03 Jun SPOTLIGHT ON: Geoff Gourley, CEO & Founder One10 Incubator
When Geoff Gourley sits down with you, you immediately feel his presence. He’s a tall man, with a dynamic personality, a thirst for a good coffee and an unprecedented passion for social enterprise. His mission is simple: he wants to enable purpose-driven business to thrive. One10 a new social enterprise incubator is the culmination of all that he loves.
How it all started
As a young boy growing up at the back of the coal mines in La Trobe Valley, Gourley saw first hand the impact of the mining industry on the environment and people around him. He recalls a school excursion where he and his friends were shown 3D models to the power station. On the model one image haunted him: all the towns had been dug up for coal. It wasn’t long afterwards he and his parents were up routed from their home in the La Trobe Valley to make way for open cut mines.
It was something the young boy never forgot and later in life, it forged his desire to ensure a sustainable future, in particular to move away from fossil fuels toward clean energy and sustainability. His career in this field took also him on a social justice pathway, intersecting with many business ventures and investments. The seeds for One10 had begun.
The right time to launch
Gourley’s idea for an impact or social enterprise incubator came to him back in 2008, as part of a project he undertook as part of a fellowship for the Centre for Sustainability Leadership.
“Back then people didn’t even know what a social enterprise was” he says with a chuckle. “Even though there was a great deal going on with the focus on environmental movement and Al Gore’s push for climate change training, this idea was probably ahead of it’s time”.
As the space evolved, Gourley watched for the right time to launch, which for him is now. In a world where the global consumer trends are showing a shift toward conscious purchasing, and social media is exposing brands who are harming the planet, Gourley’s instincts to launch an incubator to enable businesses with a purpose or impact goal are spot on.
For Gourley, One10 is a framework for people with passion and ideas to get them up and running, to improve their opportunities for success and to make a difference. He has developed and tweaked the model continously, until now he feels he has a end to end solution for social enterprise. There is great care in what he does. This is evident in how he spends his time in nurturing people who come through the doors. It doesn’t matter that the social entrepreneur is an experienced player or a beginner with a great idea, for him and the team at One10 it’s about getting that person on their right pathway, whatever that may be.
Enabling People with Purpose & Passion
“There’s purpose behind everything I do.”
Even the office space and environment of where One10 is located important. One10’s Melbourne residence is in the stylish set up at Space & Co, in Melbourne’s fashionable Collins Street, with a new facility opening up in central Sydney. “Perception is reality” says Gourley. Even the way One10 comes across in a professional environment is a key step to having the investment community take social enterprise seriously.
“I want them to feel this is a sector that can make a lot of money as well as create impact”
This brings up a key issue for the sector:
Why Impact Investment?
Like social enterprise, “impact investing” is a relatively new term in the mainstream investment community. It operates as an alternative investment in that it assesses an additional criteria: social or environmental impact of an entity, in addition to its profitability. These are not entirely strange bedfellows, insists Gourley, but they do require a great deal of patience.
Gourley is quick to point out that, many people use the term “social enterprise” to cover a range of activities, including not for profit enterprises. But the reality is it a specific business model to create impact. This may or may not include not for profit legal structures or a combination of legal structures. That’s where you need lawyers who understand the space, adds Gourley.
In fact, the not for profit space, according to Gourley, is is dire need of disruption.
“There are about 660,000 NFP and charities in Australia. We like to give a lot, but we’re not doing it in a smart way. We need to have some consolidation in that sector”
Profit for purpose enterprises offer a new way to achieve impact that is sustainable for the people running the organisations, and are seen as long term solution. It’s a concept that is becoming more mainstream even among governments, which Gourley says stand to benefit significantly from investment in this sector.
STREAT is a great example of a social enterprise. They address the needs of homeless youth by matching them with job opportunities in the food industry. Another example is Who Gives A Crap creates ecologically sustainable toilet paper to fund sanitation projects for thousands in developing countries.
These are local examples, he says, which are solving social problems and can get off the ground easily and are well funded and well managed. On the tech or innovation side, there’s inventions like the Tesla Powerwall or the “Seabin” invented by two Aussie surfers to clean up rubbish in the ocean, which are scalable, profitable and world changing. It’s easy to see how this model can be attractive to investors, who see value in investments which make a profit and make a difference. It’s a different way of thinking.
The making of a business with purpose
Setting out to create a social enterprise and make it investible is not always easy Gourley reminds us:
“There is a huge amount of due diligence that founder of a profit for purpose business or social enterprise must go through before it becomes investor-ready, if at all.” Some are high in impact, but not necessarily scaleable. Others are highly scaleble, but the problem they seek to solve may be localised, not global in nature.”
For Gourley, its about meeting the needs of the founders in front of him, and being a conduit for whatever the business requires at that particular stage. It’s also about opening up traditional investors to a new opportunities, and taking them on a satisfying journey, which in some cases can return better than traditional investment portfolios.
“Imagine knowing that your investment has not only delivered returns but has also saved the lives of millions of people. That’s a legacy you want to have as an investor”
Gourley also sees an urgent need for government to kickstart this space:
“The more the industry gets support, the larger the profile the industry will have and ultimately the larger the impact, which in turn, in theory means less money the government needs to spend on fixing social or environmental problems down the track”
Gourley is hoping to open more dialogue amongst these groups, as the incubator grows. For now it’s about rolling the sleeves up and getting out there to find the best of the best social entrepreneurs.
When asked if there is a typical founder he sees in this space, he says there isn’t one. Brilliant ideas come from everywhere – from personal experience, to responding to a pressing need. That said, he does see more female founders coming through the doors – about a 60/40 split, which is different from many other traditional tech incubators or single sex style accelerators.
He does see a gap in the ideation and pre-seed phase of many social enterprise startups. In fact, he says, it can be quite difficult for early stage social enterprises to have any support at all. They are either seen as too focused on solving a social or environmental problem over the business model, or not impactful enough to really fix a social or environmental problem.
That’s why he says, the One10 approach is needed.
The One10 way
“We understand the very specific needs of those rare individuals who have the passion to drive change and do it through a profitable business.”
“We know how to match them with the right team, the right talent, the right investors to achieve the right outcomes, and more importantly at the right time. For our investors, the program is a model of de-risking the investment and a 90 % success rate.”
The key for Gourley is transparency and flexibility. Being able to be completely open with people, and see deeply into them as to what drives them is critical. He also says you also have to be incredibly astute to analyse the impact. If it really isn’t doing a long term job, then you have to question its effectiveness and why developing an entire business model around it is worth it.
It’s this responsive, needs base approach which marks One10 as an incubator which has potential to make a huge impact itself. Building teams, advisory boards, specific impact strategy and business strategy in addition to raising capital in a market that is yet to be fully educated on the value of impact investment, takes a certain kind of stamina to develop and sustain.
Gourley and his team are energetic, compassionate and determined, which makes them a great match for their clients. They also surround themselves with a huge network of mentors and advisors, including EY, Bank Australia, Clearpoint Counsel, Start Some Good and Common Code – all of whom share the mission, around conscious business principles. Partnerships with research organisations like CSIRO and Swinburne University are also important for One10, as student driven ideations need activations outside of the university system.
For now, it’s all about building for Gourley. He is out and about most days, powered by a million coffees. As for the future, he says he’d like to enable 1000 social enterprises, but it’s clear his true passion is for helping people to realise the changes we all would like to see in the world.
Meet Geoff and the One10 Team at any One 10 office:
One 10 Sydney opens on Friday 3rd June at Level 2, 580 George Street, Sydney.
One10 Melbourne is located Level 3, 530 Collins Street, Melbourne. And yes, there’s a cafe in the office.
One10 exists to create a more inclusive and sustainable world. They believe that the power of business can be harnessed for good. One10 enable change makers and innovators to create meaningful social and environmental impact through mentorship, social impact consultancy, and social enterprise acceleration.
By Clearpoint Ed.