Jem Stein

I’m a social entrepreneur turned impact investor. My job now is like matchmaking – finding interesting investors and matching them with interesting businesses that make the world a better place.

I started getting involved in refugee issues when I was at university, and through a mentoring scheme I met Adam, a refugee from Darfur in Sudan. One of the biggest challenges he faced, was he couldn’t get around London. A bus pass in London is £21 a week, and as an asylum seeker you get £40 and you’re not allowed to work, so public transport is unaffordable. To help him, I bought an old bike which was his first step into normal living. When I graduated, I started working for another charity and set up The Bike Project in my spare time; collecting bikes, refurbishing them, and then donating them. I launched The Bike Project, as an independent charity, in March 2013. Over 10 years, we donated over 11,000 bikes across 9 cities in the UK, and established various projects all with the goal of getting refugees cycling.

We were funded through grants, and we also raised money by selling half of the bikes we received as donations and donating the other half. We used the revenue from these sales to cover our costs. Additionally, we raised funds through social investment, which sparked my interest in social investing (I’m also on the social investment committees for two large foundations). I realised that there was a gap in the market for early-stage businesses seeking finance, especially those who were not expected to have very high returns and didn’t fit the criteria for a social investment debt fund. This led to the idea for Daring Capital.

After leading The Bike Project for ten years, I was burnt out due to the challenging circumstances. We were dealing with the refugee situation, Brexit, COVID, and the cost of living crisis. I was exhausted and ready to step down, but the transition was not easy. It took six months to find the right CEO to take over, and managing the charity during this period was tough. But over the ten years, I learnt many lessons. Firstly the importance of staying focused. As an entrepreneur, you may have many ideas and want to execute all of them, but staying in your lane and building on what you are good at is key. The second lesson is that hiring a great team is crucial. Often, entrepreneurs hire friends or people who have a track record in a big business. However, big and small businesses are vastly different, so you need to ensure your team is up for the challenges of a small team with limited resources.

After leaving The Bike Project, I still had the same goals: to run a business with a social mission. However, I wanted to reclaim the enjoyment that had been lost towards the end of my time there as the business became very complex. My mantra now is to have fun, do good, and make money. This is what I aim to do at Daring Capital. We find exceptional social entrepreneurs and match them with our community of purposeful social investors, to help their enterprises grow.

We follow a founder-focused approach when selecting social enterprises to support. We are looking for extraordinary founders who are dedicated to solving problems faced by marginalised groups. Therefore, we focus on individuals who have been working on the problem for an extended period, have a deep understanding of it, and have demonstrated real grit and determination to solve it. Recently, we helped raise funds for Tellmi, an online peer-to-peer platform for young people with mental health issues. Studies have shown that seeking support from peers at an early stage can be as beneficial as counselling but more cost-effective. In turn, Tellmi generates its revenue by selling access to the service to NHS trusts and foundations.

Investors can join our community or attend our quarterly events for free. We find out what their interests are and will find businesses that align with those interests. Through social investing, investors can make a significant impact at scale, benefit from generous tax breaks, and have fun. However, there are also financial risks to consider, and buying and selling social investments is not always easy. It requires a long-term commitment, but it’s a great way to get involved with exciting enterprises, collaborate with interesting people, and make a real difference.

Circle Square Member Q&A

What 3 words best describe you? Innovative, passionate, determined.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement? My greatest achievement is donating 11,000 bikes to refugees if you can count that as one achievement!

Which person (dead or alive) would you most like to invite to dinner? The journalist, broadcaster and podcaster, Elizabeth Day.

What inspired you to join Circle Square? I saw an alignment between Daring Capital and Circle Square values. Members share our philosophy of wanting to make a positive impact, have fun and also invest well.

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