What we mean by platform - MAZE - Decoding Impact

What we mean by platform

Cristina Almeida is the Head of Platform at MAZE, an impact investing company based in Lisbon

plat·form: female noun, which refers to a horizontal and levelled surface, higher than its surrounding floor. In Lisbon’s colourful trams, the platform is the step that supports the departing and arriving passengers. In the entrepreneurial lingo, it has a technological connotation, referring to a computing system. In abstract, it is also a collective of meaning to express ideas, principles or goals.

We created the MAZE platform to improve the financial and non-financial support we offer to the people and organizations we serve. According to Global Impact Investing Network, in 2020, 715B € were invested in financial assets that yielded a financial return while solving social and environmental challenges. Eight years ago, by the time MAZE was created, social and environmental investing was almost 100 times lower, valued at only 8B €. 

If we want businesses of the future to be sustainable, we need to ensure these have the proper tools to profit while solving social and environmental problems. MAZE contributes to the global impact investment market growth by housing these financial and non-financial tools. Through our platform, we optimize the way we support, inform and connect entrepreneurs, investors, companies and public service entities, so we can improve the lives of the people and the planet in the long run. 

What does that mean in practice: 

  • Discipline in managing and reporting impact (i.e. we invested in Ohne, which only sells organic menstruation products, allowing the 12.000-period products a woman uses on average throughout her life to be less harmful to the planet while ensuring better reproductive and menstruating health). 
  • Connecting investors and companies quickly (for example, we accelerated Chatterbox, an AI-powered language platform that employs migrants and refugees, through a corporate pilot with BNP Paribas, so that the bank staff started using their service). 
  • Empathy when developing services based on the needs and feedback of the people we help (i.e. as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been working with Porto’s Metropolitan Area in implementing a service design project to improve municipality services to better serve senior citizens). 
  • Humbleness to acknowledge that more important to have answers to all questions is promoting the connection between the right people at the right time (i.e. our community has over 150 entrepreneurs, mentors and investors). 

On March 2021, we released our Impact Report, where we shared MAZE’s work from the past eight years, divided into two acts: 

  1. On the first act, we focused on testing new tools that enable innovation when solving social and environmental challenges. In the process, we learned which tools our partners (impact ventures, investors, corporates, and the public sector) need to achieve impactful outcomes. We have been tool-oriented and thematic-agnostic.
  2. On the second act, we will put this toolbox at the service of social and environmental challenges to influence our partners’ real change at scale. We will become solution-oriented and tool-agnostic

My main responsibility at MAZE is to guarantee that this platform adds value to all the entrepreneurs and partners we serve. It is a challenge I embraced with naiveness and optimism that define most of my choices. That is just the beginning, and as you can see from the dictionary definition, there are infinite ways the MAZE platform may take, and that is precisely what makes the challenge exciting.

In 2017, Benjamin released ‘1986’. The song ‘Terra Firme‘ (Steady Land) was the soundtrack of many days at MAZE and since then. The lyrics address the refugee’s crisis when many continue risking their lives and their families to cross the Mediterranean sea to build a new house in Europe. The pandemic we are facing has increased the growth of the impact investment sector. However, it also accentuated the disparities between rich and poor, countries and citizens. 

If we do this thing right, in eight years, the impact investing multiple can be far greater than 100. But often in life, more important than ‘to be’ is ‘to do’. Just like Benjamin sings, ‘Terra firme só não vale, Porto Seguro é não ter medo’ (roughly translated: steady land alone is not enough – a safe harbour means to be free from fear). 

Originally posted in linktoleaders.com on the 19th of April 2021. 

Credits: Luís Macedo Photography 

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