After starting social impact work at 16 years old, Nelli Garton has valuable insight on the value of social good ventures. In this episode, we’ll hear her speak on the social impact investment platform she started to address the problems she saw.
In this Episode We Cover:
- 2:00 Nelli’s background and story into becoming an impact investor.
- 11:15 Learn about the transition into building out the impact measurement company, Tablecloth.io.
- 15:15 How the basics of the technology work behind the scenes of Tablecloth.io.
- 23:00 The current stage of business that Tablecloth.io is in and what’s next as they scale.
- 27:00 Understand the mindset as they looked at the decision of whether or not to bring in investors.
- 29:30 How they see Tablecloth.io participating in the Global Goals.
Nelli and her team were awarded 10 million dollars to build an academic center, where she studied how philanthropy and social impact companies interact. After she moved to San Diego, she began studying the struggling communities that nonprofits focused the most efforts. She noticed the lack of infrastructure and resources posed deeper problems than nonprofits could solve.
Nelli began teaching people how to invest rather than donate and give grants. She wanted to create a conversation between investors and philanthropists, to see how money moved through San Diego.
Nelli has a PhD in impact measurement, and she’s passionate about using philanthropic and investment resources responsibly. Nelli noticed a few key points to avoid wasting investment dollars:
- We need to measure who participates in impact fundraise campaigns and how much they contribute
- We need to have “process evaluation measures” to answer: did we use the resources effectively?
- We need to measure what kind of change occurred, and how much change occurred.
The world of raising funds or donations for impact projects can be a shared ecosystem, from Nelli’s perspective. In order to build that ecosystem she committed to find best practices and common needs between both parties.
Tablecloth.io helps companies capture impact measurement information and use it to improve their ROI. If data doesn’t change your direction or decision making, then what’s the point of gathering it?
“We like to say, we don’t write a final report, because it’s never done. We want everyone to be able to be an evaluator, to understand the impact of what they’re doing.”
What the Tablecloth.io community is seeing is, “Wow there are way more organizations addressing the problem I’m solving than I realized.” So, these organizations start to meet and join forces to solve the social and ecological problems they’re committed to impact.
Qualitative Storytelling Data
“Data without context is just noise.” Nelli says.
the Tablecloth.io platform allows users to collect quantitative and qualitative data:
- Quantitative data: The numbers, percentages, and growth metrics
- Quantitative data: Videos of an incident, on-the-ground photos, and the context of the Qualitative data.
This way, users can see which numbers are relevant to their growth and which types of data they should focus on.
The Platform and Business Model
The platform has 2 sides: the technology and the consulting services.
The product is a SAAS based model with 3 components:
- Data collection tools like surveys, software data scraping
- Data dashboards to visualize the data
- Group creation for conversations around certain kinds of data, to create engagement.
Tablecloth is a functioning product with several clients using their consulting service. Their clients are early adopters who are beta testing their software. The company is moving from beta phase to launch phase now and has used investment sparingly.
“We’ve thought a lot about who are the right investors for our company,” Nelli says.
The company values their direction and goals over the profit they could make with the wrong investor. The best fitting investors for Tablecloth are impact investors with a portfolio of companies, where the portfolio is comprised of companies working toward the same impact goals.
Addressing the Global Goals
Nelli and Chandler talk about how nonprofits have played into the Global Goals, and how Tablecloth.io can forward the goals.
In San Diego alone, thousands of nonprofits start up every year. “Couldn’t we just collaborate more?” Chandler says. With data, companies and nonprofits can track and measure where resources should be allocated and who is making the most progress. Collaboration to do what works becomes much more efficient than a new nonprofit for each angle of a problem.
- You can start anywhere. Nelli’s started when she was 16, and followed her curiosity!
- Measuring impact is not easy – but it’s critical. How do we measure tough and sensitive topics accurately and holistically?
- If you have a business, how are you measuring your impact?
- As an impact investor, how is your investment actually performing against your goals and the company’s goals?