Few corporate discoveries have creating good jobs as a centerpiece of their mission and strategy. But that’s exactly the goal of Brunswick, Me.-based CEI Ventures. The company recently closed its fifth fund, raising a total of $21.5 million.
A subsidiary of Coastal Enterprises Inc., a non-profit community development finance institution, 26-year-old CEI Ventures’ approach is based on its parent company’s job creation model. Called the Good Jobs Framework, it focuses on things like ensuring that companies pay their frontline workers a living wage appropriate to their particular location and provide basic benefits, like health insurance and paid vacations, in an environment of respect with, for example, regular planning notices and performance reviews. “We believe every company can benefit from this, regardless of industry,” says Chandler Jones, the fund’s managing director.
To this end, a team of three to four people is dedicated to working with portfolio companies to identify areas where they need assistance and to develop and implement strategies to address those issues, i.e. say everything from overhauling job descriptions to restructuring salaries.
Take Piali De, CEO of Portland, Me.-based Senscio Systems. Her company, which she founded in 2010, has a platform that helps Medicare beneficiaries living with complex chronic conditions manage their health. It combines sensor data with AI technology to assess individuals’ adherence to health care plans, communicate with patients to ensure they are following instructions, and notify physicians, among other capabilities.
Before closing a $600,000 investment six months ago, De worked with CEI to determine how to provide health insurance to the company’s geographically dispersed staff. Next, they addressed the issue of hiring a more diverse workforce at the Maine headquarters. With that in mind, they revamped job descriptions and the interview process to help them reach a wider population. “We care for people from all walks of life,” says De. “I want our workforce to be as diverse as our members.
A partial increase
The final close was preceded by a first partial raise of $14.8 million in March 2021. (Investors include a mix of individuals, foundations and community economic development entities, and banks).
Since then, the fund has invested in seven start-up or growth-stage companies, with the intention of working with seven or eight more. Many, but not all, are based in Maine, with a socially beneficial product or service. So far, portfolio companies, according to CEI Ventures, have either fully or partially met their workforce targets. For example, in June, the average entry-level wage was $26 an hour, and all companies offered health insurance, as well as benefits such as stock options or savings plans. retirement.
CEI Ventures has raised over $67 million since its inception and has invested in 67 companies with investments typically ranging from $500,000 to $2 million. According to the company, this has resulted in the creation of 2,800 jobs in regions and among populations generally overlooked by traditional VCs.