At ICA Fund, we believe entrepreneurship has the power to transform our economy into one that is more inclusive and resilient, with wealth more equitably distributed across communities and between workers and employers.That's why we work to maximize the potential of Bay Area founders by connecting them with personalized business coaching, founder-friendly capital, and connections to a network of mentors and peers.
In 2023, we worked with over 100 entrepreneurs and deployed $3.1M. This past year we delivered capital to more businesses than ever, reaching $12M cumulative investment across 55 companies with 69¢ of every dollar to entrepreneurs of color and 65¢ of every dollar to women. And we’re just getting started.
This was the first year of ICA Fund’s new 5-year-plan to raise and deploy another $25M to support the Bay Area’s boldest founders, running visionary, community-shaping small businesses. We’re happy to report we’re well on track. Support ICA Fund to keep our work growing.
ICA Fund’s work in 2023 existed against a backdrop of a rapidly changing financial landscape that led to a significant lending downturn nationally. This environment made it more evident than ever that entrepreneurs need a diverse capital ecosystem to flourish, and as traditional capital markets tightened, ICA Fund continued to deliver innovative capital products to help Bay Area businesses thrive. Read on to dig deeper into a few focus areas from our work this past year.
New research validates our approach
ICA Fund’s model empowers business owners to unleash their full potential, create sustainable growth, and contribute to a more inclusive and resilient economy. At the beginning of this year, we set out to prove our approach with brand-new, self-funded research. Our research, Small Business Levers of Wealth Creation, found that ICA’s model is working: integrated advising and investment model has real, tangible impacts above and beyond just coaching or just investment. And further, ICA firms paid $5.43 more per hour to full-time employees and $2.27 more per hour to part-time employees when compared to similar Bay Area-based small businesses, and had more women, East Asian, and Black people on staff and in management. Check out the full research report for yourself and diving deeper in the rich literature review and survey findings. Thanks to our partner research partner, Lucy Odgie-Turley, from OT Consulting.
Community counteracts systemic exclusion
This marks the first time in ICA’s history that we operated The Lab and The Accelerator simultaneously, blending in-person events and workshops across the two cohorts – creating new opportunities for peer-to-peer learning and mentorship across cohorts. Building a sense of community amongst entrepreneurs of color and women founders is particularly important as it can serve to counter the compounding effects of systemic exclusion from the financial mainstream. Our curriculum addresses this by providing 1:1 mentorship and a strong community of peers, as well as curriculum around the trauma of money and work to support entrepreneurs in developing their leadership skills and CEO mindset. These facets of the program address challenges of entrepreneurship such as loneliness and lack of knowledge and resources that can have a devastating impact on founders, particularly those without access to generational wealth.
Growing through network connections
Peer-to-peer connection shined in 2023 in the ICA Fund entrepreneur community. In addition to new organized gatherings, and co-learning workshops, we shifted the structure of our direct services programming to facilitate better peer connection. This allows founders who are solving similar challenges but at different growth stages to mentor and support each other.
After the success of last year’s ICA community networking events, we increased the number and type of gatherings we organize for founders to build relationships with each other, ICA team members, and ICA advisors. In 2023, we hosted the Bay Area Entrepreneur Mixer, the ICA Fund Summer Sizzler, a dinner for portfolio companies, and our capstone event, the ICA Fund Community Showcase. In 2024, we will continue to organize these events, as well as invest in technology platforms that can supplement the network-building impact of our current community building events. We will be launching a community platform called Circle which will enable engagement with our community of entrepreneurs through streamlined peer-to-peer connection forums and work spaces to access ICA resources.
Deploying capital to visionary Bay Area founders
At the start of this year, we set out to deploy $3M equity and equity-like capital to accelerate Bay Area small businesses that have a deep commitment to social impact and community wealth creation. We approved and deployed $3.1M in investments across 23 deals. Our investments this year include $2.5MM in Growth Capital (10 companies), $400k in Seed Capital (10 companies), and $203k in Working Capital Loans (4 companies), where every dollar went to an ICA program graduate. To date, our Seed Capital portfolio remains 100% invested women and founders of color.
Heading into 2024, we will continue deploying patient capital in the Bay Area, exploring next iterations of our ICA Impact Note through redeemable equity, and sharing our model more broadly. As our portfolio grows and we begin to consider how to support companies at different stages, we are also adding curriculum around exit strategies, and deepening our understanding of what wealth means for our founders, their employees and their communities.
ICA Fund's approach catalyzes small business growth and builds economic prosperity that is shared among founders, their employees, and their communities. And we know we can only do this together, your support makes this work possible.
Thank you for being a part of the ICA Fund community, together we can build an economy that works for all. Support this work with a donation to ICA Fund.
Allison Kelly and the ICA Team