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Illustration: Axios/Lazaro Gamio

Kapor Capital, a venture capital firm that seeks to invest in startups with a positive societal impact, says its returns are just as good as more traditional seed funds of similar size.

Why it matters: The firm says it wants to dispel the perception that so-called “social impact investing” is just charity and can’t lead to meaningful financial returns.

By the numbers:

  • Kapor says it invested about $60 million across 102 companies between 2011 and 2017. Investments before 2011, including Uber and Twilio were not included in the analysis.
  • IRR (net of fees): 29.02%, which the firm says is in the top quartile according to Pitchbook and Cambridge Associates benchmarks.
  • TVPI: 3.0, which it says also puts it in the top quartile.

Yes, but: The firm’s founders, Mitch Kapor and Freada Kapor Klein, tell Axios that because they don’t subscribe to common VC philosophies like fast growth at all costs, conventional performance metrics don’t quite fit their portfolio.

  • “We also know that for many of our companies that are very focused on impact… it’s many, many times more difficult to raise follow-on capital,” says Kapor Klein, adding that founders from underrepresented groups also face greater challenges like sexual harassment during fundraising. Sixty of the firm's investments (59%) have a founder who identifies as a woman and/or an underrepresented person of color.
  • And to be fair, Kapor Capital is more akin to a family office at the moment, giving it the luxury to pace itself without outside investor pressures.

The bigger picture: “The conventional view is that most businesses are impact neutral and some businesses are positive—but we think that’s inaccurate,” says Kapor.

  • Even if a company’s business doesn’t have red flags, how it treats its employees and local community factors into its overall impact, he explains.
  • “There are many other [companies] that we’ve turned down that the technology is perfectly fine, but it’s not clear who is going to win or lose,” adds Kapor Klein. “If this company is successful and the technology is deployed, will it be gap widening or closing?” Ultimately, if the it's not clear that it could have a positive impact, the firm chooses not to take the risk.

As for Uber, which Kapor Capital backed in 2009, the duo declined to share just yet what it plans to do with the returns.

Go deeper: Tech is “flunking” the diversity test, says activist and venture capitalist Freada Kapor Klein

Go deeper

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Former FDA chief Rob Califf on the vaccine approval process

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is reviewing two emergency use authorization requests for COVID-19 vaccines, with an outside advisory committee scheduled to meet next Thursday to review data from Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech.

Axios Re:Cap digs in with former FDA commissioner Rob Calif about the EUA process, the science and who should make the final call.

The recovery needs rocket fuel

Data: BLS. Chart: Axios Visuals

Friday's deeply disappointing jobs report should light a fire under Congress, which has dithered despite signs the economy is struggling to kick back into gear.

Driving the news: President-elect Biden said Friday afternoon in Wilmington that he supports another round of $1,200 checks.

1 hour ago - Health

CDC: It's time for "universal face mask use"

Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty

The CDC is urging “universal face mask use” for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began, citing recent case spikes as the U.S. has entered a phase of “high-level transmission” before winter officially begins.

Why it matters: Daily COVID-related deaths across the U.S. hit a new record on Wednesday. Face coverings have been shown to increase protection of the wearer and those around them, despite some Americans' reluctance to use them.