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Creating a Cooperative Model for Social Good

CycleEffect Regenerative Venture’s co-founder Amanda Pinelli shares how the VC firm’s unique model of reciprocity and collaboration is a force for social good

by Genevieve Kim

September 29, 2018

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Amanda Pinelli is a pretty badass woman.

She moves through space with both an air of confidence and an air of ease. She’s usually smiling, and if she’s not, it’s only because she hasn’t seen you yet. But beyond the smile, there is also a seriousness: in her profession, in taking care of her family and in creating an impact that is long-standing.

Pinelli is a partner in CyclEffect Regenerative Ventures, a Venture Capital Firm focused on investing in the circular and regenerative economy. As a cooperative model, CyclEffect empowers both its members and investees through the relationships, funding opportunities and platforms which enable shared learning and resources.

So what does that mean, exactly? Pinelli herself is invested in service for the collective good, and her work is an extension of that. Her personal and professional mission is demonstrating that we can invest and operate differently by honoring multiple forms of capital — and shifting from a transactional financial model to a collaborative one. It’s a model of doing well by doing good.
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But we didn’t first bond over this vision for business. In fact, our shared interest took us all the way to Italy, where Pinelli spent time during her University days working her way up the Fashion ladder as a consultant to top Fashion houses like Dolce & Gabanna, Just Cavalli and Ermanno Scervino. And for 15 years, she kept climbing. Through an extensive career, she had “seen early in [her] career that [she] would have limited ‘successes’ based on my unwillingness to compromise on integrity.”

Her integrity and pursuit of social good led her back to New York for a Social Enterprise conference at Columbia University, and a new world opened up before her that “business and finance could be a force for good.”

We caught up at The Assemblage NoMad to talk about building a regenerative model for impact investing— and her superpowers.

Genevieve Kim: Hi Amanda. You’re a pretty badass woman, particularly in what you’re doing to help build CYCLEffect. Can you explain the model of the company?

Amanda Pinelli: CYCLEffect is a hybrid venture fund and multi-stakeholder cooperative. Our ethos is built on a regenerative and circular economy through collaboration. In this new model of doing business, the focus is to demonstrate that we can invest and operate differently by honoring multiple forms of capital. We’re creating a regenerative economy of ecological and economic symbiosis.

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GK: Who are your partners in the project?

AP: I work with Chris Lindstrom, whose vision is to flip the financing paradigm upside down, recognizing the value of numerous forms of capital with equity—beyond financial. There is a lot of research and discussion on different forms of capital, and ours is based of off the book Regenerative Enterprise by Ethan Roland Soloviev and Gregory Landua. [CYCLEFffect] mainly focuses on intellectual, social and experiential capital.

GK: How is this model unique from other funds?

AP: It is unique in that it is a model of reciprocity where portfolio companies also have a stake in the fund and therefore a stake in the success of fellow portfolio members. In this way members are incentivized to share resources that have invested time and energy into, avoiding the duplication of a similar investment by their strategically aligned peers.

GK: And what does the experiential shared learning look like?

AP: I have a vision of building a digital platform for shared learning. I’m envisioning a place of exchange where a member can put an ask out to the cooperative, and another member with the know-how and resources can fulfill it. Experiential shared learning specifically is about gaining value through an experience, such as a webinar, or seminar. The philosophy we follow consists of 8 forms of capital: Social, Cultural, Spiritual, Experiential, Intellectual, Material & Financial.

GK: How did you determine that the cooperative model was right for CYCLEffect?

AP: Chris [Lindstrom] and I had gone to Mondragón in Spain, which is the largest industrial cooperative in the world. It’s essentially a holding company of cooperatives that support one another. Even when one company struggles, there are pools of capital that exist from successful companies which serve almost like a lifeline for the struggling company.

So we studied that model and liked the various attributes to it. Ultimately, we started looking at the goals to 1) have companies invested in each other’s successes, 2) reward multiple forms of capital through ownership, and 3) continue to innovate on ways to serve the entrepreneurs with the aligned mission of honoring all life. We combined existing models and evolved them into a hybrid that achieves our goals with a multi-stakeholder cooperative linked to a fund.

GK: What makes you confident that CYCLEffect’s regenerative model will work?

AP: If we were operating in the old paradigm where everybody has an ego and wants to be right, I don’t think we would get very far. But we didn’t create an organization based on people like that. We created an organization based on people who are evolving themselves, and recognize that their personal work is reflected in their business. I have a deep trust for the people who have come into our organization who operate and live from their core, and use their mind as the tool.


GK: Who are some of the key people/members of CYCLEffect?

AP: We are not regenerating the world unless we are regenerating ourselves, and so Evolver and Humanity are members, providing natural healing products including their CBD line and an anti-anxiety nootropic called Serenity with micro doses of THC, respectively. Evrnu is addressing the monstrosities of the fashion industry by regenerating cotton fibers from post-consumer garment waste through a closed loop process to extrude new fibers that can mimic cotton, polyester, rayon and silk, can be regenerated multiple times and then naturally turn to sugar. The Radiant Store is a unique and amazing company working in renewable energy in NY state, leveraging state run incentive programs in their design,engineering and installation of renewable energy systems in commercial and residential spaces, including the development and advancement of new equipment. And many others.

GK: How have you seen CYCLEffect’s impact in action?

AP: We really started to see things coalescing at our first Member Retreat. Our members are strategically aligned companies working to create systemic change in the Regenerative Agriculture, Circular Fibers, Renewable Energy and Health and Wellness. As members shared their wins and challenges, fellow members offered insight, support, and connections to their own resources. Specifically, our first member Evolver is sourcing its hemp from Mud Creek to create its NY state CBD line, Terra Genesis International and Propagate Ventures have been sharing their know-how to support each other’s growth. Fibershed is building local regenerative fiber systems is connecting with TGI who works with brands to link them to regenerative sourcing. And Mud Creek farm is both the showroom and client of Propagate Ventures, just mention a few with many others in development.

GK: And what’s your superpower?

AP: Pure love.

GK: How is that manifested?

AP: It manifests all the time in all different kinds of ways: in compassion and understanding, being capable of looking at things through different lenses, capable of knowing that you are on an evolutionary path and that there’s always growth. And in the knowing that how people show up in the world, in life and business is a reflection of what is happening inside of them…and honoring that with compassion.