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This Startup Wants To Solve The Riddle Of Measuring Impact Investments

Jenelle Sobey, Vanessa Paesani and Jess Peters at NBIF's Breakthru. Image: Submitted/Stephen MacGillivray

MONCTON – As more investors choose to put their money in projects, companies and products that create a positive impact for the world, three New Brunswick women saw the need to measure that impact and created RIDDL. It’s a company that has generated a lot of early excitement, attracting investment and an invitation to take part in an accelerator called StartUp Academy in Europe, part of the financial technology conference Money 20/20.

“There’s a lot of people who are investing now not just for traditional financial return, but they also want an impact return. But there’s no standard way of measuring that yet. And so what RIDDL’s doing is coming to address that gap,” says Vanessa Paesani, who co-founded the company with Jenelle Sobey and Jess Peters.

“I really believe that measuring impact investment dollars will definitely have a huge ripple effect in the world and will allow people to really see that there doesn’t have to be a division between making money and having an impact.”

RIDDL is a cloud-based platform that uses artificial intelligence to provide investors with data that could help them determine how to use their investments to effect change related to various causes, including health, poverty, education, climate change, gender equity and others.

“What investors are looking to understand is, ‘how could I actually measure the impact of that? So that if I was to put an extra $500,000 into an organization, or into this problem, I’d be able to track or predict the impact that I have.”

The data could also be used by organizations on the ground to benchmark their progress. This, in turn, will help investors understand how far their money goes in moving towards a solution.

“We obviously can’t be an expert in all of these impact fields. But what we can do is create a platform where we can hold all of the data so that the more data that gets into that platform, the more likely the best indicators that show us how the problem is moving towards solutions will be in there,” she said.

The indicators will be “crowdsourced” in that people and organizations working in climate change can add measurement points and data to the platform. Others can then use that to see how their work or investments is helping a cause.

RIDDL was the runner up at the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation (NBIF) Breakthru competition this year, taking home a $150,000 investment from NBIF and Opportunities NB. In the last five months, it’s been working to close a pre-seed financing round.

After being admitted to the Venn Garage, a program by Venn Innovation to prepare startups in the early stages, RIDDL applied to enter Money 20/20’s StartUp Academy at the recommendation of Venn’s entrepreneur-in-residence, Alicia Ismach.

In June, it will join 106 other financial technology startups from around the world to attend the three-day accelerator. Paesani, who will be there for the company, will be meeting leading thinkers and entrepreneurs who are trying to disrupt the financial sector as part of the Money 20/20 conference in Amsterdam. She’ll also be meeting with investors and organizations that can benefit from RIDDL.

The conference is expected to have more than 6,000 attendees from 82 countries, and include speakers ranging from top executives at major international banks to those in the financial technology sector like PayPal, Amazon Pay and Ant Financial. 

“It’s important at this time for RIDDL because we’ll be speaking with leading thinkers in Europe on the future of money,” Paesani said. “It will be critically important for us to understand that, as well as finding additional early adopters who are looking to analyze the impact return of what they’re investing.”

RIDDL is currently conducting an early adopter program with impact investors who have provided the company with data to be analyzed. It also recently hired Derek Hatchard, formerly of Radian6 and Salesforce, as chief technology officer. Hatchard will lead RIDDL’s product development and its research partnership with Universite de Moncton. IT professor Moulay Akhloufi will be leading the development of the artificial intelligence part of RIDDL’s technology.

“They will be analyzing the early adopter data to create the tools that others will then use to analyze their impact returns,” Paesani said.

RIDDL plans to release its product early next year.