Harnessing user voice in investments
In 2020, we supported the Young Foundation to publish Nothing About Us, Without Us, a report exploring how user voice could be better integrated into social impact investment. Since then, we’ve been exploring different ways to integrate user voice into our investment and portfolio management processes. Impact measurement lends itself well to this. Hearing directly from end users forms a crucial part of how we ultimately understand impact and use insights to improve decision making along our impact chain, including our fund managers and frontline enterprises.
To pilot this, we partnered with 60 decibels, an impact measurement specialist, and Ascension Ventures to assess impact in two startups within the Fair By Design Fund: Wagestream and Steadypay – both of who improve their customers’ financial wellness. We saw the venture ecosystem as a natural fit for this, given that startups are very familiar with engaging users to drive product development and ultimately accelerate growth. In this context, understanding impact and its drivers can be a real source of broader value.
What we learnt
60 decibels ran an online survey with qualitative and quantitative questions to hundreds of users of both products. The findings provided some interesting insights across key elements of the investments’ impact thesis.
Both startups reach a significant portion of under-served and vulnerable people, defined as per household incomes:
|% who are female||53%||33%|
|% below UK poverty line||45%||23%|
|Living in deprived areas||39%||46%|
Similarly, both platforms create meaningful outcomes for their users:
% reporting improved financial
% who experienced improved quality
The survey also provided useful qualitative insights, for example around how users feel using the product:
There is a real comfort knowing you can access your own money any time...given me choice, and minimised risk of becoming stressed financially
Other user comments and suggestions were directly relevant to improving the actual product:
In the track tab, the earnings, streams and salaries section can get a little confusing with the bar amounts as it’s not always up to date
The value of user voice
Impact insights like these can provide value in different ways to enterprises, leading to better products that drive both impact and revenues. They help to validate fund managers’ and startups’ impact theses which gives them confidence that they’re achieving the change they want to see in the world. They offer an opportunity to communicate the broader impact and value of a startup more effectively to a broad range of stakeholders, including customers, employees, investors and regulators. Startups can use these insights to iterate and improve their products with benefits such as increased customer retention rates and staying ahead of regulatory action.
We’ll continue to explore ways in which we can embed user voice in the way we make and manage our investments.