Nancy Pfund has been a successful venture capitalist and an advisor on environmental policy and education to the U.S. government since the 1980s. But it wasn’t until she started Double Bottom Line Investors, a spin-off of her former job at JP Morgan, that she was able to truly integrate her two interests–money and meaning–into one seamless career.
Founded in 2008, DBL Investors is a venture capital firm with the mission of investing in top-tier high-value companies and working with those companies to give back to the communities they operate in.
“The two goals reinforce each other,” Pfund tells Fast Company. “In many ways, we look like any other venture capital firm. We provide companies with capital to grow. But we also tell our clients, we can work with you to develop a culture that pays attention to the broader community we’re in, and we think it’ll be beneficial to you.”
Pfund’s portfolio includes high-profile companies like Tesla and Pandora. Under DBL’s guidance, Tesla gained the know-how on how to choose regions with incentives like low-interest loans and strong local government support—just last week, the company reopened the shut-down NUMMI automobile plant in Fremont, reinvigorating the city’s economy–and Pandora is sponsoring classes at a public school in Oakland, providing an under-funded school with music education and gaining insights into how children and teachers might appreciate Internet radio.
Another DBL portfolio company is Revolution Foods, a for-profit venture that provides healthy lunches to low-income schools. DBL seeded the company and, after just four years in operation, it now serves 60,000 meals a day in Oakland, LA, Washington DC, and Denver. “It’s addressing a huge social need and is also a thriving business that’s expanding nationally,” Pfund says. “It’s been a great investment for us.”
While many smaller philanthropic organizations have similar goals, she says, for something like this to really scale, “you need an effective blend of good policy, knowledge of the social issue, and an entrepreneur who’s going to work 24/7 to make it happen.” Revolution Foods has over 400 employees, many of whom don’t have higher educations but are nonetheless privy to high quality jobs; Pfund estimates that the business will grow to 100,000 lunches by next year. “You can’t reach that many kids with just a foundation grant.”
Through DBL, Pfund has pioneered a foolproof approach to applying a private sector approach to accomplish social good. “Not all of our companies are social in orientation, but any company can have a profound social dimension. We help our companies figure out what that dimension is and make it part of their culture. It can be very powerful if you know how and can bring the right management team together.”