Over the last year the Knight Enterprise Fund, a $10M fund that is part of the Knight Foundation, has invested in more than a dozen early-stage, for-profit companies. They include crowd-sourced news networks such as PolicyMic, revenue tools for existing publishers such as OwnLocal andUmbel, and open government services such as PublicStuff and Captricity. Collectively, these companies help hundreds of cities, thousands of publishers, and millions of people to create, share, and consume information.
The Enterprise Fund is separate from Knight Foundation’s grantmaking budget. It is carved out from Knight Foundation’s $2.2 billion endowment, a venture fund that seeks to directly drive social impact while generating a financial return. Though it is too soon to tell whether the fund will succeed in both goals, we’d like to share some lessons that highlight what we’ve learned to date, at a time when the field of impact investing is generally struggling with a dearth of early-stage funding.