An ambitious project, a clear enthusiasm… and a successful evening!

IMG_0335

The official launch of Solifin will have left its mark on people’s minds. A look back at these few hours rich in memorable moments!

The opening remarks by Thomas Van Craen(CEO of Triodos Bank) and Sevan Holemans(Solifin coordinator) were the first. These two key players underlined the ambition and success of the project.

A few minutes later, Lisa Isnard(head of cabinet of Brussels Minister Barbara Trachte) abounded in the same direction, reminding the support of the Brussels’ Region to “all those who dare to make Brussels an ambitious Region, with a regenerative economy, where social and democratic entrepreneurship is supported and promoted“.

Right after, Sevan Holemans made a quick presentation of the new members of the network (SE’n’SE Fund, Phitrust, Kois Invest and Trividend) and introduced the four experts of our discussion focused on impact financing:

Christel Dumas (Professor at ICHEC and member of the Solifin Ethics Committee)

David Mellett (entrepreneur and BeeFounders cofounder)

Xavier Thauron (Investment Director of Phitrust Partners)

Piet Colruyt (cofounder of SI² fundand member of the Solifin Board)

The discussion started with a flashback when Xavier Thauron recalled the genesis of Phitrust in 2005, when the French financial landscape with a positive impact had only very few players. What is important for him? The return of impact and not the financial return. In other words, an investor can reveal to his shareholders that he does not have a financial return as high as expected. On the other hand, he cannot tell them that the impact is less than initially targeted.

The maturity of the Belgian market? Xavier Thauron wanted to be positive, noting that there are already many actors and that many of them are seeking collaboration through Solifin. This is all the more encouraging as this type of collaborative network does not exist in France.

A statement completed shortly afterwards by David Mellett. Active in various impact enterprises, he recalled that, to function, the financial system must work hand in hand with the social entrepreneurs. The impact, as David Mellett said, is trying to change what people are used to consuming (from food to property ownership). Carrying out an ambitious project therefore requires money and time as well as support for entrepreneurs to help them develop new skills and experiences. A concrete advice for entrepreneurs? You have to find a problem to solve as well as customers but try to solve the first one before looking for financing and investments. Instead of being obsessed with impact, it is a matter of putting the business first and then making the impact flow in order to build the project in the right direction.

The needs of social entrepreneurs? Who better than Piet Colruyt to answer such a question? The latter pointed out that money alone is not enough, the entrepreneurs need in particular finance, networking and advice! A vision embodied by the famous Impact House where all investors, funders and companies seek to strengthen impact by working together rather than competing. Piet Colruyt reminded the audience of this sad but true reality: if they are not supported by a sufficiently strong ecosystem, social entrepreneurs risk being crushed by the traditional players on the market.

Last but not least, Christel Dumas introduced the work of Solifin’s ethics committee, its functioning and the philosophy of the relatively strict charter used by the committee to analyze new financial players’ applications. As she pointed out, measuring the quality of investments is a complex task because it is difficult to define what is really a “high quality socially responsible investment”.

Taking her professorship hat at ICHEC, Christel Dumas welcomed the change in mentalities among students entering finance and economics: they are increasingly choosing courses that focus on new financial models rather than traditional finance.

An academic part that ended with a question-and-answer session before giving way to a profitable and pleasant evening of networking.