capital Project?

We share a common vision–wanting to help educate and promote impact investing to a broader audience. I’ve been involved in a number of different initiatives like this.

Why is collaboration in this industry so important?

I think collaboration is really essential because you have a number of different stakeholders that need to be engaged. There is a whole spectrum of investors from foundations to institutional investors. There are intermediaries that are needed in order to enable and facilitate investment. You have a broad cross-section of professionals that manage funds and are working on different sectors and geographies. Academics are very interested and provide rigor in analysis. Governments are very important in helping facilitate. Collaboration with them will really will help making impact investing much more successful.

What are the biggest challenges facing the space?

Clearly we are in a fairly early stage and building out the ecosystem is a big challenge. There needs to be more product available–more development of funds and investable products that investors have the option to invest in. It is always a chicken and an egg situation when you are building something new. Investors want something that has a track record. They want something that the risk and the unknowns have been basically minimized. Given the nascent stage of impact investing this is all being built one thing at a time. I think, clearly, as there are more intermediaries that come into the space, and there are success with investments, and new types of impact investing that it will build in momentum. That is what is needed right now. I think that governments can play a role in creating the kind of incentives or reducing the barriers to help enable impact investing.

What are the biggest opportunities?

I think there are opportunities for virtually every level in the spectrum of impact investing. I clearly see opportunities for foundations to be involved. Foundations can provide grants or make program related investment at the very early stage to help with capital and human resources that are scarce for social entrepreneurs and businesses that are trying to get off the ground. That is an area that our foundations are quite involved in. I believe there there are opportunities for more established professionals that have expertise in investing or in fund deployments to move into this space and create innovative funds and investable products that impact investors can invest in. I think there is a great opportunity for working with governments on policy innovation. As well as in creating awareness and education in the space about impact.  

For the sectors you represent, what would you most like to see come out of The Good Capital Project?

I would ultimately like to see greater awareness and education available on impact investing. I’ll characterize it this way. Ross Baird, with Village Capital, is a close friend and associate that has been very involved in impact investing. He said “I’d really like to see a day when my grandmother understands what I do.” Ross finds social entrepreneurs and helps them to achieve success in the way of investment and the growth of their businesses. Having that degree of familiarity, where people understand what impact investing is and want to become engaged–believe in it and become passionate about it. That is the opportunity that I see the Good Capital Project helping to facilitate.

Is there anything you are working on right now that you are particularly proud of or excited about?

I’m very excited about The Sorenson Impact Center, a center that I endowed at the University of Utah which gives students an experiential education. The program helps to provide early stage human resources for facilitating impact investing in things like diligence and market research. The program is helping early stage entrepreneurs and investors get together as well as being involved in the technical feasibility and support and structuring of social impact bonds or pay for success initiatives. These are two exciting areas and I think clearly helping to build the next generation of professionals or careers that students will be able to choose as they get this tremendous experience at The Sorenson Impact Center.

Are there any other thoughts you would like to share today?

We look forward, both the Foundation and The Sorenson Impact Center, to working closely with The Good Capital Project to get the good news out.