50 Coffees #45: Joel Solomon


45 weeks ago I read a theory that going for 50 coffees with people you’ve never met is the entrepreneur’s equivalent to the theory that doing anything for 10,000 hours will make you an expert on it. While I get the idea, 50 coffees is far easier than practicing something for ten years, and while I’m far from lazy I decided to set out on a fairly simple mission: over 50 weeks I’m inviting 50 interesting Vancouverites, most of whom I have never met before, to go for coffee. I’m using this as an exercise in networking for myself and for V.I.A. while also using it as a platform to introduce you to some people who are doing really cool stuff in the city you live in.

Name: Joel Solomon
Occupation: Social Venture Investor
Beverage: Chai latte

Meet Joel Solomon. Chairman & Co-Founder of the Renewal2 Investment Fund, President & CEO of Renewal Partners, a founding member of the Social Venture Network, Tides Canada and Business for Social Responsibility. He also sits on numerous other boards including that of the Hollyhock Foundation which produces the Social Venture Institute at Hollyhock that I WROTE ABOUT last year.

Generally with this series I’ve tried to make a rule of going to coffee with strangers as an exercise for myself and for you dear readers but I’ve bent that rule on a few occasions and introduced you to people I’ve been acquainted with long before our coffee meeting, simply because I need to tell you about the awesomeness that certain people (whom I already know) bring to your city. Joel is one of those people. The first time I sat down with him was last year at the Social Venture Institute at Hollyhock and it was great to be able to catch up with him at Bean Around the World across from Victory Square yesterday.

Joel’s whole thing – I would venture to say his life’s work – is investing in and fostering companies that contribute positively to society and/or the planet while still being profitable, and building awareness around the fact that those sorts of businesses can not only succeed, but are the future. Raising money to invest in companies that embody social and ecological values that have a responsibility beyond their investors is called “impact investing”, and it’s something he’s been a pioneer of in Canada. Renewal2 is the largest impact investment fund in the country and has put roughly $35 million into 12 companies. It’s a years-long process from raising the capital to finding partners and companies and then actually putting that money to work, and they’ve moved into the final stage now, which I imagine is the most exciting part of the process.

What’s funny is that while I see Joel as a forward thinking and progressive businessman, these values he’s working with in impact investing are, in his words, “Basic, conservative values”. Using business to insure the positive futures of our great, great, great grandchildren and making sure we leave them with a healthy society and planet? That’s what Joel is in the business of doing.

He left me with the news that they’re in the planning stages of Renewal3 (!!!), which I will leave you with as well. Learn more about what he’s doing HERE.

And stay tuned for more 50 Coffees!

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Bob is our founder and Editor-in-Chief. A family man and outdoors enthusiast in his 3rd decade of publishing, he steers the V.I.A. ship, hosts our 'BC Was Awesome' history TV show and co-hosts our weekly podcast. bobk@vancouverisawesome.com