Monday, April 22, 2024
From the Wire

VC Office Hours: How data can help improve social impact investing

In this article, we meet Erin Harkless Moore, an investment advisor at Pivotal Ventures, a part-venture fund and part-philanthropic organization founded by Melinda French Gates. Pivotal Ventures aims to support founders and nonprofits, specifically focusing on positioning more women, particularly women of color, in decision-making roles. With a data-focused approach to investing, the firm advocates for federal paid family leave, supports women in public offices, and invests in areas such as caregiving and healthcare innovation. In an interview with TechCrunch, Harkless Moore discusses Pivotal’s long-term strategy, the role of data in social impact investing, and the potential of technology to address societal gaps where the government falls short.

VC Office Hours: How data can help improve social impact investing

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Background of Pivotal Ventures

Pivotal Ventures is a unique organization that operates as both a venture fund and a philanthropic organization. Launched in 2015 with a $1 billion commitment from Melinda French Gates, Pivotal Ventures aims to support founders and nonprofits through grants, partnerships, advocacy strategies, and investments. The primary focus of Pivotal Ventures is to position more women, especially women of color, in decision-making roles.

The organization takes a data-focused approach to investing, using data to inform their decision-making process and identify impactful investment opportunities. By leveraging data, Pivotal Ventures aims to evaluate the social impact of their investments and track progress towards their goals.

Investment Focus Areas

Pivotal Ventures has several key investment focus areas that align with their mission of supporting women and promoting diversity. One of their focus areas is investing in caregiving, with the aim of supporting work-life balance for women. This includes investing in companies and initiatives that provide innovative solutions for caregiving, creating opportunities for women to succeed both at work and at home.

Additionally, Pivotal Ventures advocates for federal paid family leave, recognizing the importance of policies that support working families. They also encourage more women to study entrepreneurship, recognizing the untapped potential and talent that exists among women entrepreneurs. Furthermore, Pivotal Ventures supports women in public offices, recognizing the importance of women’s representation in decision-making positions.

Another significant focus for Pivotal Ventures is the care economy, which is a $648 billion market with substantial opportunities for innovation. By investing in this sector, Pivotal Ventures aims to drive positive social change and economic growth.

VC Office Hours: How data can help improve social impact investing

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Support for Emerging Funds

In addition to their direct investments, Pivotal Ventures is involved in supporting emerging funds like Magnify Ventures and Leadout Capital. Acting as a limited partner, Pivotal Ventures provides support to help these emerging funds scale and achieve their goals. This support includes financial assistance, strategic guidance, and access to additional resources.

By actively supporting emerging funds, Pivotal Ventures is contributing to the growth and success of the venture capital ecosystem, while also advancing their mission of supporting diverse founders and promoting diversity in decision-making roles.

Importance of Data in Social Impact Investing

Pivotal Ventures recognizes the crucial role of data in social impact investing. They employ a data-driven approach to decision-making, using data to inform their investment strategies and identify opportunities that will have the greatest social impact. By leveraging data, Pivotal Ventures aims to make informed investment decisions that align with their goals and maximize their impact.

Data analysis is also used by Pivotal Ventures to evaluate the social impact of their investments. By tracking and analyzing data, they can measure the outcomes of their investments and assess the effectiveness of their strategies. This data-driven approach allows them to continuously improve their investment practices and make data-backed decisions.

VC Office Hours: How data can help improve social impact investing

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Challenges in Data-driven Social Impact Investing

While data is critical for social impact investing, there are several challenges that need to be addressed. One challenge is the availability and quality of data. In many cases, relevant data may be limited or difficult to obtain, making it challenging to make informed investment decisions. Additionally, ensuring the ethical collection and usage of data is essential to maintain trust and uphold privacy standards.

Another challenge is identifying the right metrics for measuring social impact. Defining and measuring social impact can be complex, as it encompasses a wide range of factors and outcomes. It is crucial to identify and utilize metrics that accurately capture the desired social impact and provide meaningful insights.

Interpreting and analyzing complex data sets can also pose a challenge. Data analysis requires expertise and resources to extract valuable insights and make informed decisions. Investing in the necessary tools and skills is essential to effectively utilize data for social impact investing.

Role of Technology in Social Impact Investing

Technology plays a significant role in enabling data-driven decision-making in social impact investing. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are valuable tools for uncovering insights from large and complex datasets. These technologies can help identify patterns, trends, and correlations that may not be immediately apparent to humans, thus enhancing the decision-making process.

Blockchain technology also holds potential in social impact investing by providing transparency and accountability. Blockchain can ensure the integrity of data and transactions, which is crucial for building trust among stakeholders. Additionally, impact investing platforms and tools can leverage technology to streamline processes and facilitate greater access to impact investment opportunities.

VC Office Hours: How data can help improve social impact investing

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Collaboration between Government and Impact Investors

Collaboration between government and impact investors is essential for driving scalable social impact. Impact investors can address gaps where the government fails to provide adequate support or resources. By partnering with the government, impact investors can leverage their data and expertise to advocate for policy changes that align with their mission and have a broader societal impact.

Public-private partnerships are instrumental in driving scalable social impact. By combining the resources and expertise of both sectors, these partnerships can achieve more significant outcomes and tackle complex social challenges. Data-backed evidence and insights can support advocacy efforts and help influence policy changes that create a positive impact.

Promoting collaboration between different stakeholders, including governments, impact investors, nonprofits, and communities, is critical for addressing social issues effectively and driving meaningful change.

Successful Examples of Social Impact Investing

Pivotal Ventures has made successful investments in companies like Ellevest, OndeCare, and Tia. By backing these companies, they have witnessed positive social outcomes and demonstrated the potential of social impact investing.

These investments have resulted in the empowerment of women, the promotion of work-life balance, and the advancement of healthcare solutions. Case studies showcasing these successful investments provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of social impact investing and serve as inspiration for future investments.

VC Office Hours: How data can help improve social impact investing

Future Trends in Social Impact Investing

The future of social impact investing is shaped by various trends and advancements. Integration of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) factors is becoming increasingly important for impact investors. By considering these factors, investors can ensure that their investments align with sustainable and responsible practices, ultimately driving positive social change and environmental stewardship.

Emerging impact investing sectors and opportunities offer new avenues for social impact. As societal challenges evolve, new sectors such as clean energy, education technology, and healthcare innovation present opportunities for investors to make a significant difference. By identifying these emerging sectors and investing strategically, impact investors can stay at the forefront of driving social change.

Technological advancements will continue to play a significant role in shaping the future of impact investing. Continued advancements in AI, machine learning, and blockchain will enhance data-driven decision-making and transparency in the impact investing ecosystem. Impact investing platforms and tools will also evolve, providing individuals and organizations with greater accessibility and ease of participation.


Data is at the core of social impact investing. Pivotal Ventures has demonstrated the importance of a data-focused approach to inform investment decisions, measure outcomes, and drive positive social change. By leveraging data, impact investors can identify impactful opportunities, address social challenges, and advocate for policy changes effectively.

There is a call to action for individuals and organizations to contribute to social impact investing by leveraging data and technology. With the right tools, collaboration, and commitment, we can collectively drive meaningful change and create a more equitable and sustainable future. By harnessing the power of data and investing strategically, we can contribute to a society where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.