Last year, when Cyclean began looking for $6 million of expansion capital, one of the first places it turned was to a small nonprofit investor group in St. Charles, Ill. Cyclean, a $7.5-million-a-year asphalt-recycling specialist headquartered in Austin, managed to raise most of its money from other sources. But at least $200,000 came from investors it met through the Investors' Circle.
The Investors' Circle was formed in mid-1991 by venture capitalists and private investors looking to increase the amount of funding available to "socially responsible" businesses. Rather than searching for the same types of investments others want, its members (currently, there are about 130) are most interested in sectors like organic food, recycling, health, and energy. "They really want to see what's out there," says founding organizer Susan Davis.
Securities regulations prohibit the Investors' Circle from promoting specific investments or receiving fees as a broker. But the group can -- and does -- play a role in distributing information. Every month, it sends its members (most of whom are wealthy individuals) two-page write-ups on anywhere from 4 to 20 businesses. Companies seeking funding pay $150 to be included. If members see anything that intrigues them, they can contact the companies directly. While conversations between investors and companies are private (and part of the due-diligence investigations that investors conduct on their own), Davis says so far she's heard of seven companies that have raised money through the organi-zation. For more information, contact the Investors' Circle at 708-876-1101. -- Bruce G. Posner