‘Someone had to build the data infrastructure to make this moment matter’:
A Q&A with Net Purpose Founder and CEO Samantha Duncan
Tell us about yourself
I started my investment career at Goldman Sachs in the mergers and acquisitions team, facilitating multibillion dollar transactions in the healthcare space in Australia. I joined in 2007 and in the space of two years, I experienced first hand the boom and bust of the global financial crisis. It gave me a unique seat at the table to watch capitalism at its best and, perhaps, its worst. I saw how every decision is made using data and how solely focusing on profit could be myopic when it came to capturing the total return of those investments. Those two reflections led me to leave Goldman in 2009 and to pursue a career in impact and sustainable investing.
I began in Peru managing a small grassroots programme serving 60 borrowers with $20 loans to understand the power of social finance and to see if the concept of microfinance would work in the commercial context. I book-ended my time in sustainable investing as the Head of Impact at LeapFrog Investments, which is an impact investing fund launched by President Bill Clinton. I ultimately became really passionate about the power for sustainable investing to influence social, financial and environmental outcomes.
Why did you found Net Purpose?
During my time at LeapFrog, I had the opportunity to co-create the standards for how we measure social and environmental performance. LeapFrog was a founding member of the Global Impact Investing Network, and I sat on committees at the UN Principles for Responsible Investment and at B Lab, which defined the standards for what constitutes a B Corp. Yet, despite advances in standards for what we measure, the core daily problem we had at LeapFrog was data. We invested in a three-person impact team but 95% of their time was spent punching numbers from one Excel file to another because the technological infrastructure didn’t yet exist to measure impact efficiently. It dawned on me that there is a $30 billion financial data industry that powers financial decision making and 80% of all the world’s capital is now committed to investing sustainably or for impact. Someone needs to build the data infrastructure to make this moment matter, otherwise no one is going to have the time or energy to invest to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. That was why I founded Net Purpose in 2019, as the data provider for sustainable and impact investors.
What is the company’s mission?
Our mission is to make impact measurement effortless for every investor in the world by 2025. We are a platform for sustainable investors, and we provide a host of tools to help make the process of quantifying social and environmental performance seamless. We exist to power a new generation of investors who will measure social and environmental performance as rigorously as they measure financial performance.
What has been the greatest lesson that you have learned while building Net Purpose?
Being relentlessly focused and prioritising what you are building as a company and for whom you are building it is important. When we started Net Purpose, we knew that everyone needs data, but it is a very big opportunity that you could easily get lost in. We conducted an in-depth segmentation process to decide where we would start and that is what continues to drive our prioritisation today. You have to say no to a lot of things, say yes to one thing and be the best that you can be there. One of my biggest reflections is also that it takes a village of superstars to achieve success. Unless you can attract those stars and enable them to be their best selves, Net Purpose won’t be its best self either. Our team is what makes our vision a reality for our customers.
What is a milestone you wish to reach in 2023?
In the seed stage, you’re given an opportunity to identify and achieve product market fit. In Series A, our core goal is to expand our reach to help more investment professionals measure their impact. We’ll continue to invest in the product to enable this.
How has ETF Partners’ support helped shape the business?
One of the biggest impacts ETF Partners has had on Net Purpose is their direct interaction at the board level. ETF Partners Investment Manager Tomer Strikovsky sits on our board, and he has elevated the conversation around metrics, performance, execution and results. His focus on sustained growth and building a great business is something I’ve really valued. On an individual level, Tomer has also made himself consistently available to help us achieve the goals that we’ve set, as well as challenging us to make sure that we’re on the right track.
The ETF Partners network has also been invaluable. Our invitation to the AGM was amazing and I met so many people there who could ultimately be our clients. ETF Partners backing our company and showcasing us in front of their network is the perfect synergy and we appreciate the continued effort massively.