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Our Members, Our Strength

By Alexandra LaForge

Investors’ Circle is the oldest and largest mission-aligned angel network and the only one with a membership base that stretches nationwide.  Our members come from diverse backgrounds, are leaders in various industries, and have interests that range from clean energy and environmental technology to healthcare and education in emerging markets.  Our membership is our richest resource.  Each month, this blog will feature a profile of one of our members, allowing us to learn about his or her experience, interests, and impact on the world of social enterprise.

We begin with Tony Carr, President of Halloran Philanthropies and one of IC’s newest members.  Tony was kind enough to participate in our interview from Bogota, Colombia and – despite a few internet and telephone disconnections – share with us his perspective as an impact investor and philanthropist.

Q:  Could you give us some background information on Halloran Philanthropies?

Halloran Philanthropies supports the creation and advancement of social business innovations that emphasize collaboration, sustainability and economic justice.  The funds that are used to support our investments and donations come from businesses owned by Harry Halloran.  The primary source of this income comes from an oil refinery in Bradford, PA.  At 130 years old, it is the oldest continuously operated oil refinery in the world and Harry has owned it for about 15 years.  He uses its profits to invest in philanthropies and several companies in the clean-tech and renewable energy sectors.

Q: How have the interests of Halloran Philanthropies evolved since its inception?  What has led you to the social investment space?

Our first foundation was called the Enlightened World Foundation, and its primary purpose was to support a dialogue program between leaders of different faiths.  This program launched our foundation, and then we decided it was important to expand our scope.  Our areas of concentration now include corporate social responsibility, social capital markets, microfinance, and community innovation.  We have discovered many things that we have a passion for and our strategic plan has evolved accordingly, bringing us to investments in social and economic development.

Q: What brought you to Investors’ Circle and what are you hoping to gain from your IC membership?

We joined IC after the conference in Washington, DC, which was one of the highlights of my experience with Halloran Philanthropies.  We are looking to benefit from IC membership in two ways.  First, we hope to build exceptional relationships with exceptional people.  One of the things I found at the conference was that people are interested in what we’re doing and also in who I am; there seemed to be a real openness and interest in getting to know one another.  Second, of course, we hope to find new ways in which we can support innovative businesses.

Q:  Let’s begin with the relationships – how have you benefited from professional relationships?

We can’t stress enough the importance of making connections, which is something that benefits the whole industry.   Linking people with other people in this space proves that, even though we’re small, we can have a significant impact in social change.  We really rely on the experience of others.  One example is that we were interested in a specific company and learned that another Investors’ Circle member was the early angel investor.  That was encouraging, especially because this member has been a leader in investing for years.  We tend to lean on those that have gone before us.

Q:  And the deals – what types of companies are you looking for?

We are now beginning to look at opportunities in small and medium businesses, primarily start-ups.  Our focus has expanded from renewable energy companies to a broader range of investment opportunities in social enterprises.  We have a particular interest in clean energy and water companies in Latin America (specifically Mexico, Brazil and Colombia) and India.

Q:  What is the driving force behind your investment strategy?  Do you feel it necessary to mitigate your risk?

We invest in entrepreneurs and companies that present an idea that attracts our attention and seems to “click” with our motivations.  We follow our intuition.  I’ve learned that sometimes even the most enlightened investors are not comfortable investing in start-ups.  I think that having been involved in several start-up businesses myself has helped me appreciate the courage that investors show in taking risks to support ideas and encourages me to take that risk as well.

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