More 'Patient Capital' for Social Ventures

An increasing number of venture investors are hunting for small companies that could yield social benefits as well as high profits

Gaia Herbs sounds like an unlikely candidate for venture capital. Ric Scalzo, a medical herbalist, founded Gaia in 1986 to produce, distribute, and sell organic supplements. The $16 million, 125-employee firm prides itself on its commitments to improving society, including funding education in the South Pacific islands and Sumatra, where the company sources some of its herbs. The alignment might sour most VCs, who train a strict eye on bottom-line benchmarks. Nonetheless, Gaia, in Brevard, N.C., received a $3 million venture investment in July to develop new products and expand its reach in the fast-growing natural products market—and for Gaia's new investors, Scalzo's social mission was a selling point.

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